Jim Duckett and Steve Winders, greatly aided by Shaqui Le Vesconte, reveal the many links between Gerry Anderson’s publications such as TV Century 21 and Dan Dare and Eagle, including both versions of Eagle and all versions of Dan Dare…
TV Century 21 weekly (later, simply TV21) was launched in January 1965, primarily to promote Gerry Anderson’s futuristic puppet TV series, namely Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray. His greatest success, Thunderbirds, would follow a year later. The new weekly was heavily influenced by Eagle, which is hardly surprising as the weekly boys comic, launched in 1950, had been a great success in the preceding decade and its lead strip, Dan Dare was easily Britain’s best and most popular space adventure strip.
Like Dan Dare, TV Century 21 was about adventure in the future and its editor Alan Fennell was keen to emulate Eagle‘s success. He persuaded many of Eagle‘s former artists to join the new weekly and his efforts proved fruitful as TV Century 21 outsold the 1960s Eagle and its other adventure strip rivals in its first few years of publication.
The steadily declining popularity of Gerry Anderson’s series which followed Thunderbirds, coupled with a change of publisher and the loss of rights to Anderson’s programmes led to declining sales and TV21 was absorbed into Valiant in 1971. But during its years of success, it spawned several companion papers, just as Eagle had in the 1950s. There was Lady Penelope, for girls, Solo and Joe 90 for boys and Candy for younger children.
In its early years, TV Century 21’s size, paper quality, printer and layout were the same as Eagle’s. Eric Bemrose Ltd. of Liverpool printed both papers using the Photogravure process and during the mid 1960s, both ran to twenty or sometimes twenty four pages, with six in colour. The front page of TV Century 21 was set out as a newspaper, which was a device first used by Eagle in two episodes of Dan Dare. Like Eagle, TV 21 also carried some informative and educational features, with three in the first issue, covering outer space, the oceans and wildlife.
No less than six former Dan Dare artists illustrated strips in TV Century 21, while two more contributed to related publications. In addition to these, ten others who had previously contributed to Eagle, illustrated strips in TV Century 21 at various times during its six and a half year run and another four drew strips for annuals and specials.
Of the Dan Dare artists, Eric Eden drew “Lady Penelope” and a “The Daleks” story, having contributed to pre-TV 21 Supercar and Fireball XL5 Annuals. He also filled in on the “Fireball XL5” and “Zero X“, strips and produced early cutaways and feature art.
Don Harley drew “Thunderbirds”, “Captain Scarlet” and “Lady Penelope”. He also drew “Mark of the Mysterons” in the short-lived Solo comic and the subsequent “Mysterons” strip in TV Tornado and Solo, when the titles merged. He would later draw “Thunderbirds” strips for Countdown comic in 1971, after it acquired the publication rights.
Frank Bellamy, who had also drawn back page Eagle strips about Winston Churchill, King David and Marco Polo as well as “Fraser of Africa” and “Heros the Spartan” for Eagle, drew “Thunderbirds”.
Harold Johns drew “Star Trek” and Keith Watson drew “Captain Scarlet” and “Joe 90”. Keith originally drew “Joe 90” for Joe 90:Top Secret, before it was merged into TV 21 – and he wrote several stories himself.
Dan Dare’s creator, Frank Hampson, drew a few episodes of “Fireball XL5” for the weekly and a “Lady Penelope” story for a TV Century 21 Summer Extra in 1965.
The two Dan Dare artists who drew for related publications were Eric Kincaid, who drew a “Fireball XL5” strip for a TV Century 21 Annual and “Daktari” for Lady Penelope, as well as “Tingha and Tucker” and “Snap, Crackle and Pop” for Candy comic. Desmond Walduck drew several “Fireball XL5” strips for the pre-TV Century 21 Fireball XL5 Annuals.
Two writers with links to Dan Dare also worked on TV 21. David Motton, who wrote the Dan Dare strip from 1962 until 1966, wrote some “Burke’s Law” detective stories and Angus P. Allan, who novelised the original Dan Dare story for the New English Library in 1977, was script editor on TV Century 21 and wrote many strips for the paper, including “Thunderbirds”, “Captain Scarlet”, “Zero X” and “Star Trek”.
He also wrote for the companion papers and a novelisation of the feature film Thunderbirds Are Go. In the 1970s, he wrote several Space: 1999 Annuals, based on Gerry Anderson’s live action TV series and the Space:1999 strip for the weekly comic Look-In.
Of the other former Eagle artists, Paul Trevillion, who drew “Can You Catch a Crook?” and “U.F.O. Agent” for Eagle, drew “Burke’s Law” and “The Munsters” for TV 21. He also drew “The Beverly Hillbillies” for Lady Penelope and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” for Solo.
Richard Jennings, who drew “Tommy Walls”, “Storm Nelson”, “Earthquake Island” and “U.F.O. Agent” for Eagle, drew “The Daleks” for TV 21.
