A Noble Cause
An Interview with Mike Noble - Part Two
Illustration: The cover of the Boys' World Annual 1972.
The mini-disk player and recorder Kim has brought to do the interview initially baffled Mike Noble, who had been expecting us to turn up with some rather large equipment. We confess to being amazed at it too, as even with a small omni-directional microphone, it is still only about the size of one's hand, and looks almost like something out of TV Century 21 itself.
While Kim is changing mini-disks and double-checking the first recording, our discussion about scripts turns briefly to The Famous Five, adapted into a television series on ITV in the late 1970s. Mike Noble drew the strips for Look-In, from scripts also adapted from Enid Blyton's original books, by regular writer Angus Allan.
According to Mike Noble, it was probably the only occasion, as the scripts were usually sent to him week by week, that he was able to anticipate what was coming up by going and reading the books in advance! He once again chuckles as he realises the slight absurdity (at least, that is how it appears to us) of having to start work on a strip story without knowing the final outcome - but such is the nature of the genre. But as the recording starts once again, the situation is made slightly clearer by his answer to the next question we have...
Were there any occasions where the script wasn't clear, and you had to contact the writer to clarify something? "No, I didn't think there was an occasion where I couldn't understand what they were getting at. I think the scriptwriter gets to know the artist, and the artist gets to know the scriptwriter. I certainly didn't have to query anything with Alan (Fennell) or Angus (Allan)."
Illustration: The first of only three front covers Mike Noble did for Look-In, No.2 for the 1972 volume.
Would you have socialised with either of them? "Well we used to meet at Christmas sometimes, yes. Billie Cooper always made a point of having a party, a few days before Christmas, and she would make a lot of things. You know how the ladies like to do it all, don't they? The tables would be groaning under all sorts of things... cakes, fruit, all sort of goodies. And the wine flowed freely! (laughs) And she would get the clients in... oiled the wheels. It was an opportunity to meet various people. That was where I met Alan Fennell before I even started on TV21. In fact he came one Christmas soon after Leslie Caswell had left the studio, and I was just making my way with TV Comic. Billie said, 'Oh, come and meet Alan Fennell', and we got on like a house on fire. He was interested in all sorts of things which I was interested in. He liked the American Civil War, we were talking about that. He liked space stuff. You know how sometimes you hit it off with people? Well I thought to myself afterwards, how fortunate it was because I was always in contact one way or another with Alan, right the way up into the 1990s. Right up almost 'til the day he died. Because he used to come over here sometimes, if somebody wanted an interview. Or they wanted to interview Alan as well as me. It was very good for both of us, especially for me, because I was one of the artists in the circuit. And then, when TV21 packed up, Colin Shelbourn, who was the art editor of the new Look-In magazine, and Alan was asked to be editor of that. He launched that as well. Of course, he was able to pick the artists he wanted. So almost from day one, I was doing stuff for Look-In. It was a tremendous asset to know these people."
At the same time Look-In launched. there was a similar comic to TV21 launched called Countdown, edited by ex-TV21 art editor Dennis Hooper. Was he ever approached to work on that? "No but I think Dennis Hooper... he was with Alan Fennell at the beginning of TV21... I think it was he who suggested me to do Fireball XL5. So I knew them both." Having worked with both Alan Fennell and Dennis Hooper, were they quite different personalities? "They were different personalities. Dennis was very solid, sort of practical. And Alan was much more... y'know, bright ideas. A good planner and writer. He died recently, poor old Dennis..."
Illustration: Roger Moore, and Chas and Dave - two of the When They Were Young strips from Look-In, 1983.
Knowing these two, among many others, was what had helmed Mike Noble's career to a degree. "But that again gave you a tremendous opportunity to do other things. I must admit, after TV21 I carried on, doing Star Trek. That followed on, I think, after Captain Scarlet."
Going back to TV21, how much more to the workload would Captain Scarlet have been, as it was four pages? He had mentioned it took a full week to do two pages? "Yes, because there again, they started off, they wanted four colour pages a week!" Wasn't it two colour pages, and two black and white? "Well that's right. But I think the first one they asked me to do four colour pages." Was it all done in colour, but only two pages were printed in black and white then? "No. I said to Alan, look this is too much, I can't do it, and I don't really want an assistant. Because I couldn't work, worrying about him or her, as well as myself. So I thought no, I'll do what I can. It worked out I did the two black and white inner ones, colour for the cover and last page." Would he have had longer to do those four pages then? "No, I was just working harder. I think I was working seven days a week then, for as long as it lasted."
