Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection (graphic novel review).

Most of the 1960s-70s ‘TV21’ comic reprints I’ve seen tend to start off with the early material and run out of steam, become selective after the first couple years or the readership hasn’t been able to keep up. Interestingly, publishers Egmont have started from that point so this will give you the opportunity to see the rarer material that only really got a reprint in the 1990s ‘Thunderbirds Comic’, assuming you bought them.


There are 16 ‘Thunderbirds’ and 4 ‘Lady Penelope stories here, all in original glorious colour and if I remember correctly, this is something that the 1990s comic didn’t do in all their pages. If you can only remember them in black and white then this will be better.

This doesn’t mean I can’t be critical about them. Certainly, artist Frank Bellamy kept up the dictate of showing the main two Thunderbirds as much as he can but clearly someone was off the ball when it came to the scripts and certainly the edits. You can’t help but wonder where Alan Tracy was for so many stories or why Brains doesn’t have a stammer or Thunderbird 4 in one instance coming out of pod 2. It isn’t until the latter stories that Brains gets his stutter back slightly suggesting two different writers at work. Although all the artists are identified, John Cooper did the honours in the last few issues, the scriptwriters aren’t. Scanning the Net, I’m surprised no one has done a ‘TV21’ index with who did what yet.

Over the years, I did wonder what ‘Thunderbirds’ would have been like had Mike Noble had done his paintings like he did with ‘Fireball XL5’ and ‘Stingray’ but it would certainly have been markedly different. Bellamy has his own order of vitality and his illustrative skill gave some solidness when he drew Thunderbird Two coming into land gave the image of size.


Reading the four ‘Lady Penelope’ stories at the back (one shouldn’t call them strips, her ladyship needs some dignity), there is the opportunity to see Bellamy do a story away from ‘Thunderbirds’, indeed he had to have done it before ‘Thunderbirds’, as well as seeing Frank Hampson and Eric Eden do them as well. I should point out that these ‘Penelope’ stories are her first four from the mid-60s and include ‘The Vanishing Ray’ which essentially is the recruitment of Penelope into International Rescue and the first introduction of that sinister Malaysian, the Hood.

Without wishing to spoil it for everyone, the Hood was actually used very sparingly in these stories which kept his importance for special occasions. His second appearance also turned into one of the best stories. Can’t tell you which one otherwise he’ll give you the glowing eyes treatment although I’m a little dubious about what the Tracys did to him at the end, mostly because if they have such a device they would be using it more regularly.


I could praise a lot of the stories, especially the latter ones, but there is one story which has to be the worse ever. This is ‘The Time Machine’, mostly because to get Thunderbird 4 into the future, it has to be dismantled to fit into the time machine and re-built it there to go underwater and then back again the same way. As Graham Bleathman’s cutaways from the aforementioned 1990s ‘Thunderbirds Comic’ throughout the book shows, although TB4 is a small compared to the other Thunderbirds, such an undertaking for a rescue is really pushing it with no lifting equipment. Then again, considering that in the TV/films showing that in their future that Zero-X had only just reached Mars and only a nearly disastrous trip to near the sun with the Sun Probe, there’s far too much space activity elsewhere as well. It isn’t as though Thunderbird 3 was used very much and they had to push things occasionally to even use it.

Picking out the best stories is tough, but I think ‘The Zoo Ship’ which followed it was one of the best with a lot of twists and a further opportunity to see Bellamy draw wild animals. Also, the four ‘Lady Penelope’ stories, even if they are reprinted a lot are also top quality, especially her disarming ability to underplay her capabilities. I still often wonder why it was never considered back in the 60s to do a TV series based around her own adventures because they missed a beautiful opportunity because she and Parker was popular with both sexes. Something I hasn’t spotted before but a moustached character called Luigi looks like the same man who was finally assassinated in the cross-series in the early run of ‘TV21’.

You might have noticed that I like this book a lot. As the editor points out at the back of the book, this material is taken from the original comicbooks with a touch of variable quality. If there was, I didn’t notice it. If you’re into the Anderson shows, it’s a requisite to own anything that comes out. Saying that, I doubt if you’d be disappointed with this book. A marvellous look into the past and I hope Egmont do more of them.

GF Willmetts

October 2013

(pub: Egmont. 287 page illustrated annual-size hardback. Price: £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4052-6836-3)

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2 thoughts on “Thunderbirds: The Comic Collection (graphic novel review).

  • Hi Geoff, for an exhaustive listing of TV21 check out this indispensable web site: Just to note. Bellamy is wrongly credited on the ‘Penelope’ strips – the Frank on those was actually Dan Dare co-creator Frank Hampson. A small snafu in an otherwise fantastic collection. You’re right about the scripts – and there’s no excuse, I think that some stories featured were written before the show’s debut. All these stories featured in TV21 after Captain Scarlet had begun to air on TV and the Thunderbirds strip was moved from the comic’s centre pages in favour of that show. It’s a wise choice of strips on the part of the book’s editors in that respect as it means there’s no issue of Bellamy’s stunning double page spreads etting lost in the book’s ‘gutter’.

  • Hello John
    I was searching high and low on the Net for story credits to check against the book and glad you gave a reference for it, although it does need a slight amendment to to find the main page. Looking a but closer on the ‘Thunderbirds’ section, they haven’t actually covered the area where Egmont went yet.
    A lot of those stories had to have been written after ‘Thunderbirds’ was on TV simply because Bellamy had them so right earlier. I couldn’t throw specific aspersions without knowing the names.
    I won’t amend the review per se, too many people having read it by now, but hopefully they’ll read the replies here and add their own comments. The Bellamy credit should actually be Eric Eden’s.
    I do hope that Egmont will continue with these kinds of books though because there’s a wealth of material from ‘TV21’ and ‘Countdown’ that really should have a book release. I’d love to see Gerry Haydock’s ‘UFO’ and John Burns’ ‘Countdown’ stories get a similar reprint because they’d have a ready audience.


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