Harry Lindfield, who drew “Mark Question” for Eagle, drew “Star Trek” for TV 21 and “The Monkees” for Lady Penelope weekly.
Ron Embleton, who drew “Johnny Frog” for Eagle, produced illustrations for the credits sequence on the Captain Scarlet TV series and drew “Stingray”, “Captain Scarlet” and some “Project Sword” illustrations for TV 21. He also drew “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” for Lady Penelope weekly, while his brother Gerry Embleton, who had drawn a few episodes of “Riders of the Range” and some factual strips for Eagle, as well as a one off adventure strip for the 1963 Eagle Annual, drew “Stingray” and “Catch or Kill” for TV 21. Gerry also drew the early issues of “The Perils of Parker” for Lady Penelope and a “Thunderbirds” strip for younger readers in Candy comic. In 1982 he would be the first artist to work on “Dan Dare” for the 1980s Eagle.
Colin Andrew, who drew “Home of the Wanderers” and “The Guinea Pig” for Eagle, drew “Tomorrow West” for Solo comic, before stints on “Fireball XL5” and “Stingray” for TV 21.
John M. Burns, who drew “Wrath of the Gods” and some factual strips for Eagle, also drew “Catch or Kill” and “Front Page” for TV 21, a “Lady Penelope” strip and “Space Family Robinson” for Lady Penelope and Gerry Anderson’s “UFO” for TV Action and Countdown. Later, he drew “Space: 1999” for Look-In, the strips written by Angus P. Allan. John would also go on to draw “Dan Dare” for the 1980s Eagle as well as “The Fists of Danny Pike” and “Dolebusters”. He returned to draw “Lady Penelope” for a special tribute issue of TV Century 21, Issue 243, part of a Blu-Ray from Network, in 2014.
Although he only drew a short “Blackbow the Cheyenne” strip for Eagle and some story illustrations for annuals, Don Lawrence nevertheless qualifies as an Eagle contributor and he drew “Fireball XL5” and “The Adventures of Tarzan” for TV 21. He also drew a newspaper strip adaptation of the film Thunderbirds Are Go for the Daily Mail and six episodes of a proposed newspaper strip version of Joe 90 which was never published at the time, but appeared in Century 21, a magazine for fans in the early 1990s.
The other two former Eagle artists to work on TV 21 were Carlos Pino and Vicente Alcazar, who worked together, using the name ‘Carvic’. They drew the final “Guinea Pig” adventure for Eagle in 1969 and the same year worked on “Department S” and “The Saint” for TV 21, later producing the “Star Trek” strip for the paper. Working alone, Carlos Pino would later draw many episodes of the second series of “Bloodfang” and some M.A.S.K. strips for the 1980s Eagle, which also reprinted his “M.A.C.H. 1” strips from 2000 AD.
Four former Eagle artists drew strips for TV 21 related publications: Pat Williams drew a “Fireball XL5” strip for TV 21′s 1965 Summer Extra, having drawn “Cavendish Brown M.S.” and many factual strips for Eagle. Gerald Haylock (aka Gerry Haylock), who drew “Knights of the Road” and “The Guinea Pig” for Eagle, drew “Land of the Giants” for TV 21‘s companion paper Joe 90 and Gerry Anderson’s “UFO” for Countdown, while Brian Lewis, who had also drawn “The Guinea Pig”, as well as “Home of the Wanderers” and “Mann of Battle” for Eagle, drew a “Thunderbirds” strip for a one-off Thunderbirds Extra in 1966, having previously illustrated a Supercar Storybook, and a number of Gerry Anderson strips for Countdown.
He also drew the humorous “Blunderbirds” strip for Eagle, which parodied Thunderbirds! Brian would later draw a “Dan Dare” strip for the 2000 AD, version of the character for that weekly. Reg Parlett, who drew the humorous “Fidosaurus” and “XYZ Cars” for Eagle, drew “Run Buddy Run” for Solo.
Another former Eagle employee also worked for TV 21, as Art Editor for the Annuals and other related books. This was the late Roger Perry, a downthetubes contributor, who had been a layout artist on Eagle in the early 1960s and the ‘face’ of Eagle‘s Roving Reporter.
Between the original Eagle and the arrival of a new version of “Dan Dare” in 2000 AD in 1977, Jim Baikie drew a “Dan Dare” strip for the 1974 Eagle Annual. Prior to this, he had taken over “The Monkees” strip from Harry Lindfield in Lady Penelope, had a brief stint drawing “The Adventures of Tarzan” for TV 21 and drew “Star Trek” for TV 21 and its annuals. Between 1983 and 1984, he drew Gerry Anderson’s “Terrahawks” for Look-In and in 1984 drew the first series of “Bloodfang” for the 1980s Eagle. He also drew a “Doomlord” strip for the 1985 Eagle Annual.
