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The Complete Thunderbirds Story: Thunderbirds The Comic, 1993-94

Complete ThunderbirdsThe continuing success of Thunderbirds - The Comic meant that the original TV Century 21 reprints were being used up at a considerable rate. Having already commissioned new strip adaptations based of his own Thunderbirds episode scripts, editor Alan Fennell replaced these from issue 33 with new stories drawn by a rotation of artists comprising Keith Page (who had drawn Thunderbirds for The Funday Times, followed by Stingray), John Cooper and Mike White. A couple of issues later, the original Fireball XL5 strips by Mike Noble from TV Century 21 were added to the mix. But fleshing out the comic was probably the most ambitious feature the publication would undertake.

Initially, The Complete Thunderbirds Story seemed like a chance to tie the history of the TV series to more factual articles on space exploration which also appeared in the publication. And indeed, the space shuttle and an early interpretation of what would now be recognised as the International Space Station featured prominently, although in an alternate history that made them part of the 'World Space Administration' rather than NASA. As artist Andrew Skilleter (see full interview) recalls, the current state of space flight was of interest to Alan Fennell, as witnessed by one of the factual features showing a photo of himself and other contributors, notably writer Angus Allan and artist Mike Noble, with Captain Jon 'Huggy' Huggins of the U.S. Air Force - pilot of the U-2 spy plane.

While the first installment was subtitled 'How Jeff Tracy's dream of International Rescue became a reality', it soon became obvious this was some way off and not part of any pre-conceived masterplan (although the latter parts had a precursor - see box-out below). Nods to the future developments were frequently seen, with prototype blueprints and models of the as-yet-unnamed Thunderbird craft woven into events. It had been mentioned in the series Jeff was an ex-astronaut who had been to the Moon, but how he became a millionaire capable of funding International Rescue had always been somewhat grey. The first Thunderbirds annual in 1966 only gives brief comment to a career in civil and construction engineering - also hinted at in episodes such as 'Terror In New York City' and 'Brink Of Disaster' - but Alan Fennell redirected this back to aeronautics, and a family company called Tracy Construction & Aeronautics Inc. (or Aerospace or Corporation - delete where applicable!). With this background, the secret development of International Rescue once again had a footing in vague reality rather than fantasy.

Eventually running to 45 installments, The Complete Thunderbirds Story can be broken up into three almost equal parts or 'books', with each ending just prior to a major event in the comic itself (the 50th issue, and merger into The New Thunderbirds). Given the nature of publishing, this was probably not intentional but, like the creation of International Rescue itself, the result of a gradual evolution.

The Secrets Of Tracy Island
Now - Jeff Tracy reveals the story behind International Rescue!.

Though new to most readers of Thunderbirds The Comic, The Complete Thunderbirds Story had its origins as a feature in the 1967 Thunderbirds Spring Extra. Almost certainly written by Alan Fennell, this is practically a working synopsis for the series, and is also in three parts or 'items'

ThunderbirdsItem One, or How It All Started, is brief introduction, explaining how Jeff Tracy '...richest man in the World', is inspired to create a 'fantastic rescue organisation' by a couple of disasters killing hundreds of innocent people, culminating in finding a South Pacific atoll - reference Four-forty-five - which becomes Tracy Island.

Item Two: The Organisation Grows - is again very abbreviated, outlining how Jeff screens his closest friends, U.S. Airforce contacts and civil engineering directors, to create a short list of 'ninety men and women... from all over the globe', who become the team that fashion the idea of the as-yet unnamed International Rescue into a reality.

The third and final item - A Man Called Brains - bears close resemblance to the latter half of The Complete Thunderbirds Story. Most of the plot elements are there even if, in order to be more dramatically satisfying, Fennell had to 're-vision' and introduce aspects from the earlier 'Items'. There is no mention of Jeff's wife, meeting Kyrano, the Hood, or his time as an astronaut here, and the genius who became known as 'Brains' - real name Horatio Hackenbacker - is sought out to design the five craft necessary. The teething problems of testing the Thunderbirds are identical to those in parts 35 to 40, ending pretty much - as The Complete Thunderbirds Story did - with the first television adventure.


- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Complete Thunderbirds Story guide
Written by Alan Fennell.

'Book One'

Part 1: Towards the Future
Issue 35, February 6th-19th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
Shuttle Orbiter flight 17 - code-named 'Ultra' - lifts off from Cape Canaveral with a new crew of six astronauts and scientsts to relieve the current one on the World Space Administration station Freedom...
Notes:
The cover of issue 35 bills the feature as 'The Jeff Tracy Story'. The second and third pages comprise of a colour art centrespread of the space station Freedom.
Reprint:
Page 1 was reprinted as Het Volledige Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel 1: Op Weg Naar De Toekomst in issue 1 of the 1990s Dutch edition of Thunderbirds.

Part 2: Good News!
Issue 36, February 20th-March 5th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page, colour art.
For three years, Jeff has been working on the design and development of vehicles for the WSA, and is ready to leave and set up his own construction and aerospace industry. But then he receives a call from Mission Control - he is to be mission commander for a flight to the Moon to celebrate the 21st century...
Complete Thunderbirds Story
Notes:
Early design drawings for Thunderbirds 1, 2 and 3 can be seen on the wall of Jeff Tracy's quarters.
This installment also incorporates a centrespread of a cutaway diagram of a Space Shuttle Orbiter by Graham Bleathman.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.2 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds - Verhaal - Deel 2: Goed Nieuws.

Part 3: Back to the Farm
Issue 37, March 6th-19th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
The shuttle 'Ultra' returns to Earth with Jeff, and Controller Luke Davis tells him to take a break before training begins. At home, he is greeted by his wife Lucille, his parents, and young son Scott, and he explains the mission will be a survey for the first moonbase...
Notes:
This is the first strip to name Jeff's wife as Lucille, and introduce his father Grant.
The final two pages are a centrespread painting of the F.L.O - First Lunar Outpost.
WSA Controller Luke Davis would appear to be named after a fan writer and contributor to Fanderson.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.3 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds - Verhaal - Deel 3: Terug Naar De Boerderij.

Complete ThunderbirdsPart 4: Simulation and Solitary!
Issue 38, March 20th-April 2nd 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page, colour art.
Jeff bids farewell to Lucille and Scott or a six week simulation in solitary, as training for the new mission. He also has time to design and build another model for his son...
Notes:
The final two pages are a centrespread photo of Jeff Tracy's model prototype, realised by Martin Bower, with an insert of Bower's actual Thunderbird 3 landed at Moonbase.
This instalment implies the model is the third Jeff Tracy designed, and presumably the others were the prototype Thunderbirds 1 and 2.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.4 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel Vier: Simulatie En Eenzaamheid.

Part 5: Demanding Schedule
Issue 39, April 3rd-16th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page, colour art.
As Jeff trains, his time is also taken with setting up Tracy Construction and Aeronautics Inc. He is introduced to his team - Major Larry Hauptman, Engineer Hank Wright and scientist Major Alison Richards - as they train on the world's fastest jet, the 'Aurora'...
Notes:
Interestingly, this installment introduces a high altitude and supersonic delta plane called Aurora - coincidentally the name of an alleged top secret hypersonic craft developed in recent years as successor to the SR71 Blackbird (also mentioned as such in story), and subject of much debate outside military circles.
The 'next issue' flash refers to this part as 'Jeff Meets The Crew!'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.5 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel Vijf: Een Veeleisend Programma.

Complete ThunderbirdsPart 6: Hostility!
Issue 40, April 17th-30th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page, colour art.
Jeff and Hauptman take up the 'Aurora' on a test flight, but Jeff senses there is unusual hostility from his co-pilot, and suddenly Hauptman pushes the delta-shaped craft into a sickening dive...
While the craft is named 'Aurora', Andrew Skilleter's artwork (left) actually resembles a different 'black project' aircraft known as 'Brilliant Buzzard'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.6 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel 6: Vijandigheid.

Part 7: Personality Problem!
Issue 41, May 1st-14th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. Centrespread, colour art.
Jeff keeps his calm, and tries to talk Hauptman out of his dive - he apparently does not like Jeff as commander but finally relinquishes the controls. Jeff now has a quandry - should he report the incident if they are to fly to the Moon together...
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.6 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel 7: Een Persoonlijkheids Probleem!

