COVER STORIES for 09/03/2006
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #69
Welcome to the 649th edition of "Cover Stories," in which I look at a number of comics covers with a common theme!
Once again, my faithful readers, it's time for another installment of...
I'm taking a break this time around from "Drive-In Movie Classics," the Charlton title from an alternate reality, to present a special five-issue CTNM, featuring the classic Gerry Anderson Supermarionation show... Thunderbirds! So let's engage the Kurtzberg Alternate Reality Device, and check it out!
Now, I don't know about any of you, but when I was a kid, Thunderbirds was one of my favorite TV shows to air in "prime time" (at least, in Tacoma, Washington, it aired in what I considered prime time). I think I must've watched at least three or four episodes before I realized that I was watching puppets! The imagination of these (and the other Supermarionation shows) was always wild, and the characters definitely kept you coming back... but of course, it was the vehicles that most kids dug the most!
So, it's not well known, but Gold Key produced five issues of a Thunderbirds comic book concurrent with the TV show's airing in the United States. The book was published bi-monthly, and apparently didn't sell quite well enough to keep it going, but it did last nearly a year, which is pretty good for any new title in that period!
What isn't known at all - at least by me - is if the stories were done by American creators for Gold Key, or if they somehow made an arrangement to reprint British stories for their comics (for those who don't know, in the UK, hardback "Annuals" were produced that were basically comic books, usually based on a TV series)... or even reprinted from the British comic book "TV 21," which did feature Thunderbirds, among other TV shows in comics form.
I think that if these stories did originally appear in the UK, then they were at least relettered for Gold Key's publishing, since there aren't any words spelled in the UK style (for example, "color" isn't spelled "colour").
I can tell you that these five issues were apparently straightforward adaptations of the first five episodes, and instead of giving you synopses of them, I'll just point you out to an episode guide, located at http://www.thunderbirdsonline.co.uk/episodes/index.htm -- which appears to be the best Thunderbirds fan site on the internet!
I really have to suspect that the covers for these issues were prepared well in advance of the interiors, because there's no way that these covers relate to the stories printed inside! They seem to be picked entirely at random! For example, issue 3 here features Lady Penelope on a camel... and I don't think that a camel even appeared in the first episode!
It does appear that Thunderbird 2 (the vehicles were all named Thunderbird 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) was the most popular vehicle from the show, doesn't it? After all, it's prominently featured on issue 3 and 4's covers!
I will say something about the interior art... while the artwork does indeed look like the characters, they're not drawn to resemble puppets - whoever did the art apparently decided that they weren't going to limit themselves to whatever the puppets could do on the show - so the characters move much more dynamically than they did on the show! That's probably a good thing, too. And my earlier supposition about these stories being reprints of British comics doesn't hold up when I compare the art in the GK comics to the TV 21 comics (the British books seem to be a bit more rendered than was standard for Gold Key).
Like I said, there were only five issues of this book. Prior to this, even in our own reality, Gold Key had produced Supercar and Fireball XL-5 comic books - and of course, in the 1970s, Charlton adapted Space: 1999 into comics form. Their Supercar and Fireball XL-5 books were done in a very cartoony style, but as I said, this series was done a bit more realistically (the style almost looks like Russ Manning, although not as nicely inked as Manning's GK work was usually done).
OK, time to switch back to our home reality again... Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," in which I'll present a new installment of "Comics They Never Made," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !