Landmark British Comics: Looking Back on TV21 Issue 200

TV21 200
TV21, published in November 1969, was the last independent weekly comic to reach a landmark 200th issue.
Yesterday’s news that The Phoenix had reached its 200th issue has certainly gone down well among British comic fans, but the publisher’s carefully worded claim that it was the first “independently-published weekly” comic to reach that landmark since 1969 has certainly put the cat among the pigeons as far as comic archivists are concerned.

After some research by top comics author and events organiser Paul Gravett, The Phoenix team used TV21 Issue 200 as their marker for the claim, published by City Magazines. The Gerry Anderson-inspired comic strips included “Captain Scarlet”, “Thunderbirds” and adventures strips such as “The Saint” (joining the title after its recent merger with TV Tornado with Issue 192). But some have questioned the claim that City Magazines – a company whose assets are today owned by the Daily Express – was really an ‘independent’ publisher.

A scene from "Captain Scarlet" in TV21 200, as Spectrum muffs a chance to gain some alien allies against the Mysterons. Art by Keith Watson
A scene from “Captain Scarlet” in TV21 200, as Spectrum muffs a chance to gain some alien allies against the Mysterons. Art by Keith Watson

A scene from "The Saint", in which Simon Templar proves so incredible he can have a long conversation with a fore despite having a bucket of cold water being poured over his head. Talk about your edited storytelling!
A scene from “The Saint”, in which Simon Templar proves so incredible he can have a long conversation with a foe despite having a bucket of cold water being poured over his head. Talk about your edited storytelling!

Cracking art from Mike Noble on "Zero X" from TV21 200
Cracking art from Mike Noble on “Zero X” from TV21 200
Like the better known and very definitely mainstream British comic publishers DC Thomson and Fleetway, City Magazines also published a range of titles and should really be considered one of the major comic publishers of the 1960s. Along with TV21, originally titled TV Century 21, these included, during its existence, CandyHuckleberry Hound WeeklyLady Penelope, TV Tornado, the short-lived Joe 90 Top Secret and Solo and Yogi Bear’s Own. 

 

Once Upon A Time - an often-forgotten City Magazines title.
Once Upon A Time – an often-forgotten City Magazines title.
 

The company also published the lavish nursery comic, Once Upon A Time, with stunning full-colour artwork by the likes of Don Lawrence, Jesus Blasco and Ron Embleton.

While it’s highly unlikely any regular downthetubes reader will want re-categorise any of those, and TV21, as independent comics, we of course don’t want to rain on The Phoenix‘s parade on a point of pedantry, but we couldn’t let them get off scot free on the matter!

It’s great news that The Phoenix is now available in WH Smiths across the UK and the creators and editorial team deserve plenty of praise for their efforts getting a genuine strip-filled comic into more retailers. Well done to them all.

Phoenix 200 Cover• Look out for coverage of The Phoenix on the Guardian Children’s Books site, live comic workshops on national radio and a twitter takeover by Phoenix artists using the #HappyPhoenix200

• The Phoenix being stocked in WH Smith (in high street stores – not railway stations or airports) for the first time and the publishers have also launched a loyalty scheme for those children who buy the comic weekly from independent booksellers. For a list of stockists and the latest news visit www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk | Follow The Phoenix on Twitter @phoenixcomicuk

With thanks to Jeremy Briggs, Calum Laird and Lew Sringer for the online banter that prompted this. Thanks also to Philip Rushton.

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

4 thoughts on “Landmark British Comics: Looking Back on TV21 Issue 200

  • November 4, 2015 at 8:19 pm
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    I remember all that artwork from Marts Press who put together Once Upon A Time for City magazines

    • November 5, 2015 at 10:16 am
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      Roger Perry has written a number of articles on Leonard Matthews and his Countdown days that will be published in due course.

  • November 8, 2015 at 9:08 am
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    like the mike noble art but,,,,NEED more mike noble…Puhleeeeeez!!!!!!

  • November 8, 2015 at 9:10 am
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    mike noble …. collection! WoW! what a good idea.

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