Category Archives: Stingray

Stingray: “The Monster Weed”

Original run: TV21 #62 – #71

Artist: Ron Embleton

Writer: Dennis Hooper

2417082-tv_century_21_v1965_063__1966__pagecover
TV21 #63

Everyone, stop what you’re doing! Put down your Matchbox figures and tuck away those lovely first edition TV21s – We’ve found a Stingray strip that isn’t, repeat ISN’T, total tosh! That’s right dudes, despite this strip’s title, “The Monster Weed”, sounding like yet another Stingray comic story that fails to rise anything above dull, b-movie fodder, this strip is a rollicking read, full of well-crafted action, sensible plotting and genuine adventure.

If anything, “The Monster Weed” bleeds its b-movie tactics dry, using all the enthusiasm it can out of a plot involving a rogue drum containing experimental chemicals falling from outer space into the Earth’s ocean floor, and the results speak for themselves! Both the World Aquanaut Security Patrol and Titan race to prevent the resulting mutating seaweed from falling into each other’s hands.

monsterweed1Oddly enough, the story doesn’t get off to that promising a start. A Fireball XL5-esque scenario, involving a rogue duo intent on stealing agricultural chemicals from under the government’s noses, has to allow the plot to happen. However, the fact that this story starts off in outer space suggests that even the TV21 crew didn’t have faith in the eerie, mystical depths of the underwater worlds Stingray lived in to be a solid draw. Instead, they go for the depths of space. Still, it’s a short-lived set-up that doesn’t hamper the strip, and allows “The Monster Weed” to hit the ground running.

There’s a terrific sense of danger to the mixture of enemies the Stingray crew face in this strip. The WA.S.P.s are caught in a dizzying scramble against the weed and Titan’s forces, who gleefully takes advantage of the substance, using it as his ultimate gateway to crushing Troy Tempest by acquiring the weed himself, and utilizes it in an attempt to swallow Marineville.

The messy nature of the plot may not stand up well against the more well-crafted plots of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet or Zero-X, but its enthusiasm is a welcome departure from previous Stingray strips. Artist Ron Embleton is in vigorous form too, illuminating the monster weed with a masculine roughness that recalls Frank Bellamy‘s apocalyptic space creature in the classic Thunderbirds strip “Solar Danger”.

monsterweed2Continuity buffs will find much to delight in “The Monster Weed” too. The rarely seen sea vessel Sea Leopard gets plenty of page space, although Marina is curiously absent from the whole affair… Other high-points include a non-bumbling Agent X20, who shows us what a dastardly spy he can be when he has his character’s sense of camp removed, and a showcase for Stingray itself as a source of breakneck adventure.

Admittedly, “The Monster Weed” isn’t all dandy thrills and spills. Nine instalments of intense, multi-layered plotting are resolved in the space of one last chapter, offering a rushed and all too neat conclusion to a story who’s biggest charm is its enjoyable mess. There are some admittedly gorgeous scenes of Stingray blowing up a small army of Terror Fish (who doesn’t love Stingray grappling with Terror Fish, after all?), suggesting that where the script ran out of room on the pages, the artwork made up for.

TV21 #66
TV21 #66

Still, “The Monster Weed” is easily the best Stingray strip we’ve covered so far on Operation Megaventures, and its long overdue. Its frantic urgency, although a trait shared by the majority of the spritely-paced strips in TV21, feels like the perfect antidote to the inconsequential fodder of “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” and the sluggish “Escape from Aquatraz”.  “The Monster Weed”‘s energetic nature may be attributed to the script possibly being written by Dennis Hooper and not TV21 regular Alan Fennell, but whoever penned the story clearly had the right ideas in mind.

Though the plot is in danger of collapsing in on itslef with its own enthusiasm, “The Monster Weed” deftly balances the natural and the unnatural against Stingray that exudes a pulpy menace that made these comic strips such a delight.

Have you read “The Monster Weed”? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments section! You can read “The Monster Weed” in Egmont’s The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection and Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Vol. 2!

Stingray: “Escape from Aquatraz” Part 2: “The Uranium Plant Invasion”

Original run: TV Century 21 #38 – #44

Writer: Alan Fennell

Artist: Ron Embleton

TV Century 21 #38
TV Century 21 #38

Oh Stingray. Stingray, Stingray, Stingray. Why was it that Thunderbirds, Zero-X, Fireball XL5 and Captain Scarlet got all the wondrous badassery in their TV 21 adventures, but you got stuck with a chunk of sub-par adventures that somehow showed a lot of promise and excitement, but for some reason fell flat on their faces nearly 100% of the time?

