Thunderbirds

Comics

Ronald Kroon

most Anderson series have appeared as comic strips. Many of those have been reissued in the past years by the British Fleetway Magazines and others. Since so much material has appeared in print by now, I thought it would be high time to assemble an inventory of what originates where, which comics are old and which are new and who drew what. While I was busy making the inventory, the UK magazine Time Screen had the same idea and published an overview of English tv comics. I will start with a historic overview of the most important English and Dutch Anderson related magazines and then I will give a survey of specific Thunderbirds comics.

1965TV21 and Lady Penelope

Alan Fennell, the man who also wrote scenarios for Thunderbirds, Stingray and Fireball XL5, stood at the cradle of TV21. At first he was employed by another magazine, TV Comic, in which appeared Four Feather Falls, Supercar and Fireball XL5 stories. But things had to be different, flashier. And so, a new newspaperlike magazine appears on January 23d. The pictures on the frontpage are often specially shot for the occasion in the APF studios. The premiere issue contains comics of Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray and Lady Penelope. The last is all the more remarkable since Thunderbirds wouldn't appear on UK television any earlier than October of that same year. A year later, on January 15th, 1966, our favourite rescue team appears on the centre pages for the first time. With the exception of a four week holiday, Frank Bellamy will draw this comic throughout the complete run of TV21.

By this time, Penelope gets centerfold ambitions as well and decides she wants her own magazine. A week after that, on January 22d, she gets her way: TV21 begets a sister, Lady Penelope. The TV21 run lasts until september 1969 and in the meantime another magazine, TV Tornado, has been incorprated: TV21/TV Tornado.

From issue 242 onwards there is another name change after merging with the Joe90 magazine which had lasted for 34 issues. Thunderbirds is now drawn by John Cooper. The TV21/Joe90 combination lasts until september 1971. The real Anderson die hards have left the sinking ship a year earlier, due to the absence of their favourite series. Lady Penelope runs out of steam by december 1969, the last issue being #203.

1966TV2000

On September 3d, 1966, following on the heels of the Albert Heyn folders, appears the premiere issue of TV2000, published by the Leiden based Nederlandse Rotogravure Pers. It is a continuation of the German based Fix & Fox magazine which, between issues 35 and 36, changes into TV2000. This transition causes the first few issues to contain wrap ups of Fix & Fox stories. Layout and content are an exact copy of TV21 and Lady Penelope but from the April 1st, 1967 dated issue 13 onwards, the format changes and it starts looking more and more like an average magazine. Halfway through the next year, printing is taken over by Italian printers Fratelli Spada in Rome. The comics appear to be roughly traced and coloured by the editor's four year old son. The disastrous results will be familiar to most Dutch readers. The Italian printer manages to steadily extend its share of comics of dubious quality (such as Mr. Magoo and Bewitched), causing contents and standing to take a nose dive. The last Thunderbirds story ends in issue 21 of 1969 and with issue 52 of that year, TV2000 dies a silent death.

1971Countdown and TV Action

In the spring of 1971, a new comic magazine appears, Countdown, which, after 45 issues, is renamed Countdown for TV Action. Starting from issue 59, it is known as TV Action + Countdown while, due to yet another name change, issue 101 through 132 appear under the header of TV Action. The last issue appears on August 25th, 1973. This magazine sports some new Thunderbirds comics, drawn by Don Harley and supplemented by a few Frank Bellamy reprints. An extensive description of Countdown can be found in issue 20 of FAB (july 1995).

1980-1990 – Fan attempts

The 80s decade knows a few shortlived attempts at publishing TV21 comics anew. Back issues are feverishly hunted for and this causes David Nightingale to try to reproduce some of the comics as best as possible in Action 21 and later still in his Anderson fanzine Century 21 – Worlds of Anderson. Due to limited printing runs and poor distribution, efforts are regretfully suspended. It would take the next decade for a new magazine to be more or less put on a level with TV21.

1991Thunderbirds the Comic

Thanks to a BBC employee, in 1991 Thunderbirds gets broadcast again on nationwide television instead of the regional commercial stations and a new generation discovers Thunderbirds. Alan Fennell remembers having had something to do with a Thunderbirds related magazine in earlier days and he starts all over again: Thunderbirds the Comic is born. It has a two week frequency and features a combination of reprints and new comics. Later, Thunderbirds is joined by Stingray, Captain Scarlet and Joe90 comics that will eventually merge into yet another new magazine, The NEW Thunderbirds. Many of the new stories are written by Fennell and are drawn by Keith Page. Specifically for this new comic, Martin Bower builds and photographs all the wellknown vehicles. Graham Bleathman does cutaway drawings of most vehicles and buildings. The old sources start to run dry by the end of 1994 and in march 1995, due to dissappointing sales figures, the last issue, issue 89, appears. The Ravette publishing company also whets its whistle on the renewed popularity of magazine and tv series and publishes six comic albums, mainly bundling Frank Bellamy's œuvre. In the middle of 1995, a new magazine called Thunderbirds Are Go! appears, obviously published by Alan Fennell. He simply picks up where the previous magazine left off. New items are a photo series, using mediocre television pictures, and a Famous Artists series where assorted Anderson artists can publish their unused front page spreads.