Around that period, artists started to alternate. Mike Noble would do a few, then someone like Keith Watson or Don Harley would do one. "I think I used to go on holiday. What happened was, I would take a fortnight or three weeks. And they say, 'Well we'll get somebody to do a story, while you're away'. I mean, other artists used to say, no I'll work that extra. And I thought... you go for a holiday but you bust yourself in order to go on that holiday. And by the time you've recovered, you were back at work again. So I said, no I don't mind if I don't get paid. I thought to myself, you do need a bit of a life other than work."
At this point, Mike Noble mentions a Captain Scarlet strip. Fortune smiles on the interview once more, and it turns out he is referring to one of the few issues we have on us. The file is promptly opened, and he pours over the artwork, able to point out bits of interest. "There was a big space freighter I did on the front cover of TV21 called 'Callisto' (see above, from the cover of TV21 issue 176), which I think is the name of one of the satellites of Saturn. And I've had to do that as a commission on one occasion. But I designed it so that it was part-rocket, and part-aircraft, and it could re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. I did all that fluting as a sort of cooling system on the front. It's also got to be able to fly in a heavier atmosphere. So I thought of all those sort of things when I designed it." So you almost had the idea for the space shuttle before it was even thought of? He laughs at the idea. "It doesn't look like the space shuttle! But of course yes, it was a re-entry vehicle. It came to a sticky end, I think, on page two."
And on that second page, another frame attracts his attention, "You see when I did the interior here I made it compact, with a lot of switches and banks of dials. Unlike Fireball XL5 which had a simpler flight-deck arrangement. Of course, in the airliners, they're flicking switches. You see the crew go into the flight deck, they sit down and they do their cockpit check. And they're going 'click, click, click, click', aren't they? I remembered that. It's the sort of thing... for re-entry, doing a check, 'Firing retros now!' and all this sort of thing. However big an aircraft is, even the 747, the cockpit is not that large, is it? There's a hell of a lot of all this gizmo stuff around. So that's really pointing out the fact that I was trying to make it look authentic. You can see here - how I've done all these panels, to try and make it look like it's something which has been built. And the space sky behind, with the planets and the light, the circular effect, and masses of galaxies..." Would he have also used reference for those? "Yes, photographs from the Life magazines, or drawings that American artists have done of space. I did a panel there (indicates the 'Callisto' colour front cover above), with some wording on it that they required, and they somehow decided that they didn't want it. So they sprayed over it, and that's why it looks a bit messy."
And indeed, this filling in can be seen between the 'Callisto' itself, and the inset panel, in the main picture of the ship above. So did this mean the captions weren't done on an overlay then? "No, I always drew the panel in. I had to accommodate it. You were always having to leave room for the balloons too. The balloons have covered up about a quarter of my entire life's work! (laughs) Which nobody has ever seen! You always had to take into account they've got to have room enough for the text, so it's really like a jigsaw when you do a page of artwork. And the more dialogue, the more difficult it is to work it out, as you have always got to leave this space. I mean it's a doddle there... " And he indicates the picture - above right - from issue 176 again, "but he's saying quite a lot there (below right), so you do lose bit and pieces. The lettering artist, he's the last one to get hold of the artwork, and one feels sorry for them sometimes 'cos you think, 'Oh God - how the hell's he going to get all that in this space!' And then he goes right over some of your artwork in order to get it in. And you go, 'ah well, that's it'... "
Had he ever had that situation? A detailed piece of artwork he was quite proud of, and it's been covered up and lost forever? "Well, when you get a crowd of people rushing along, and there's a fair bit of dialogue, you know jolly well that half of those people aren't going to appear. But what can you do? Especially if it's a long shot. But you daren't actually draw the balloon in, because you're not sure how much the lettering artist is going to use. I used to indicate the balloons on a tracing overlay covering the artwork which was done on board. Latterly, one had to strip the artwork off the board and put it in a roll. Because of the printing process - they put it on the rollers. But years ago, you sent it in on the hard board." Doesn't that method almost destroy the artwork? "Well it comes away quite easily, if you get a cardboard roll.. you just roll it off. Because the quality of the art paper that is stuck on to the backing, Frisk or CS10, it's pretty strong stuff. It gives you a bit of a heart attack at first!" The prospect of a classic piece of Mike Noble artwork potentially being ruined this way, does indeed make the heart stop a beat. It is a relief to know none met that fate.
