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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ads from 50 years ago

It's 50 years today since the first episode of Thunderbirds was broadcast and, yes, it certainly feels like half a century! I've already done quite a few posts on Thunderbirds on this blog over the years so today I thought I'd look at what else we as kids were thrilled about back then. Much has changed over the last five decades, yet in some ways many things stay the same, as shown by these vintage adverts from TV21 comic of 50 years ago.

Above is perhaps the first Thunderbirds-related piece of merchandise, and certainly the first appearance of a Thunderbird in TV21. It's an ad for Century 21 Records from TV21 No.41, dated 30th October 1965. 

Here are a few other ads from around the last few months of 1965, when the popular things were Lego, Daleks, fireworks, and James Bond. Not much change there, although fireworks would not be advertised in comics now. Personally I think it's time for a revival of Stingray Slippers! (When I was 3 or 4 I had a similar pair with Yogi Bear heads on them! They were all the rage you know.)

As always, click on the images to see them much larger.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jump on, Earthlets!

Cover art by Chris Burnham.
This week's issue of 2000AD is another "jumping on point" with every story in the comic being the first chapter of a new serial. An ideal opportunity for new readers and lapsed readers to start buying the UK's longest-running adventure comics weekly. It also sees the return of 1980s classic Bad Company for an all-new run by Peter Milligan, Rufus Dayglo and Jim McCarthy.

2000AD Prog 1950 is out on Wednesday 30th September, price £2.55. Want to know more? Visit the Forbidden Planet International Blog where there are previews of all the strips in this issue! 

Surface Tension concludes

The final issue of the excellent mini-series Surface Tension is scheduled to be published this week from Titan Comics. Writer/artist Jay Gunn has crafted a fantastic story with some stunning artwork. A perfect example of the high standard of UK comics that are around these days.

Surface Tension is an engaging sci-fi mystery thriller about 'Sea Sickness' sweeping the world, compelling 99% of the human population to walk into the sea, compelled by strange coral structures, where they then dissolve. Two people return, changed. And then things get even weirder.

The story reads like a mature, more sophisticated modern-day version of the sort of engaging thrillers that would appear in Valiant or Lion in the glory days of UK adventure comics. As it's set on the island of Breith, amongst a small community of survivors, it has more of a timeless feel about it than if it was set in an urban city. 

This is quality stuff, and I'll be interested to see what creator Jay Gunn does next. Surface Tension No.5, on sale 30th September from comic speciality shops, $3.99 (about £3.15). A trade paperback collection will follow.

Titan Comics website:

Jay Gunn's Facebook page:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Thunderbirds hits 50

The newly made Lady Penelope puppet for 'Thunderbirds 1965'.

This week, Thunderbirds reaches its 50th anniversary, with September 30th marking half a century since the first episode debuted on TV a lifetime ago in 1965. As you may know, there are three brand new Thunderbirds episodes currently in production, funded by a Kickstarter campaign that many of us contributed to. These new episodes (not related to the new Thunderbirds Are Go reboot) are using the soundtracks from adventures that had only been released in audio form in the 1960s, and and now being visualised by a team who have meticulously crafted puppets, sets, and models based on the original series. The first clip from an episode has just been released on You Tube. Here it is:

Fifty years ago this week, this is the issue of TV21 that was on sale when the first Thunderbirds episode was screened. Issue No.37, dated October 2nd...

Despite being the official comic of the Gerry Anderson productions (A.P. Films) there's no mention within its pages of Thunderbirds at all. However, the ongoing Lady Penelope strip was still running of course, having been a regular strip since issue 1. Now, for the first time, readers would also see her on TV in the first Thunderbirds episode Trapped In the Sky and the mystery of why TV21 had featured her in the comic would be solved. Here's the Lady Penelope strip from this week in 1965...

By January 1966, Lady Penelope would spin off into her own successful comic and a regular Thunderbirds strip would begin in TV21. (See this old post here plus this post on Thunderbirds in the comics here.) 