1994 – Semic Press: Thunderbirds

In the interests of completeness, the Dutch Thunderbirds magazine deserves a mention. This mag could have grown out to be a second TV2000. In February 1994, interest in Thunderbirds is such that a new magazine stands a chance. In the meantime, the Leidse Rotogravure has long ago died a silent death and, as usual, there are others more than willing to step into its place. In this case Semic Press, a Naarden based publishing company. The magazine is largely limited to reprints from newer stories from Thunderbirds the Comic. Early june 1995, the last issue of this none to creatively manufactured magazine appears; the curtain falls after 18 issues. Whereas Thunderbirds the Comic concentrated on new comics, Big Balloon publishers took the gamble of reissuing the old Bellamy comics. In all, they published four of the six Ravette albums for the Dutch market.

Thunderbirds, the comics

Since some stories are known under different titles, I started coding them. In all instances I departed from the firstknown (mostly British) publication, such as TV21 and Lady Penelope. If a Dutch title is known, it is noted. The list is incomplete and probably contains mistakes. Stories from the British annuals will be treated later.

The old stuff – tb001-099
The oldest Thunderbirds comics are Frank Bellamy's. He started in TV21 issue 52, first a three pager (two in full colour, one in black & white). After the first two stories, Bellamy got to fill the centrefold. He used it to his advantage, drawing panels that crossed over the page divider line. Starting from TB013, Captain Scarlet replaced Thunderbirds on the centrefold and its stories are printed on separate pages from thereon. TB001 through TB029 stem from TV21 and its spin offs, TB030 through TB036 were culled from TV21 and Joe90 and TB037 through TB044 come from Countdown and TV Action.
New stories – tb100-199
The part covering the newer stories is based on those that appeared in Thunderbirds the Comic. Those ten that are based on television episodes were originally written by Alan Fennell. Furthermore, a number of socalled poster magazines appeared that sometimes had new stories in them.

Anderson annuals

Fireball XL5, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds, UFO, Space:1999: almost every Anderson series had its own annual (only The Secret Service and Dick Spanner had to make do without one). The contens of the first few annuals, like the Fireball XL5 one, were equally divided between text and comics whereas the later ones put more emphasis on the comic strips. They did have their stories though, so the characters could be given more depth. For the most part, the annuals were published by City Magazines, the publisher of the Lady Penelope and TV21 magazines. Apart from annuals dedicated to these magazines, between 1966 and 1971 a number of books appeared which were dedicated to our brave rescue team. From 1972 onwards, other publishers (e.g. Polystyle Publications) sometimes produced annuals but it would not be until 1992 before Grandreams produced another two.

British quickies: the extras and holiday specials

Apart from the annuals, City Magazines published a number of other comics anthologies, usually during the holiday season. Specials from other publishers mostly contained reprints of old material and were sold as Holiday Specials. The Fleetway Holiday Special, for example, contained a complete story, the wellknown 'Build your own Thunderbird 1' and a number of pictures from Martin Bower's Thunderbirds models. Most of the comics from these publications are mentioned below in the survey of TV21 and other magazines.

The artists who drew the comics in the annuals are considerably harder to determine than those who did the magazines. Most of them were too busy drawing their weekly pages and left the work to other, often unknown, artists. Some of them copied the style of their better known counterparts almost to the letter. Brian Lewis' drawings of Thunderbird 3 (story TB046) for example, are almost literally copied from Frank Bellamy (TB001). Often, no name could be found on the drawings. For most of the artists who filled the annuals this is probably for the best since the quality of their work is often below par. Thus, the list contains a number of question marks in place of artist names.

Dutch annuals

The Dutch would have to make do with only three Thunderbirds Extra albums and a Captain Scarlet album even though a number of British annuals were printed on the presses of the Nederlandse Rotogravure Mij. which also published TV2000. As was the case with this magazine, a lot of material from the Dutch annuals had appeared earlier in their British counterparts. The original plates remained with the Rotogravure Mij. and only recently surfaced in a Utrecht comics shop.

