Space Patrol - The Website

Shaqui Le Vesconte presents the second of a two-part feature on the Charlton Comics titles, and speaks to Nicola Cuti, John Byrne and Joe Staton about their work and the series itself...

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Space:1999: Charlton (US) - 1975-76

Magazine cover issue 5 by Gray MorrowThe Charlton Space:1999 comics were in the more traditional vein of American fare. Charlton were branching more into live action television tie-ins, with The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and Emergency later added to the range.

'At the time,' Nicola (Nick) Cuti, writer and assistant editor for Charlton, recollects, 'We had been doing several comics for Hanna-Barbera, which included The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo which, I assume, is why they came to us for Space: 1999. They asked for a full color comic and a black/white magazine. George (Wildman - editor of Charlton comics) suggested we use Joe Staton for the comic since E-Man, the superhero Joe (Gill - Charlton staff writer) and I had collaborated on, was winding down, and I agreed.'

Joe Staton confirms this as E-Man, a cult favourite Charlton comic about a shape-changing entity from space, had proved unpopular sales-wise and was cancelled. 'I think E-Man had just come to an end and Space:1999 was the next 'adventure' book coming up.' He recalls, "I liked space stuff and was apparently next up." Staton, along with Nick Cuti and writer Joe Gill, were among those who were invited to view the opening episode 'Breakaway' at a screening by Hanna-Barbara to familiarise them with the series. In an interview in Comic Book Artist, he recalled Joe Gill - an experienced and incredibly prolific staff writer - anticipating the episode details, much to the amusement of his colleagues, 'Yep, I love the image of ol' Joe, surrounded by all these movie hotshots, thinking they were so smart, and Joe just shot them down, one by one. Joe knew how stories were constructed.'

'I was given a fair number of shots of the main characters and the ships.' Joe Staton continues, 'In addition I had bought several really nice cast models of the ships in England. I really liked the ships.' His successor on the strip John Byrne was also provided with a wealth of reference material - but this caused a problem of its own. 'Charlton sent me a huge stack of photographs. I was living in British Columbia, in Canada, when I started Space:1999. The taxation is horrible there, and the post office impounded the reference and wouldn't release it to me until I paid them a huge import duty! They absolutely would not believe I was an artist, and that the reference would be returned when I was finished with it. Not long after this I moved back to Alberta!'

Subscription AdvertJoe Staton only worked on the first two stories, but his art of Moonbase Alpha and an Eagle from the first issue continued to be used for the subscriptions page in each issue (see left). As he was seemingly fond of the title, why did he stop? 'John (Byrne) had just came along and was particularly interested in Space:1999 and I was a fan of Martin Caidin's Cyborg character (Note: On which the Six Million Dollar Man series was based), so we just switched.'

'I loved how the show looked, with the sets and the ships,' Staton comments on the Space:1999 series itself, 'But the scripts never measured up. And then there was Barbara Bain, who had much less animation and expression than any of Gerry Anderson's puppets.' He adds a final regret, 'I'm sorry I never got to work on a comics version of UFO. Now that was a show.'

As with the magazines, the question of whether only the likenesses of Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Barry Morse were available was raised. Joe Staton was not sure 'I do know that I was impressed by the Australian actor Nick Tate who played a ship pilot (Alan Carter) and I tried to work him in.' But John Byrne does recall this, and confirms that only the three leads could actually be used. 'For supporting cast I had to make up faces that sort of looked like the characters, but were not close enough to require a license.' He adds as a joke, 'Wish they'd done that with the leads!'

Magazine cover issue 5 by Gray Morrow
Illustration: John Byrne's original art (b/w) and the redrawn faces, from issue 3 - Bring Them Back Alive!. Courtesy of Jerry Weist.