“Escape from Aquatraz”, the epic saga spanning two individual stories across 27 pages, was an adventure full of explosive action, human drama, and even the close Titan ever came to eliminating the World Aquanaut Security Patrol from his map for conquering the land people. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t find a lot to get my blood pumping in Part 1 of this saga. However, “Escape from Aquatraz”‘s second chapter, “The Uranium Plant Invasion”, has a lot more going for it than the previous episode, but is not entirely without sin.

u1Spiralling out from the events of “Aquatraz”, Marshal Ketov suspends Commander Shore from duty after he’s captured by Titan. Fortunately, Troy and Phones managed to free Ketov, but that doesn’t stop Marinville nearly going up in smoke when its leader is relieved of duty. Meanwhile, Titan sets to work fusing his Terror Fish with the atomic power found in the captured Bathescape he stole from Ketov in “Aquatraz”, preparing a full-scale assault on the world!

Woah woah woah, wait there a second… Am I right in thinking we actually got a pretty awesome set-up for a Stingray story… in a TV 21 comic?! What is this mad bullsh*ttery? If you wanted a decent Stingray story, you stuck to the TV show! Or maybe the John Theydon novels, but perhaps that’s for another blog.

41So, does the set-up of “The Uranium Plant Invasion” fully deliver? Well, kinda. But for a Stingray strip in TV 21, ‘kinda’ was the best we could ever hope for.

The dueling plots of Titan assembling an unstoppable army of Terror Fish and Commander Shore being stripped of his position make for enticing reading, but it’s debatable whether both these stories are handled in a well enough manner. The resolution to Commander Shore’s sub-plot feels a little too quick to have any real impact on the story, almost as if once it is resolved, then the strip can begin its actual story.

The strip’s main plot is a growling beast of a build-up to a promising finale, showing Titan finally delivering on his world-domination ambitions. He successfully captures a humongous W.A.S.P. base full of the stuff needed to advance his cause, and uses it to develop a terrifyingly powerful armada of Terror Fish. During the first few instalments, this plot easily scuppers the Commander Shore on trial story, and displays Titan with a genuine sense of menace.

On the other hand, one could argue that these two plots interweave in and out of each other playfully, and both finish in each other’s laps ready for the big finale, which sadly also feels a little rushed. In a nutshell, Titan’s captured uranium workers are forced to galvanise the Terror Fish’s capabilities, but it takes Troy to tell them to adjust their uranium formulas ever so slightly so that Stingray may have the upper hand.

u2That’s all well and good, but it basically amounts to the fact that out of a town-sized uranium plant (yep, that’s how the strip itself describes the complex) full of workers, not one of them knew that by changing their methods they could beat Titan? And the person to let them know this was someone who DIDN’T work with uranium?!

Ron Embleton also fails to make a significant impact on the strip. There isn’t any of the iconic panelling that Frank Bellamy or Mike Noble gave their various Anderson strips. However, he still gleefully gambles across the story with his simple yet thick and glossy artwork, but that can’t save the anti-climactic feel “The Uranium Plant Invasion” has.

Overall, this and the “Escape from Aquatraz” adventure as a whole aren’t really bad, they’re simply disappointing, because we’re given such fruitful beginnings that ultimately turn sour, and leave a bitter after-taste. Would “Escape from Aquatraz” have worked better not being a two-parter? Perhaps, but given Stingray‘s reputation in TV 21, we may be pushing ourselves.

Have you read “The Uranium Plant Invasion”? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments section or send us a Tweet! You can read “The Uranium Plant Invasion” in Stingray – Battle Stations and Century 21 Vol. 3: Escape from Aquatraz!

Stingray: “Escape From Aquatraz” Part 1: “Aquatraz”

Original run: TV Century 21 #31 – #37

Writer: Alan Fennel

Artist: Ron Embleton

aquatraz2FINALLY! We’ve got round to getting more Stingray on the blog! Yay! Could this day get any better?

