Wednesday, October 14, 2015


D.C. Thomson's newest comic Thunderbirds Are Go has arrived in the shops today. The 36 page monthly is the official magazine of the revamped TV series and comes bagged with a plastic model of Thunderbird 1. (The rest of the craft to follow in subsequent issues.) Certainly a better free gift than the usual "plastic tat" and one which I'm sure kids (and a few adults) will enjoy playing with. 

In truth, the main comic strip is actually a 12 page photo-strip in 4 page chunks, using screen grabs to adapt the first episode, Ring of Fire. They do a nice job of it, although the idea of tilting the speech balloons is somewhat distracting. (There's a good reason why it's never been done before. It just looks odd.) 

There's also three illustrated mini-strips on one page intended as funnies, plus a couple of 'Teenage Tricks' strips showing kids how to fake having measles and how to hide a magazine inside a study book. Not too original, but probably new for the age range the mag is aimed at. 

And that's the thing. It'd be easy to compare this magazine to previous publications that featured Thunderbirds strips, but times have changed. Yes, this is a far cry from the sophistication of TV21 fifty years ago, or Countdown weekly in 1971, but so is the series it's based on. The 1965 Thunderbirds TV series was a family show originally broadcast in an early evening slot. The new Thunderbirds Are Go series is squarely aimed at children and broadcast on Saturday mornings on CiTV. The magazine has to reflect that.

Judging the magazine on its own merits then, how does it fare? Well, it's good that over a third of its pages are given to strips, which is more than most kids' mags have these days. The activity pages should also entertain, and are on the same level as those seen in Doctor Who Adventures (its nearest rival). The target range is ages 6 to 12, and I think most of the contents are pitched in between that, which seems about right. There is of course a huge difference between the way a 6 year old and an 12 year old view the world, so it's not easy to make it work. As soon as the older end of that demographic feel something is 'babyish' they'll drop it like a stone, but Thunderbirds Are Go seems to get the balance right. 

Thunderbirds Are Go No.1 is out now, priced £3.99. 


Phil Boyce said...

Personally I don't think the new show is being aimed at a younger audience, and while the original was enjoyed by families it was still primarily a children's show, with kids as the main target. Much like Doctor Who though, it became something older viewers loved just as much and families would watch together. The new series is being shown at 7pm in Australia, and here in the UK the behind-the-scenes special was shown at 8pm and the first episode at teatime. It's picked up a huge adult following, it's just ITV's inept schedulers, something ITV has always suffered from. (Shocking since it's them making it and it's perfect as their Saturday teatime family show.)

Such a shame DC Thompson went this route though. The Thunderbirds comic I had in the 90s was great, a mix of TV21 strips and new strips combined with excellent features. DCT seem to have copped out with this. Expected more from them.

As for the show, I think it's a quality show and I did enjoy the fact there's more depth to the Tracy family characters, and the addition of arcs. However I probably won't be in any rush back to it when the second half of the season comes on. The original was all suspense, slow-building drama, all the craft and technology felt real, with real weight in a real world. These days I can understand why they went the quick action route instead, but while I enjoyed it, it hasn't gripped me enough to return. Glad the kids are into it though :) I have to remember while a lot of adults do love it, I'm no longer the main target democratic lol.

Lew Stringer said...

Fair points, Phil. I would add though that it may also depend on what sort of control the licence holder has over the mag. Some tend to be less flexible with their properties these days. Sadly it's all about the 'brand' now.

That said, I too would have liked a bit more depth to the contents. I don't really see the appeal of photo strips of episodes that the readers will probably already have on DVD. New photo-strips using grabs from different episodes might have been more intriguing for the readers but perhaps they weren't allowed to do that.

Unfortunately, the sort of budget that TV21 had wouldn't be justifiable today. It's highly unlikely any kids msg today would sell the high numbers they had 50 years ago, even if they had the cream of the crop drawing strips for it.

Andy G said...

I bought this for my son. He is 8 years of age and liked most of it but we didn't understand your little strips. There didn't seem any jokes in them. Could you explain them to us?

He loved the toy TB1 and has put it in with his other toys.

Andrew and Jake

Lew Stringer said...

I'm afraid I have no involvement with the mag. I don't know who did the humour strips.

@MLPasterisk said...

Picked up the first issue.

The "free" model looks nice. The magazine is colourful but at only 36 pages there's not much to it.
I guess they know what their target audience likes but it seems a bit insubstantial to me.

Lew Stringer said...

36 pages is about the norm for kids comics so that seemed OK to me. I think the free models will prove popular and I'm intrigued to see whether they continue them after the five Thunderbirds craft. Kayo's Shadow craft would be very collectable as I don't think there's a toy of that one out there yet.

ChanneZeroX said...

"Your little strips."

James Spiring said...

I can't see the models continuing past issue 6. Next in line after Shadow would be FAB1, Penelope's car. But boys might not want that because it's pink. And after that they're out of options anyway.

Lew Stringer said...

They could do some other vehicles; the Mole, Fireflash, etc, although the more obscure they go, the less appeal they'd have to the target audience, making the point of the gift redundant. It'll be interesting to see what happens. Maybe they'll go to generic free gifts, maybe not.

ChanneZeroX said...

These certainly seem way more classy as gifts than the bagged water rifles and whatever else makes these comizines (magomics?) seem more like overblown beach balls squirming on the Sainsburys elves than anything recognizably readable.

James Spiring said...

The Beano and Sunday Mirror both had vouchers in to get Thunderbirds Are Go issue 2 for free this week.

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