The matter of likenesses of actors was something Joe Staton would encounter in other titles, 'Everything had to be run by the (television) studio. In fact, at one point they liked my Martin Landau better than Gray (Morrow)'s and had me redoing a lot of his heads. Of course, when I went onto Six Million Dollar Man, Universal didn't like my Lee Majors heads and had Neal Adams redo them. This taught me (a) don't get cocky and (b) don't take to heart what the client says!' Joe Staton was not alone with this problem, as John Byrne recollects. 'My first issue had to have all the faces redrawn because - I kid you not! - I put 'too much emotion' into them!' Ironically, it was Staton himself who redrew these for the third issue, presumably to maintain a visual continuity with the previous two, before Byrne's likenesses were used for the fourth.

Gray Morrow as Paul MorrowAs with the magazines and early British strips, the first stories tended to be fairly standard science-fiction tales altered to fit the Space:1999 format. But as Nick Cuti recollects, this was partly intentional. 'I enjoyed writing the color comics since it allowed me to have fun with a lot of the basic sci-fi themes.' And just as the change to artist Mike Noble seemed to trigger a change with the Look-In stories, so here the arrival of John Byrne also marked a high point for the Charlton range. A relative newcomer to professional comic art at this point, Byrne would go on to great things with Marvel and DC, notably on The Fantastic Four and X-Men. British born, his family moved to Canada in 1958, where he studied Fine Arts at Alberta College of Art in Calgary. His work on Space:1999 was also somewhat stylised like Staton's, but in a more free flowing way.

'I liked the look of the show,' John Byrne recalls, 'Which I had not actually seen when I first expressed an interest in doing the comic. And it seemed much more up my alley, at the time, than Doomsday +1' (Note: A post apocalyptic Charlton comic series, set on a devastated Earth). 'So when Joe moved on to The Six Million Dollar Man I asked for the book, and got it.' So did he watch the Space:1999 on television once commissioned to do the artwork? "I followed the series, but mostly out of duty once I started doing the comic. I found I did not care much for the stories, the bad science, the stiff acting...'

Gray Morrow as Paul MorrowNick Cuti took a side step for an issue, allowing John Byrne to craft a complete story which highlighted his talents as a writer too. 'When I wrote my one and only issue as scripter, I tried to combine all the elements I considered the show's strengths, which mostly came down to hardware.' Unfortunately for the Space:1999 comic, as it is probably the best of the run, this proved to his last work on the title. 'Marvel offered me more work, and I had pretty much run out of steam on Space:1999.' Being a friend as well as a fellow writer and artist, Nick Cuti had this to say on John Byrne's contribution, 'I think he's a fine writer as well as an incredible artist. He taught me that you can write a terrific story with a simple theme instead of relying on massive gimmicks such as mixing characters with gods and goddesses, which I tended to do.'

So overall, how did John Byrne view the television series, and his work on the comic? 'Mostly it was all about getting the hardware right. All the fiddly bits on the Eagles, and Moonbase and the space suits. And those Rudi Gernreich uniforms, of course!' He ponders, as a final word, on what so many have wondered, now the year 1999 has come and gone. 'Did we ever really think the future would look like that?'

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US Space:1999 comic guide

Issue One (Vol.1, No.1)
Dated November 1975. Charlton Publications Inc.
Editor: George Wildman. Colorist: Wendy Fiore. Cover: Joe Staton.

'Cornucopia'Moonless Night
Writer: Nicola Cuti.
Art: Joe Staton. 5 pages, colour.
This opening strip is another potted adaptation of the first episode Breakaway, and sets the format but differently from the magazine.
Joe Staton's art uses more highly stylised likenesses than the magazine.

Intelligent Species
Writer: Nicola Cuti.
Art: Joe Staton. 17 pages, colour.
The planet Pearl is promising as a new home for the Alphans but the discovery of an ancient ruined city suggests it may still be inhabited. Koenig's fears are realised when stocky humanoids are seen but this is nothing compared to a huge, tentacled slug creature that erupts from the ground. It is brought down by weapons fire, to be fed upon by the humanoids. The 'victory' is short-lived as a second slug abducts Helena and takes her underground. Koenig, Bergman and Carter follow, battling another slug on the edge of a volcanic abyss. Bergman theorises they may have a primitive colony like insects on Earth but instead they find an advanced city and an interesting twist to evolution on the planet...

