Thunderbirds: TV Century 21, 1966
By the time Thunderbirds aired on British television, elements of the series were already familiar to readers of TV Century 21. The Fireflash, the Sidewinder, monorails and, of course, Lady Penelope herself, had all appeared in its pages months before, and photos had signposted its production.
A few months passed between the series debut and the strip's first appearance. Popular myth puts this down to waiting for the series to get better known to the public, but the vagaries of televison rights (usually in multiples of 13), and the start of a 52 week cycle (give or take the odd week) in TV Century 21 suggests that the editorship were waiting for certain strips to run their rights course before a relaunch. Two such cases were Supercar and Burke's Law, both out of place being strips in a contemporary setting, and with Lady Penelope now installed in her own title, TV Century 21 was set to run its prime years with Thunderbirds joining Fireball XL5 and Stingray as the main colour strips.
The other main reason was the availability of an artist, and Frank Bellamy had been approached to draw Stingray when TV Century 21 first started. Bellamy was already contractually bound to Heros the Spartan for Eagle, and was not intially available, so Thunderbirds benefitted from being his debut strip and, bar a six week period which ex-Dan Dare artist Don Harley covered, he drew all the strips for nearly four years.
TV Century 21 also duly noted the interest the television series was getting and, in response to readers' questions, confirmed in issue 48 that the publication had signed 'exclusive rights with Jeff Tracy' to feature the adventures of International Rescue. By now, a series of colour pages showing each pilot with their respective craft - starting from issue 46 -were already counting down to the launch of the strip in issue 52. The front page gave it full promotion, and the masthead was redesigned into a more tabloid-style block as opposed to the old broadsheet look. Inside, the Thunderbirds strips broke the two page mold by having a third page in black and white for the first fourteen issues. This was the case for the first two stories, and these are very faithful to the format, covering all the bases excellently. But where they suffer is in both being set in the wild, though these were new elements difficult to realise in the series itself and could be seen as pushing the format. That is not to say either is a disappointment, and the first is especially action packed, but the thing Thunderbirds did best - big new technology going wrong - is sadly absent.
The next two strips would address this, and are usually referred to as classics, though the first (aka Talons of the Eagle) comes close to spoiling it all. While the security issue is very close to the format of the series, it has to be speculated how far International Rescue would go in pursuit of that. It is tautly plotted, and addresses all the points, but it has a plot hole so big you could fly the 'Eagle' through it. Virgil quite rightly in part 4, and TV21 reporter 'James Laker' on the cover of issue 70, imply it could all lead to disaster, and the script treads a very fine line too, sweeping you along with gripping events. But would the USAF (interestingly, not the World Air Force) really drop the issue so quickly? Of course, the fact is that the inclusion of the 'Eagle', based on a plane from the series itself, adds to the excitement, and this is not reality - it is schoolboy fantasy (albeit of the highest quality) - so the obligatory reset button is fairly and squarely hit, and we move on thus.
Ties to the series continue, and Atlantic Tunnel is a classic, almost a lost episode of the series itself. The long-awaited introduction of the Hood is no disappointment, and the longer than usual length gives it epic scope. The Thunderbirds series always aimed high, and this is the format writ large beyond the confines of any budget. Frank Bellamy's depiction of the tunnel sections are stunning, but even these just become a backdrop to the Hood's escapades as he attempts to lure International Rescue in.
It is probably difficult for fans now, especially younger ones, spoiled by specialist magazines and the internet, to conceive of a time when you didn't know a new series was up-and-coming. By now, a second series of Thunderbirds was well into production (as well as a film), and Atlantic Tunnel was the first story to be promoted by new photos, notably from 'Path of Destruction' and 'Atlantic Inferno', although the World Navy sub from the latter promoted the Stingray strip 'Junk Jeopardy' in issue 74, a week beforehand. It is doubtful the readers knew of this, and the photos must have added to the continuing excitement when these episodes appeared on television.
Thunderbirds strip guide - part one
Story One (aka Blazing Danger)
Writer: Alan Fennell.
Artist: Frank Bellamy. Colour centrespread & 1 b/w page.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 52, dateline 15 January 2066
Front Page: Thunderbirds Are Go!