Part 8: Space Walk!
Issue 42, May 15th-28th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page, colour art.
Jeff ponders on the problem, and returns home to find Lucille is expecting a boy, whom they decide to name after the late astronaut Virgil 'Gus' Grissom. Two weeks later, the moon crew are launched on a mission to replace the solar batteries on a communications satellite but Jeff has more problems with Hauptman...
The final two pages are another centrespread model photo, realised by Martin Bower, of Jeff Tracy spacewalking near the Number 5 communications satellite.
The 'next instalment' flash refers to this part as 'A Walk In Space!'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.8 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel 7: Een Persoonlijkheids Probleem!
Thunderbirds: Les Sentinelles De L'Air (French edition) No.2 as La Saga Des Sentinelles De L'Air: Mission Dans L'Espace.

Part 9: Crash Dive
Issue 43, May 29th-June 11th 1993
Drawn by Steve Kyte. 1 page, colour art.
Jeff talks to Luke Davis about Larry Hauptman, but the controller dismissive of this. Jeff's next mission is to take the ASP - Aero-Space Plane - on a flight, but a malfunction occurs in the fuel change over system, and the craft begins to dive...
Notes:
Fan artist Steve Kyte takes over for the first of three tightly framed single page installments.
Interestingly, the 'Aero-Space Plane' looks similar to the rumoured design of the afore-mentioned 'Aurora'.
The 'next instalment' flash refers to this part as 'Out Of Control!'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.8 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel 9: De Crash!
Thunderbirds: Les Sentinelles De L'Air (French edition) No.2 as La Saga Des Sentinelles De L'Air: L'Accident
.

Part 10: Abandoned!
Issue 44, June 12th-25th 1993
Drawn by Steve Kyte. 1 page, colour art.
As the ASP dives low over the Pacific, Hauptman ejects Jeff in a survival pod, and the baffed pilot sees the craft fly off. Seemingly deliberately abandoned, Jeff makes for a nearby island, where he ponders the strange situation...
Complete Thunderbirds
Notes:
We get our first view of the undeveloped, and as yet unnamed, Tracy Island in a superb evocative frame against the setting sun.
The 'next instalment' flash refers to this part as 'Someone Is Watching!'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.9 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel 10: 'Achtergelaten'

Part 11: Alone to Explore!
Issue 45, June 26th-July 9th 1993
Drawn by Steve Kyte & Mike Noble. 4 pages, colour & b/w art.
Jeff checks his rations, and ponders how long it will be before someone comes in range of the small radio transmitter he has. But he is unaware he is being watched from a nearby submarine, and is on the island for ten weeks before it surfaces under orders to pick him up...
Notes:
The concluding line about the island should be called 'Tracy Island', after Jeff's long stay there, seems to stick...
While the one page strip is by Steve Kyte, the uncredited centrespread and b/w pencil sketches are by Mike Noble.
The 'next instalment' flash refers to this part as 'The Truth Dawns!'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.10 as Het Komplete Thunderbirds Verhaal - Deel 11: Eenzame Ontdekkingsreiziger (Solitary Discovery Traveller).

Part 12: Answers!
Issue 46, July 10th-23rd 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
Complete Thunderbirds
Jeff is transfered to the Aircraft Carrier Safeguard, where he is baffled to find his own uniform waiting in his quarters - and Luke Davis is aboard. The whole scenario with Hauptman and on the island was a test to see how the mission commander would react if alone in a hostile environment. He has passed with flying colours, and returns home to find his new son Virgil has arrived...
Notes:
The 'next instalment' flash refers to this part as 'The New Century Dawns!'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.11 as Het Komplete Thunderbirdsverhaal - Deel 12: Antwoord!

Part 13: Moon Explorer is Go!
Issue 47, July 24th-August 6th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
Hauptman and Jeff make up, now the latter knows it was all an act. Training for the moon landing reaches a conclusion of New Year's Day, 2000AD, they have a green light for lift off six days from now. The crew lift off in the ASP for the space station Freedom where the Lunar Lander is waiting...
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.12 as Het Komplete Thunderbirdsverhaal - Deel 13: De Moonexplorer vertrekt!

