This article has been updated since initial publication to clarify the various rights issues surrounding the original titles featured
2000AD publisher Rebellion has confirmed to downthetubes that they own the TV21 brand, which suggests they also own TV Tornado and Solo – and, possibly, rights to some non-TV strips published by City Magazines in the 1960s.
The information comes as a result of Rebellion’s extensive work establishing the fine detail of property rights following its purchase of the Fleetway titles from both Egmont and TI Media in recent years.
(For a list of some properties they own, visit our See also: British Classic Comics – Who Owns What? page).
TV Century 21, later TV21, launched in January 1965, led with now much-reprinted strips based on the Gerry Anderson “Supermarionation” shows such as Fireball XL5 and Stingray and, later, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. At its peak, the title sold over one million copies a week.
Rebellion’s ownership of the TV21, TV Tornado, Solo and more is based on IPC / Fleetway’s absorption of City Magazines in the 1970s, revamping TV21, which was merged with Valiant and Penelope, the later incarnation of Lady Penelope, which was merged with Princess Tina.
TV Tornado was an action adventure title whose strips were all based on licensed properties such as The Saint – which merged with TV21 with Issue 192; and Solo, had a similar format and was merged with TV Tornado with Tornado Issue 37.
As titles, City Magazines short-lived Joe 90 comic, home to stunning “Star Trek” and “Land of the Giants” strips, and its hugely successful girls title, Lady Penelope, would today have to be licensed for use from ITV, but the later incarnation of Lady Penelope, titled simply Penelope, later merged with Princess Tina, is presumably also owned by Rebellion.
At this stage, it is unclear who might own City Magazines peculiar nursery title, Candy, published between 1967 and 1968.
A BRIEF GUIDE TO THE OWNERSHIP OF SOME TV21 STRIPS
It’s important to stress that the ownership of the TV21 brand and more does not pave the way for reprints of TV21‘s best-known TV-inspired strips.
Indeed, most of the strips featured in titles such as TV Century 21, Lady Penelope, Solo and Tornado were based on TV properties, published under license and reproduction would require a licensing agreement from the current brand holders. so, although Rebellion owns some of the City Magazines titles, to license publication of “Thunderbirds” strips from TV21, for example, you would require a license from ITV. All the well-known Gerry Anderson-owned properties that had strips in TV21 and Lady Penelope are owned by ITV.
Reproduction of “The Daleks” from TV Century 21 would require a joint license from the BBC and the agents of the Terry Nation Estate. This joint licensing issue is in part why a hardcover collection has never happened and the only collection remains the Special edited by Gary Russell for Marvel UK in the 1990s, possible in part because MUK was then a Doctor Who license holder.
Strips such as “The Monkees” for Lady Penelope were also produced under license and would require permission for reproductions from the band’s agents (in the case of The Monkees, RHINO). (The same applies to strips from Look-In, a brand now also owned by Rebellion – especially if a publisher was seeking to collect the strips for publication in the United States, where copyright over your likeness is more strictly enforced).
Chertok TV, owners of “My Favorite Martian” (published as “My Favourite Martian” in TV Century 21), established ownership of that strip and its physical artwork while it was still hold by Express Newspapers. Other rights holders of strips such as “Burke’s Law” and “The Munsters” would own also the rights to those strips.
THE POTENTIAL OF OWNING TV21: THE GOOD NEWS FOR FANS
However, while ownership of the TV21 brand doesn’t put Rebellion in a position to independently reprint licensed material from the comic, it might put them in a better position to work out terms with whichever organisation is on the other side. Rights holders for a strip where the Intellectual Property still had an audience might welcome the prospect of being able to team up with a publisher like Rebellion, who now own a huge catalogue of British comic titles and comic properties.
With their established, visible Treasury of British Comics line and years of experience restoring material, printing, publishing, marketing and working with distributors and press, this might make IP owners more inclined to consider working out a mutually favourable licensing deal if Rebellion came calling.
Perhaps establishing brand ownership of TV21 might also smooth the way to a book on this well known and much loved title, similar to Steve Holland’s brilliant book on the entirely separate 1970s Countdown comic? While again rights ownership of individual properties might prove a major minefield, it is an intriguing possibility and one which a number of publishers have previously investigated.
Another option might even be a revival of the brand as a completely new comic. While the ownership of the TV Century 21 and TV21 brands doesn’t enable Rebellion to publish the strips the boys comic is best known for, the brand is even today, well remembered.
What might a TV21 published in the 21st century include today?
This report was updated on 18th July 2019 with thanks to online social media comment and notations from Thunderbirds illustrator and Gerry Anderson author and expert Graham Bleathman, Sam Denham, author of the Haynes Captain Scarlet – Spectrum Agents’ Manual, comics archivist and designer Richard Pearce and comic’s artist and author David Roach
THE NON-TV STRIPS OF TV21
TV21 featured some non-TV strips whose ownership has, for years, been in doubt and the subject of some discussion. These are “Catch of Kill”, “Front Page”, “The Investigator”, “Project SWORD”, “Secret Agent 21” (and its incarnation as “Mr Magnet”) and “Super League”.
It is our understanding that Anderson Entertainment, the company owned by Gerry Anderon’s family, have in the past been unable to conclusively assert rights to these non-TV strips.
It should, of course, be noted that these strips did on occasion feature Gerry Anderson-related vehicles and some elements from the wider “Century 21” universe, which would complicate their reprinting.