What about the inks, or would you use acrylics which are flexible? "Well the inks are alright." But what about process white (an opaque white ink used for correction and highlights)? That can dry quite hard.. and occasionally on reproduced artwork you can see where this has happened. "It can crack off, yes! But I didn't mind spending money on a good quality board, and the old Gillette razor blade worked wonders. There's a certain amount of china clay in the white surface of those boards, as they're really hard. I used to just run a blade across it, and it used to take the black ink out beautifully. And it didn't hurt the surface. So I was always scaping here, and scraping there. And Frank Bellamy, I think he used to go down to the nerve almost! (laughs) When you've drawn a motorboat going away from you, and you've got all this foaming water behind it. he used to scrape away the surface. Alan Fennell used to say, 'God! He used to excavate his drawings sometimes!'"
Illustration: The last cover, and colour work, Mike Noble did for Look-In, No.21 for the 1975 volume. His second cover, promoting the Timeslip strip for No.11 in 1972, can be found at Timeslip.org.uk.
It is something of a legend that Frank Bellamy never used process white but this variation on his technique is news to us. "Well that's what Alan said. I never met him face to face. But I think a lot of the effects of steam, or explosions, I think he scrubbed away with the razor blade. And it's very effective. I used to use an ink rubber. If I did a space sky, sprayed it in this dark Prussian Blue, let it dry... "
And at this point, Mike Noble goes into some detail about a technique he uses. What doesn't come over in this transcript is the remarkable passion in his voice with which he describes it. This is a man who is still dedicated - quite literally - with his art... "I could get a rubber, and I could just run it across to give a speed effect behind a rocket. Because it used to take just a little faded bit out, it used to work wonders. You do the rocket, you do the flame coming out the back. You just get a bit of sellotape and run a line right across, so that when you sprayed it, you stripped up the sellotape and all you get was a hard white line. But then you could get an ink rubber and soften that line. Or a razor blade, and soften it even more. These are the techniques you use. And in the end, you get a very powerful, sort of soft white line coming away, and then you put your flames inside that. Then you fade it at the end, perhaps with a bit of spray. So you do all these tricks." Now it becomes clearer why the artwork took so long. "Well yes, it's worth taking a bit of trouble. I've done explosions where you'd spray over a disk, say a two pence piece, with something breaking up in the middle of it. You take the disk off, and then you'd soften the edge, and then you'd run the ink rubber out into your spray to make rays. You'd rub it out, and you'd get a terrific sun effect. There we are. That's a bit of technical stuff."
With Captain Scarlet, Mike Noble had mentioned working with Alan Fennell in the 1990s, when they revived the strips. At this time, the black and white pages were coloured by, presumably. other artists. What did he think of that? "Oh, this was the new ones? Well I said to Alan, because he had said to me, 'would you colour them?' I said no, I'll do some covers, and I'll do some illustrations for you. But I said I don't want to do all that colour work again. I was semi-retired, you see."
Illustration: One of the Captain Scarlet strips, recoloured in 1994 - but not by Mike Noble.
Some of the recoloured reprints from the 1990s Fleetway Captain Scarlet comics are produced for him to see. One story, Martian Menace, has some very slick colouring that looks almost like airbrush work, and comes close to resembling Mike Noble's own style. Some of the others, by comparison, are a little haphazard. "No, I didn't touch any of that at all. In fact, I thought to myself, I don't know whether people are going to get that interested when it was recoloured like that. And it didn't look like my stuff. That does (indicates the Martian Menace strip - see above) but this other looks rather, sort of sketchy."
