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Thursday, November 01, 2018

This week in 1971: COUNTDOWN No.38

Here are a few pages from the issue of Countdown that kids were reading this week in 1971. There's nothing significant about this issue, but the truth is every issue of Countdown was special because the artistic quality was so high so I thought you'd like to see an issue chosen at random.

As mentioned in previous posts a while ago, Countdown was published by Polystyle Publications and edited by Dennis Hooper, who had been the original art editor on Countdown's rival, TV Century 21. By 1971, TV21 had abandoned the license to publish strips based on Gerry Anderson TV shows so Countdown nipped in and took over. In essence, Countdown was a new version of TV21 in all but name. It also carried features on space exploration, as had TV21. 

Countdown's initial main selling points had been UFO and Doctor Who. Both still featured in this issue (No.38) but by this time the regular cover stars were The Persuaders, the new high profile ITC show starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. The art was by Harry Lindfield and continued inside...
Doctor Who was involved in an adventure set in the American Civil War, with artwork by Frank Langford...

The Doctor also featured in an advert for Sugar Smacks cereal, which in 1971 had a free Dr.Who badge in every pack. What better incentive to eat more sugary food and rot your teeth?

Gerry Anderson's TV series were represented with the first part of a new UFO serial running to six pages. Art by Gerry Haylock. Reprints of Stingray and Fireball XL5 also featured in the issue, which had previously appeared only six years earlier in TV21.

Countdown was also the title of the ongoing strip saga of the same name illustrated by John Burns. An original strip, but using spacecraft designs from 2001: A Space Odyssey. This serial definitely deserves to be collected in a reprint edition but the rights surrounding the 2001 designs seem to be a setback. 

One of the regular articles in the comic at this time were photographs taken from Apollo 15, the ninth manned space mission. I was 12 years old at the time and anything regarding space exploration was exciting as far as I was concerned. An actual close up photo of the Moon, on the back of a comic! I'm afraid that rival comics such as Hornet or Tiger couldn't top that with relatively mundane photos of footballers! 

Countdown was a great comic, although perhaps most kids preferred its competitor, Look-In, because a few months later Countdown underwent a big revamp to become TV Action with a focus on more grounded shows such as Hawaii Five-O and The Protectors. It still retained a high quality of art though, and issues are worth seeking out. 


Robert Carnegie said...

Why was Worzel Gummidge selling Doctor Who badges?

Colin Brown said...

UFO was well served by artists. As well as Gerry Haylock, I loved the ones by Brian Lewis and John Burns. Incidentally, I've started a John M Burns Facebook group if you're interested in joining.

Mike D said...

Worzel Gummidge? That looks more like a colourized *shudder* Noseybonk.

cassiel said...

I still have every issue of Countdown/TV Action (apart from the one which wasn't issued due to a printers' strike - ah, the Winter of Discontent). Issue 1 was the first thing I ever bought with my newly decimal pocket money, after I'd seen the comic advertised on TV. I think I was buying the comic before UFO came on our screens. The Countdown strip was wonderful, and I also liked the TV21 reprints by (I think) Mike Powers? There was a run of Zero X stories for a while, and he did Fireball XL-5.

Lew Stringer said...

You're thinking of Mike Noble. There are several examples of his work on the blog so just type his name in the search window and you'll enjoy seeing them again.

UFO was on TV before the comic strip started, unless you live outside the UK?

I don't recall Countdown/TV Action missing an issue due to a strike. Which one was that? I have them all too.

cassiel said...

Thank you! Yes: Mike Noble.

I'm probably confused about UFO then, looking at the dates. I'm probably thinking of reading the UFO Annual which would have come out months before the series aired. Foster/Billington was nothing like he was portrayed in the strips.

Re: strike issue: it was well into the TV Action stage, and the Countdown strip itself had ended (so I have that complete). I'd need to check, but it was issue eighty-something I think, with the Pertwee Doctor on the front. If you have a copy, perhaps it was a distribution strike rather than print?

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