The list below draws on information assembled by Shaquille le Vesconte for his much-missed Complete Comic History of Gerry Anderson web site
Various writers and artists
Project SWORD was based on a range of toys that Century 21 Productions bought in and rebranded for sale in the UK, with text stories and some strips in TV21 and Solo. The line up did include the Zero X spaceship from the Thunderbirds are Go movie (which also had its own strip), but it wasn’t central to the series which was set on an Earth devastated by a natural disaster, humanity split between science (protected by Project S.W.O.R.D.) and the “Casuals” who rejected it.
Special Agent 21
Various writers and artists
“Special Agent 21” was the longest running comic strip to appear in the pages of TV Century 21. The star of the strip was a Universal Secret Service agent code-named 21 – the James Bond of the future. At one point, as superheroes gained in popularity in the UK, he gained power over magnetism, becoming “Mr. Magnet”, but the strip eventually reverted to its original name and content.
The strip ran for almost the entire run of the comic until its later revamps, but it does occasionally include some Anderson-show related elements.
It’s a series crying out for a modern revamp and – a one-off strip written by John Freeman, drawn by Brian Williamson, appeared in a TV Century 21 special edition released by specialist blu-ray and DVD distributors Network.
Catch or Kill
Art mostly by John M. Burns, written by Angus Allan
“Catch or Kill” centred on the adventures of one Curtis Raymond Alan Gorton, or ‘Crag’ to his friends, a lazy playboy who has come into some money — if he can capture a giant snake in the Burmese jungle. He eventually gets his snake plus a sidekick and his money, and he sets up a sort of inter-galactic game hunting business.
An edited version of one of the “Catch or Kill” stories appeared in the 1971 Countdown Holiday Special, re-scripted and re-titled as a full-length “Countdown” story.
Art by John M. Burns, written by Angus Allan
The main reason for the strip “Front Page” was to introduce Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons to TV Century 21 in a novel way – and certainly, this is what it is best remembered for. But following on from the trend of other 21st Century stories not based on television series, it focused on the adventures of the team behind TV21 itself.
Art by Don Harley, written by Angus Allan
Bar “Secret Agent 21”, which was set in the ‘past’ of the 2040s, “The Investigator” was the first strip in TV Century 21 to be set in the 2060s, the setting of the comic’s Gerry Anderson strips, without actually being based on a television series. The 2060s had already been mapped out quite extensively, and there was obvious mileage in the future history to add some more drama. It featured the exploits of Bob Devlin and Marc Carter, troubleshooters for Universal Engineering Incorporated, builders of the XL fleet, Fireflash and the very first Martian probe. This could so easily, perhaps be a kind of Doomwatch-style eco-thriller tale if revamped.
Art by Malcolm Stokes
A Manchester football team story set in the 21st century.
What Did That Dog Say?
Of the strips in Lady Penelope, only “What Did That Dog Say?” – a humorous stories about a girl who can understand the language of dogs thanks to a magic ring – might be owned by Rebellion. Created by Angus Allan, this first appeared in Lady Penelope as a text story, but it was popular enough to become a weekly comic strip. Later it would be renamed “What Did That Dog (And Cat) Say?” when the main character, Cathy, gained the ability to understand cats as well as dogs.
• The Gerry Anderson Web Site: Gerry Anderson comics are go! The TV21 Story
Article by Chris Dale on the history of the comic
• Deadly Toy: A Secret Agent’s Fountain Pen
By Anthony Simons (aged 9), Leicester (it says here)
TV Century 21 (from Issue 1 – 154), later just called TV21 (from 1968, from issues 155 – 191), was published weekly from 1965 to 1969. In 1969 it merged with Joe 90 to become TV21 & Joe 90 (issues 192 – 242). TV21 Annual and TV21 Specials were also published. It ran for 242 issues. The title merged with Valiant, published as and TV21 with the issue of the former cover dated 2nd October 1971
Launched in 1969, as the titles produced by the partnership between Century 21 and City Magazines were beginning to struggle, Joe 90 Secret Agent featured the adventures of Gerry Anderson’s latest puppet star, the eponymous teenage secret agent Joe 90, with other strips adapting the ITC superhuman spy show The Champions, Land of the Giants and Star Trek, both original material rather than reprinting US comic adaptations.
Joe 90 ran for 34 issues before being cancelled and merged into TV21 to form TV21 and Joe 90.
Leading with strips based on Lady Penelope, the secret agent seen in the television series Thunderbirds, this weekly comic, which ran from1966 until 1969, included strips such as “The Angels:, stories set around the pilots from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, “The Monkees”, “Bewitched”, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Marina, Girl of the Sea”, stories about Marina, the mute undersea girl seen in Stingray.
The title changed to The New Lady Penelope with issue 53, back to Lady Penelope with issue 63 and then to Penelope from issue 123 onwards, as the comic dropped its connection to Gerry Anderson’s shows. The run ended with issue 204, cover dated 13th December 1969, after which the title joined with Princess Tina.
Its focus firmly on action adventure, TV Tornado was a weekly comic published from 1967 to 1968. Solo comic merged with the title in September 1967. Comic strips included original strips based on “The Saint” and “Flash Gordon”, “The Green Hornet”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Magnus, Robot Fighter”, “The Phantom” and “Tarzan” , among others.
TV Tornado ran for 88 issues before merging with TV Century 21.
Published by City Magazines, Solo featured stories such as “The Man from UNCLE” (a reprint of the Gold Key title), “Sergeant Bilko”, “The Scarecrow” (reprinting the Gold Key comic adaptation of Disney’s movie adaptation of the British Scarecrow of Romney Marsh novels), Disney’s “Uncle Scrooge” and “Goofy”.
The title added a Century 21-related strip, “The Mysterons” with issue 16, a prequel story starring the villains of then-yet to air new show Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.
Solo was merged into TV Tornado after 31 issues
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The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. 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 “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.