Well, actually, the strip itself could be a bit better, a whole lot better even. The Fennel-scribbled/Embleton-doodled “Aquatraz” is the first in a two-part story called “Escape from Aquatraz” that sees Titan gain the upper hand against the WA.S.P.s in ways we almost never saw in the TV series. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of that happen in “Aquatraz” itself.

aquasting2“Aquatraz” itself sees Troy and the gang babysitting Marshal Ketov, doing their best to impress him with their badass WA.S.P technology. It’s all going swimmingly, until Titan launches a surprise attack on the Marshal and the crew of the B-1 Bathescaphe. Capturing both crew and vessel, Titan orders his minions to reassemble the B-1 for his own devious plans, but sends Ketov and co. to the underwater prison of Aquatraz for immediate execution!

Rescuing Ketov from Aquatraz is the order of the day for this strip, but all the while reading this, you’re left wondering just what is Titan up to with the B-1? Not much of that is shown save for the first two instalments, which leads to a rather long-winded rescue mission for Troy and Phones.

aquatraz1Ketov is such an obnoxious character, who appears to be a carbon copy of Ali Khali, that you don’t really care if he’s rescued or not – if anything, if he did get executed, at least he’d shut up! But there is still some impending drama to “Aquatraz”. From the beginning, it’s made concrete clear that everyone’s heads will be on the block if the W.A.S.P.s if Ketov is unsatisfied with what he sees in anyway, and Titan’s plans for the B-1 do keep the reader turning the pages.

The best thing about “Aquatraz” however is Ron Embleton’s artwork. Aquatraz itself is located in a subterranean sea, giving Embleton a perfect canvas to spew forth some wonderfully colourful seascapes and creatures . Aquatraz itself has a gorgeously haunting appearance, a mass of seaweed-covered shipwrecks with the seabed hugging each section of the makeshift prison.

aquasting1It’s a wonder Embleton managed to piece together some magnificent visuals to Fennel’s limp script. It’s hard to pinpoint any one fault to “Aquatraz” as a story, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough excitement or danger to Fennel’s story. Embleton’s artwork does distract you long enough to keep your mind off from being more interested in what Titan has in store for the WA.S.P.s, but that distraction doesn’t last forever.

“Aquatraz” suffers from having a ‘set-up’ feel for the following adventure, “The Uranium Plant Invasion”, and coupled with it’s rather uninteresting story, it remains one of the weaker adventures for Stingray. Darn it.

Have you read “Aquatraz”? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments section below! You can read Aquatraz in Stingray: Battle Stations and Century 21 Volume 3: Escape from Aquatraz!

Marina, Girl of the Sea: “How the Mysterious and Beautiful Marina May Never Speak Again”

Original run: Lady Penelope #1 – #23

Writer: Alan Fennell

Artist: Rab Hamilton

gots1One of the finest stories to come from the comic spin-off’s of the Century 21 productions didn’t come from a TV Century 21 issue at all. Instead, Marina, Girl of the Sea was featured in the Lady Penelope comic, a title aimed at the female audiences of Gerry and Sylvia’s Supermarionation shows.
It’s a shame that such a good strip had to be sidelined and not included in the official comic spin-off itself, because this first strip detailing Stingray‘s answer to the femme fatale character, Marina, is a thoroughly enjoyable prequel to her adventures with the W.A.S.P.s The Marina strip was a regular feature of the short-lived Lady Penelope comic, and this particular tale acts as perhaps the first chronological story of Stingray.

1622120-ladypenelope_10One of the annoyingly flippant aspects of Stingray was the explanation for Marina’s lack of talking – she simply didn’t know how. Well, hold on to your hats folks, because it turns out that explanation is all a load of codswallop. The truth is far darker, has a great emotional bearing and provides a far more 3D aspect to Marina’s character.

2978402-lady+penelope+019+(1966)+pagecover“The Full Story” opens with Marina, her father Aphony, and the rest of the peace-loving Pacifians on the verge of spreading total peace to the underwater worlds. Only the ruthless Titan stands in their way, but he apparantly agrees to join them in their quest for peace. In true Titan fashion however, it turns out to be a devious trick, and he lays waste to the city of Pacifica, prompting Marina, Aphony and Pacifica’s first minister Barinth to being another quest sending their message of peace and hope by word of mouth – without their gorgeous city, their words are all they have left.