Part 14: Moon Landing!
Issue 48, August 7th-20th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
After two days of briefing and preparation, the crew enter the LEV - Lunar Excursion Vehicle - and blast off for the Moon. The 21st century is celebrated with the first Moon landing by humans for over thirty years
Notes:
The text indicates this is the first Moon landing 'for over thirty years' but the last Apollo mission took place in 1972.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.13 as Het Komplete Thunderbirdsverhaal - Deel 14: De Maanlanding.

Complete ThunderbirdsPart 15: The Family Grows
Issue 49, August 21st-September 3rd 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter.
1 page, colour art.
A brief overview of the Tracy family history concludes 'Book One', leading to a each Tracy son being introduced.
Notes:
Jeff wins a contract to build shuttles and other space hardware in 2001, and this instalment indicates Tracy Constructions and Aerospace continues to develop up to 2015
The 'next instalment' flash refers to this part as 'Towards International Rescue!'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.13 as Het Komplete Thunderbirdsverhaal - Deel 15: De Familie Groeit.

'Book Two'


Part 16: Scott Tracy - Towards Manhood!
Issue 50, September 4th-17th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page centrespread, colour art.
An overview of Scott Tracy's education at Tracy College and Oxford University, England, and career in the U.S. Air Force.
Notes:
The five of five features that follow a nice format - portraits of the sons, and their growing up, against a prototype design of their Thunderbird.
This contradicts a previously published fact about Scott, that as well as attending Oxford University, he studied at Yale. This is replaced by studies at Kansas University, at the newly named Tracy College.
Not especially clear on the reproduced spread, but fully readable on the original art, is the name 'Werdna Retelliks' on the lower right picture - Andrew Skilleter spelt backwards!
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.14 as Het Volledige Thunderbirds - Verhaal - Deel 16: Scott Tracy - Zijn Jeugd (Scott Tracy - His Youth).

Part 17: Virgil Tracy - The Early Years
Issue 51, September 18th-October 1st 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page centrespread, colour art.
An overview of Virgil's education and training as an astronaut.
Notes:
This part reiterates the oft-mentioned 'fact' that Virgil takes after his mother Lucille in looks and colouring.
Unlike Scott, before Tracy College, Virgil went to Denver School for Advanced Technology.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.15 as Het Komplete Thunderbirds - Verhaal - Deel 17: De Jeugd Van Virgil Tracy.

Complete Thunderbirds

Part 18: Alan Tracy - Dare Devil!
Issue 52, October 2nd-15th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page centrespread, colour art.
An overview of Alan's education at Tracy College and Colorado University and Scott recalls an incident involving Alan and a small rocket he built.
Notes:
This instalment confirms the earlier implication that a college at Kansas University was renamed Tracy College in 2005, after Jeff Tracy.
The sketched design of the prototype Thunderbird 3 is based on Martin Bower's model which appeared earlier, in part 4.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.16 as Het Komplete Thunderbirds - Verhaal - Deel 19: Alan Tracy - Waaghals.

Part 19: Gordon Tracy - Champion of Inner Space
Issue 53, October 16th-29th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page centrespread, colour art.
An overview of Gordon, highlighting his personality as the practical joker of the sons, and his interest in water, his Olympic win at the 2020 games, leading to a career in the WASPs.
Notes:
At had alwyas been mentioned that Gordon Tracy was a previous Olympic champion, but this puts an actual year to the Games he took part in. If Thunderbirds is set in the 2060s, as in TV Century 21 or more recent publicity, then presumably this would have to be the 2060 Games.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.17 as Het Komplete Thunderbirds - Verhaal - Deel 20: Gordon Tracy - Aquanaut.

Complete Thunderbirds

Part 20: John Tracy - Stargazer!
Issue 54, October 30th-November 12th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page centrespread, colour art.
An overview of John, known as 'the dreamer' of the five sons, whose interest in astonomy and telecommunications would prime him for space monitor in International Rescue - one day.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.18 as Het Komplete Thunderbirds - Verhaal - Deel 20: John Tracy - Sterrenkijker
.