Lady Penelope and Parker arrive in her private jet at Tracy Island, to be met by Jeff Tracy who welcomes them to International Rescue. After brief introductions to the family and friends, Jeff gives Alan and John leave to journey to Thunderbird 3 which will ferry them to Thunderbird 5. Meanwhile, in the Canadian outback, Sam Lincoln and Jack Farrel are on a long-planned fishing holiday. But Farrel is unaware Lincoln is in league with Boise in a waiting helijet, and John, now aboard Thunderbird 5, is monitoring their radio communication with interest. Returning to the car for food, Lincoln sets off incendiary charges planted earlier in the forest, and holsters a gun to make sure of Farrel's death...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 53, dateline 22 January 2066
Front Page: Thunderbird Five Calling - International Rescue Alerted In Fire Drama
As the forest fire rages, Lincoln rejoins Farrel. John warns Jeff Tracy of the plan but International Rescue isn't a police force, so the authorities are warned anonymously. Fire engines race to the scene of the fire but are unable to get to the river, and even a hovercopter would have problems. At that point, Farrel notices the fire, and the fire services put out a call that the men are in danger. This is what International Rescue are there for, and Scott is despatched in Thunderbird 1. As Scott contacts the fire chief, Lincoln makes his move - with Farrel out of the way, he will take over the Canada Engineering company and become rich...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 54, dateline 29 January 2066
Front Page: Rescue Stations - Thunderbird One in Danger Zone
But Lincoln is going to wait until his helijet arrives, which is just as well as the heat from the fire blows the fuel tank apart, and the wreck crashes into the rapids. Scott arrives at the danger zone and, examining the lay of the land with the fire chief, calls on Thunderbirds 2 and 4. As the transporter sets off from Tracy Island, Farrel is able to overpower Lincoln and get his gun. The calmer of the two men, Farrel takes Lincoln to where their car is, but the fire has spread rapidly and falling trees have destroyed it. Both men are now trapped...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 55, dateline 05 February 2066
Front Page: Thunderbird Two Arrives
They hear aircraft engines, which is Thunderbird 1 surveying the situation. Thunderbird 2 is already closing, and soon Thunderbird 4 is lowered into the river. This close to the rapids, the submarine has to use full reverse thrust. Scott tells Farrel and Lincoln to make for the river but Thunderbird 4 is having problems. Using boosters to keep pace with the raging river, it beaches close to the men and picks them up. But the extra power is causing the engines to overheat. Before Gordon can cut them, they blow and, powerless, Thunderbird 4 is swept over the rapids...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 56, dateline 12 February 2066
Helpless, Scott can only watch as Thunderbird 4 tumbles over a mile of rapids before coming to rest, beached at the lower part of the river. But the craft is hardy and even though the men are tossed around inside, all are okay. Thunderbird 2 arrives to winch the sub aboard Pod 4, while Thunderbird 1 rejoins the fire chief as the fire is spreading even further. But as Thunderbird 2 lands in a nearby clearing to unload International Rescue's fire-fighting equipment, Lincoln overpowers Virgil and forces him at gunpoint to give him one of the fire-fighter vehicles to make his escape...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 57, dateline 19 February 2066
Front Page: TB2 Pilot Drama - Would Be Killer Steals Fire Fighting Machine
Gordon and Virgil decide they have to leave Lincoln - the priority is to convert the remote fire-fighting vehicles to manual and put the fire out. Scott tries to find Lincoln but the fugitive, thinking the vehicles are fire-proof, has not used any appliances and become trapped by falling trees. While Gordon and Farrel fight the fire, Virgil gets to Lincoln and pulls him free of his machine just before the heat causes it to explode. But Lincoln won't be beaten and knocks Virgil out, stealing his vehicle and leaving him unconscious as the fire closes in...
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 58, dateline 26 February 2066
Front Page: Company Chief Says... Thank You Thunderbirds - International Rescue Put Out Forest Blaze
Gordon closes in and is able to carry the dazed Virgil to safety just in time. This time, it is Scott in Thunderbird 1 who goes after Lincoln and, after a brief chase clear of the burning forest, he uses a landing support to flip the vehicle over. Covered at gunpoint by Scott, Lincoln finally gives in. With the fire now under control, International Rescue recover their machines and ask, as thanks, for the fire services not to reveal any details about the organisation. Then they return to base.
Countdown & TV Action - issues 71 to 77
Action 21 - issues 1 to 7
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 32 to 38
Thunderbirds Are Go! - issues 1 to 7
Thunderbirds Classic Comic Strips (2002)
A dynamic start to the strip. Frank Bellamy's handling of both characters and hardware takes Thunderbirds to a new level of graphic excitement.
Thunderbird 5 is unmanned at the start of the story and Lady Penelope visits Tracy Island for the first time, suggesting this is prior to International Rescue's first mission, but later on the fire chief has already heard of them.
Part 1 marks Grandma's first and only appearance in the strip.
Bellamy seems initially unsure how many engines Thunderbird 3 has, and sometimes draws Thunderbird 2 without wings, as if they retract on landing.
Bellamy also includes the airport fire tenders seen in the series.
Master and Remote Fire Fighter machines are used by International Rescue - a nod to equipment seen in 'Trapped In The Sky' and 'Pit Of Peril'.
Oops! In part 1, Thunderbird 3 is referred to as leaving Thunderbird 5 but at the end of the story it is stated Alan had stayed aboard and monitored events with John.
While unverified as few of the original artworks are known to exist, it is believed some of the third pages of each strip was also drawn in colour. However, this would seem a wasted cost as colour artwork is far more expensive than b/w.
The cover of issue 58 is reprinted in issue 9 of Century 21 magazine.
The third page of each part was coloured for their 1995 reprints, but tinted in sepia for Thunderbirds Classic Comic Strips.
The Classic Thunderbirds Calendar 2004 lists this story as 'Forest Inferno'.
Story Two (aka Mission to Africa)
Writer: Alan Fennell. Artist: Frank Bellamy.
Colour centrespread & 1 b/w page.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 59, dateline 05 March 2066
Front Page: Mercy Doctor Missing - International Rescue Alerted
Jeff Tracy is departing London Airport after a visit to Lady Penelope but his flight is delayed to allow the take off of a private plane belonging to Dr Adams. He is being flown by his pilot Peters to Madagascar, where General N'Mobo has only been given three days to live. Rexsta Seven, ferried by Adams, is the only medical compound which can save his life but over Africa one of the plane's reactors blows. Peters sends out a mayday and International Rescue, along with other tracking stations, monitor the plane's position. But then the other unit misfires and the plane pancakes in the African savannah. John, reporting to Scott who is in charge, doesn't believe International Rescue are needed at this point, but while Adams and Peters have survived the Rexsta Seven cannisters are damaged and leaking. And worse, Masai nomads find them and, on hearing Adams is a doctor, decide to take him to the 'kraal'...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 60, dateline 12 March 2066
Front Page: Thunderbirds For Africa - Has International Rescue joined Search for Dr. Adams?