The strip itself takes the trio on a cinematic adventure through many a strange and bizarre underwater world, including the fire-breathing Volcans and the shipwreck-dwelling Coonadas. The Volcans themselves are a near-mouth-opening race of beings, who live near the centre of the Earth – could they have been the aliens the crew of Stingray almost met in the episode “The Subterranean Sea”? They themselves were certainly creatures the likes of which we rarely saw on the small screen.

gots2The strip climaxes in the restoration of Pacifica and Titan’s eventual assault on them once more, but in a far more horrid and personal manner. Rather than turn this new Pacifica to rubble, he places a curse on the Pacifians, meaning that should any of them utter a single word, a random Pacifian will die. It takes the accidental death of Barnith to bring the curse to life.

Overall, this darkly camp adventure is a treasure trove for any Stingray lover. Seeing Marina actually speak adds some new depth to her persona. Although we don’t really see anything new in her character, her powers of speech make her somewhat more real than she was on Stingray.

The strip itself tells a marvellous adventure coupled with the world-building Gerry Anderson comics were well-known for. Indeed, whenever Stingray came a cropper with an undersea race, there only ever seemed to be two of them, and if they were hostile in anyway, they were blown clean out of the water! Here, that’s not entirely the case, as we a vast array of aquatic characters who display evil, good and sometimes both. Again, this added depth was something that could have really been expanded on in the TV series, and also lent a further dollop of menace to Titan

2978381-lady+penelope+013+(1966)+pagecoverRab Hamilton’s artwork is both colourful and full of perspective – he has a smudginess that works wonders in illuminating an underwater scene,  but that smudginess is something that appears throughout, lending both flavour to the comic but ultimately slowing down the visual punch. Additionally, no panel is larger than the other, meaning we have a minuscule visual scope of the underwater canvases that Marina and co traverse through.

However, with far more pluses than minuses, “The Full Story” is almost the perfect tonic to the blitzkrieg Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet strips found in TV21. “How the Mysterious and Beautiful Marina May Never Speak Again” remains one of more intoxicating adventures in the comic strip worlds of Century 21.

Have you read “Marina, Girl of the Sea”? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments section below!

You can read “Marina, Girl of the Sea” in Egmont’s ‘The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection’!

Stingray: “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen”

Original run: TV Century 21 Issues #23 – #30

Artist: Ron Embleton

Writer: Alan Fennell

Mr. Fennell is the reason we’re here today. He is, after all, the man who created TV Century 21 and was its first editor. But before that, he wrote a hefty chunk of Fireball XL5 episodes and penned some of the best Stingray episodes ever. From such atmospheric titles as “The Subterranean Sea” and “The Invisible Enemy”, the pop culture send up “Titan Goes Pop”, and the weird dream-based episodes of “The Cool Cave Man” and “Tomb Thumb Tempest”.

stingrayghosts2Its a shame then that this strip of his, “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen”, is a bit of a let down. Having already dealt with ghosts in the on-screen  adventure “The Ghost Ship”, “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” feels like a rehash of that episode, even though it’s enjoyable enough on its own terms.

“The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” very neatly sums up what occurs plot-wise with its title. The Stingray crew are sent to investigate some strange goings on at one of their tracking stations located in a converted castle. The tracking station staff have abandoned the station after sightings of ghosts, but those ghosts turn out to have a far more sinister plan than scaring Marinvelle employees…

Were this a story made for the screen and not for the comic, it would be fairly bog standard stuff. As mentioned, Fennell made several goes with dream based stories, so why not the same for ghost stories? But “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen”, even with its pedestrian story, is still fun to read.
1601136-tvcentury21_25For a comic that placed action over plot, Fennell does a brilliant job balancing both elements where other writers sometimes put one over the other. There’s a lot of twists and turns in the strips seven-part run, and coupled with Ron Embleton’s thick, boisterous artwork gives the story a delightful drive.

However, another thorn in this strip’s side is not only its rehash feel of “The Ghost Ship”, but the fact that several plot strands are re-used in this very strip!

Aside from a haunted castle, there’s an ancient galleon involved that’s piloted by an underwater race of monsters who wish to destory Marineville and then overthrow the terrainean world.

Sound familiar?

There’s still enough spark and bounce in this strip for it to be enjoyable, as Fennell rarely let his standards slip – even in this case where he was ripping off his own work! “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” was still one of the earlier TV Century 21 stories, so its unoriginality could be forgiven somewhat. The comic would go on to include more world-building and grander stories between the Anderson’s various space-age puppet heroes, making “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” an adventures that’s downright dandy in its own regard.

Have you read “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen”? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments section below!

You can read “The Ghosts of Station Seventeen” in Ravette’s ‘Stingray – Battle Stations’ and ‘The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection Vol. 3’!