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Century 21 Volume 1: Adventures In The 21st Century

01/06/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Adventures In The 21st Century in the USA - or Buy Adventures In The 21st Century in the UK

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pub: Reynolds & Hearn. 160 page softcover. 9.96 (UK) if you know where to look. ISBN: 978-1-905287-93-2.

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This is a book that will warm the cockles of your heart if you were of the 1960s generation and bought TV21 when it first came out in 1965 on the wave of the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson TV puppet series. I was there, did that and in later life, even managed to acquire some of them again, keeping them carefully out of the sun than risk burning their edges. Other books in the past from other publishers have featured the comic stories of 'Thunderbirds' and 'Stingray' but missed out on a lot of the other material.

Although this book features the two 'Stingray' stories that appeared there - and they are still great ones by the way - it also features a couple 'Thunderbirds' stories that weren't. Added to this is the famous Astran War cross-story adventure from 'Fireball X-L5', 'Lady Penelope' and 'Stingray'. The adult theme of an alien leader shot JFK style carried through in logical steps and featured the most unique aliens in comicbooks then and to this day. The Astrans looked like glowing jellybeans but the world artist Mike Noble illustrated them in gave them a distinctive culture.

Interestingly, later stories as witnessed with two 'Captain Scarlet' stories clearly illustrated (sic) a dropping of standards where the plots were more loosely based on the original series and treated us kids as kids at the time as opposed to being little adults who could accept such stories. I think that is really why so many of us have fond memories of the early TV21 comics.

Apart from the aforementioned stories, there are also a 'Lady Penelope' and 'Zero-X' stories bringing the overall total up to ten making this book very good value for money. Compiler Chris Bentley has gotten access to the warehouse archive of the original material so getting a print out of them rather than off the comicbook. The 'Zero-X' pages definitely show a little water-damage testifying to that.

Unlike the American factory system of spreading the work between penciller, inker and colourist, British artists did the lot and hence could stamp their own style on the material they did. Looking through these pages you can easily distinguish between the likes of Mike Noble and Frank Bellamy to Ron and Gerry Embleton. If anything, Bellamy showed his roots as a pen and ink illustrator whereas the other three were truly artists. Saying that, Bellamy does a breath-taking illustration of Thunderbird 2 in the snow showing off its massive size.

Although I'm not entirely convinced that all the stories here are the right mix they do represent the various eras of TV21 and with Volume 2 out and its current rapid sales, I really do hope they keep going and re-print as much as they can, not only from TV21, but also from the later mags 'Lady Penelope', 'Joe 90 Secret Agent' and 'Countdown'. The latter has been severely ignored over the years but considering that it featured Jim Burns work there with some fabulous strips should be in there in later volumes as well.

If you were too young to see them or consider the recent 'Thunderbirds' comics as too simple, then get this book and see how it was really done and realise how much the young generation of today has been short-changed. We British have a rich culture of comicbook artists that needs to be seen again and respected. Books like these need to be seen and bought to remind us of this.

GF Willmetts

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