As the two men are led away, the Rexsta Seven compound is blown across the land, combining with the water and flora. Rescue helijets find the wreckage and search for Adams and Peters, but the wind has covered their tracks. At the Masai encampment, the tribe witch doctor brings Adams before 'nyeupe emune', an albino rhinocerous which is sacred to them but sick. On the plains, the animals are starting to fight each other, stimulated by the Rexsta Seven, and game wardens like Jim Spencer start to find carcases littering the area. Believing the frenzied nimals could endanger the two lost men, and time is also running out for General N'Mobo, Jeff sends Scott in Thunderbird to assess the situation...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 61, dateline 19 March 2066
Front Page: Life And Death Struggle! Thunderbirds Join In Hunt
Scott arrives in the area and teams up with Jim Spencer at the crash site. As it seems likely the two men survived and should have waited for rescue, something forced them away. Scott takes Thunderbird 1 into the air again to widen the search, but at the Masia camp Peters has already taken matters into his own hands and escaped to get help. The unfortunate man is found by a lion and it attacks. From the air, Scott sees the incident and uses Thunderbird 1's engines to drive the animal away. Fortunately, Peters wounds are superficial and Scott is able to treat him but as the man explains the situation, a snake rears up from the grass...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 62, dateline 26 March 2066
Front Page: Thunderbird Two - Where Is It? TB 1 In Danger Zone
(Stop Press) TB 2 Modifications
Spencer warns Scott, and his machine pistol deals with the black mamba. With all animals in a state of frenzy caused by the Rexsta Seven, the area is becoming dangerous, so Spencer is called to take Peters to hospital. Following the pilot's tracks, Scott is able to find the Masai camp but the guards are hostile and he is forced to flee in Thunderbird 1. Brains believes the rhino is dying, and the only solution is to replace it. While equipment is modified to be able to capture one, Scott is given the task of finding another albino rhino. But as he contacts Spencer, a herd of buffalo take a fancy to the landed Thunderbird and use its support as back scratchers, threatening to topple the craft over...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 63, dateline 02 April 2066
Scott fires the engines and lifts into the air, as Brains calls believing he has located an albino rhino 100 miles east of his position. As Thunderbird 2 lifts off with Virgil, Brains and the equipment, Scott meets up with Spencer close to the rhino's location. Thunderbird 2 arrives, but an enraged rhino attacks it. Scott drives the animal off, and Virgil disembarks with the 'rhino catcher'. In a second machine, Scott follows as Virgil manages to grab the albino but the animal is too strong and twists out of the arms...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 64, dateline 09 April 2066
Front Page: Virgil Tracy In Crash - Charging Rhino Smashes International Rescue Machine
Two more rhinos smash into the side of Virgil's machine and topple it. Virgil clambers from the wreck, and jumps aboard Scott's machine as other rhino attempt to maul him. Scott is more succesful, and grabs the albino as it charges, depositing it in a special mobile cage. But when Thunderbirds 1 and 2 arrive back at the Masai camp they find it abandoned. They have moved on and taken Adams with them...
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 65, dateline 16 April 2066
Front Page: "We Want Thunderbirds!" General N'Mobo A Okay
Scott continues to search while Brains outlines how, once the Masai are found, the albino can be switched. Thunderbird 2 is diverted to a nearby water hole, and Scott locates the Masai. Out of sight of the tribe, the mobile cage disembarks from Thunderbird 2 and is controlled remotely by Scott in Thunderbird 1. As rain is also a sacred symbol to the Masai, Thunderbird 2 takes to the air and disperses the water, causing an artifical torrent. As the Masai are distracted into giving thanks, Scott and Virgil are able to switch the albinos and rescue Adams. While Scott flies back to England to get more Rexsta Seven, Virgil disperses an antidote to the compound - devised by Brains - over the plains to bring the animals back under control, then flies Adams to the hospital. With the compound, N'Mobo can be expected to make a recovery, and with the Masai happy about their 'cured' albino, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 return to base.
TV2000 (Holland) - issues 36/1966 to 42/1966
Countdown - issues 24 to 30
Action 21 - issues 8 to 10 (first three parts only)
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 39 to 45
Thunderbirds Classic Comic Strips (2002)
Bellamy's interest in the subject, and previous experience on Fraser Of Africa, would come to the fore in this story, gives the story some breath-taking depictions of the enraged animals, and the Masai tribesmen.
The cover of issue 63 reveals the albinos to be of the black rhino type.
The reprints in Countdown were abridged down to two b/w pages per instalment.
The third page of each part was tinted in sepia for Thunderbirds Classic Comic Strips.
The Classic Thunderbirds Calendar 2004 lists this story as 'White Rhino Rescue'.
Story Three (aka Talons of the Eagle)
Writer: Alan Fennell.
Artist: Frank Bellamy. Centrespread, colour.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 66, dateline 23 April 2066
Front Page: Thunderbird 2 in Air Chase
Thunderbird 1 is returning to base from Africa and, as it approaches Tracy Island, a system of scans and checks make sure there is no activity within 200 miles to maintain security. The slower Thunderbird 2 arrives an hour later, and the same checks are made. But given the all clear, Jeff Tracy is surprised to hear another aircraft's engines. Thunderbird 2 is warned to peel off and get clear, but the USAF plane 'Eagle' has already spotted them and is pursuing to get identification...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 67, dateline 30 April 2066
Front Page: Thunderbird Two Attacked! Fireflash Pilot Sees Air Battle
Flash Panel: Data on the TC193
As Thunderbird 2 tries to lose its pursuer, Brains theorises it must have a jamming device that prevents it from being detected. The 'Eagle' does not appear to be able to detect International Rescue's radio laser frequency, and when Thunderbird 2 is unable to evade the plane, Jeff tells Virgil to transfer to emergency rocket units at force seven. This will burn out the crafts fuel quickly but the 'Eagle' has already fired. Defensive interceptor rockets take care of the unfriendly fire, and using the emergency rockets, Thunderbird 2 leaves the pursuer standing. But now the craft has gone into orbit, and is out of fuel...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 68, dateline 07 May 2066
Stop Press: Thunderbird 2 Disappears
Thunderbird 2 is in no immediate danger and can be refuelled by Thunderbird 3, but the 'Eagle' has lost its prey and called for search backup. While the Tracys wait for them to give up and clear the area, debate continues on the implications of the threat to their security. The other search vehicles do show on the scanners, and when they are gone, Thunderbird 3 is launched. With both craft and all concerned back on the island, a meeting is called. Brains suggests a counter scanner, but this would require details of the jammer. Jeff will not give up, and suggests finding the plane's base, and directly attacking it...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 69, dateline 14 May 2066
Front Page: Search And Destroy - Thunderbirds Hunt TC193
Thunderbird 5 launches a volley of small rockets that take locator cameras to various military bases. At first the search is negative but at Base 27ZX, a hidden hangar rises from beneath the runway to reveal the 'Eagle'. Scott is despatched in Thunderbird 1 on the first part of the mission, but Virgil is not happy. If anything goes wrong, International Rescue could be creating a disaster for themselves...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 70, dateline 21 May 2066
Front Page: What's Your Game Thunderbirds?
