Now appearing in Issue 42 of Aces Weekly, Lightning 5 Is a brand-new comic strip created by Martin Cater with a difference… the difference being that the whole thing has been done as a photo-collage, aimed at re-creating the visual aesthetic of Gerry Anderson’s early Supermarionation series.
Readers will find numerous knowing references to the worlds of Gerry Anderson, and the storyline and dialogue are intended to re-create the kind of fast-paced, laconic action that came across on the screen.
“It’s Supermarionation turned into a one-man enterprise, without the expense, or, indeed, the strings.” Martin says. “The technique needed a name and thus was born Photomarionation… both in homage to the original and as a portmanteau of ‘photo manipulation’, ‘marionette’ and ‘animation’. So now you know…
“The strip takes place in the same ‘universe’ as Thunderbirds and Fireball XL5,’ he continues, “and is set in the year 2059 – a mere 40 years from now: but this is the future as seen from the 1960s… so there is no internet, no mobile devices, and a decidedly vintage look to the proceedings.”
Lightning 5 is a small patrol craft belonging to an organisation that oversees all space flights in an area extending from the Earth, outward to the orbit of Jupiter. This organisation is called Space Traffic Control, or STC. Their emblem may look rather familiar to archive TV enthusiasts…
“All of the action takes place within this arena – there are no visits to alien planets and no alien life forms living within the solar system,” Martin expands. “There are, however, numerous alien incursions into the Earth Space Control Area, and these provide the catalyst for various adventures. In this ‘pilot episode’, the arrival on Earth of an alien Princess is the prelude to an invasion attempt by hostile beings from another planet…”
TOYS AND DOLLS IN OUTER SPACE!
Although they may resemble the ‘supermarionettes’ of Gerry Anderson, Lightning 5‘s cast of characters has been created somewhat differently. Vintage head sculpts, dating back to an abandoned home movie project from the 1980s, have been augmented in photoshop and married up to posed action figures to provide the male characters, whilst a vintage 1960s ‘Crissy’ doll and a more recent Japanese Manga-esque creation (‘Pullip’) take on the female roles. Space hardware is portrayed by a range of vintage toys, many of which will be familiar to collectors, whilst the ‘sets’ are rendered from various textured backgrounds augmented with vintage radio and car parts, all chosen to lend a retro flavour to the visuals. The result is a photo-strip intended to look like frame grabs from an imaginary Gerry Anderson creation produced around 1965.
“I made my first comic aged eight,” says Martin of his comics work, which has included numerous scripts for various publishers. “It was an imagined facsimile of TV21 Issue One. 45 years later I got to do it ‘for real’, editing, writing (most of) and contributing some art to a one-shot revamp of the original to accompany Network Distributing’s Supermarionation DVD box-set.
“I worked as an illustrator during the 1990s, but the closest I got to comics was on some nursery titles for the BBC, some of which were scripted by Doctor Who novelist Stephen Cole. My first ‘real’ comic (as writer) was “Fawkes of the Air Ministry” for Aces Weekly in 2012, illustrated by Paul McCaffrey. More recently, I’ve written comics based on Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, both with illustrations from Paul, and Man in a Suitcase, illustrated by Goldtiger creator ‘Barretti’.
“Lightning 5 began as an experiment to see if I could make use of some old Supermarionation-style head sculpts I had lying around,” he notes. “A trial page quickly grew into a full strip extending to 26 pages. As well as the obvious Gerry Anderson influence, there’s a whiff of late-50s Dan Dare about the proceedings, and a few knowing gags along the way.”
A second adventure is already in the production stages, and images from this, along with other exclusive visual content can be found at the Lightning 5 facebook page at www.facebook.com/lightning5comic