Part 21: Brains - A Touch of Genius!
Issue 55, November 13th-25th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page centrespread, colour art.
An overview of Brains, and how he came to join International Rescue.
Notes:
This instalment reveals Brains' true name as Homer Newton III, and the often believed 'real' name of Hiram J. Hackenbacker was a pseudonym created for a Thunderbirds mission ('Alias Mr. Hackenbacker') which stuck. This contradicts some TV Century 21 strips and editorial, where Brains' real name is often referred to as 'Horatio Hackenbacker'.
Reprint:
Thunderbirds (Dutch edition) No.15 as Het Komplete Thunderbirds - Verhaal - Deel 18: Genialiteit (Of Brains Een Genie!).

Part 22: Death in the Family!
Issue 56, November 26th-December 10th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page centrespread, colour art.
For the first time, Jeff Tracy talks about the enormous tragedy that hit his family a year before he decided to set up International Rescue...
Complete Thunderbirds
Possibly the most anticipated of all stories relating to International Rescue - how Jeff's wife Lucille died, and the start of what inspired him to set up the organisation.

Notes:
As well as killing Lucille, the avalanche at Jeff's parents' holiday home at Aspen claims the life of his father, also explaining why his mother (Grandma in the series) is a widow.

Part 23: Breakdown!
Issue 57, December 11th-24th 1993
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page spread, colour art.
A sadness falls over the Tracy ranch, and Jeff withdraws from his sons into depression. Seeking the peace of 'his' island, Jeff takes his new jet aircraft alone and heads out across the Pacific...
Notes:
Although not specified, the doctor seen in this instalment would seem to be the same one seen at the end of the episode 'Trapped In The Sky'.

Part 24: Crash-down!
Issue 58, December 25th 1993-January 7th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
Scott and Virgil check the log, and find Jeff has enough fuel for a twelve thousand mile flight, but they cannot trace where he is going unless they go to the Tracy Building, by which time he may be out of range. Locked on auto-pilot, an exhausted Jeff passes out, and overflies his island. The fuel runs out over unknown territory, and the plane crashes through a high jungle tree...
Notes:
Jeff's flight path exhibits some strange peculiarities - Tracy Island is usually regarded as being in the South Pacific, off the west coast of South America. If Jeff were flying on auto-piot in a straight line that ultimately takes him to Malaysia, Tracy Island must lie in the North Pacific...

Part 25: Jungle Terror!
Issue 59, January 8th-21st 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page, colour art.
Automatic systems blast the cockpit canopy away and ejects Jeff, opening his parachute. But unconscious and hanging from a tree, a snake nears...

Complete Thunderbirds StoryPart 26: A New Friend!
Issue 60, dated February 4th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
Jeff recovers to find himself face to face with the snake, and dazed he releases his harness, to fall and break his leg. Lapsing into painful unconsciousness, he is unaware his plane has been found...

Part 27 - Fever and Fear
Issue 61, dated February 18th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
The oriental stranger finds Jeff and carried him to a nearby coastal village, where he and his daughter Tin-Tin care for him. Alone, the man staggers from the hut as a strange power generates from a forgotten, ancient temple deep in the jungle. Inside, a bald-headed man demands from 'Kyrano' who the new stranger is...
Notes:
This instalment begins a major deviation from the 'established' back history of Thunderbirds. The ©1966 Thunderbirds annual (also mentioned in subsequent publications) states Jeff Tracy met Kyrano at Kennedy Space Centre.

Part 28: A Doctor Arrives!
Issue 62, dated March 4th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page, colour art.
Known in the underworld only as the Hood, he is Kyrano's half-brother, and has a full knowledge of the human mind and body. Finding Jeff's identity from papers in the crashed plane, the Hood helps Kyrano aid Jeff back to health, knowing a famous astronaut and business chief is 'a useful man to keep alive'...
Complete Thunderbirds Story
Notes:
An iconic moment - Jeff Tracy meets the Hood for the first ime, yet is in such a state he does not clearly recall it.