While we don't want to give Mike Noble a heart attack, if he thinks some of the 1990s colouring is a bit bad, we wondered if he had seen the Dutch reprints from a comic called Prins Valiant. Some of the Zero X strips from TV21 around 1967 and 1968, are shown to him. "Actually it's not my drawing. Someone drew over it." We point out that on these reprints, only the black separation of the full colour artwork had been used here, and the colouring was done by someone else, using letterpress tints. Mike Noble is right in that some frames have had additional line work added, to make up for areas were there was no black, and frames extended to make it fit the almost square page format. But it is possible Mike Noble also knows of the later TV2000 reprints, in which a Dutch artist did indeed trace all of his work to simple line drawings, which were again coloured in letterpress. We are glad we have have none of these with us at the time, as they make even the Prins Valiant versions look like masterpieces... "The actual drawing, the black and white, isn't bad. I don't have any quarrel with that. It's the colour work. This pink sky looks very funny (laughs). Dear God... "
Illustration: Zero X, the original from TV21, and the bizarre Dutch Prins Valiant reprint.
He flicks through some of the pages, and his face betrays a level of bemusement. "Good Lord. What threw me is these lines here. They've done a bit here and there. I never got paid a penny for these reproductions." And he winces again at the massacring of his carefully crafted artwork.
The subject of reprinted material brings Mike Noble to reminisce about the 1990s comics, and the fate of the original artwork, "You know, Alan had to take the artwork from the old TV21 comics because the original stuff wasn't around in quantity. No-one knew where it was. It keeps popping up from time to time, this original artwork. How much is destroyed, or what quantity there is - nobody seems to know. But they sell it on the internet now. They have auctions." And indeed, a short time before the interview, a Frank Bellamy Thunderbirds original artwork had sold on eBay for about £2,000. "Did it?" he responds, "Blimey." So once Mike Noble had sent off his finished artwork, presumably he would never see it again? "Yes, that's absolutely true. It was just an ordinary job of work. You got paid weekly or whatever, and it was their property because they paid for it. It seemed to all go into a big warehouse, and I think I've heard stories since that some of it was getting wet, or there were rats on them, I think. I've heard stories of vans being driven away, full of artwork (laughs). I don't know what happened. But people are making quite a bit of money out of that."
Illustration: Three of Mike Noble's illustrations in the 1990s: The cover of Stingray No.8, Thunderbird 3 for the Thunderbirds Poster Magazine No.3, and Doctor Fawn from Captain Scarlet (Thunderbirds Are Go! No.3).
Assuming the artwork - wherever it may be - had survived, would he have liked it back? "Yes, not half! But the later stuff like Tracy Island and all these other things. This I got back," And he is referring to the Tracy Island spread in issue 44 of Thunderbirds The Comic that is currently open before him, "And all the front covers I did. Alan returned them. He said, although you're using the vehicles that had been previously designed by Gerry Anderson, nevertheless your artwork is your copyright, because it's your style. So there we are." Our eyes widen a little at the prospect of seeing one of these originals. So he still have those? He responds with a wry smile. "I'm afraid not." These too, it would seem, have passed into the hands of interested parties since. Ah well...
Moving back, between your early Look-In work and the next Anderson strip Space:1999, you started to work in black and white only. Was that a personal decision? And at this point we have to say it was, because of what Mike Noble asked us to refer to simply as 'family health problems' that ate into his professional time to a major degree. As his breakdown of his working week in part 1 of this interview (two days pencilling, two days inking and two days colouring) shows, to not do the final third gave him more time to devote to these personal aspects of his life. In his own words again, "I had not enough time to do the colour work. And that's why all the rest was black and white. From Follyfoot Farm onwards. Black Beauty, I think I did that in colour for a start. But often it would start off a few weeks in colour, and then go to black and white. Robin of Sherwood... that was by arrangement, because I did the line work. I just used to put an overlay, and indicated the colours. So Arthur (Ranson - a fellow artist on Look-In) did that. But it was purely that. I was really slogging away for fifteen years, looking after somebody. It was pretty tough going... "
Just before Space:1999, Alan Fennell left Look-In to join publishers World Distributors, and Colin Shelbourn became editor. What was the change of editorship like for you? "It didn't affect me really, because I knew Colin very well as I used to go up every now and again. Sometimes I just used to take the artwork up. I used to put it on the train mostly. I'd go down to the station, and give it to the porter, and he used to give it to the guard, and up it went. My agent would collect it at the other end. That's how it worked. Then I used to go up every so often and see Colin, and have a chat. Perhaps have lunch out, if there was a different story coming up. You know, they would treat you lunch. Lobster Thermador! (laughs) It was quite fun. So that's how we worked. Colin was very light hand on the tiller. It was very kind of him, as he knew my circumstances."
