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5.0 out of 5 stars The way the future was - volume 5, 27 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson: Menace from Space (Hardcover)
I grew up in the 1960s reading DC and Marvel comics, but I remember there were some British comics back then that stood out in quality and scope. I was too young for `Eagle', which started several years before I was born, bur I remember the start of The Trigan Empire in `Ranger' and then continued in 'Look and Learn', which I would read in the public library every Saturday, but the comic book event of my childhood was the debut of Gerry Anderson's `TV21' comic. I couldn't name the artists then, but I could recognise Frank Bellamy's work, which stood out above anyone else's, even 1960s' Marvel. Allegedly, Stan Lee offered to let him draw anything he wanted if he'd work for Marvel.

In recent years there have been quality reprints of The Trigan Empire from a Dutch publisher, and Titan Books have been reprinting the Dan Dare strips from `Eagle', which has led to an appreciation of Frank Hampson's work (and the reprints have now reached the Frank Bellamy period!). Now, in these Century 21 volumes (which have now switched publisher), we have the ongoing reprinting of the classic TV21 strips from the mid-late 1960s, and the high-point of the British comic book (2000AD was a different format, a different style, and a different mindset). TV21 featured strips drawn from the various Gerry Anderson TV series, with a few back-ups created for the comic, but set in the Anderson `universe'.

The TV21 format was the same "widescreen" that `Eagle' and its rivals were published in, and the publishers of Century 21 have found the archive of the original artwork, which they are using for these volumes. There are some gaps, and these have been filled by digitally-remastered scans from the comic book pages, but the vast majority of the pages presented here are taken from the originals. Some of the strips were presented as two-page spreads in the centre of the comic; as this is a bound book, the pages have been reprinted with a bit of overlap, so you don't lose any artwork in the binding - something American publishers should take note of.

This volume, containing 148 pages of comics, presents four Thunderbirds stories, three drawn by Frank Bellamy and one by Don Harley; three Captain Scarlet stories, two drawn by Mike Noble and one by Keith Watson; one Fireball XL5 story by Mike Noble; three Zero X stories, one and a half by Mike Noble and the same by Jim Watson; and two UFO stories, one each drawn by Gerry Haylock and Don Harley. They include stories taken from Countdown, the successor to TV21, and range in time from 1967 to 1772. The collection is edited and introduced by Chris Bentley. The stories were written by Angus P. Allan, Scott Goodall, Dennis Hooper and Todd Sullivan.

This is indeed one of the treasures of the British comics industry, and will probably come as quite a shock to American comic book enthusiasts in terms of quality and scope. And considering it sold almost a million copies a week in the mid to late 1960s (and more if you include its spin-off titles), it also outsold even the top-selling American comics by a margin of two or three to one.

Further Treasures of the British Empire:
Frank Bellamy's Heros the Spartan
Classic Dan Dare: Trip to Trouble (Dan Dare (Graphic Novel)) (Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future)
Latest volume to date, featuring Frank Bellamy's artwork
Classic Dan Dare: Voyage to Venus Part 1
First volume of the series, featuring Frank Hampson's artwork
Trigan Empire: The Invaders from Gallas v. 1
First volume of the complete Don Lawrence series (he was followed by Oliver Frey)
Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Volume 1: v. 1
Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson Volume 2: v. 2
Century 21: v. 3: Escape from Aquatraz (Century 21: Classic Comic Strips from the Worlds of Gerry Anderson)
Century 21: Above & Beyond v.4
Ron Embleton's Wulf the Briton: The Complete Adventures
Another full-colour classic from the 1950s
Karl The Viking The Complete Don Lawrence (deluxe 4 volume set)
Black & white artwork.
King of Crooks (featuring The Spider)
Jerry Siegel creates a British comic classic.
The Steel Claw: Vanishing Man
Another classic British comic series.
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