Part 29: The Search Begins
Issue 63, dated March 18th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
At Tracy Corporation headquarters, Scott and Virgil have been able to trace Jeff's plane to the Malaysia area, and a search begins. Three months have passed, and Jeff's leg is healed, although his recollections of how he came to be there are vague. But then disaster strikes and there is an explosion on a nearby ferry...
Notes:
The Solar System

(Part 30): The Resolution!
Issue 64, dated April 1st 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
Jeff rallies the villagers to help but they are too few and too late, and hundreds of innocent lives are lost. The tragedy stirs other memories, and the avalanche... Lucille and Grant Tracy's deaths... come flooding back. if only there had been rescue equipment around. There should be an organisation to tackle emergencies like this, and Kyrano responds it is a fine dream but it would cost a fortune. But Jeff Tracy has that fortune, and vows to create an international rescue organisation...
Complete Thunderbirds Story
Notes: This installment, and the next, are not given 'part numbers' - just titles.

(Part 31): 'Come and Rescue Me!'
Issue 65, dated April 15th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 3 pages, colour art.
Jeff needs to contact his sons to rescue him, and cannibalises parts from Tin-Tin's computer. At last, Scott and Virgil have found their father, and within a short time, all five have flown to Singapore and taken one of the corporation helicopters to find their him...
Notes:
The instalments regarding Jeff's breakdown and recovery in Malaysia are well written, but credulity is stretched by the fact he is missing for three months. The Tracy boys act as if he has been missing for mere days, and it does seem odd (even given Virgil's reason of '...dense jungle - a more primitive lifestyle') that wreckage of Jeff's plane would not have spotted before this time.
The cover of this issue was also by Andrew Skilleter, and depicts the Hood superimposed over Thunderbird 2 lifting off from Tracy Island.

'Book Three'

Part 32: The Island Revisited
Issue 66, dated April 29th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
Complete Thunderbirds Story
Reunited with his sons, Jeff bids a farewell to Kyrano and Tin-Tin, whom he owes so much. On the plane flight back, Jeff explains to his sons about his desire to set up a rescue organisation, as over the years the Tracy organisation has created ideas for vehicles and machines which could be adapted. Security would also need to be tight, and a base with total freedom is required. The answer lies in the South Pacific, and Jeff takes Scott and Alan out in a Tracy sea-plane to 'Tracy Island'
Notes:
The Tracy Aerospace seaplane is clearly based on the DT19 airliner from the Captain Scarlet episode 'Winged Assassin', though Andrew Skilleter believes he possibly drew on Frank Bellamy's depiction in the 1967 strip Tracy Island Exposed.

Thunderbirds The Comic merges with Stingray Monthly and Captain Scarlet to become The New Thunderbirds.

Complete Thunderbirds StoryPart 33 - The Cavern!
Issue 67, dated May 13th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
Alan falls into a large cavern, hurting his leg. Nearby, Jeff are Scott are taking measurements for a runway and hear his cries for help. Climbing through a crack in the rocks, they find him, and as Scott examines his brother's superficial injuries, Jeff realises that with some structural engineering, the cavern could become International Rescue's secret base!

Part 34 - 'Recruitment!'
Issue 68, dated May 27th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
Alan is badly shaken but no broken bones, so all three return to the Tracy seaplane. Realising he will need a lot of help, Jeff calls on his friends in the business, and on a globe-trotting mission recruits his special agents. Finally, he arrives at a science lecture for the most vital member the newly named International Rescue will need...
Notes:
This installment is untitled, but is given this heading in the 'next issue' line of the previous part.
Although set in the 2020s, the illustration of New York depicts the Twin Trade Towers - a sad reminder of the difference between the 'real' world, and the world of Thunderbirds.

Part 35 - 'It Will Never Work!'
Issue 69, dated June 10th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
The lecturer is Brains, and afterwards Jeff explains the venture to him. Brains tells him the plan of the freighter aircraft will not work but this is why he is needed - he can tell Jeff where he is going wrong. Brains agrees to join International Rescue and a week later he arrives at Tracy Aerospace to supervise construction. Time goes swiftly, and the first new machine - Tracy One - is completed. Scott takes it on a test flight but runs into trouble when a heavy storm rolls in and it is hit by lightning...
Notes:
'Tracy One' is Thunderbird One, but metallic in colour without any characteristic livery.