Another artist who contributed to TV 21 and its associated publications would later work on the 1980s version of Eagle. This was John Cooper, who produced “Johnny Red”, “The Amstor Computer” and “Computer Warrior” strips for the 1980s Eagle, which also reprinted his “One Eyed Jack” work from Valiant.
He drew “Secret Agent 21″, his first comic strip work, “Thunderbirds”, “Stingray”, “Joe 90” and “Captain Scarlet” for TV 21 annuals and “Thunderbirds” and “Captain Scarlet” for the weekly. Later he drew “Captain Scarlet” for Countdown and “Thunderbirds”, “Captain Scarlet” and “Stingray” for Fleetway’s comics based on the characters in the 1990s. He drew “Captain Scarlet” for Sunday, the News of the World‘s magazine section and “Joe 90” for the Funday Times, which was the Sunday Times‘ children’s section.
One writer from the 1980s Eagle had earlier worked on TV 21. This was Scott Goodall MBE, who wrote some “Thunderbirds”, “Captain Scarlet”, “Zero X” and “Lady Penelope”, among other strips, for TV 21 and its companions. Scott wrote “Walk or Die”, “Invisible Boy”, “Rat Trap” and some “Manix” strips for Eagle.
Repeats of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds TV series on BBC 2 in 1991, prompted Fleetway Publications to launch a Thunderbirds comic the same year, which published reprints of many TV 21 strips. New contents were also produced and Keith Watson drew some new strips for this publication. Five more artists with Dan Dare connections also contributed to it. Graham Bleathman, who would later produce cutaways of Dan Dare spacecraft for both Spaceship Away magazine and a Haynes Manual, drew covers and cutaways of the Thunderbirds and associated craft for this and the subsequent Gerry Anderson related comics published by Fleetway. He also drew cutaways for a later Thunderbirds comic produced by Redan in 2000, a Haynes Thunderbirds Manual and other collections.
Keith Page, who drew some “Dan Dare” strips for the 1980s Eagle and a strip about the early career of Dan’s boss, Sir Hubert Guest, for Spaceship Away, drew several new “Thunderbirds” strips and covers for the Thunderbirds comic and covers for Fleetway’s Stingray comic. He also drew “Thunderbirds” for the Funday Times.
Rod Vass, who drew the “Dan Dare” strip for the 1980 2000 AD Annual, also drew a “Thunderbirds” strip for the Fleetway comic and designed the 1993 Thunderbirds and the World of Gerry Anderson Exhibition in Blackpool.
Jon Haward, who drew several “Dan Dare” strips for the 1980s Eagle, drew two “Thunderbirds” strips and some illustrations for Fleetway’s Stingray comic and Andrew Skilleter, who, as a boy co-founded the very first Dan Dare Club in the 1960s and later worked with Keith Watson on two “Dan Dare” stories for the 1980s Eagle, drew an epic 32-part strip telling the whole story of how the Thunderbirds organisation, International Rescue, was founded.
He also drew some covers for the Thunderbirds comic and produced artwork for Fleetway’s Stingray, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 comics and illustrated covers and ‘Mission Activity’ pages for the later Redan Thunderbirds comic -and also produced pictures for a Captain Scarlet Sticker Album. He currently supplies the Gerry Anderson Online Store (run by Gerry’s son Jamie), with licensed Limited Edition signed prints of his Anderson related work.
In 2014 a brand new single edition of TV Century 21, imagining a continuation of the comic that did not merge with Joe 90: Top Secret, was produced by Network. It included a new “Stingray” strip drawn by Gerry Embleton, a “Lady Penelope” strip by John M. Burns, as noted above, and a “Thunderbirds” strip drawn by Martin Baines, who had drawn some “Dan Dare” strips and illustrations for the early editions of Spaceship Away.
This led to further “Thunderbirds” and Gerry Anderson related work for Martin. He drew episodes of “Space: 1999” and “Captain Scarlet” for some DVD releases and, after a new CGI television series Thunderbirds Are Go! was launched on ITV in 2015, a short-lived comic of the same name appeared and he drew some of the strips in later issues. This time, DC Thomson were the publishers.
Martin has recently completed a Dan Dare cover for ComicScene magazine Issue 13, to mark Dan’s seventieth anniversary, on sale soon.
Collated and written by Jim Duckett and Steve Winders. We are most grateful to Shaqui Le Vesconte who provided much information and corrected our mistakes and to Martin Baines, Graham Bleathman, Steve Holland, Andrew Skilleter and Rod Vass for clarifying and providing information
This article was first published on the blog of the Eagle Society and is re-presented here with the permission of Steve Winders. For more about The Eagle Society and how to join and get their excellent magazine, visit eagle-times.blogspot.com
Dan Dare © Dan Dare Corporation | TV Century 21/ TV 21 brands © Rebellion Publishing Ltd | Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet © ITV Studios