An interesting, though somewhat clichéd, tale dealing with appearance and prejudice. But it is the nature of the alien 'slugs' themselves that is worthy of note.

Magazine cover issue 5 by Gray MorrowIssue Two (Vol.2, No.2)
Dated January 1976. Charlton Publications Inc.
Editor: George Wildman.
Colorist: Wendy Fiore. Cover: Joe Staton.

Writer: Nicola Cuti.
Art: Joe Staton. 22 pages, colour.
Preparing to explore the planet Actaeon, the Alphans are distracted by the appearance of a large starship. Koenig, Bergman and pilot Tom investigate but are ambushed while on board. Tom is killed, Koenig wounded and the ship itself is crippled in the exchange of fire. One of the massive alien humanoids struggles to bring the ship in for a crashdive on the surface of Actaeon, succesfully as Bergman and an unconscious Koenig survive. Bergman is taken by an unseen agency, leaving Koenig to ponder on events when he recovers. Alone, the commander fashions a transport to explore and find food, and after an encounter with a massive insect-like creature comes face-to-face with one of the aliens from the ship. After another exchange of hostile fire, Koenig is able to capture the alien, who calls himself Bruin. In the night, huge winged creatures try to carry off Bruin, and both human and alien are forced together in a fight for survival again the elements and hostile animal-life...

The familiar story of two opposing people thrown together in a hostile environment is given the Space:1999 treatment here, and unwittingly bears the same title as the version seen in UFO.
It is an interesting touch that as with the UFO episode, and its emulators in the film Enemy Mine and the recent Enterprise episode 'Dawn', the alien does not speak English and is allowed to remain more 'alien'.
Joe Staton's cover for the issue made it one of the most striking for the Charlton range at the time, with Koenig and Bruin battling under a blood red sky.

'Cornucopia'Issue Three (Vol.2, No.3)
Dated March 1976. Charlton Publications Inc.
Editor: George Wildman.
Colorist: Wendy Fiore.
Cover: John Byrne.

Bring Them Back Alive!
Writer: Nicola Cuti. Art: John Byrne. 22 pages, colour.
Exploring planet Taurus IV, which appears an undeveloped lush world, Koenig, Helena and Bergman discover a raised dias and a table laid with food. Investigating, Koenig too late realises the set-up may be a trap as shutters rise from the edges to encase them in a dome. With a violent shudder, the 'dome' blasts from the surface and gas floods in, knocking the Alphans unconscious. Recovering, they find themselves in a kind of interplanetary zoo with other diverse life forms: A sole humanoid called Kloors, light beings Kanta and Rega from Ixas, angel-like Silray and Cora from Alpha Centauri, primitive Kag and Zun, and the bizarre gelantinous Zustra who can subdivide like an amoeba. Kloors explains they are on some form of space ark which is collecting specimens, and that escape is impossible. After a shared meal, they are all escorted by huge humanoid robots to a gymnasium. There, Zustra confides in Koenig that it and the Ixasians have an escape plan but need help. Kanta and Rega flare nova-like to blind the robot which Koenig lures into the pool. Another Zustra which had been hiding opens the door for them, and Koenig, Kag and Silray are able to destroy more robots and gain access to the empty automated control room. Rega finds weapons but Kanta goes missing - apparently abducted. It would seem that their captor is one of their number, and in order to escape they must determine who it is...

While the concept of a space zoo is something of a cliche - already seen in TV SF with 'The Keeper' from Lost In Space and 'The Menagerie' in Star Trek - this quickly becomes more of an action thriller. The life-forms are varied and interesting, and the denouement is not disappointing, with a nice twist.
Most of John Byrne's likenesses of the main characters had to be redrawn by Joe Staton for this story.
The complete original artwork for this story sold on eBay in April 2004 for $2,550.

The Space Sirens
Writer: Unknown. Art: Joe Staton. 2 pages text.
An Earth-type planet but with a thinner atmosphere could be colonised, but Helena is concerned about intoxication or hallucinations. An Eagle is launched to carry out a survey but on the jungle planet itself, they all hear a strange 'siren call' which Alan Carter succumbs to...

