Countdown To TV Action compiled by Steve Holland (book review).

March 24, 2022 | By | Reply More

 I pulled ‘Countdown To TV Action’ compiled by Steve Holland around the onset of covid but only now had a slot to read it in. The problematic problems of a book pile separate to review books. Interestingly, I read the first 100 pages in one sitting and then there’s only 40 pages to go before an extensive list of various indexes for creators and stories. There’s also a lot of examples of the art and articles from the comic.

For those who don’t know or too young, back in 1972, ‘Countdown’ was launched as a vehicle for the new Century 21 series, ‘UFO’, despite the fact that not all ITV channels had it on at the same time. Although a product of Polystyle, it followed the tradition of ‘TV Century 21’, although after a year, with a lack of new SF TV shows on TV, eventually became ‘TV Action’. I would question a lack of TV shows because ‘Look-In’ had strips based on ‘Timeslip’ and ‘The Tomorrow People’ but there was little if any beyond that on both sides of the pond at the time. I should point out that this book does hit on other comics from Polystyle giving a better picture of the company’s output. There’s an interesting thing not noted is that actor Spencer Banks was the lead character in two different comicstrips at two different companies, the aforementioned ‘Timeslip’ and in ‘TV Action’, ‘Tightrope’.

I do wonder on how many of us geeky types were influenced by ‘Countdown’s article output covering the space program, both USA and USSR, and a look at UFO sightings across the world and kept up into adult life. Its article writer Robin Hilborn wasn’t expecting co-operation from Russia but was surprised when they sent him a package of photos and information at the time for him to use, making ‘Countdown’ required reading.

Picking out odd things that stirred my memory. Although the 1970 ‘UFO Annual’ was mentioned, there’s still a puzzle over why no cover was shown. I would contradict the point that Jon Pertwee was just a comedian as he had a long film and radio career (think ‘The Navy Lark’) so he was hardly a novice actor when he took on ‘Doctor Who’.

Of course, the main selling point of ‘Countdown’ was its comicstrips and many of them are fondly remembered. I still want the title strip ‘Countdown’ to be reprinted although reading that it wasn’t artist John Burns’ favourite do wonder if he’s the stumbling block on this. I hope not because it deserves to be seen by a new generation of fans as its probably the longest running SF story running over 66 issues for teens of, well, for an British generation and no doubt encouraged us all into real SF.

Before I gush too much. I do wish there had been more detail about the ‘Countdown’ and ‘TV Action’ annuals and specials. Undoubtedly some of you would have liked to have seen the art in colour but I suspect this would have escalated the price. One can only hope that we have more books like the ‘UFO Comic Anthology’, more so as comparing the index from this book, points out there are another 16 stories to go.

Although its deemed as a puzzle, none of these types of British comics sales last more than a couple years. Granted, back in the day, and later by my own analysis comics got into age rates and kids literally grew out of them, the data is somewhat lacking in terms of core audiences and whether they gained new readers who stayed, free gift enticements and so forth. Any comic centred around TV shows for its strips is always going to have a limited life unless new shows are added and replaced. Both ‘Countdown’ and ‘TV Action’ did have some exemplary artists and the Pertwee ‘Doctor Who’ as drawn by Gary Haylock is certainly one of its highlights.

I’m assuming many of the diehard Anderson fans would have picked a copy of this book up already but if you haven’t, then it’s a useful volume to stir some memories.

GF Willmetts

March 2022

(pub: Bear Alley Books, 2014. 201 page illustrated softcover. Price: I pulled my copy for around £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-90708-174-3)

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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