As Scott approaches Base 27ZX, the 'Eagle' is launched. Thunderbird 2 has also taken off , and is taking Gordon and Thunderbird 4 to a pre-arranged destination. The pilot of the 'Eagle' notes Thunderbird 1 is tracking it and, sensing this is the case, Scott knocks out its radio. With its automatic frequencies also disabled, this alerts Base 27ZX who launch search aircraft. Now the hunted, 'Eagle' prepares to fight but Scott is faster, and fires a missile at its tailplane...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 71, dateline 28 May 2066
Front Page: U.S.A.F. Control Announces "One Of Our Aircraft Missing" - Giant Rescue Operation Mounted
Losing altitude, the crew of the 'Eagle' have no option but to ditch in the sea. With Thunderbird 2 nearby, and Thunderbird 4 already seaborne, International Rescue watch the plane as it hits the water. Gordon fires a knockout gas missile, and the crew are put to sleep. But as he gets aboard the plane and identifies the jammer, he feels movement and it starts to sink beneath the waves...
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 72, dateline 04 June 2066
Front Page: Genius Honoured for Robot Research
Scott calls Thunderbird 2 in, and Virgil uses grabs to lift the plane out of the water. Gordon returns to Thunderbird 4, and heads back to Tracy Island with information on the jammer for Brains. Meanwhile, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 take the 'Eagle' to Mateo Island, where International Rescue have an isolated hidden hangar. While the crew sleep, the Tracy boys repair the damage to the plane over a couple of days. With a counter jammer now made, the Tracys depart, and the crew recover bewildered to find themselves in the hangar. They lift off for base, but the Mateo hangar seals behind them, and like International Rescue its secrets remain safe.
TV2000 (Holland) - issues 43/1966 to 48/1966 (omitting part 6)
Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1984
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 10 to 13
Thunderbirds: Lift Off - Comic Album No.4
Thunderbirds Classic Comic Strips (2002)
This story follows on directly from the previous one, as Thunderbirds 1 and 2 are returning from Africa.
The story shows Thunderbird 2 can travel into orbit and make a safe re-entry.
Part 3 also shows Thunderbird 3 docking with Thunderbird 2, between its two engines, to transfer fuel.
Mateo Island makes its debut, housing additional hangar capacity and workshops for International Rescue.
The covers of issues 66 and 67 states the 'battle' between the TC193 and Thunderbird 2 is witnessed by Captain J.W.Bell, first pilot of the regular Sydney-New York Fireflash flight, six hundred miles north east of New Zealand.
The same cover gives brief data on the TC193 - it is a troop carrier, 400 foot long, capable of carrying 500 troops to any world trouble spot in a few hours, with an estimated speed at Mach 3 or 2,100mph. It is also equipped with the latest radar jamming devices, making it impossible for ground or air radar to 'see' its approach.
The cover of issue 71 names the commander of Base 2728 (sic) as General Mysinga.
A similar photo to the one used on the cover of issue 71 (right), with the 'Eagle' on fire, appeared on the cover of Solo issue 26 for The Mark Of The Mysterons.
The cover of issue 72 has a flash panel titled Genius Honoured for Robot Research, with Horatio Hackenbacker being awarded four million dollars Unity City prize money. This would continue to be Brains' recognised name throughout TV21.
Issues 68 to 71 carried full page black and white illustrations of the launch procedures of Thunderbirds 1, 2 3, and 4, by Eric Eden. The Thunderbird 4 feature erronously suggests it was carried in Pod 2.
The 'Eagle' (or TC193 as the covers referred to it) is clearly based on the RTL2 plane from the episode 'The Cham-Cham', and both shots from the episode and specially arranged photos (see left) were used to promote the story. However, the new photos were not used as they contradict the scale of the two craft seen in the strip - Frank Bellamy's depiction of the 'Eagle' makes it far bigger than Thunderbird 2.
Viewmaster were also on hand during the shoot to take 3D photos for the Thunderbirds set issued later that year, and the image seen right is among those used.
The black & white reprint in the Thunderbirds Holiday Special in 1984 was titled Near Miss.
The Classic Thunderbirds Calendar 2004 lists this story as 'Shoot Down The TC193'.
Story Four (aka Atlantic Tunnel)
Writer: Alan Fennell.
Artist: Frank Bellamy. Colour centrespread.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 73, dateline 11 June 2066
Front Page: Stand By For Action!