Space:1999 Annual ©1979.

A short filler story, with illustrations by Joe Staton taken from the first comic story.
A note of interest is Alpha is also referred to as 'Moon City' - an early pre-production name for the base.

Issue Four (Vol.2, No.4)
Dated May 1976. Charlton Publications Inc.
Editor: George Wildman. Colorist: Wendy Fiore. Cover: John Byrne.

Demon Star
Writer: Nicola Cuti. Art: John Byrne. 22 pages, colour.
'Cornucopia'Approaching the binary star Algol, Alpha is attacked by alien craft which then abduct Helena and several other Alphans. Koenig is warned that because of the hostages, they cannot destroy the alien ships which have now tested their defences and will return to destroy them in time. An enraged Koenig leads a combined fleet af Eagles and Hawks to bring back the prisoners from the Earth-like planet it originated from but are instead welcomed by the inhabitants. The alien leader Paceus releases the equally bemused prisoners, who have been treated well, and even invites the Alphans to settle on the idyllic world. There is no trace of any weapons, hostile ships or troops. All seems well but Koenig cannot shake the feeling that for all the genuine openness, there is something wrong and, in an ancient deserted temple, he and Helena discover the secret of the inhabitants of the planet Janid...

For a story which shows a nice handling of the main characters, we see some diversions from the Year One format which curiously make it seem more like Year Two. Alpha has an Emergency Base, seemingly to deal with alien attacks, and several Early Warning outposts.
The nature of the Emerans may not be a total surprise but this is a well told story and a highlight of the comic series, with some nice dynamic art by John Byrne.
We are treated to a spectacular space battle, reminiscent of the episode War Games, only here Alpha has the Hawks.
The feel of the story is very much in the vein of John Rankine's original novels Android Planet and Phoenix Of Megaron. Rankine's penchant for giving Koenig historic analogies for his position are echoed here with a mention of Moses (who led his people out of the wilderness to the promised land).
The 'track attackers' seen in the story, and mentioned in the Space:1999 magazine, seem to be inspired on those seen in the episode 'The Infernal Machine' and are capable of being carried to a planet in an Eagle.
Byrne also uses the centre pages, usually drawn as two separate artworks, to great effect, combining them into a spread (see above), 'Not my invention by any means, but something that seemed like a good idea! Back then the ad flats were not so stringently enforced, and it was possible to pace a story to have a double-page spread appear where I wanted it.'
The character Mal Burns, who would later feature prominently in issue 6, makes a brief introductory appearance here. Byrne recalls, 'I think Nic intended the character to be a decendent of the mad inventor we created together when doing ROG-2000 in E-Man. Needing a supporting player for my story, I used Mal Burns since I had no trouble getting the rights to do the likeness!'

The Micron Metamorphosis
Writer: Unknown. 1 page text.
A strange small world, dubbed 'Micron' by the Alphans, is investigated by the Alphans. While only the size of North America, the planet is Earth-like and has life. But there is more to 'Micron' than meets the eye...

Space:1999 Annual ©1979.

An interesting little story, with another twist.

Issue Five (Vol.2, No.5)
Dated July 1976. Charlton Publications Inc.
Editor: George Wildman. Colorist: Wendy Fiore. Cover: John Byrne.

'Cornucopia'Gods Of The Planet Olympus
Writer: Nicola Cuti.
Art: John Byrne. 22 pages, colour.
Eagle Five is exploring a new Earth-like planet when a startled distress call indicates they have been attacked by the sea-god Neptune! Launching a rescue mission, Koenig, Bergman and Helena find the wreck of Eagle Five on the rocky shore of a land-mass with damage consistent with being impaled with a trident! Before they can act, huge rocks rain down and the trio find themselves under attack from a Cyclops. Unfortunately, their fire brings down the creature on top of their Eagle before they are captured by another. Awakening in a small cage, they find Alan Carter and co-pilot Benjamin alive along with other native humans. Helena is able to trick the Cyclops into letting her have a weapon and she frees them all. Outside, Koenig is amazed to find the world is called Olympus and the natives refer to themselves as Hellenites. Their leader Demothus takes them back to their city, surrounded by a land where satyrs and centaurs frolic, as the Alphans come face to face with the origin of the myths of ancient Greece...

