Operation Cover-up: Reprinting TV21

tbird_totherescueThe reprint history of TV21 comic strips is a long, hazardous journey that continues to this day. First off, full reprints of TV21 don’t exist due to legal wrangling involved in the comic’s various strips. Not every strip featured in TV21 was a Gerry Anderson-based strip, and so are owned by different copyright holders. This includes The Daleks (BBC), Get Smart (HBO), The Munsters (NBC) and more, with the bulk of Anderson-based content owned by ITV. Any direct reprint of TV21 would require approval from all the various copyright holders, a legal feat no-one would perhaps be willing to entangle themselves with.

To that end, various publications over the years have produced works collecting together only the Anderson-based strips from TV21 and labelling them as such, along with Anderson content from other comic of the era, including Lady Penelope, Joe 90 and Countdown. However, despite some 30 years’ worth of collections being published over the years, a definitive archiving of all Gerry Anderson-based comic content has yet to emerge. Indeed, the act of reprinting Supermarionation comics almost appears to be an exercise in futility, with reprint collections often ending abruptly with little explanation, or with the respective publisher’s collapse.

1132915The entirety of Thunderbirds’ run in TV21 can be found throughout Egmont’s various recent hardback collections, but the bulk of the remaining strips (Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Lady Penelope, Zero-X, Agent 21, Project SWORD) remain somewhat lost to history.

Reprints of TV21 strips began materialising in Countdown in the 1970’s and the TV21 fanzine Action 21 in the 1980’s. The first mass-produced reprints of TV21 content came during the early 1990’s revival of Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, when Ravette Books (which later evolved into Egmont), published a series of 10 softcover books collecting together a handful of strips from each series’ heyday in TV21.

From there, further collections became sparse as the 21st century dawned, with only the Carlton-published Thunderbirds: Classic Comic Strips from TV21, published on 2002, collection further TV21 content. That changed in 2009 when Reynolds & Hearn acquired the rights to republish TV21 content and beyond, including Lady Penelope and Countdown. Four cohesive volumes of Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson were produced, collecting a handsome variety of Anderson-themed strips.

The line came to an abrupt halt when the company collapsed, leaving a planned fifth volume, They Walk Among Us, and a further volume, Gerry Anderson’s Century 21 Annual, unfinished. Signum Publishing picked up where Reynolds & Hearn had left off, but chose instead to forge ahead with a fresh collection, Menace from Space in 2012. This would be the final book in the Century 21 series.

Comics-11

Collectables-themed company Eaglemoss would be next to acquire the rights to reprint Anderson-based comic material with Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection. A subscription-styled series of hardbacks collecting material from numerous vintage comic books, the proposed 50-part series came to an unexpected end after only five volumes. A note included in the fifth volume dispatched to readers gives a vague explanation, stating that “we (Eaglemoss) are suspending publication of the series until further notice. This is in accordance with our terms and conditions.” The explanation hints that the suspension was a temporary one, but come 2013, another publisher would grip the reigns in bringing TV21 content out of the vaults.

Gerry-anderson-the-comic-collection

Egmont is the most recent purveyor of Gerry Anderson comic strips. Since 2013, they’ve published a trio of volumes collecting material mostly culled from TV21, but also Lady Penelope and Joe 90. The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection and two volumes of Thunderbirds material are hefty, comprehensive reads, upset only by lack of care in the quality of the artwork reprinted in their books. As mentioned, all of Thunderbirds’ adventures in TV21 are included throughout their volumes. No further collections have been published since 2015, though Egmont did compliment their debut Thunderbirds hardback release with a series of paperback volumes containing mostly the same material as that first volume.

The future for further reprint collections of Gerry Anderson comics culled from TV21, Lady Penelope, Joe 90 and Countdown remains uncertain, with the ball presumably very much in ITV’s court when it comes to allowing more reprints to be published. Other comic book content from the Anderson worlds remain untouched since their original publication. These include the Mysterons and Project SWORD strips from Solo and TV Tornado, along with original content published in various Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet comic books since the early 1990’s.

Intriguingly, ITV don’t hold all the cards. Anderson Entertainment own the rights to Project S.W.O.R.D., Agent 21, Zero X, and the TV21 format itself. Anderson Entertainment themselves recently dipped their toes into the world of creating comic books last year with their own publication, Space Precinct Reloaded. Could more titles, original and/or classics, be in the works? Anything can happen in the next half hour, after all!

Gerry Anderson Comic Book Bibliography

1990’s Comic Albums (Ravette Books, 1992-1993)

Stingray… Battle Stations
Stingray… Stand By For Action

Thunderbirds… To The Rescue
Thunderbirds…. In Outer Space
Thunderbirds… Danger Zone
Thunderbirds… List Off!
Thunderbirds… In Action
Thunderbirds… Shockwave

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons: “Indestructible”
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons: “Spectrum is Green”

Thunderbirds: Classic Comic Strips From TV21 (Carlton Books, 2002)

Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson (Reynolds and Hearn, 2009-2010)

Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Volume 1: Adventure in the 21st Century
Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Volume 2: Invasion in the 21st Century
Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Volume 3: Escape from Aquatraz
Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Volume 4: Above and Beyond

Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson: Menace from Space (Signum Books, 2012)

Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection (Eaglemoss, 2013)

Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 1: Thunderbirds
Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 2: Thunderbirds
Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 3: Stingray
Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 4: Captain Scarlet
Gerry Anderson: The Vintage Comic Collection Vol. 5: Thunderbirds

Egmont Collections (2013-present)

The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection
Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection
Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection Volume 2

Further Reading

Gerry Anderson Illustrated Bibliography

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Taking you back to the yester-future strips of TV Century 21!

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