In a controlled test off shore of Tracy Island, Thunderbird 1 launches a small missile which is shot at by Thunderbird 4. The projectile is undamaged and brought back to Brains' lab, where he is congratulated on inventing the strongest metal compund known to man. But the base of the metal is the rare mineral mozatinum, which is found under the sea bed. Brains believes offshoot excavations of the new Atlantic Tunnel may find large deposits, so Jeff sets about contacting the right authorities. But as Kyrano tends to the orchids in the garden, he screams and collapses...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 74, dateline 18 June 2066
The cause is the Hood, who wants details of International Rescue's new project. Hearing of the Atlantic mining issue, the Hood also registers a claim with the authorities, to lie in wait to make his move. Using the assumed identity of Mr Sheldon, the Hood hires a team of geologists led by Vincent Baker. Meanwhile, Alan and Brains have arrived at the American end of the tunnel, but as they travel by bus to their claim, Brains is recognised...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 75, dateline 25 June 2066
Front Page: Atlantic Tunnel Sell Out - Mining Rights Sold Within Five Minutes
Vincent Baker and Brains were together at university in England, and renew their acquaintance as they are working in adjacent shafts. Brains' rock samples from Shaft K279 show nothing, even though the rock is the type that can contain mozatinum. Vincent's samples hows traces of valuable uranium GS70 and he reports to Shendon, but unknown to him and identified by Brains, it also contains mozatinum...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 76, dateline 02 July 2066
Front Page: Atlantic Tunnel Disaster - Explosion In Mining Spur
Brains is certain, as while Vincent is a good geologist, mozatinum is so rare he would have missed it. Unfortunately, the Hood overhears them and he decides to bypass Vincent and the authorities and blasts more samples from the shaft. His explosions sever a power cable but before a team can investigate, the shock of the Hood's charges causes a tunnel fall in the section Alan and Brains are working in...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 77, dateline 09 July 2066
Front Page: Brilliant Scientist Trapped
The rockfall seals the tunnel, trapping the two men, and before long Thunderbird 5 picks up the reports. Thunderbirds 1 and 2 are launched immediately, and a sonar device finds them. But their arrival is exactly what the Hood wants, and he will be waiting...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 78, dateline 16 July 2066
The tunnel police seal of the area as Thunderbird 2 lands, and Virgil disembarks in the excadigger. The Hood, disguised as Sheldon, tries to evade the blocks but is caugh with a camera and detained. In the tunnel, Virgil eventually clears a path to Alan and Brains and, mission successful, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 return to base with them. Brains is convinced the blast was deliberate and unauthorised, and thinks other sections could have been weakened. Before too long, his prediction is proved right, and another rockfall traps a ground of men in a section with little air...
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 79, dateline 23 July 2066
Front Page: Tunnel Men Entombed - International Rescue Their Only Hope
Another call to International Rescue goes out, and this time Thunderbird 2 brings Thunderbird 4 to the area above the tunnel. A hole is drilled, and an air line fed into it to sustain the men until Thunderbird 2 can reach the coast and effect a rescue. But as the men wait, they hear a clicking sound - a geiger counter is registering radiation from the damaged reactor of the rock cutter...
Part 8: TV Century 21 Issue 80, dateline 30 July 2066
Front Page: Thunderbirds Secrets In Jeopardy - Where Will The Evil Mastermind Strike?
The men have perhaps thirty minutes, and when Thunderbird 2 arrives, Virgil disembarks with the Mole. Meanwhile, the Hood has used his photographic memory to sculpt a mask of the police guard who previously detained him and, knocking him out, uses it to take his place. At Mobile Control. Scott is busy directing operations and doesn't notice the disguised Hood switch off the photo alert, and start to take pictures of Thunderbird 1...
Part 9: TV Century 21 Issue 81, dateline 06 August 2066
Front Page: Mole Helpless - Trapped Men Near Death
Granite is slowing the Mole's progress, and International Rescue's focus is on the men while the Hood continues to take pictures. Virgil eventually breaks through and, in a radiation suit, seals the isotopes and brings the men out. But as the Hood prepares to get away, the guard recovers and confronts him. The merciless criminal shoots him, and makes his escape in a private jet...
Part 10: TV Century 21 Issue 82, dateline 13 August 2066
Front Page: Duel In The Skies - Thunderbird Pilot Plays Fighter Ace
The Mole emerges from the tunnel as the wounded guard staggers into his path. While Virgil tends him, Scott lifts off in Thunderbird 1 to give chase. The plane is no match for the speed of Thunderbird 1, and despite missiles from the Hood, Scott makes short work of the criminal. Ejecting from his crippled plane, the Hood drops his camera only to see it destroyed by a micro-missile. Leaving him to be picked up by the police, International Rescue collect their craft and return to base, where Jeff tells them he has bought out Shendon's shaft for the mozatinum they need.
TV2000 (Holland) - issues 49/1966 to 05/1967
Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1984
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 1 to 4
Thunderbirds The Collection issue 1
Thunderbirds: In Outer Space - Comic Album No.2
Thunderbirds Classic Comic Strips (2002)
More continuity ties with the television series, as the Hood and the Mole (right) make their Thunderbirds strip debuts.
The Tracy jet, from the as-yet untelevised 'Atlantic Inferno', also appears in part 2 as does Thunderbird One's underwater tracking equipment from 'The Man From M.I.5'.
The week before this strip started, the regular Dateline 2066 page carried a full page feature on the Atlantic Tunnel, which stretches over three thousand miles between Cherbourg in France, and Boston in the USA.
The black & white reprint in the Thunderbirds Holiday Special in 1984 was titled Shaft K279.
Graham Bleathman produced a cutaway painting of the Atlantic Tunnel, for issue 19 of Stingray The Comic.
Story Five (aka Solar Danger)
Writer: Alan Fennell.
Artists: Frank Bellamy (issues 83-92),
Don Harley (issues 93-98). Colour centrespread.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 83, dateline 20 August 2066
Front Page: Welsh Volcano Erupts. TV21 Asks - What's Happening?
The world is basking in a record heat wave as temperatures soar higher each day. For a month the sweltering conditions are welcomed but then the super heat begins to have adverse effects. Rivers shrink as the drought worsens... Ice flows from the polar regions melt, causing seas to rise and flood the coasts... London, Paris and New York are hit by simultaneous freak earthquakes. Every minute a new disaster shocks the world. International Rescue launches its fantastic emergency vehicles... but the destruction continues unabated...