Complete Thunderbirds StoryPart 36 - 'Don't Touch Anything!'
Issue 70, dated June 24th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
Tracy One dives out of control but Brains tells Jeff he has built in a Ground to Air Control System, and guides the craft in for a crashland. Scott is safe, and jokes the craft became a real 'Thunder Bird', which Jeff adopts as the designation for the rescue hardware. Three weeks later, 'Thunderbird 1' is repaired and ready for a vertical take-off test...
Notes:
Another part of the jigsaw falls into place, with the naming of the 'Thunder Bird' craft. Unfortunately, it comes over as a little contrived...

Part 37 - Excavations!
Issue 71, dated July 8th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
As construction of the transporter 'Thunderbird 2' nears completion, Jeff and Virgil supervise the excavation work on Tracy Island. A week later, the craft is ready...

Part 38 - The Birds Fly Home!
Issue 72, dated July 22nd 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
With work on Thunderbird 3 nearing completion, work on the Tracy Island hangars is complete enough for Scott, Virgil and Brains to fly Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to their new home...
This instalment features a nice view of the area of Tracy Island being developed, with the main runway, the Round House, and main Tracy Villa built.

Complete Thunderbirds StoryPart 39 - Chaos and Danger!
Issue 73, dated August 5th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
As Scott and Virgil are familiarised with the launch procedures, Thunderbird 4 nears completion on the island as well, and a week laterGordon takes it out for a sea trial. Thunderbird 2 drops a pod for a pick up test but a fault in Thunderbord 4's bouyancy system sinks her with Gordon aboard. Retrieving the pod, Virgil returns to the island - but the latches fail and the pod drops towards the Tracy residence...

Part 40 - Bad News and Good News!
Issue 74, dated August 19th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
The pod smashes into the newly build Tracy House but fortunately no-one is hurt. With Thunderbird 4 on the sea-bed, Gordon dons a scuba-suit and surfaces. With the help of Brains, the submarine is repaired and surfaces, as Jeff gets a call from the World Space Authority - they now have permission to build a space station!
This instalment refers to the 'World Space Authority' instead of the 'World Space Administration (or Agency)' of earlier instalments .

Part 41 - Space Launch!
Issue 75, dated September 2nd 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
Jeff, Alan and John take Thunderbird 3 on a test flight and, after a series of exhaustive flight checks, it lands at his new home in the Tracy Island hangar under the Round House.
Notes:
According to this instalment, Scott, Virgil and Gordon are working out the colour liveries for their own craft, yet it would seem the Thunderbirds were already built in their iconic colours.
As The Tracy Corporation had been building space vehicles for many years, Thunderbird 3 presents the least development problems.

Part 42 - Bird in Space
Issue 76, dated September 16th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and centrespread, colour art.
Complete Thunderbirds StoryJeff had drawn up plans for a space station years back but now Brains helps him to finalise the design. Tracy Construction shuttles ferry the components into space, and within a short time the station starts to take shape. Scores of expert space engineers, under the supervision of Scott, Alan and John Tracy, are unaware of the purpose of the station, as it is just another job. Soon, the job is finished, but there are still some 'domestic components' to put in place - back on Earth...

Part 43 - Very Important People
Issue 77, dated September 30th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 pages, colour art.
As Tracy Aerospace supplied components for the new Fireflash, he and Brains are among the guests on a proving flight to London. There, he recruits an old acquaintence - Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward - whose latest undercover mission has been a test set up by Jeff. The next port of call for Fireflash is a two-day stop in Singapore, and Jeff makes a detour to offer Kyrano a place on Tracy Island. Kyrano's daughter Tin-Tin graduates shortly, and as a treat, Jeff arranges a a trip for her on Fireflash's first commercial flight. Back home, the boys surprise Jeff with another new 'member' - his mother...
Notes:
For this part, Andrew Skilleter used the final parts of the Lady Penelope strip 'The Vanishing Ray' for reference.

Part 44 - The First Mission
Issue 78, dated October 14th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 2 page spread, colour art.
Complete Thunderbirds Story
A part adaptation of the first television episode 'Trapped In The Sky', tying in the previous appearance of the Hood in The Complete Thunderbirds Story to his motives in the series.
Notes:
This instalment confirms that the Hood was trying to obtain details of International Rescue for 'a foreign power', and not purely for himself as early episodes implied.