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pre 1990 Thunderbirds comics
code title pages TV21 TV2000 TB-C Miscellaneous
TB001 Blazing danger 21 52-58 32-38 AC21 1-7
TB002 Mission to Africa 21 59-65 66/35-41 39-45 AC21 8-10
TB003 The Talons of the eagle 14 66-72 10-13 RAV4
Near miss HS84
Arendsoog ontmanteld 66/42-48 SPEC4
TB004 Atlantic Tunnel 20 73-82 01-04 RAV2
De Atlantische tunnel 66/49-05 SPEC3
TB005 Solar Danger 32 83-98 67/06-21 HS71/HS93
TB006 The Big Freeze 12 99-104 01-03 HS71/RAV1/CEN-5
Expeditie Noordpool 67/22-27 SPEC3
TB007 Operation Depthprobe 10 105-109 04-05 RAV2
Operatie pentatoleum 67/28-32 SPEC3
TB008 The Trapped Spy 18 110-117 04-06 RAV3
De opgesloten spion 67/33-40 SPEC1
TB009 Operation Earthquake 14 118-124 07-09 RAV3
Operatie Aardbeving 67/41-47 SPEC1
TB010 Tracy Island Exposed 10 125-129 07-09
Tracy Island ontdekt 67/48-52
TB011 The Revolution 14 130-136 11-13 RAV1
De revolutie 68/01-07 SPEC2
TB012 The Space Mirror 8 137-140 14-15 RAV2
De ruimtespiegel 68/08-11 SPEC3
TB013 The Earthquake Maker 12 141-146 01-03 RAV1/CEN-1
De aardbeving-maker 68/12-17 SPEC2
TB014 The visitor from Space 18 147-154 16-19
TB015 Hawaian lobster menace 12 155-161 69/04-06 25-26
TB016 Brains is dead 10 162-169 68/25-30 17-20 RAV6
TB017 The space cannon 6 170-172 68/38 20-22
TB018 Olympic kidnap plot 12 173-178 68/35 21-22
TB019 Mission to moonbase 10 179-183 68/43-44 HS93
TB020 The Devil's crag 8 184-187 68/49-50 23-24
TB021 Eiffeltower demolition 8 188-191 68/51-52 23-24
TB022 Nuclear threat 16 192-196 69/01-03 25-27
TB023 Antarctic menace 14 197-202 14-16 RAV4
Gevaar op Antarctica 68/18-24 SPEC4
TB024 The time machine 12 203-208 69/12-14 27-32
TB025 The zoo ship 18 209-217 69/15-20
TB026 City of doom 18 218-226 69/21-28 31-33
TB027 Chain reaction 16 227-234 33-37
TB028 Jungle adventure 8 235-238 38-41
TB029 Danger in the deep 8 239-242 42-45
Gevaar in de diepzee 09-10
TV21 & Joe 90
code title pages TV21 TB-C TB-NL
TB030 Seeking disaster 7 1-4 46-47
Gevaarlijk spel 13-14
TB031 The big bang 8 5-8 48-50
De grote klap 04-05
TB032 The dictator 3 9-13
TB033 The mountain station 16 14-21 57-60
De basis in de bergen 9
TB034 The mini-moon 16 22-28 54-57
TB035 Flying Saucer Submarine ? 29-34
TB036 The cave dwellers 8 35-38 52-53
De holenmensen 11-12
Countdown
code title pages TV21
TB037 The new system 10 1-5
TB038 Liner Kennedy 5 6
TB039 The Bathyscape 12 8-13
TB040 The Amazon affair 5 14
TB041 Diego Valdes 18 15-18
TB042 Higher the tide 16 19-23
TB043 U.N. Rescue Ltd ? 45-
TB044 The Crexus Creature 14 -60
TB001 Blazing danger 21 71-77
TB002 Mission to Africa 21 24-30
post 1990 Thunderbirds comics
code title pages TB-C TB-C-NL Miscellaneous
TB100 Pit of Peril 8 4-5
TB101 Sun Probe 12 6-8 AN92
TB102 Terror in New York City 12 9-11 RAV2
TB103 The space mystery 7 12 PM01
TB104 The uninvited 12 12-14 RAV2
TB105 Sabotage at Sea 7 PM03
TB106 City of fire 12 15-17 RAV6
TB107 30 minutes after noon 12 18-20 RAV5
TB108 The man from MI5 12 21-23
TB109 Martian invasion 12 24-26 24-26
TB110 Visitor from the sea 7 PM05
Onverwacht bezoek op Tracy Island SW95 3-4
TB111 Atlantic inferno 12 27-29
Inferno in de Atlantische Oceaan 09
TB112 IR in trouble 7 16-17 PM06
International Rescue in gevaar
TB113 Brink of disaster 16 30-33
