Category Archives: Captain Scarlet

Captain Scarlet: “Secret Mission”

Original run: TV21 #158 – #160

Artist: Mike Noble

Writer: Angus P. Allan

After the fairly dry “Observatory Network”, Captain Scarlet found its throttle with “Earth’s Communications”, a story so tightly-wound and superbly compact that it didn’t have the space or time to put a foot wrong in terms of quality. That Mad Max: Fury Road-esque nature spills over into “Secret Mission”, a story as deadly as it is dandy.

secretmission2In the space of three issues, Angus P. Allan mixes science fiction, political espionage, and thrilling adventure in a surprisingly topical story that’s perhaps too grizzled to appear on the television. However, the end result is one of the best stories TV21 ever did.

“Secret Mission” opens with a curiously out-of-place character motivation for Captain Scarlet – he’s assisting Professor Loot, a scientist aligned with World Government, in crossing the Bereznik border.  It’s out of place because we’re so used to seeing Scarlet fight the good fight of Spectrum, with no reference to any life for any Spectrum agent outside of Spectrum itself.

It’s a mystifying portrait of Scarlet’s non-Spectrum adventures, and an interesting development of his character. Is Paul REALLY prepared to further political tensions between the infamously volatile Bereznik and the World Government just to help out an old friend?

Unsurprisingly, Bereznik troops discover Scarlet and Loot’s attempts at safe travels, and unleash hell on them. The resulting battle appears to catch hold of the Mysterons, who use an unsuspecting Scarlet to create something of a civil war on Earth between the World Government and Bereznik.

In these three issues, Allan doesn’t get a lot of room to explain much of the logic behind “Secret Mission”‘s plot. Why were Scarlet and Loot trying to cross the border? How did the Mysterons know Spectrum would attempt to protect the Bereznik president when the president explicitly told them NOT to enter Bereznik soil? Surely doing so would only break an already-tense relationship Bereznik has with the rest of the civilised world, which Colonel White gives Scarlet a telling off for anyway because of his shenanigans with Loot?

But I digress. If I spent my time criticising the lack of logic in Captain Scarlet, be it in TV21 or the TV show, I’d be here all day!

TV21 #159
TV21 #159

What “Secret Mission” may lack in sensible plotting it makes up for with intense pace, slick action, and palpable danger. Captain Scarlet rarely got this political in other forms of media, and it’s a testament to TV21‘s fearlessness that editor Alan Fennell would give this story the thumbs up for publication.

“Secret Mission” also stands as a riveting antithesis of what the Century 21 TV shows stood for in terms of themes and representations of our future. The worlds of Fireball XL5, Stingray, and Thunderbirds depicted a Utopian landscape, where mankind unites together in the name of technology, peace and alien invaders. The various World Security groups even found time to befriend underwater or outer space creatures and civilisations, extending their grabs of friendship.

With Captain Scarlet however, everything goes a bit pear-shaped, and “Secret Mission” personifies this. Bereznik is shown to have a fully functioning army, capable of being deployed in what seems to be mere moments, without a great deal needed to trigger them into action. Scarlet’s unexpected responsibility for assassinating the Bereznik President is a reflection of Captain Black’s unexpected responsibility for being the cause of the Mysterons’ hatred of Earth, and the war that ensues.

There’s a sublime menace to the Mysterons in this strip. They may have been the nemesis of Spectrum, but here, they pretty much just sit back and let humanity nearly wipe itself out. Many a plot-hole has been discussed regarding why the Mysterons didn’t simply wipe humanity out in one blow, but stories like “Secret Mission” lend the Mysterons some gravitas.

secretmission1“Secret Mission” parallels how the Mysterons appeared to progress in the TV series, whereby they observed human nature and seemed disgusted by it. This culminated in “The Heart of New York”, where the Mysterons effectively punished mankind for its obsession with greed. Here, they do the same, but instead of greed, it’s war.

When I mentioned three issues wasn’t a great deal of room for Allan to deliver sensible plotting, I may well have been mistaken.

“Secret Mission” easily stands alongside “Unity City” as the best Captain Scarlet strip we’ve covered so far on Operation Megaventures. Where “Unity City” gave us a seemingly unstoppable adventure for Scarlet and the Spectrum crew, “Secret Mission” feels far more substantial a read with its themes of politics, war and brutal tone.