Space:1999 Annual ©1979.

A curious clash of future science and ancient mythology make this story possibly the most removed from the television series - despite the mythological inclinations of later Year One episodes - but nevertheless a quite pleasing and well written one.
'The fantasy elements are pretty much ingrained in most science fiction writers.' Nick Cuti recalls of this story, 'We love the great myths of ancient times, the folklore of the near past, as well as the hard science of modern times. We mix them together whenever we can to make an imaginative yarn.'
Closer perhaps to the feel of the 'Who Mourns For Adonis' episode of Star Trek, it is a nice touch that the 'Gods' don't quite believe in the small human natives in the same way we don't believe in elves or leprechauns.

The Contaminator
Writer: Unknown. Art: Joe Staton. 2 pages text.
The temperament of engineer Lewis Marl has changed considerably of late, from a cheerful efficiency to argumentative short-tempers. It would appear he has been rejected by laboratory technician Naji Lok, who he was going to marry. Koenig is concerned that Marl's mood could spread depression throughout the base, and orders him to a distant space-watch outpost, where fate takes a curious turn...

Probably the most interesting of the short text tales, even with its cosy ending, as it does consider the human condition in space.

Issue Six (Vol.2, No.6)
Dated September 1976. Charlton Publications Inc.
Editor: George Wildman. Colorist: Wendy Fiore. Cover: John Byrne.

'Cornucopia'Writer/Art: John Byrne.
22 pages, colour.
Prologue: Evil genocidal criminal H'r'Nath-Kem-Tohr is the last of the Q'Lee, a race that perished over a million years ago. Confronted with a pursuit vessel of the First Federation, the Q'Lee warrior activates the superweapon at the heart of his ship seconds before he and it are both destroyed. But the weapon itself survives to become flotsam in space...
Part One - Flotsam: Koenig and co-pilot Mal Burns are surveying another world devastated by an ancient war between the First Federation and the Wok Empire. Both sides perished in the conflict but the spoil of war is a spate of uninhabitable worlds in this sector of space. Entering a zone of radio interference caused by a nearby dwarf star, Eagle Two is tracked and torn asunder by H'r'Nath-Kem-Tohr's superweapon - actually little more the size of a grenade by a race that stood no higher than a human finger. But even so, a helmetless Koenig is sucked into the vacuum of space by the explosion...
Part Two - Survival: Alone in space, Koenig struggles to stay alive and manages to obtain a helmet. But with the Eagle wrecked and communications with Alpha jammed, it seems he has only delayed his death...

Space:1999 Annual ©1979.

John Byrne shows himself to be a talented writer, as well as artist, in this interesting story which is probably the closest to the feel of the television series in the comic range.
As with Demon Star, Byrne also uses the centre pages to great effect again, breaking it into a countdown as Koenig's time runs out (see above).
Byrne's grasp of the characters is spot-on, and the prologue has a nice mythical feel to it. 'I was a big fan of Larry Niven in those days. Flotsam was my attempt to do a 'Larry Niven story', and he later confirmed that I had succeeded!' He even manages to work in the series own 'mythology', referring to events in the first episode 'Breakaway' as Koenig struggles to stay alive.
Kano, strangely, is spelt 'Chano' in this story.

The Presence
Writer: Unknown. Art: Joe Staton. 2 pages text.
A barren planet shows signs of having once held a civilisation but the oxygen is totally depleted making it uninhabitable for the Alphans. Koenig investigates but finds the remains crumbling. On his return, however, he finds something has come back with him...

Space:1999 Annual ©1979.

Another short tale, one of the better in that it is unassuming and warns of the dangerous nature of space exploration.