Part 45 - The First Mission 2
Issue 79, dated October 14th 1994
Drawn by Andrew Skilleter. 1 page and poster spread, colour art.
The concluding part adaptation of the first television episode 'Trapped In The Sky'.

"Okay, boys, International Rescue is in business. Thunderbirds are definitely - GO!"

- - - - - - - - - - - -

'Book Two' introduces us to the now teenage Tracy sons (in 'Thunderbird' order, rather than the order they were born) with illustrated portraits against the prototype designs for the craft themselves. We are also introduced to Brains, a graduate of Tracy College and classmate to John. Everything seems to be going well in the Tracy clan - until part 22 finally gives the full story behind the death of Lucille Tracy, something which only merited the most cursory of mentions previously. The back stories in the 1960s annuals strongly suggested Jeff's wife (unnamed until now) had died not long after the birth of Alan, the youngest son. But here it comes much later, around 2022AD, in an incident which also claim's Jeff's father Grant.

Complete Thunderbirds StoryWhere the endeavour makes bold strokes about 'revisioning' the Tracy family history to make more sense to modern readers - Andrew Skilleter refers to the story as an 'overview' instead of a need to fill in details - it feels slightly restrained in any real impact. But one has to ponder who writer Alan Fennell was aiming at, and a more detailed story may have lost the main 7 to 14 age readership. Highlights for 'Book Two' are undoubtedly the aforementioned part 22: 'Death In The Family', told emotively in the first person by Jeff Tracy himself, and the first appearance of the Hood - an encounter a feverish Jeff only partly recalls, and sowing the association with International Rescue's arch-nemesis.

'Book Three' follows the creation of International Rescue itself, and the development of the Thunderbirds craft, again in the order we know then, hence their numerical designation. Unfortunately by this time, declining sales meant the merging of Thunderbirds The Comic with the recently launched Captain Scarlet title and Stingray Monthly, and while the series continued to be a major feature, one senses a drag in interest which robs the instalments of any real drama. This is unfortunate as the final parts, introducing 'old acquaintance' Lady Penelope (dovetailing events from The Vanishing Ray strip but missing a big opportunity to reveal how they knew each other), lead up to the first episode 'Trapped In The Sky', bringing us exactly to where we always wanted to be.

Long-standing fans, notably those who grew up with TV Century 21, had issues regarding the 'accuracy' of the events - Tracy Aerospace, how Jeff Tracy met Kyrano, Brains' involvement, Grandma Tracy, and so on. In the absence of writer guides and scripts being available, most information came from the annuals produced in the 1960s, and while Alan Fennell - editor of TV Century 21 as well - may have had influence on these, other editorial staff like Howard Elson contributed to fleshing out the scant snippets only hinted at in episodes. By contradictory turns, these biographies and histories are both revered (considered closer to the original production) yet reviled as 'non-canon' to the actual series, though this has still not stopped them being referred to - even now - as 'fact'.

But perhaps the biggest 'faux pas' was the dating of events in Thunderbirds (not just confined to this story - the whole Fleetway comic did this) around the 2020s following fan assertion of a 2026 calendar in the episode 'Give Or Take A Million', whereas both TV Century 21, and licence holders and fan societies now coming full circle, place Thunderbirds in the 2060s. While the 2020s dating more sense to Jeff Tracy being one of the first men on the Moon (interestingly, some contemporary publicity places Thunderbirds around 2000AD, so he could have been on Apollo... discuss), this important note is swept aside, ironically meaning The Complete Thunderbirds Story itself is now considered non-canon, and unlikely to achieve any meaningful status, even when you consider it was penned by the writer of almost a third of the original television series...

- - - - - - - - - - - -


This feature is dedicated to the memories of the true pioneers of space travel - the crews of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia: Per Ardua Ad Astra.

The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History would like to thank:
Andrew Skilleter
Steve Kyte
Theo de Klerk
Ronald Kroon
Keith Ansell
Graeme Bassett
& Richard Farrell
- for their help with this feature.

Version 1.1 - 01.09.06


Any comments or notes about any of the strips, please contact technodelic@blueyonder.co.uk.

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



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