Saturday, May 02, 2015

TV21 goes football!

Early 1969 was a period of change for readers of British comics, and not for the better in the opinion of some. Eagle was merged into Lion, Smash! was changed beyond recognition into a traditional adventure comic and then on May 7th 1969 there was this cover. "TV21 goes football...in a big way!" 

Football United starts today! I remember my heart sinking at the sight of this headline. I'd only recently started buying TV21 again and found it to be great escapism compared to most other British comics, partly due to the absence of football. Sport was something you expected to see in Tiger or Lion, but the whole point of TV21 was that it was mostly set 100 years in the future, focused around the universe of Gerry Anderson shows. Admittedly that theme had been compromised considerably several months earlier with the absorption of TV Tornado, but its reinvention as a 'space and spy' comic was acceptable.
I've never been a fan of football so the inclusion of a football feature in TV21 was not only out of place but something I actually disliked and I soon dropped the comic. I suspect I wasn't the only one, as sales on the comic continued to fall, leading to a relaunch as TV21 and Joe 90 a few months later. (See here.)

In retrospect, despite the cover and the new footie feature, it was still business as usual inside so perhaps I over reacted when I stopped buying the comic. Let's take a look at the contents...

Pages 2 and 3 gave us Secret Agent 21, one of the mainstays of TV21. Not based on a TV show but part of the Anderson universe. I always liked Rab Hamilton's art on this...

Captain Scarlet, which at one time had been the cover feature of TV21 for months, had by now been demoted to a three page black and white strip. This week, - seagulls turned into Mysteron agents! Art by Jim Watson...
The Munsters, usually drawn by Paul Trevillion, was this week ghosted by Graham Allen...
Department S was a kind of 1960s X-Files but with rational explanations to the mysteries. Artwork by Carlos Pino...
Thunderbirds still dominated the centre pages with fantastic artwork by Frank Bellamy...

The Saint had two pages, with art by Carlos Pino I think...
Zero X was the only other full colour strip. Stunning artwork by the great Mike Noble, - and what a memorable cliffhanger!

Of course, the ever-present Corgi Model Club News was there on page 19...
The back page had an ad for a new ice lolly plus a half page feature on the fictitious mission to Saturn.  
All in all, it was still a great comic, but I still think the inclusion of football was a mistake and another nail in TV21's coffin that set it on a decline it never recovered from. The following year, TV21 and Joe 90 would big up the sport even more, with regular centrespread football team photos. Presumably they thought that was what the readers wanted, and admittedly kids were losing interest in space exploration so the publishers had to try something. However it didn't seem to halt the fall in sales. Eventually budget cuts would bring in reprints, poorer paper, and with TV21 a pale shadow of its former self it merged into Valiant in 1971. 

4 comments:

John Pitt said...

Interesting issue, this one. I'm with the majority who reckon the inclusion of footie in TV21 didn't work. But, as you say, otherwise an excellent comic nonetheless.

Lew Stringer said...

I don't know if the majority shared our view but everyone I've spoken to about it seemed to. it was such an incongruous addition to the comic, and I can't imagine any footie fan buying it just for one page.

Colin Brown said...

Would kids have been losing interest in space exploration in 1969 with the first moon landing coming up? If this had been 1970, the football inclusion would have made more sense being a world cup year. Like yourself I wasn't a football fan but bizarrely really liked Scorcher when it came out.

Lew Stringer said...

That's a good point Colin. Presumably sales must have been falling or they wouldn't have made such a drastic addition but perhaps it was just interest in the Anderson shows that was on the decline.

I also read Scorcher for a while and enjoyed the early issues. I recently bought the full run and have read the first year or so. Nice artwork but the scripts... not so good.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...