Even International Rescue cannot answer al the distress signals, and Jeff Tracy calls on Brains to determine the source of the problem. Fantastic levels of ultra-violet rays from the sun ar detected from Thunderbird 3 as Alan takes Brains to the space station to use the solar telescope. But then they spot massive meteorites on a collision course for the Moon...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 84, dateline 27 August 2066
Front Page: "Earth's Peril Exaggerated" says World Senate Press Attache
Thunderbird 3 diverts to the Moon to investigate. As the satellite has not atmosphere for the debris to burn up in, Brains concludes they must have been hot to start with, and examination of one reveals it to have come from the Sun. The powerful telescope on Thunderbird 5 reveals prominences of great magnitude are throwing debris into space, and Brains believes the Sun could be on the verge of producing a new planet, as it did when the solar system was created. This is a world threatening situation, and Jeff feels the World President should be alerted. But he is already in conference with his top advisers, and does not want to be disturbed...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 85, dateline 03 September 2066
Front Page: Destination Sun
However, the President is curious as to how International Rescue linked to his private videophone and wonders if he might learn something about the secret organisation. But a barrier prevents them from seeing Jeff Tracy, who tells him they can launch Thunderbird 3 immediately whereas it will take any other space organisation at least 36 hours. Despite reservations, the President accepts and Thunderbird 3 returns to Tracy Island for modifications and additional booster rockets. And shortly after, Alan and Brains lift off for the very heart of the solar system...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 86, dateline 10 September 2066
Front Page: Sunflare Claims TB3
Days pass as Thunderbird 3 continues its journey. Donning protective suits as the temperature increases, Alan and Brains are on their own as radiation levels block all communications. They watch as cameras record a piece of the Sun breaks free to disintegrate and fall back. It is time to break free of the gravity and return, but one booster fails, and the ship is till heading for the Sun...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 87, dateline 17 September 2066
Stop Press: Thunderbird 3 - Position Must Be Hopeless
On the verge of passing out from the heat, Brains tells Alan to try again... with success! Away from the Sun, they inspect the minimal damage and set course for Earth. The films confirm Brains' theory, and the debris being ejected is building up to a crescendo that will form a new planet, and potentially end life on Earth. The only solution is to destroy the planet as it escapes the Sun, and Thunderbird 2 is ordered to Space City to pick up a planetomic missile...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 88, dateline 24 September 2066
Front Page: Operation Sunburst Begins! Thunderbird 3 lifts planatomic bomb in bid to save world...
Thunderbird 2 lands at Space City and a cradle vehicle unloads from the pod to meet Commander Zero at the top security arsenal. With a planetomic missile loaded aboard, the craft returns to Tracy Island where Alan and Brains are remodifying Thunderbird 3 with additional isotope circuits to increase speed in order to escape the detonation. An hour after arrival, the missile is loaded aboard, and the final phase of 'Project Sunburst' is underway as Thunderbird 3 launches once more. But en route, Brains is concerned the camera speed was out, and the new planet will escape before they get to the firing point. The only choice is to sacrifice their escape speed - and their lives - to get to the Sun first...
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 89, dateline 01 October 2066
Front Page: Suicide! Backflash Smashes T.B.3
Firing the isotopes, Thunderbird 3 closes on the Sun and contact with Earth is again lost. A large piece of debris ejects and falls back... a precursor to the real thing but this time Alan is ready. The missile is fired, and the new planet is destroyed. With their isotopes exhausted, Thunderbird 3 is helpless as it is hit by the blast wave and hurtled out of the Sun's gravity, lost in the black void of space...
Part 8: TV Century 21 Issue 90, dateline 08 October 2066
Front Page: Monster Attacks Thunderbird 3 - Nightmare Splashdown For Crippled Ship!
With contact lost, Jeff Tracy checks to see if John in Thunderbird 5 has picked up anything. A faint radio code signal reveals Thunderbird 3 is out of control and heading for Venus. Tracy Island calls the ship continually for two days before Alan and Brains recover consciousness but with their engines burned out they is still nothing they can do. Powerless, Alan and Brains attempt to steer the plummeting ship through a shallow dive into a sulphur lake, only for a massive creature to rise from its depths...
Part 9: TV Century 21 Issue 91, dateline 15 October 2066
Front Page: Thunderbird One - Blast Off For Space! Venus Monster Pounds TB3
Thunderbird 3 sinks into the depths as the monster dives after it to attack again. The only chance is to release the spent isotopes in the hope it is not immune to radiation. Back on Earth, with contact once again lost because of the thick clouds that surround Venus, Thunderbird 1 is prepared for space travel. The monster meanwhile snaps at a drifting isotope, and dies instantaneously from radiation, but the corrosive sulphur is starting to penetrate the seals of Thunderbird 3...
Part 10: TV Century 21 Issue 92, dateline 22 October 2066
Front Page: Time Runs Out For Thunderbird 3
Alan and Brains don anti-chemical suits to protect themselves. With Thunderbird 1 still 27 hours from Venus, Jeff assesses the situation that Thunderbirds 2 and 4 will be needed as well to winch Thunderbird 3 from the lake. Alan and Brains trace the damage to a hair crack in the exterior hull of Thunderbird 3, and seal it with a metal compound, but their motions outside are noticed by another terrifying monster...
Part 11: TV Century 21 Issue 93, dateline 29 October 2066
Front Page: Death-Lake Terror - New Threat On Nightmare Planet
News Flash: Entire Thunderbirds Fleet on Red Alert
Alan and Brains take refuge on the bottom of the lake as the monster passes. With Thunderbird 3 intact but powerless, they decide help must be on its way and head for the surface to find a means of signalling. On Earth, Thunderbirds 2 and 4 are prepared for the journey to Venus and its environment. As the clouds of Venus prevent radio waves, Brains decides a good old-fashioned bonfire will have to do. In a strange forest, they prepare a large site of branches, but examining the unearthly vegetation, Brains is attacked by a man-eating plant...
Part 12: TV Century 21 Issue 94, dateline 05 November 2066
Hearing Brains' cries, Alan rushes to help and frees him with a shot from his gun. Back on the plateau, they start the fire as night falls and more terrifying creatures wander the landscape. Preparations complete, Thunderbird 2 launches from Tracy Island for Venus. By now, daylight has returned and Alan and Brains keep the fire going. Thunderbird 1 has now arrived and is homing in on the last known location. Spotting the fire, Scott swoops low over the lake, only for a terrifying creature to rise from the depths right in its path...