Thunderbirds became such a huge success and part of our culture. I still clearly remember anticipating that first episode from the moment it was announced in the Daily Mirror that Gerry Anderson was making a series that would "be like Supercar, Stingray, and Fireball XL5 rolled into one" (or words to that effect). I was six years old at the time and mistakenly thought it meant the new show would team up Supercar, Stingray and Fireball! (What a show that could have been!) I certainly wasn't disappointed with what Thunderbirds actually turned out to be, though. 

Fifty years later (and it definitely does feel like fifty years) there's a new revamped Thunderbirds Are Go series on CiTV, with related merchandise (and soon a new comic) in the shops, plus the new classic Thunderbirds 1965 in production to be released on DVD next year. A remarkable achievement for a part of pop culture that has entertained millions across the world. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Doctor Who: The Complete History Issue 2

Although not a comic, this publication may be of interest to some of you. The second book in the partwork series of Doctor Who: The Complete History is in the shops now. The 152 page hardback focuses on the Jon Pertwee stories Colony In Space, The Daemons, and Day of the Daleks from 1971/72. (These were the episodes broadcast during the run of Countdown comic so I always associate them with that comic, reading Countdown's Doctor Who comic strip on Saturday afternoon and watching Doctor Who at teatime.)

The books are a co-production between Hachette and Panini UK and are first class productions, both in design and in the information they contain. Published fortnightly, the next one will focus on the Peter Capaldi stories Deep Breath and Into the Dalek, whilst issue 4 will spotlight the first William Hartnell stories 100,000 BC and The Mutants (AKA The Daleks).

Issue 2 is at the special price of £6.99, after which the books will be at their regular price of £9.99. For more info see the official website: 

...and don't forget that the Doctor encounters The Daleks again tonight on BBC One!

New comics coming in October

No less than three new comic titles will be launching in UK newsagents next month. Wednesday 14th October will bring us the first issue of D.C. Thomson's long awaited Thunderbirds Are Go magazine, which promises to feature "comic adventures" amongst its content. As the mag will solely be focused on the new series, not the classic, the strips will presumably be all new by British creators. John Freeman has more details of the mag over on his Down the Tubes blog: the official Thunderbirds Are Go magazine's website is here:

Titan Comics will also be launching two new titles. Thursday 15th October sees the publication of The Flash No.1, so it sounds like the Flash Special that was published earlier this year must have been a hit.

Then, on Thursday 29th October, Green Arrow No.1 hits the shelves, also from Titan. Both Flash and Green Arrow will feature American reprint from DC Comics. I'm not sure of the format yet but hopefully they'll be in the same 76 page format as Titan's Batman comics.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

POW! and WHAM! - First merged issue (1968)

The merging of Pow! and Wham! in January 1968 was a clear indication that all was not well with the Odhams line of 'Power Comics'. Other mergers would follow and by the end of the year only Smash! would remain out of the five titles. A sad state of affairs for a much-loved line of comics but they continued to deliver the goods right up until the end.

The merged Pow! and Wham! actually resulted in a fairly strong line-up. Here are examples from the 32 pages of that first issue (No.53, retaining Pow's numbering)...

Pages two and three served as a great introduction to the strips, bringing new readers up to speed...

Reprints of Spider-Man had proved to be Pow's most popular strip so naturally that continued in the merger. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko at their finest...
Georgie's Germs was one of the handful of strips to survive from Wham! and fitted into Pow! perfectly. Art by Cyril Price...
After Spider-Man the second most popular strip in Pow! was Mike Higgs' The Cloak. A fantastic humour-adventure spy/fantasy serial in Mike's distinctive style. I've never met any fan of Pow! who didn't like the strip, and it's easy to see why from this excellent spread. Anything could happen in The Cloak strip!

Horror/sci-fi serial Experiment X featured in the centre pages. That logo is one of my favourites. Very eerie.

