Friday 7 November 2014

Thunderbirds Are Go!

A thrilling, futuristic volume of 1960s Thunderbirds comic strips. It features The Earthquake Maker, Visitor from Space and The Antarctic Menace. This is the first book in a five volume set of Thunderbirds comic strips.

As I child I was a huge fan of all things Gerry Anderson. Along with Smallfilms (more about this in a future post), Gerry Anderson had a significant impact on me as a child. Fireball XL5 and Stingray were often repeated on mid-morning TV during the school holidays, back in the days when we only had three or four channels to choose from. Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, Space 1999 and then later, Terrahawks on a Saturday morning, were also firm favourites. As a teen I loved watching repeats of UFO, and now own the DVD boxsets. But my favourite of the lot was and still is Thunderbirds. If memory serves me correctly, I even managed to persuade my parents to open the double doors between the lounge and the dining room so I could watch its mid-70s repeat run on TV whilst we ate Sunday lunch

Next year is going to be a big year for Gerry Anderson fans. 2015 is the 50th anniversary year of the first screening of Thunderbirds and ITV are currently producing a brand new series. 2015 will also see the release of the first book in the new Gemini Force One series, written by M.G. Harris and based on a concept that Gerry himself was unable to develop fully due to his suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and his untimely death in 2012. It's a great time to be a fan of Gerry Anderson's work.

Egmont currently own the publishing rights to the classic 1960s Thunderbirds comic strips. Last Christmas, my great friend Carol from Windsor Waterstones gave me a copy of Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection, a hefty book of almost 300 pages of the classic comic strips, also published by Egmont. Of course, such a hefty book came with an equally hefty price tag (rrp £25) which some parents may have thought too excessive for what could be a purchase that may not interest their 21st century child, even though it is a fantastic set of comic stories. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when a thin, softback edition arrived in the post a while back (rrp £6.99). It would now appear that Egmont are publishing those same stories from the hardback Comic Collection, but over five softback volumes that are each pretty much the same size as a Tintin book. Bought together, the price will exceed that being asked for the hardback collected edition, but it is a much more manageable layout for parents who are not sure whether their children will like it or not. I would imagine that most kids will also prefer this format.

All three of the strips in this first volume are illustrated by the brilliant Frank Bellamy. If your children are fans of modern, full-colour comics then they are in for a treat here. Bellamy was an incredibly talented comic illustrator, with immense skill at producing vivid and imaginative action scenes for his characters. Eschewing the more formal, even grid format that was popular in other UK comics at the time, Bellamy preferred a layout of panels with cut-outs, zigzag edges and asymmetrical shapes, all of which added greatly to the dynamism of the artwork. The stories themselves are great escapist fun, featuring incredibly daring and exciting rescues; in fact, the writers and artist went to town with the comics, producing scenarios that were either too expensive or impossible to film for the 1960s TV show.

These new softback editions sadly do not contain the fabulous vehicle cutaways from the 1990s Thunderbirds comics that Egmont included in Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection (at least, Volume 1 doesn't). However, I have this morning spotted that Egmont have just published Inside the World of Gerry Anderson, a "complete definitive collection of Graham Bleathman's cutaways includes detailed images from Thunderbirds, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, plus less well known craft and locations seen only in the comic strips". I think this may have just found its way onto my Christmas wishlist!