Here’s a real obscurity for you, unearthed by comics artist and archivist David Roach – Issue 956 of the Yugoslavian (now Serbian) title, Политикин Забавник, (“Politikin zabavnik”), published in 1974. On the originated cover, artist unknown, is “Zero-X”, a strip first published in the Gerry Anderson series-inspired British weekly comic TV Century 21.
While many of this issue’s interior strips were American reprints, “it also featured Mike Noble‘s fabulous ‘Zero-X’ strip,” David, author of Masters of British Comic Art, notes, “which I’m sure would have blown some minds among the Eastern bloc readership.” (Yugoslavia was not, it must be noted, part of the ”Eastern bloc”, but we know where David is coming from).
Later, the title also reprinted episodes of “Thunderbirds” from TV21, featuring art by Frank Bellamy.
A double page spread in its original format, largely drawn by Mike Noble, Belgrade-based comics fan Branko Djukic notes the “Zero-X”strip, inspired by the giant exploration spacecraft first seen in the film, Thunderbirds are Go, was reprinted as single page episodes.
And, as David suggests, it certainly left an impression on those reading it.
“My impressionable pre-teen mind was surely blown,” agrees comic artist Bojan M. Đukić. “Not yet aware of ‘The Trigan Empire’ et al, this comic was my very first encounter with painted colour strips. I still shudder remembering the impact this comic had on me at the beginning of the second half of the 1960s.”
“The next one introduced… was Frank Bellamy’s ‘Thunderbirds’, translated into Serbian as ‘Patrola Grom’ (‘The Thunder Patrol’).”
First published in February 1939, originally printed in a newspaper format, and issued bi-weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays, the original Politikin Zabavnik (in Serbian Cyrillic, Политикин Забавник) ran for over 3000 issues until 1991. It was originally conceived as a newspaper that would appeal to both young people and adults, in order to prepare for later reading of the “more serious” daily title, Politika.
Combining education with fun, including Disney reprints, the editorial team at Zabavnik, who took their task seriously, and built something of a cultural institution through interesting columns about the world of science, nature and history.
The title’s comics content evolved down the years, adapting to reader interests over time, publishing westerns, humour, superhero, science fiction and war comics, often drawing on reprints of both American and British comics for its content. Other SF strips featured included Planet of the Apes and the original Battlestar Galactica.
The title was relaunched in January 1968 in magazine format, and in 1971, Politika’s Zabavnik began to be published in both Latin and Slovenian, and at the height of its popularity, in 1975, it reached a circulation of 330,000 copies.
Publishing was continued in Serbia in 1992, when Yugoslavia was split into different countries, and Politikin Zabavnik is still a popular magazine in Serbia to this day, published by Politika Newspapers and Magazines, alongside several other general interest and specialist titles.
Edited today by Zefirino Grace, aimed at everyone from “seven to 107”, the weekly title’s editorial team employs many associates who write, paint, draw and invent, including members of the Academy of Sciences, university professors, painters, doctors, astronomers, biologists, historians, professors of language and literature, and graphic artists such as Alexa Gajić, Darko Grkinic, and others.
One third of the modern magazine is still comics, while the other two thirds contain articles about science, nature, history, literature, music, interesting events, written to appeal to the broadest audiences.
With thanks to David Roach, Branko Djukic and Bojan M. Đukić
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.