As colour had been phased out of Mike Noble's artwork in the early seventies, towards the beginning of the Eighties, it seemed in most cases he phased out the washes and were only using line? Was this another time aspect, or personal choice of style? "When I did Worzel Gummidge... Arthur (Ranson), I think, did one or two. Then they put him onto one of the Dickens things... Oliver Twist, I think it was. Arthur was very good, wasn't he? He used to draw for banknotes, do you know? He went to the same art school that I did, in the early days. He was a few years younger than me, and he learnt how to do... I don't know if it was engraving, but he used to draw these fonts for banknotes. So when he did one or two drawings in Look-In, for stories of pop stars and that sort of thing, he could do some jolly nice faces. It was very clever."
Illustration: A frame of the Worzel Gummidge strip for Look-In, showing the crayon effect for halftone.
"But getting back to Worzel, I thought to myself, this really calls for a different style. So I got some watercolour board, which had got a rough texture. And I did it in black ink, and I used a black crayon for the halftones. Because you rub a crayon over a rough watercolour board, and you get a granular effect. So I wasn't using wash, but I was using black ink and half-tone." This makes things a lot clearer, as it was assumed it was just the hatching without the wash. But while I recall the strips from reading Look-In at the time, we regrettably do not have examples at the interview to show him. "Well I used to sometimes put a bit of hatching over the halftone. But I wanted to make it look agricultural, and rough. So it was all a bit earthy. Because he was a disgusting old devil, wasn't he? You could almost smell him, couldn't you?" Having lived in the Sussex country for many years, had Mike Noble used local landmarks for strips like Worzel Gummidge? There is an inkling that some of the town he has lived in for some considerable years had been used for reference possibly. "Yes, there was an old barn up the end of the road. It's now a little school for infants, a nursery school. But in those days, it lent to the prevailing wind rather (laughs). But it was a wonderful old place, and I used that as his barn." Would he go out and do sketches? "No, I was never an outside artist, but I would always remember little bits. The farm gates, and how the grass grew up around them. I was always remembering how the fields looked, and the trees and their gnarled roots. They're not easy, trees. But you would never do a straight trunk, it was always curved. And then you'd get a twist on it. But I quite liked doing Worzel, as it was home ground. And I used the Sussex landscape around me."
On the subject of local scenery, this brings us back to Space:1999, and a story involving a famous Sussex landmark - the Long Man of Wilmington (right). "Oh yes, the Wilmington one! That was one of my ideas, because I said to Angus Allan... it was the same with Follyfoot Farm too. I used to sometimes send him a few ideas. I said, if you're thinking of having something new, you might be able to... He knew it, even though he lived up in London. 'Oh yes, the Long Man,' he said, 'I'll dream up something about that.' Well that was a story I suggested to him." Would he have done sketches himself, or used photographic reference? "I've got some photographic reference. I think I took a shot or two. Actual fact, I walked over and had a close look at it. Have you been there? It's made up of stones painted white. It's not carved. This I did carved here" And he indicates the way he drew the Long Man in the strip, as if carved out of the South Downs hils to reveal chalk underneath, "but we were quite surprised when we got there, and they were all stones."
Space:1999 was bookended by Mike Noble drawing the long-running strip based on The Tomorrow People, which saw his return to the comic after an absense of some months, due to the health problems mentioned earlier. After this, he worked on Man From Atlantis, based on a popular US fantasy television series, and began a long stint on The Famous Five (as mentioned at the beginning of this part). This, too, gave Mike Noble a chance to use the local countryside as reference.
Illustration: Phil and Lazlo, from Into The Labyrinth, Look-In, 1982.