Part 13: TV Century 21 Issue 95, dateline 12 November 2066
Front Page: T.B.1 Races To Rescue Sister Ship... Then... Disaster!
Tentacles grasp the craft, threatening to crush it. Scott's only hope is to fire all motors, and breaks free of the grip. Regaining control, Thunderbird 1 fires missiles at the creature, ensuring it does not cause them anymore trouble. Joining Alan and Brains, Scott waits for Thunderbird 2 to arrive. But even converted for space travel, Thunderbird 2 is slower and less manoeuverable, and when warned of a meteorite shower in its path does not veer clear fast enough to avoid being hit...
Part 14: TV Century 21 Issue 96, dateline 19 November 2066
Front Page: Thunderbirds Take Supreme Gamble
Fortunately the damage is just a glancing blow, and Thunderbird 2 is soon back on course and flying over the Venusian landscape. Rejoining their brothers at the lakeside, the situation is assessed. But Virgil discovers the winch was shaken badly in the meteor strike, and too much stress could cause a blow back. Thunderbird 4 is launched into the lake, and Scott advises Gordon to watch out for monsters. He sees one, but it is a tiny baby. Then the real threat becomes apparent - there are millions of them, threatening to swarm the sub and jam the motors...
Part 15: TV Century 21 Issue 97, dateline 26 November 2066
Front Page: TB4 Trapped! Death Struggle On Venus Lake-Bed
Brains is certain the creatures cannot stand heat or radiation, so Gordon is ordered to switch to maximum hull temperature and discard atomic waste from the motors. Then he heads back through the cloud, causing the creatuers to react and disperse. Locating Thunderbird 3, Gordon attaches the winch cables from Thunderbird 2, but as the mechanism is fired up to full power, the feared blow back happens...
Part 16: TV Century 21 Issue 98, dateline 03 December 2066
Scott advises Virgil to activate the radiation shields in the winch housing as he must keep going. Slowly, Thunderbird 3 is pulled free of the lake. As the winch motors glow with friction, the rocket is carried to the side of the lake, and Virgil is able to shut down the systems. Thunderbird 3 has survived its ordeal in the sulphur lake, and the isotopes are replenished. With all repairs complete, and all craft ready, Brains and the Tracy brothesr launch from Venus to head back for Earth.
TV2000 (Holland) - issues 06 to 21, 1967
Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1971 (parts 11 to 16 only)
Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1992
Thunderbirds Are Go! - issue 8 (part 1 only)
While forming one long story, there are really two parts to this - the danger from the Sun, which is resolved in issue 89, and Thunderbird 3's consequent adventure on the planet Venus.
Continuity with another Anderson series finally appears, with Commander Zero appearing when Thunderbird 2 arrives at Space City to pick up a planetomic warhead.
The cover of issue 83 lists the worldwide disasters happening, with Manhattan Island disapparing.
A series of photos were specially taken to promote the start of the story, showing Thunderbirds 1 and 2 over hills aflame with lava. While only one featuring Thunderbird 1 was used, for the cover of issue 83, another formed the wraparound cover for the novel Thunderbirds - Ring of Fire (above left).
The cover of issue 84 features an interesting comment by World Senate Press Attache Sven Maertens.
It is shown that both Thunderbirds 1 and 2 can be adapted for space travel.
The front news covers reveal that Thunderbird 3 crashed on the Magnax continent on Venus.
The Venusian monsters were crafted in plasticine by model-maker Roger Dickens, and used to great effect in photos with Thunderbirds 1 and 3 on the covers of issues 90, 93 and 95.
The photo on the cover of issue 95 (above right) was also used for the cover of the 1971 Thunderbirds Holiday Special.
Additional photos featuring Thunderbird 2 were taken (above left) but these were not used for the comic. But one is reused for the Catch Or Kill strip in the ©1967 TV Century 21 annual, tightly cropped to show just the monster - referred to as a Maggorax - for an adventure also set on Venus. The same photo, cropped to show only Thunderbird 2 over a steaming lake, is used in the story The Kettle in the ©1969 TV21 annual.
Issue 91 of TV Century 21 featured a promotional offer for Twenty-One's 'Tommy Buster Gun', and each strip had a series of targets, that progressively had 'TOMMY BUSTER' spelt in bullets as you read through the issue (below).
The 1971 Thunderbirds Holiday Special only reprints the last six parts, drawn by Don Harley, but uses two frames from part 10 (the last Bellamy instalment) to introduce it.
Unfortunately, for the 1992 reprint, the order of the last three instalments is switched.
The Classic Thunderbirds Calendar 2004 lists the two parts of this story as 'Flight to the Sun' and 'TB3 Ditched on Venus'.
Story Six (aka The Big Freeze)
Writer: Alan Fennell.
Artist: Frank Bellamy. Colour centrespread.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 99, dateline 10 December 2066
The search for more efficient methods is continual at the island base of International Rescue. Thunderbird machines must be equipped with instruments that can overcome the most arduous weather conditions experienced by man...