There’s good reason why folks bought TV21 like hot cakes back in the day, and why they remain such a popular read. “Secret Mission” isn’t just good – it’s fantastic.

Is “Secret Mission” one of your favourite Captain Scarlet strips? Let us know in the comments section below! You can read “Secret Mission” in Egmont’s The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection!

Captain Scarlet: “Earth’s Communications”

Original run: TV21 #155 – #157

Writer: Angus P. Allan

Artists: Ron Embleton, Mike Noble (colour reprints)

ec01
You can almost hear “Star Man” playing as the Mysteron agent waits for Scarlet!

Following on from the mammoth adventure “Unity City” and the downright dull “Observatory Network”, “Earth’s Communications, Captain Scarlet‘s third story in TV21, is a brief, brisk and lively tale for the indestructible hero of Spectrum and a vast improvement over “Observatory Network”.

“Earth’s Communications” finds the Mysterons threatening to turn the Earth into a planet of silence, and despite the adventure running a grand total of three instalments, they come dangerously and tantalizingly close to their goal. There’s even enough time for Scarlet to have a quick tango with Captain Black (still wearing his Spectrum uniform, but here there’s a bit of context!), but the shortness of “Earth’s Communications” is ultimately its downfall.

TV21 #155
TV21 #155

Once again scripted by Angus P. Allan, in the space of two chapters he crafts a great sense of how deadly the Mysterons can be in achieving their goal, but even by TV21‘s lightning-quick pacing, the first two chapters of “Earth’s Communications” feel more like rough script outlines than a fully-fledged story. The story is all too short for any genuine terror to radiate from the pages, and the final chapter is given to an out-of-place showdown between Scarlet and Black. Allan clearly gets what Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons is all about and how a typical adventure should progress, but because of its shortness in length, progressing is the one thing “Earth’s Communications” struggles to do.

The Angels being attacked by a Thunderbird 5 rip-off with a ‘4’ logo? Only in TV21 folks!

Nevertheless, Allan and Ron Embleton work in tandem in bringing this all-too-small a story to life. The climax of the first chapter is riveting, both in its script and artwork. As Cloudbase erupts from the Mysteron’s plans, Captain Scarlet is, for a brief moment, brought down from his Olympian status as an indestructible human being to a far more common man. Embleton illustrates Scarlet, Colonel White and Lieutenant Green eyes screwed shut and hands clasped to their ears, trying to drown out the Mysteron attack. It’s a great bit of action from the pen and paper of Allan and Embleton.

“Earth’s Communications” has the potential to be one of the best TV21 adventures for Captain Scarlet ever, but at three chapters clocking in at a slim twelve pages (three of those pages act as little more than introductory starts, as “Earth’s Communications” marked the beginning of TV21 using Captain Scarlet strips as its front cover), it never becomes more than having potential to be stellar.

Nevertheless, “Earth’s Communications” is still a fun gallop for Captain Scarlet with plenty to enjoy. The action is non-stop, the artwork is bold and colourful and the story itself would make a fine episode of the TV series.

Have you read “Earth’s Communications”? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments section below! You can read “Earth’s Communications” in Ravette Books’ Captain Scarlet: Spectrum is Green, Gerry Anderson – The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 4 and Egmont’s The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection!

The Angels: “The New Recruits”

Original run: The New Lady Penelope #53 – #57

Writer: Unknown

Artist: Jon Davies

penny1
The New Lady Penelope, #54

Much like how the Lady Penelope comic gave readers a marvellous back-story into how Marina became mute after battling Titan, they went one step further and showed readers just how the Angels became the Angels. Unfortunately, compared to the 23-part Marina adventure, this first strip (of several focusing on the Angels) is a bit, well… crappy.

“The New Recruits” is a quick, pleasant breeze of a read, and only clocks in at five pages in length, one page for each instalment, just like Marina’s first story. But where “How the Mysterious and Beautiful Marina May Never Speak Again” (try saying that when you’re drunk on seaweed wine) ebbs and flows with a gallop littered with hooks for the reader, “The New Recruits” is far less rewarding from a story-telling perspective.

