TV21 161 - Zero-X by Jim Watson SNIP

In Memoriam: TV Century 21 and Battle Comic Artist Jim Watson

"Zero X" for TV 21, cover dated 17 February 2068. Art by Jim Watson
“Zero X” for TV 21, cover dated 17 February 2068. Art by Jim Watson

We’re sorry to report the recent passing of comic artist British comic artist Jim Watson, perhaps best known for his work on TV Century 21 during the 1960s and his strips for DC Thomson’s Commando and Warlord, and the Fleetway title, Battle Picture Weekly.

Born in the 1930s, Jim, who lived in, Scotland, had been ill for some time, suffering from Vascular Dementia, diagnosed in 2014. This, sadly, meant we were unable to progress a hoped-for interview that we attempted to secure at around the same time with help from artist Graham Manley.

However, Colin Noble did provide downthetubes with a terrific guide to Jim’s work in 2015.

Anyone who grew up in the 1960s reading TV Century 21 would instantly recognise his distinctive work, particularly on some of the darkest adventures faced in the comic by “Captain Scarlet”, as well as his art on “Zero X” and “Thunderbirds”.

He also did plenty of illustrations for the annuals, storybooks and the Captain Scarlet Sticker Book too, but there he was accompanied by more artists.

When TV21 merged with TV Tornado in September 1968, Frank Bellamy provided the opening cover page for "Captain Scarlet", but Jim Watson drew the interior pages, taking over from the unrelated Keith Watson. Jim would later draw the covers on some issues, too
When TV21 merged with TV Tornado in September 1968, Frank Bellamy provided the opening cover page for “Captain Scarlet”, but Jim Watson drew the interior pages, taking over from the unrelated Keith Watson. Jim would later draw the covers on some issues, too
TV21 201 - cover by Jim Watson
TV21 201 – cover by Jim Watson

Jim’s comics work on TV Century 21 was certainly very much part of my early encounters with comics, although back then, of course, his identity was a mystery to me.

Jim worked on many war comics including Battle Picture Weekly (the short-six episode story “Hold Hill 109” has been re-published by Titan Books), Commando, Warlord and Victor.

We believe one of his earliest strips for DC Thomson was art on “Daniel Boone” for a 1963 issue of Wizard.

The cover of Wizard 1959, cover dated 31st August 1963. The art is believed to be by Jim Watson
The cover of Wizard 1959, cover dated 31st August 1963. The art is believed to be by Jim Watson

Among his many other credits he also drew, uncredited “Hellman on the Russian front”, “Helmann of Hammer Force” and “Gang-Smashers!” for Action, for the short-lived title True War.

Jim Watson True War Sicily
“Sicily” for the short-lived True War title. Art by Jim Watson

He was also the creator of “Colony Earth”, a short serial originally published in 2000AD (Progs 52 to 61) in 1978, and worked on Tornado (drawing “Victor Drago’s Black Museum of Villains), a title that was quickly merged with 2000AD after just over twenty issues.

"Colony Earth: for 2000AD Prog 59, written and drawn by Jim Watson
“Colony Earth: for 2000AD Prog 59, written and drawn by Jim Watson

In the 1980s he drew for the short-lived horror comic, Scream!, drawing one-shot stories variously titled “Tales from the Grave”, “Ghastly Tales” and “Library of Death”. He also provided some covers, and drew, uncredited, “The Scary Cat Challenge” for Super Naturals.

The opening page of "Tales from the Grave - The Undertaker" from Scream Issue One, written by Tom Tully, art by Jim Watson
The opening page of “Tales from the Grave – The Undertaker” from Scream Issue One, written by Tom Tully, art by Jim Watson

His final comics work would appear to be numerous strips for Battle with Storm Force, including the  Falklands War-inspired story “Invasion”, written by Terry Magee. (There’s more about that story here in Jeremy Briggs “Falklands 25: Operation Corporate in Comics” feature).

A page from the Falklands War-inspired story "Invasion". published in Battle with Storm Force in August 1987. Story by Story by Terry Magee, art by Jim Watson
A page from the Falklands War-inspired story “Invasion”. published in Battle with Storm Force in August 1987. Story by Story by Terry Magee, art by Jim Watson

“I recall the impact Jim Watson’s – strikingly, innovative – treatment of ‘Zero X’ made when he first joined the TV21, virtually as an unknown,” recalls artist David Slinn. “I understood him to have come from the world of advertising, but perhaps he had actually gained experience from involvement with DC Thomson.”

“I never met Jim, but spoke to him many times on the telephone,” recalls former comics editor Barrie Tomlinson.

“He did some great work for my titles and was always a pleasure to work with.

“He was particularly kind, always buying me an ornate bottle of whisky every Christmas.   He worked on so many titles, always giving the same high standard of work, in his own, very distinctive style.

“I well remember the series ‘Tales From the Grave’ he did for Scream.  He produced artwork which was just right for the title.

“A true professional and a nice gentleman.”

All of us at downthetubes would like to extend our sympathies to Jim’s family, particularly his wife Mary and his son and daughter.

Web Links

Comic artist Jim Watson, surrounded by some of the comics he worked on. Image: The Scotsman
Comic artist Jim Watson, surrounded by some of the comics he worked on. Image: The Scotsman

The Scotsman published this obituary for Jim Watson on 17th January 2018

Colin Noble posted this appreciation of Jim Watson in 2015

• There are more details of Jim Watson’s work on Comic Vine

• There are more details of Jim Watson’s work on TV21’s “Zero X” strip on The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History site (link via WayBack)

• There are more details of Jim Watson’s work on TV21’s “Captain Scarlet” strip on the Spectrum Headquarters site

• There’s an interview with Chris Fitzsimons, who wrote some of the “Bishop’s Boffins” strips, here on the Victor and Hornet fan site

• Lew Stringer has posted some of Jim’s work here on his Blimey! blog and he has a feature on the 1960s Sticker Fun Books, which Jim worked on, here

While we have made every effort to ensure Jim Watson has been correctly credited for some of the work shown, corrections are very welcome. We welcome any information that enables us to find additional art, as we are still trying to document how much Jim contributed to the British body of work that is British comics. You can post information below, or on this Facebook thread (note you have to be a member of the group to post)

TV Century 21 artist Jim should not be confused with humour comic artist Jim Watson who drew humour material, including illustrating the reader’s jokes for Buster in the early 1980s and “Freaky Farm” for Monster Fun.

All art © respective publishers.

With thanks for additional information from DC Thomson, Fred McNamara, Richard Sheaf and Lee Sullivan – and Jeremy Briggs and Phil Rushton for additional imagery used in Colin Noble’s appreciation

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. 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.

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