As Thunderbird 1 is being prepared and launched for an Arctic test, at the North Pole World Army base known as Camp 21st Century, a new laser missile destructor is also scheduled for trials. Amidst worsening blizzard conditions, a test missile is fired from the World navy carrier 'Greenland', and twin lasers fire from Camp 21st Century. One holds it in flight, then the other blasts it - but the missile is not totally destroyed, and it hits the base's nuclear power plant...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 100, dateline 17 December 2066
Front Page: Ice-Cap S.O.S! TB5 Monitors Polar Base Disaster Call
The shockwave explodes the generator, and fifty feet beneath the ice, the base is plunged into cold darkness before a standby generator kicks in. The base has two weeks power, by which time a new generator must be supplied from Baffin Bay. But conditions are still bad and a conventional aircraft would be unable to fly to the area. Already over the Arctic, Scott reports the new equipment is working great, and that he could land on a dollar bill in the blizzard conditions. Meanwhile, the World Navy icebreaker Shackleton has been despatched to deliver a new generator, but the cold has built up the ice and its progress starts to slow...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 101, dateline 24 December 2066
The Shackleton will not make the journey in time, so Jeff Tracy stands by to launch Thunderbird 2 on a mercy mission if need be. But the situation at Camp 21st Century is worsening, with the sealed fire in the reactor chamber is burning through, and a scientist collapses from radiation poisoning. Then sparks from the reactor waste outlets carry to an air intake and set fire to the diesel generator. The men now seemed doom to die from freezing, or radiation exposure...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 102, dateline 31 December 2066
Brains works out a plan of rescue, and Virgil, Alan and Gordon launch in Thunderbird 2 for the Arctic. Hovering over the Shackleton, Virgil fires a low yield missile to break the ice, allowing Thunderbird 4 to be launched. Using a laser, the sub assists the icebreaker while Thunderbird 2 joins Thunderbird 1 and they fly on for Camp 21st Century. Using the new polar navigation equipment, Scott leads the way but then the crafts flight faulters and, flying underneath, Virgil spots that Thunderbird 1's wings are icing up...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 103, dateline 07 January 2067
The heating systems must have failed but the problem must be fixed in flight. Swapping positions, Virgil uses the vertical landing jets of Thunderbird 2 to melt the ice, and the two craft continue safely to Camp 21st Century. Meanwhile, Thunderbird 4 is continuing to melt the ice, and the Shackleton is once again starting to make headway. While Thunderbird 1 flies the radiation-sick scientist to hospital, Virgil and Alan seal the radiation leak and decontaminate the base. All is left is to put the generator fire out, so Alan uses the Firefly to try and blow it out using nitro-glycerine shells. But then there is a massive explosion...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 104, dateline 14 January 2067
Both Alan and the Firefly are a little dented but okay, so the assault on the fire continues. The Shackleton is now close and by the time it arrives, Alan has put out the fire, allowing men to reconstruct the area ready. With the blizzard now abating, Thunderbird 2 helps transfer the generator from the Shackleton to the base, and Camp 21st Century is saved.
TV2000 (Holland) - issues 22 to 27, 1967
Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1971
Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1984
Century 21 issue 5.
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 1 to 3
Thunderbirds: To The Rescue - Comic Album No.1
Thunderbirds The Collection issue 1
The Firefly makes its strip debut.
While 'Shackleton' is an appropriate name for an Arctic icebreaker, one has to wonder if it was also a nod to A.P. Films Head of Merchandising Keith Shackleton.
Overshadowed by publicity for the film Thunderbirds Are Go!, this story was only promoted on the cover of issue 100. Issues 101 to 104 publicised the colour photostory of the film.
The black & white reprint in the Thunderbirds Holiday Special in 1984 was titled Arctic Menace
The Classic Thunderbirds Calendar 2004 lists this story as 'Camp 21st Century SOS'.
If Atlantic Tunnel finally opened up Thunderbirds to a truly global arena, then this pales against an interplanetary threat in Solar Danger. Fans are no doubt divided about the classic status of this strip, as it really is a game of two halves. The first deals with a quite mind-blowing science fiction concept, that of the Sun giving birth to a new planet with could destroy the whole solar system. After some epic global scene-setting reminiscent of The Day The Earth Caught Fire, plot almost goes out the window as the pure drama of Thunderbird 3 risking itself not once but twice is followed, and Alan and Brains decide to sacrifice themselves for Earth. Then, even after some superbly evocative artwork by Frank Bellamy as the cripplied ship crashes on Venus and encounters monsters in a liquid sulphur lake, it starts to slide downhill into a semi-Fireball XL5 fantasy.
At this point it also seems apt to note the Thunderbirds strip long-awaited inclusion in the rest of the TV21 'Anderverse' with Thunderbird 2 picking up a planetomic missile from Space City. As someone who has always seen the original series somewhat divorced from its predecessors, it seems distinctly odd to see Commander Zero in a 'cameo role' here, whereas Stingray and Fireball XL5 can (and did) crossover quite beautifully. But the plot does not dwell on this, and interestingly it would be of the few nods in the strip itself to another series, outside of the covers, stop-press features, and TV21 created elements such as the renegade state Bereznik.
Mention also has to be made here of Don Harley's contribution to the strip, as he was majorly responsible for the instalments set on Venus. After Bellamy's suitably gothic approach to both the native monsters and landscape, Harley's work unfortunately seems bland by comparison. No stranger to Venusian landscapes, as his stint on Dan Dare testifies, Harley unfortunately transforms the planet into a semi-lush technicolour jungle. Admittedly he is only following the script, which is still as tight and gripping as usual, but the shift in theme and art marks what some would see as the first down turn for the strip. But Harley would return to the strip in the 1970s for Countdown, and produce classics of his own there.
After two stories that tried to push the limitations of the series and strip, The Big Freeze is something of a let-down. The irony is it is not a bad story at all, and retains all the right ethos of the series, but after such heady expectations it's back to the wilderness again, and the Arctic setting makes for some bland artwork. Even Bellamy's frame layouts seemed less adventurous and exciting than usual. This story is the last Thunderbirds strip attributed to editor Alan Fennell, and it is somewhat disappointing he did not go out with a real bang, even if the strip itself does contain more explosions than usual.
But, like Supercar beforehand, he had managed to faithfully capture the style of the television series in comic form, and ensure a long-standing success for a good few years.
The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History would like to thank:
& Ronald Kroon
- for their help with this feature.
Version 1.4 - 01.09.06
Any comments or notes about any of the strips, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All text © The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History, and its respective writers, and may not be reproduced without permission.
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