Gerry Anderson was not the only producer to make a puppet series that Mike Noble drew a comic strip version of. In the early 1980s, the Japanese - always fans of Gerry Anderson's series where there are, dare it be said, more popular than in England - produced their own science-fiction puppet epic called Star Fleet. Airing in 1982 in the UK, a strip version was licensed by Look-In, with Mike Noble as artist. And he remembers it well, though not for the reasons you would expect. "This is the Japanese sort of 'grotesque', isn't it? How they managed to get that story, I don't know. I've heard all sorts of things about Star Fleet... the Japanese were trying to emulate Gerry Anderson, I presume. And they brought to it a sort of grotesque brutality. You know, you get bits of brain showing through and..." Insects over the eye? Mike Noble grimaces, "Oh yes! This is the sort of thing which is really oriental, isn't it?"
How did he come to work on the Star Fleet strip? "I was just asked to do it. I'd finished something else..." And he pauses to consult the list of his strips from Comic World, "I'd done Into The Labyrinth, a Welsh production for Harlech Television, which didn't go down all that well I don't think. It was quite interesting to do but it was a bit weirdo. And then I got this thick Japanese book, with all these characters in it. It was all in Japanese! (laughs) You couldn't read it! But if you did read it you'd have to start at the back and work forwards. But none of the stuff that I ever worked on is my own choice. I mean, if you were offered it, you thought. 'Well, I'll do it... ' It's as simple as that, and as I'd done space stuff before. It was quite intriguing. It was almost between... cartoon work and realistic drawing. because you've got these great furry things" He indicates Kirara, a large alien creature from the strip, "that look like a yeti. And there was a little robot creature, like an egg. And all these weird shaped characters." With big Anime or Manga eyes, as is often the style of Japanese comic art and animation. Mike Noble nods in agreement, "Yes. Big eyes. The hero is a Japanese version of what they think a westerner looks like. But you notice the almond eyes. The female (Makara), she was a sort of idealistic.. she was an evil creature. She was between a Japanese Geisha and a western woman." And they had her in a mini skirt! "Yes, that's right. Very, very characteristic of a sort of Japanese concept.
Kim asks if, like his reference to Space:1999, that he never had a chance to see the series? "I never saw the television programme, no. I can't remember having seen it. I might have seen one, when this great creature (Dai-X) turned into a spaceship! He came apart, didn't he?" It was indeed made up from three spaceships. In previous interviews he mentioned having been given extensive reference for Zero X, and how that was put together. Was it the same kind of situation here? "Yes, they gave me reference to how it all came apart. It was all in this book."
On the subject of reference, Kim had noticed that one of the ships in the Star Fleet strip seemed to have been based on one of the Project SWORD vessels, from TV21. Had Mike Noble ever referred back to his TV21 comics for inspiration in his other work? After studying the design for a few moments, he replies, "I'll tell you where that probably came from - that was Life magazine originally. I remember seeing an artist's impression of a spaceship, which I might have used." And indeed, in the time after the interview, Kim had come across ample evidence that some of the Project SWORD spaceships, and a similar smaller toy range called Space-X, may have some basis in actual designs of real craft being mooted at the time.
Reversing the subject, was Mike Noble aware that not a small of amount of his work was 'borrowed' by other artists, for use in their strips? "Well I wasn't sure. Have you got some proof? Can I sue?" he asks as a joke, as another example is produced for him to see.
'Exhibit A' is from one of the Space:1999 annuals, where an unidentifed artist has copied Mike Noble's designs in his Space:1999 strip work, notably the Leptarian aliens and spaceships, wholesale. "Oh yes. Like my... what I call 'coalite men', that came from the capsules." He is referring to the Volkanians from the Fireball XL5 strip in late 1966. "They were all made of this coal looking stuff. I think we all use these Vulcan looking men, didn't we?" Well aliens should always have pointed ears! Mike Noble, as with seeing the earlier Prins Valiant strips, seems vaguely bemused by the annual artwork. "It's curious, some of the drawings are alright and some look a bit..." As can be seen in the examples above, the 'alright' ones are based on his artwork. Mike Noble seems to make light of it. After all, it was well over twenty years ago, and he shrugs. "Well I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I think I've seen some of these books. They've sent me the books for reference of certain characters, but I've always sent them back."
Illustration: Mike Noble's only original strip for a Look-In annual, The Tomorrow People, from the ©1975 edition.
