Heidi at The Beat seems surprised that there are still Thunderbirds fans. I suppose it never did take off in the USA the way it did in Britain and Japan, among other territories.
In Britain, there is still a Thunderbirds magazine. Well, I say “still”, but this version, from Redan Publishing, only began publication in 2000. Redan claims to distribute about 45,000 copies an issue – remember, the UK market is about a fifth the size of the US, so that’s not at all bad, especially given that the final episode of the TV series first aired in 1966, and the last of the original source material, the movie Thunderbird 6, came out in 1968. (The magazine is explicitly based on the 1960s TV series and films, not the 2004 movie or, for that matter, the Thunderbirds 2086 anime series from the 1980s.)
Having said that, the magazine is thin pickings for us older geeks. In the issue I have before me, there is a fumetti recreation of a TV episode’s story which would once have delighted me, but is less of a thrill now that I have a DVD player with a freeze-frame facility.
There is also a comic strip, running to 5 pages, which looks like this.
It seems a far cry from the glory days of the TV Century 21 strip, when a typical page might look like this. (As with the other pictures in the post, except the cover, click to enlarge - but this one is most worth it, by the curse of Irzan!)
To be fair, anyone’s comic art is likely to suffer from a comparison with Frank Bellamy’s. And according to The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History, Redan has aimed its magazine at 4-7 year olds – probably about 4 years younger than the intended readership of TV21. Simple, empty, brightly coloured, shadow-free art seems to be what editors think young children want these days.
So, the Thunderbirds strip has survived by evolving. I am no longer its natural habitat, but I hope it continues to survive in its niche.
Thunderbirds Magazine issue 85, Redan Publishing, 2007. Cover art possibly by Lee Sullivan; photos from the 1966 Thunderbirds TV episode “Ricochet”; strip Thunderbirds Are Go “Ghost Ship”, uncredited, art possibly by Lee Sullivan
Thunderbirds, part 1 of a story attributed to Scott Goodall, art by Frank Bellamy, TV Century 21, 30 September 1967, reprinted as “The Earthquake Maker” in Thunderbirds … to the Rescue, Ravette Books, 1992