The story sees Dianne Simms, delivery girl for Airways Light Freight Agency, receiving a mysterious package and rendezvous destination. There, she meets pilot Karen Wainwright, Juliette Pontoin, Magnolia Jones and Chan Kwan, who have also been given strange orders. A mysterious voice, unwilling to identify itself, booms over them, revealing that their packages contain matching uniforms, and then displays five interceptor aircraft at their feet. Things get even weirder when the unknown voice promises the five pilots the danger and excitement they’ve been longing for since taking to the skies for the first time, but will their first flight in these new aircraft prove to be more dangerous than they can cope with?

Is it just me, or do those craft look... green?
Is it just me, or do those craft look… green?

Perhaps the real question here is who thought it was a good idea to let Jon Davies illustrate this strip?

Maybe we’ve all grown up on too much Frank Bellmy’s Thunderbird 2 or Mike Noble’s Zero-X, but when you absorb Davies’ take on the Angels, both the pilots and craft, you’d better have a good imagination, because you’ll need that to really bring his doodle to life.

He doesn’t get anything wrong per-say, if anything he clearly illustrated this with the series bible next to him, but the combination of a rough, scrappy appearance, a lack of diversity in colour and the craft themselves being restricted to cramped panels makes for less than impressive viewing. Was it simply a case of the Angels not being in TV Century 21, and therefore not commanding a substantial amount of popularity?

The script itself, its writer of which is lost in the depths of time, fairs better than the artwork it has to put up with, but at a mere five pages in length there ain’t a lot of room for a genuine plot to kick off. As a brief, introductory prequel to how the Angels kick-started their adventures, “The New Recruits” works on that level. Further adventures saw the Angels being sent off on more mission by the mysterious voice, which actually brings into question just how desperate for excitement they are in their lives!

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The New Lady Penelope #56

“The New Recruits” does bear some handsome references to the Angel’s back-stories and personal lives, again hinting at the writer’s attention to detail when scribbling out this short flight of fancy. There’s even a moment of rare confrontation where Dianne actually address the fact that the women in Century 21 don’t get a lot of breaks, and that most of the best piloting jobs end up in the hands of the lads.

So, to cap off – is this strip worth reading? Well, it’s an interesting piece of fiction in the Andercon comic canon, but it won’t change your life. It may be best to read other Angels strips from the Lady Penelope comic to get the full picture, if you can hunt copies down that is.

For those seeking adventure as high-flying as the Angels, you’d be best to stick to TV Century 21, but for fans of the Angels and Captain Scarlet in general, your appetite may well be whetted.

You can read “The New Recruits” in Egmont’s The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection

Captain Scarlet: “Observatory Network”

Original run: TV21 #150 – #154

Writer: Angus P. Allan

Artist: Ron Embleton

network1Captain Scarlet’s second TV21 adventure takes him across snow-laden mountains to barren deserts and wild jungles in an attempt to stop the Mysterons destroying the Observatory Network which monitors the Mars-based aliens’ every move. However, Captain Black (still clad in his Spectrum uniform?!?!) is hot on his trail, and deadly keen to stop Scarlet from ruining the Mysterons’ plans – which Black wouldn’t have to do anyway had the Mysterons not taken the time to tell Spectrum they were going to destroy the Observatory Network in the first place! Oh well…

cs1
Flame on, Johnny!

“Observatory Network” has a great ‘race against time’ feel to it as Scarlet and Black continuously gain the upper hand against each other, flowing back and forth between one being in the lead and one behind, and vice-versa. At a mere five chapters long however, the ‘race against time’ aspect takes up a lot of the plot, so there isn’t much room for anything else to develop. Our last strip looking at Captain Scarlet, “Unity City”. has an epic nine-part span and gave readers one hell of an adventure. Here, there’s still just as much to enjoy, but far less time to enjoy it in.

network2However, there’s still a fine pace to this adventure – Allan’s script is full of action and has some enjoyable vigour in its execution. Visually, Ron Embleton’s artwork retains that smooth, streamlined appearance he put to good use in “Unity City”. The two of them fuse together effectively, and produce a snappy, entertaining comic strip that’s fairly faithful to the TV series.