Pow! often reprinted some of the complete five page sci-fi strips from Marvel's early sixties Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales and the like, resized into two page stories. This issue gave us The Little Green Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko...

The ad for the next issue promoted the free stickers. Remember those? 

Sammy Shrink by Terry Bave was another survivor from Wham! Although perhaps one of the more conservative strips in 'Power Comics' Sammy Shrink proved very popular and was even revived for a much longer run years later in the IPC funnies. 

This first merge issue also saw the start of a brand new adventure thriller; The Two Faces of Janus. A gripping but somewhat daft tale about a man wrongly accused of a crime just because he looks evil due to a curse. Francisco Fuentes was the artist of the strip but I'm not sure he drew this opening episode as it appears to be signed "Ayhau". 

The Tiddlers and The Dolls was an unusual merging of two strips into one! The Tiddlers from Wham! joined Pow's The Dolls of St. Dominics for a weekly battle of the sexes. Art by Mike Lacey... 

Reprints of The Fantastic Four also came over from Wham! into the merged comic. Script by Stan Lee, art by Jack Kirby. (For some reason, Odhams deleted the credits on the Marvel reprints. Probably because it wasn't a tradition in British comics to run credit boxes at the time.)

On the back page, the brilliant Dare-A-Day Davy, another Pow! favourite, by the fantastic Ken Reid...

So there you have it. A good comic full of variety, and a favourite of many in the sixties. Evidently not too many though, as it only lasted another 36 weeks or so before merging into Smash! but while it was around it was a memorable comic!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The End of WHAM! (1968)

Launching in 1964, Wham! had been the flagship title of Odhams' 'Power Comics' but with issue No.187, dated 13th January 1968, it met its fate. Frankly, Wham! had been in decline for quite a while. Its high quality glossy Photogravure printing had long given way to cheap newsprint, more budget cuts had seen the inclusion of Marvel reprint in the form of The Fantastic Four, its main artist Leo Baxendale had left for the more lucrative options of the Fleetway comics, and even the mighty Frankie Stein by Ken Reid had disappeared from the comic long before the last issue. 

That said, Wham! was still livelier, cheekier, and more entertaining than some of its rivals. Let's take a look at a few pages from that final issue. Above is the cover by Mike Lacey, with The Tiddlers strip continuing on the back page. For cheapness, Odhams didn't use black ink on the covers of the newsprint issues of Wham!, utilising dark blue instead. (The same principle applied to companion comics Smash! and Pow!).
Art: Mike Lacey.

Wham! was fated to merge into Pow! the following week and it was announced with a full page ad...

The regular news page also made a big fuss of it...

Only a few strips from Wham! would make the transition to Pow! This issue saw the end of many long-running regulars; General Nitt and his Barmy Army, The Wacks, Glugg, Eagle-Eye, Footsie the Clown, Biff, The Humbugs, Danny Dare, and the Pest of the West. Here's a few examples of those final strips...
Art: Gordon Hogg

Art: Stan McMurtry
Art: Stan McMurtry

Art: Graham Allen
Final 'Barmy Army' strip.
Art: Artie Jackson
Artist unknown.
The strips that would survive were The Tiddlers (but only by merging with The Dolls of St.Dominics), Sammy Shrink, Georgie's Germs, and Marvel reprint The Fantastic Four. The final issue of Wham! and that week's issue of Pow! both ran the same episode of the F.F. (reprinting the start of Fantastic Four No.27) to encourage readers to buy the next issue ...
Art: Jack Kirby.

Wham! was definitely a better comic in its early days but its three and a half year run is still looked upon fondly by those of us who grew up reading comics in the sixties. Personally I think its merger with Pow! made for a stronger comic. In my next post I'll show a few pages from that first merge issue.

This wasn't exactly the final appearances of the characters as they'd return in new strips in the Wham! Annuals dated 1969 to 1971 but on a weekly frequency this was the end of Wham!
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