As Angus Allan had written and produced the Space:1999 annuals, and had got John M. Burns and Martin Asbury to illustrate strips in them, had Mike Noble ever been approached to work on them or, considering what he has told us about his personal situation, was he too pushed for time? "I was pushed for time, so there was no remote possibility. In the early years, when TV21 used to have annuals, I was never very keen on doing them, because they didn't pay very well. Never did. About half the price of the other (work)." As will be seen in another up-and-coming interview, this was partly because of the lower budgets the annuals had, and also because most of the artwork was commissioned in black and white, and coloured in production.
Other interviews had implied Mike Noble had done some of the cutaways that appeared in TV21 and its related annuals. Had Mike Noble actually drawn any? The Thunderbirds annual from 1966, with a cutaway of the Fireflash airliner, is produced as an example. "I think that's Graham Bleathman, possibly." When it is pointed out these were from the 1960s, he changes his mind. "Oh well, he'd only have been a little boy. Were they the Thunderbirds vehicles? I wonder if Graham Bleathman has seen these."
It is almost certain he has, as it was stuff like this which inspired him in the first place. As, indeed, Mike Noble's own work has inspired so many of us.
But there we have to leave it. Time is pressing, and Mike Noble has already kindly allowed us to over-run by half an hour, and his cooking lunch threatens to spoil. It has started to rain, and he kindly escorts us to our car with an umbrella so the bags of comics and books we used as reference don't get too wet. Mike Noble is as much a gentleman at heart, as he is a true professional and master of his art.
We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to Mike Noble, for not only talking to us but also welcoming us into his home for this interview.
Mike Noble Stripography & Other Work
Simon and Sally (Robin, 1953-58) 1 page, b/w
The Lone Ranger and Tonto (Express Weekly, 1958-60, issues 205 to 293) 2 half pages, colour
The Lone Ranger (TV Comic, 1960-61, issues 444 to 507) 1 page, duotone.
The Range Rider (TV Comic, 1961-64, issues 508 to 658) 1 page, duotone & b/w
Beetle Bailey (TV Comic, issue 659 to ??, 1964-65) 1 page, b/w
Popeye (TV Comic, issue 659 to ??, 1964-65) Front cover, colour
Fireball XL5 (TV Century 21, 1965-66, issues 6-39, 44-86, 90-100) 2 pages, colour
Fireball XL5 (TV Century 21, 1967, issues 105-108) 1 page colour
Zero X (TV Century 21, 1967, issues 105-130, 135-154) 2 pages, colour
Captain Scarlet (TV 21, 1967-68, issues 158-166, 172-179) Colour front page, 2 b/w pages, 1 page colour.
Captain Scarlet (TV 21, 1968, issues 182-84, 187-189, 194-196) Colour front page, 3 b/w pages.
Project SWORD (TV21, 1968, issues 187) Single b/w illustration
Zero X (TV21 & TV Tornado, 1968-69, issues 197-241) 2 pages, colour
The Justice of Justine (Sally), 1969, Nov 1969) 3 pages, b/w
Star Trek (TV21 & Joe 90), 1970, issues 32-41) 2 pages, colour
Star Trek (TV21 & Joe 90), issues 42-57) Front cover & 2 pages, colour
Four Alone on the Abandoned Island (Cor! 1970, issues 1-3) 2 pages, b/w
Timeslip (Look-In, issues 1-26, 1971) 2 pages, colour
Freewheelers (Look-In, issues 16-19, 1971) b/w illustrations for text serial
Follyfoot (Look-In, issues 27/1971 to 42/1973) 2 pages, colour
Follyfoot (Look-In, issues 48/1973 to 18/1974?) 2 pages, b/w
The Adventures of Black Beauty (Look-In, 2?/1974 to ) 2 pages, colour
The Adventures of Black Beauty (Look-In, 1974-75) 2 pages, b/w
Kung Fu (Look-In, issue 6/1975 to issue 11/1975) 2 pages, colour