The story’s five-part spread, with it’s wide reach of locations, means that “Observatory Network” has a somewhat annoyingly condensed sense of scale. The mountain-based observatories are often delegated to having to sit within the tiniest of panels, reducing the impact of the Mysertons’ threat somewhat.

network3But the story itself, perhaps borrowed somewhat from the TV series, as this wouldn’t be the first time Scarlet has tangled with the Mysterons when it comes to observatories (or did “Shadow of Fear” do the borrowing? This strip came out in December ’67, whilst “Shadow of Fear” would have to wait until February ’68), is fun in it’s own right. Seeing Scarlet having to take on lions and elephants is something we never saw on screen, and is itself a nice expansion of the TV series.

“Observatory Network” would make an enjoyably bog standard episode. Well, technically it did, with “Shadow of Fear”! That episode had a true sense of terror to it, leaving “Observatory Network” as perhaps a poor man’s answer to that particular episode. It’s still an enjoyable strip however, if somewhat pedestrian, and continued to cement Captain Scarlet’s adventures in TV21.

Have you read “Observatory Network”? Let us know in the comments section below!

You can read “Observatory Network” in Ravette’s ‘Captain Scarlet – Indestructible’ and Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 4′!

Captain Scarlet: “Unity City”

Original run: TV Century 21 #141 – #149

Artist: Ron Embleton

Writer: Angus P. Allan

Plummeting Cloudbases, fisticuffs with Captain Black and a Sam Shore cameo! Where could Captain Scarlet‘s “Unity City” strip go wrong? Well, it actually does go wrong on a couple of levels, but we’ll ramble about those later.

For all the world-building and continuity creating that TV Century 21 did for the Century 21 puppet shows, action was always emphasized over plot. The end result would sometimes be less than stellar, and “Unity City” displays both the good and bad of these elements. “Unity City” centres on the Mysterons announcing their intentions to destroy, you guessed it, Unity City – specifically the World Government HQ. In doing so, they slither their way in and out of Spectrum AND the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. Can Scarlet prevent the devious Captain Black from sending Cloudbase to its certain doom as well as escaping from being brought back under Mysteron control?! Given the strong focus of action over any intellectual content TV21  comics may posses, let’s take a look at that for starters.

2417178-tv_century_21_v1965_149__1967__pagecover IT ROCKS!

Throughout the nine instalment adventure, there’s a real sense of Scarlet and the gang being against the clock in order to stop the Mysterons. Embleton’s artwork is thicker, richer and sharper than the dynamic, broad styles of Bellamy, and it serves the story’s pace well. Its a real shame then that the story is so, well, poorly executed. First off, the Mysertons intend to crash Cloudbase into Unity City, sounds good! But Spectrum quickly get wind of this and decide to move Cloudbase. However, the Mysterons still intend to destory Cloudbase anyway, even when they move to right over Australia.

Of course, using their powers, the Mysterons could easily ‘guide’ Cloudbase back towards Unity City and destroy it that way, but it still seems a flimsy plan. Also, the Mysterons hardly display their powers at all. When Captains Scarlet and Black, on escaping Cloudbase, crash-land in a remote island and are captured by island natives, it doesn’t seem to occur to the Mysterons that they could just teleport Black away and out of trouble. Instead, they go through what feels like a rather convoluted plan of having a Myseronised W.A.S.P agent pick both Scarlet and Black up, then make their way back to Mars to put Scarlet back under Mysteron control.

It’s nice to see that both the W.A.S.P’s and Spectrum do indeed exist in the same world, also alongside the World Space Patrol who lend a hand in getting Scarlet back from Black, but it just seems like the Mysterons are making life difficult for themselves. But of course, that’s what you get when you play a war of nerves I suppose. So, wait… was the Mysteron’s actual plan to capture Scarlet all along, and the whole Unity City thing a red herring? Again, that might fit in well with their war of nerves, but given how the events of the story pace out, it seems unlikely. And there you have a rather odd entry in TV Century 21‘s take on Captain Scarlet – a romp of a story to be sure, but one that feels too much like a hodgepodge of multiple story ideas flung together in an attempt at some grand adventure.

Have you read “Unity City”? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments section below!

You can read “Unity City” Ravette’s ‘Captain Scarlet – Indestructible’ and ‘Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 4’!