That time Gerry Anderson’s “Thunderbirds” spin-off, “Zero-X”, flew to… Yugoslavia!

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.

Политикин Забавник, (“Politikin zabavnik”) 956 featuring Zero-X
Политикин Забавник, (“Politikin zabavnik”) 956 featuring Zero-X, with thanks to David Roach

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.

An episode of the first ‘Zero-X’ story to be published in Zabavnik, titled ‘Brad Newman on Mercury’, via Branko Djukic
An episode of the first ‘Zero-X’ story to be published in Zabavnik, titled ‘Brad Newman on Mercury’, via Branko Djukic

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’).”

The cover of the first edition of Politikin zabavnik, published in 1939, via Wikimedia, courtesy Society for Culture, Art and International Cooperation Adligat
The cover of the first edition of Politikin zabavnik, published in 1939, via Wikimedia, courtesy Society for Culture, Art and International Cooperation Adligat

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.

Политикин Забавник, (“Politikin zabavnik”) Modern

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.

Политикин Забавник, (“Politikin zabavnik”) – Official Site (in Serbian)

Политикин Забавник [Politikin zabavnik] on GCD

Политикин Забавник [Politikin zabavnik] on Wikipedia

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. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek 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.



Categories: British Comics, Classic British Comics, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News

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1 reply

  1. I came across this website by accident and am very glad that I found it. My childhood ( I’m 62 now ) was made complete by publications like TV21 and Countdown and, of course, Gerry Anderson. Looking at these finds, I would like to make a couple of comments: First, Major congratulations on finding these and publishing the images – such artefacts deserve to be preserved and not to disappear into obscurity, so well done!

    Second, I, as an artist was heavily influenced by Frank Bellamy, Gerry Embleton and Mike Noble (whose art is displayed in the second feature above.) Looking at the style of the first feature, Politikin zabavnik, though, I think that I can see some Mike Noble influence there and even Frank Bellamy in the fourth collection feature (although that is not to detract from the artists’ skill and talent!)

    If my observation is correct, the artists’ work would be a tribute to Messrs Noble & co, and it would be nice to think that their artwork jumped the Iron Curtain and landed squarely in the Soviet Union, which is more than NATO ever achieved!! lol.

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