TB114 Weather watch 12 34-36
De weerman 01
TB115 Wall of death 12 37-39
De muur des doods 02
TB116 Operation Icefloe 12 41-43
Operatie ijsschots 03
TB117 Journey to oblivion 12 43-45
Reis naar de vergetelheid 04
TB118 Rescue the rescuers 12 46-48
Redders in nood 05
TB119 The fire 12 49-51
De brand 13
TB120 The shaft of doom 12 50-52
Ramp in het middelpunt van de aarde 01-03
TB121 Disasters unlimited 20 53-57
Het rampbedrijf 07
TB122 Killer in the streets 12 58-60
International Rescue in Venetië 08
TB123 The bullion trick 12 61-63
De jacht op de goudstaven 11
TB124 Return of the Zombites 12 62-64
Terugkeer van de Zombites 06
TB125 Highway to disaster 12 64-66
Ramp op de snelweg 14
TB126 Machine mystery 12 64-66
Mysterieuze ongelukken 15
TB127 Visions of the past 12 67-69
Beelden uit het verleden 16
TB128 Sunprobe sensation! 12 70-72
De terugkeer van de Sunprobe 17
TB129 The virus! 12 73-75
Het virus 18
TB130 The unwelcome visit 12 76-78
TB131 The whirlpool 18 79-82
TB132 Fire mountain 10 111-121 AN93
TB133 Iceberg 10 83-85
TB134 Tunnel 13 85-87
TB135 Jungle mystery 11 88-89
annuals and holiday specials
code title pages source
TB045 Thunderbirds are Go! 22 Daily Mail, 5 dec 1966 – 7 jan 1967
TB046 Planet 275 6 Thunderbirds Extra 1966
TB047 Zarabia 8
TB048 Vlucht 907 6
TB049 Waves of Disaster 6 TV21 Annual 1966
Rampen komen niet alleen Thunderbirds Extra 2
TB050 Ambush in the Skies 6 TV21 Annual 1966, Thunderbirds
The Comic #84
TB051 The Renegade Rocket 5 TV21 Annual 1967
TB052 The Monster of the Lake 6
TB053 7
TB054 Secret Cargo 6 TV21 Annual 1968
TB055 Ocean Outlaw 6 TV21 Annual 1969
TB056 Ring of Fire 4 Thunderbirds Annual 1966
De oliebrand Thunderbirds Extra 2
TB057 Blackmail Of Power 8 Thunderbirds Annual 1966
Chantage Thunderbirds Extra 3
TB058 The Target 4 Thunderbirds Annual 1966
Het doelwit Thunderbirds Extra 3
TB059 Thunderbirds in Danger 4 Thunderbirds Annual 1966
Thunderbirds bedreigd Thunderbirds Extra 3
TB060 The Hood Makes A Strike 8 Thunderbirds Annual 1966
The Hood slaat toe Thunderbirds Extra 3
TB061 Atomic Ice Queen 4 Thunderbirds Annual 1966
Verradelijk ijs Thunderbirds Extra 3
TB062 Deep Sea Pirates 5 Thunderbirds Annual 1966
Diepzeepiraten Thunderbirds Extra 3
TB063 Terror Beneath the Waves 5 Thunderbirds Annual 1967
TB064 River of Destruction 6
TB065 Disaster at Deriba 5
TB066 The Trap 6
TB067 Bridge of Fear 4
TB068 Cloud of Death 4
TB069 Fight for Survival 7
TB070 Collison Course 6 Thunderbirds Annual 1968
TB071 Day Return From Death 4
TB072 Mask of a Traitor 6
TB073 Island of Fear 5
TB074 Code of Courage 6
TB075 Footprints in the Snow 5
TB076 Antartic Fury 4
TB077 Curse Of Elastos 8
TB078 Mind Machine 8 Thunderbirds/Scarlet Annual 1969
TB079 Fire Lords 4
TB080 Secret of the Mummy's Tomb 5
TB081 Crash Down 8
TB082 Invisible Invader 8 Thunderbirds Annual 1972
TB083 The Fire Trap (The Lawbrakers) 8
TB084 Doomwave 7
TB085 Terror At Torreba 6 Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1982
Countdown Annual 1972
TB086 Thunderbirds and the Space Pirates 8 Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1982
TB136 Pillars of Hercules 24 Funday Times #186-209
TB137 Latania 21 Funday Times #210-230
TB138 Prisoners 16 Funday Times #231-246
TB139 Introducing Thunderbirds 1 Funday Times #110