'Cornucopia'Issue Seven (Vol.2, No.7)
Dated November 1976. Charlton Publications Inc.
Editor: George Wildman.
Colorist: Unknown.
Cover: Pat Boyette.

The Metamorph
Writer: Mike Pellowski.
Art: Pat Boyette. 14 pages, colour.
Another adaptation of the Year Two opener.
Mike Pellowski's second adaptation of 'The Metamorph' seems markedly cruder than the faithful graphic version seen in the final Charlton magazine.
Judging from the painted front cover, Pat Boyette is a talented artist but this does not really come over in the cruder line work, despite remaining very faithful to the look of the new series. A far cry from the promising direction of the comics in recent issues.

Escape From Vipon
Writer: Mike Pellowski.
Art: Pat Boyette. 8 pages, colour.
The war-like reptilian natives of the planet Vipon have captured Koenig and Helena, and want advanced weaponry from Moonbase Alpha in return for their hostages. Maya has a plan, and travels with Tony to the planet where he is quickly captured. But the Psychon has transformed herself into a bird, and is following them back to their camp...

Space:1999 Annual ©1979.

A short tale without much merit and which seems more like a filler.
The most interesting aspect is that Maya is depicted in the off-duty dress seen in the episode 'The Exiles'.

Primitive Planet
Writer: Unknown. Art: Joe Staton. 2 pages text.
Planet Three is being explored by Eagle Four, and is revealed to be ice-bound. Computer determines from sensor scans that there is life, and Eagle Four lands to investigate...
A poor story and not too well written either. There is a promising build-up to events which just collapse in the final rushed paragraphs. Again, a far cry from the short and well-paced text stories of earlier issues.

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'Cornucopia'Charlton Comics had a third publishing venture for Space:1999, for the Xerox Book Club in 1976. This was a slim paperback with short stories for the younger reader, illustrated by art cannibalised from the Charlton magazines. This leads to some variations on the stories seen in the magazines but in much simpler terms, intended for a much younger readership:

Moonbase Alpha:A straight-forward introduction.
Live Warhead:An Eagle pilot sacrifices himself in the aftermath of an attempt to destroy an asteroid on a collision course with Alpha.
Space Traitor:An Alphan tricks Koenig into a mission to the planet Kayll, where he has taken control of the native inhabitants (A reworking of story elements and art from A Lonely Emperor).
Planet Of The Ants:On an alien planet, Koenig and his party are attacked by giant ants who have destroyed the civilisation there (A reworking of story elements and art from Class Determination: Alien Insecta!).
Space Emperor:When a returning lost Eagle explodes, Koenig believes it waa part of an attempt to remove him as commander by the deranged Doctor Mazer.
Doom Dust:Particles of dust from a massive cloud turn out to be living matter that threatens to engulf Moonbase Alpha (A reworking of story elements and art from Spores).

'Cornucopia'For whatever reason, both magazine and comic would disappear suddenly after their first issues for the revamped Year Two. As the elements which had made the first year of the televised series of Space:1999 so distinctive had changed for its second year, so too had the team behind the magazine and comic. Nicola Cuti, in many ways the driving force for both publications so far, opted for a freelance career instead of in-house writor and editor for Charlton, and found his contract with the company severed at short notice. Whether this change, and the fact one of the key team was no longer around, meant the publications were simultaneously cancelled, or if the change in the format of the series meant a drop in the fan following, and consequent sales, may never now be known. Certainly, after the lengthy dual introductions for 'The Metamorph', neither of the follow-up strips seemed to have the same enthusiasm that was apparent in the earlier issues.

But overall, the publications were a stalwart attempt to make Space:1999 one of the better known Anderson series in America, and was certainly the most successful to date.

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The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History would like to thank:
Nicola Cuti
Joe Staton
John Byrne
Jerry Weist
Magnus Eriksson
and Martin Willey.
- for their valued assistance and contributions to this feature.

Version 1.1 - 01.09.05

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All text © The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History, and its respective writers, and may not be reproduced without permission.
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