TV 21 Comics
In 1965, the series 'Stingray', which told the immensely popular underwateradventures of Troy Tempest and his friends, was rewarded with its own comic.TV Century 21 hit the bookstalls to the delight of a million children on23rd January 1965. The magazine, later to drop the 'Century', and now knownwidely as TV 21, was a brilliant piece of marketing by A.P. films, whichcapitalised on the immense popularity of the latest Anderson shows.
Despite the fact that 'Supercar' and 'Fireball XL5' were made long beforethe start of 'TV 21', they were still being shown sporadically on ITV, andthey were also featured in the magazine. 'Thunderbirds' was not featured inTV 21 until issue 52 , but one of the key characters from it, thearistocratic Lady Penelope, was featured from the start.
'Fireball XL5', 'Stingray' and 'Lady Penelope' were the three colour stripswhich started with the launch of the magazine. The front covers were incolour too, with photographs either from one or more of the Andersontelevision series, or occasionally of the stars of the back page feature -'The Daleks'. Although the long running 'Dalek' strip in TV 21 did notfeature Doctor Who ( whose copyright was with the BBC while the Dalekcopyright belonged to Terry Nation ), it is still very popular with DoctorWho collectors and pushes prices up for TV 21 comics. Some of the TV 21strips were later reprinted in the Marvel Doctor Who comic which is stillrunning.
In contrast to TV Comic which was a traditional strip comic, TV 21 waspresented as a newspaper for children with a front page of 'Stop Press'items and 'news' style photographs of their puppet heroes. The freshapproach captured the imagination of a whole generation of children, and atits peak TV 21 was selling over one million copies every week.
Early copies of TV 21 are very hard to find, and fetch very high pricescompared to almost all other Anderson printed material. It is easy to seewhy. The artwork was of an excellent standard, with artists like Eric Edenand Frank Bellamy ( who had worked on 'The Eagle' ) contributing strips forthe magazine. It was also a very 'new' style of comic, and had nocompetitors in its own particular field of science-fiction and secret agentadventure strips.
The much heralded arrival of 'Thunderbirds' in TV 21 came after the firstimmensely successful year of the comic. In issue 52, Lady Penelope visitsTracy Island to see the home of International Rescue, and agrees to be theirBritish agent. On the following week, Lady Penelope was given her own comicin a spin off from TV 21 aimed at girl television fans. The emphasis herewas a little different, with the first class Lady Penelope strips beingaccompanied by features on pop stars and fashion. This comic is also verypopular with collectors, with many photographs from the television series.
A glance through the early issues of TV 21 and Lady Penelope gives some ideaof the enormous popularity of Gerry Anderson's productions in the mid1960's. There were any number of models, records, books and toys availableand all of these items command high prices today.
As well as the weekly TV Century 21 and Lady Penelope comics, there werealso a number of 'Specials' published by the magazine which have become veryprized collectors items. An example is the 'Thunderbirds' extra from 1966,which contained 48 pages devoted almost exclusively to 'Thunderbirds'. Dueto its size, this issue was stapled unlike most of the other Century 21productions which were not.
The 'Thunderbirds' special contains the usual array of excellent strips, aswell as an unlikely invitation to 'Build your own Thunderbird 1', thecomponents of which were featured on pages 20 and 29. I doubt if even themost ardent Anderson fan would have attempted this task, as the resultingpaper model would at best have looked rather disappointing. However, it isworth checking that these pages are present if you are offered a copy of themagazine. As a 'Thunderbirds' momento, this production, like the 'Stingray'special, is a very worthwhile addition to a collection.
Another important 'Thunderbirds' item published by Century 21 was'Thunderbirds are go', a glossy large format soft cover book about the first'Thunderbirds' feature film which is full of stills from the film. Thestory of 'Thunderbirds are go' was also serialised in 'TV 21' in issues101-104, and illustrated with stills rather than the usual artwork.
In 1967 the indestructible 'Captain Scarlet' appeared on television and inthe pages of TV Century 21. Meanwhile, Captain Scarlet's enemies 'TheMysterons' were having their history explained in another City Magazinespublication TV Tornado which also featured the popular series 'Man fromUncle' and 'The Saint'. TV Tornado merged with TV 21 in September 1968.
TV Century 21 comic officially dropped the 'Century' from the title at thestart of 1968 after 154 issues. On 18th January 1969, the latest GerryAnderson success, 'Joe 90', was given his own paper. This was not a verylong lasting publication however, merging with TV 21 in September 1969 afterjust 34 issues. From this point onwards, the TV 21 and Joe 90 comic as itwas then called restarted their numbering from number 1, with 'New SeriesNo.' given on the front cover. The new comic kept to a similar format, butthe Anderson strips of 'Joe 90' and 'Thunderbirds' were relegated to blackand white in favour of the new favourites 'Star Trek' and 'Land of thegiants'.
One important factor to consider when collecting comics is the presence orabsence of 'free gifts'. The first issue of most comics features such agift to attract an initial readership who may or may not stay with thecomic. In this respect, the Gerry Anderson comics are no exception. Thefirst two TV 21 comics contained a secret code book and special agent badgewith coded message forms respectively. Lady Penelope number 1 featured herladyship's signet ring, while the first Joe 90 comic came with Mac's jet carkit. Many other gifts were given with other issues, usually when theinterest of the readers might be beginning to flag.
As a general rule, issues of comics with missing free gifts will be worthabout the same as other issues around the same number. However, thepresence of a free gift, particularly with a very rare comic such as thefirst issue of TV 21, can multiply the value of the comic by two or moretimes. The reason for this is that to the purist a comic is incompletewithout its free gift, and so 'complete' copies must be worth more.
Please take a look at our archive page to view the covers of individual TV21 comics.
'I wish I was a spaceman, the fastest man alive, I'd fly around the universe in Fireball XL5' - From Fireball by Don Spencer