In Review: Thunderbirds – The Comic Collection

Creators: Various, including artists Frank Bellamy, Frank Hampson, Eric Eden, John Cooper and Graham Bleathman
Publisher: Egmont Classic Comics
Out: Now

The Book: Blast off on a thrilling adventure through Thunderbirds comic history! Discover the iconic comic strips that captured the thrill and excitement of the cult TV series, read about the geniuses who created them, and look inside the spectacular Thunderbirds vehicles.

With original comic artwork by leading British artists and a F.A.B. selection of Thunderbirds cross-sections, this exciting collection is perfect for Thunderbirds fans everywhere. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Thunderbirds are Go!

The Review: This new collection of Thunderbirds strips, most drawn by Frank Bellamy (whose credits also include Dan Dare for Eagle), is a visual treat. The main strips featured are complemented nicely by a number of Lady Penelope stories, including one by Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson (the strip unfortunately credited to Bellamy), which ran in early issues of TV Century 21 and were published prior to the launch of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds on TV back in the 1960s.

Also in this collection are some great Thunderbirds-inspired cutaways by Graham Bleathman, which first appeared in Egmont’s own Thunderbirds comic published in the 1990s.

Thunderbirds Collection: Sample SpreadScanned from the original comics rather than artwork, the reproduction on the strips from TV Century 21 and TV21 is nevertheless of a high standard and Bellamy’s art in particular never fails to please. It’s clear that the team working on the reproduction have worked hard to do the best job possible with the resources available.

There’s a good selection of stories, too, although the tale drawn by John Cooper is verbose in the extreme and an oddity alongside the older material. One of my favourites, featuring an unstoppable alien monster, eventually brought down in an unexpected way, enables Bellamy to combine his skilled draughtsmanship with his known love of jungles and warrior tribesmen, often prevalent in his work for Eagle comic.

tb-collection-sample-cAlso included are two stories featuring the Thunderbirds‘ best-known foe, the Hood, the first story surely inspiration for the disappointing 1990s Thunderbirds film. If only the film makers had stuck to the plot featured here, rather than going with their own, we might have seen more than one big screen live action story.

On the ‘nit-picking’ side, I’d argue that in many cases, the characterisation of the Tracys in the comics is at odds with the TV series. For example, some might find Jeff Tracy’s advocacy of brainwashing at one point, to ensure an antagonist in future supports science rather than fighting against it, seems at odds with the character’s TV persona.

For the most part the focus of these strips also tends to be on Scott, Virgil and, for some reason, Brains, rather than the entire series cast – while Lady Penelope and Parker enjoy the pleasure of a strip of their own in early issues of TV Century 21, there’s just one appearance by Tin Tin in this collection.

One of Graham Bleathman's cutaways featured in the collection - all five Thunderbirds get the schematic treatment, as do key vehicles and locations.
One of Graham Bleathman’s cutaways featured in the collection – all five Thunderbirds get the schematic treatment, as do key vehicles and locations.
Thunderbirds Collection: John Cooper spread
This opening spread from the story belies the verbosity of later episodes that afforded artist John Cooper little opportunity to emulate the layouts Frank Bellamy was able to utilise.

But it’s action and excitement for which Thunderbirds is best remembered and characterisation, and for the most part a credible plot in the case of some of these strips, is strictly secondary. Bellamy’s art continues to impress nearly 50 years since its original publication and it’s no wonder it was Thunderbirds that continued to be the staple strip that proved TV21‘s core for much of its fondly-remembered run, despite the arrival of new stories inspired by later Gerry Anderson shows such as Captain Scarlet.

If you haven’t already bought earlier collections such as those published by Reynolds & Hearn, Egmont have delivered a fine new collection that will make for a great Christmas present for fans of the original show and comics, the latter costing a fortune on eBay.

The inclusion of later material and Graham Bleathman’s gorgeous cutaways makes it a splendid package that will appeal across generations.

Other Reviews…

Norman Boyd on the Frank Bellamy Checklist
“All in all a fantastic book to own especially if, like me, you’re always grabbing the Ravette paperbacks or Bentley and Marcus Hearn’s series of reprints and getting frustrated that you have to jump around the volumes so much. This book will be in easy reach so when I search for stories I can find them quickly.”

Steve Holland on Bear Alley
“For the most part the integrity of the colour is pretty good: working from printed copies can be a pain (believe me, I know!) as delicate colouring can easily be lost as you remove the smoky yellow cast caused by age. Volumes where artwork has been restored or rescanned from original boards can give us a far better chance of the colours remaining true in a printed book. But I think Egmont, bar the occasional glitch, have done a pretty good job.”

Lew Stringer on Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics
“For the completest, or new fans, or people who threw out their old comics, or people interested in British comics in general, this book would serve as an excellent way to obtain a good proportion of classic strips in one package. It’d also make a brilliant Christmas present for introducing a new generation to the delights of such quality material.”

Win Wiacek on Cokic Review
“The real treasure is the phenomenal and unparalleled work of Frank Bellamy, whose fantastic design, drawing and painted colour (which holds up rather well here, despite the limitations of modern print technology to accommodate the subtleties of the photogravure process) steals the show – and usually one’s breath away!”

 

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

2 thoughts on “In Review: Thunderbirds – The Comic Collection

  1. Thanks for the review. I wonder if I already got the stories in the new Century 21 volume 1-5 published a few years ago?

    1. It’s possible. I’d suggest checking the Technodelic “Complete Gerry Anderson History” web site which may be a help: http://www.technodelic.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/HomeA.htm. The problem there is that one of the stories in the original comic had titles and it’s possible Reynolds & Hearn may have called a story one thing in their collections and Egmont another… The only way to check would be to find a copy in a physical bookshop and have a flick through!

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