The Tomorrow People (Look-In, issue 44/1975 to issue 5/1976) 2 pages, b/w
Space:1999 (Look-In, issues 6/1976 to 45/1976) 2 pages, b/w
Space:1999 (Look-In, issues 49/1976 to 13/1977) 2 pages, b/w
The Tomorrow People (Look-In, issue 14/1977 to issue 8/1978) 2 pages, b/w
The Man from Atlantis (Look-In, issues 7 to 28?, 1978) 2 pages, b/w
The Famous Five (Look-In, issues 28/1978 to 45/1979) 2 pages, b/w
Note: Issues 46/1979 to 48/1979 drawn by Keith Watson
The Famous Five (Look-In, issues 49/1979 to 06/1980) 2 pages, b/w
Worzel Gummidge (Look-In, issues 7/1980 to 38/1981) 2 pages, b/w
Into the Labyrinth (Look-In, issues 38/1982 to 51/1982) 2 pages, b/w
Star Fleet (Look-In, issues 2 to 33, 1983) 2 pages, b/w
When They Were Young (Look-In, various 1982-84) 2 pages, b/w
Robin of Sherwood (Look-In, issues 18/1984 to 34/1984) 2 pages, coloured by Arthur Ranson
Robin of Sherwood (Look-In, issues 40/1984 to 49/1984) 2 pages, coloured by Arthur Ranson
Robin of Sherwood (Look-In, issues 50/1984 to 35/1985) 2 pages, b/w
Robin of Sherwood (Look-In, issues 3/1986 to 31/1986) 2 pages, b/w
Illustration: The Justice of Justine, from Sally, November 1969.
Simon and Sally (Robin Annuals, 1953-58?) 1 page, b/w
Frontispiece (Girl Annual No.7) 1 page b/w
Connie and the Crocodile (Girl Annual No.7) 4 b/w illustrations for text story
Frontispiece (Girl Annual No.8) 2 pages b/w
Bridge of the Brave (Girl Annual No.8) 3 b/w illustrations for text story
The Indian Fighter (TV Comic Annual 1962) 6 pages, duotone
The Range Rider (TV Comic Annual 1963) 4 pages, duotone
The Range Rider (TV Comic Annual 1964) 4 pages, duotone
Fireball XL5 (Annual, ©1966) Front cover, colour
Boys World (Annual, 1972) Front cover, colour
The Tomorrow People (Look-In Annual, ©1975) 5 pages, b/w
The Wind in the Willows (Annual, 1986) b/w illustrations
Note: Some Look-In annuals & specials reprinted abridged versions of Mike Noble strips:
Timeslip (Look-In Summer Extra, 1974) ? pages, b/w
Black Beauty (Look-In Annual, 1989) 10 pages, b/w
The Famous Five (Look-In Annual, 1990) 9 pages, b/w
Robin of Sherwood (Look-In Annual, 1991) 8 pages, coloured by Arthur Ranson
Apollo (Look-In, issue 2, 1972) Front cover, colour
Timeslip (Look-In, issue 11, 1972) Front cover, colour
The Tomorrow People (Look-In, issue 15, 1975) Front cover, colour
Thunderbirds 1 & 2 (Thunderbirds issue 44, 1993) colour
Stingray (Stingray issue 8, 1993) colour
Spectrum Passenger Jet (Captain Scarlet issue 6, 1994) colour
Captain Scarlet (The New Thunderbirds issue 80, 1994) colour
Decimal (Various, 1970-71) b/w illustrations for the press trade
'Explorer 12' (1987) colour strip for toy range - BHS London
Piggy Press (1990s?) colour illustrations for Nat West Bank
Fireball XL5 (1990) b/w art print for Fanderson
Thunderbirds (1990) b/w art print for Fanderson
Nuclear Freighter Emergency (Thunderbirds issue 31, 1992) colour spread
Tracy Island (Thunderbirds issue 44, 1993) colour spread and b/w sketches
HOTOL (Thunderbirds issue 57, 1993) colour spread
Captain Blue (The New Thunderbirds issue ??, 1994) colour
Thunderbird 3 (Thunderbirds Poster Magazine 3, 1993) colour
Canadian Trestle Disaster (Thunderbirds Poster Magazine 6, 1993) colour
Doctor Fawn (Thunderbirds Are Go issue 3, 1995) 1 page, colour
The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History would like to thank:
and Peter Sullivan
- for their help with the stripography.
Any comments or notes about this interview, please contact email@example.com.
All text © The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History, and its respective writers, and may not be reproduced without permission.
All images © their respective copyright holders