I can't be entirely objective about this volume, as I was commissioned to produce the cover art, which was both a privilege and a challenge, given the content of the book!
As you'll read in the other reviews, the quality of the actual book itself is of a noticeably higher standard than its predecessors; heavier paper stock makes the images that much crisper, which shows off the attention to detail that both the artists who drew these magnificent strips and the restoration team's who remastered them put in. This is the first of the series I have in hardback, which gives it a much more luxurious feel, and though I know some wish it was also available in softback (it isn't and won't be, as far as I know) I'm beginning to wish I had the rest in hardback too.
The art and storytelling is the main point of this, though, and this is yet another fine example of the work of some of the greatest UK illustrators ever to work in comics. Bellamy's work is stunning as usual, and my own favourite, the marvellous Mike Noble, is very well represented here, with his later Fireball XL5, Captain Scarlet and Zero X stories being masterclasses in quality illustration, let alone comic-strip art. For those interested, at the time of writing, Mike is retired from strip art but still occasionally drawing into his early 80s; I had the honour of meeting this delightful and modest man and presenting him with a copy of this volume, which he was very pleased with, as anyone who buys a copy should be too!
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.
Way back in the sixties I used to look forward to my Century 21 comic every week and this series of books has brought back some great memories. I must admit that I preferred the earlier volumes in this series as I remembered some of the strips as though I read them yesterday. The strips in this book were not so memorable to me but I still enjoyed them.
The quality of the book is excellent, better than the previous volumes, and I would highly recommend it to any Gerry Anderson fan.
After getting the first four volumes of 'Century 21' I was expecting good things from the next. Had to wait a long time but it seems all the waiting was worth it. This new volume is simply brilliant and the production values from the new publishing company make the book look absolutely wonderful. Can't reccomend this enough!
I am a massive fan of TV 21 back in the 60's particularly the work of artist Mike Noble, He is the reason I got into illustration at the age of seven. This is beautifully produced and worthy of the TV 21 legacy. regards Steve Tanner
The first of these volumes I have owned in hardback and well worth the extra. Like many who owned all of the previous volumes in softback, I was waiting for this volume to appear in softback, but apparently the new publisher has no such plans. Now, having actually held this luxurious volume in my hands, I am wishing I had the previous volumes in hardback as well.
Superb quality, using a heavier paper stock and, once again, excellent, vibrant reproductions of the original artwork. This time the content extends beyond TV21 to include some strips from Countdown comic as well. Another bonus is revealed when removing the dust jacket from the book, as Lee Sullivan's beautiful cover rendering of Thunderbird 3 is embossed in gold into the cloth binding of the book (see attached photo).
One thing of note; the previous volumes are numbered 1 to 4 but this volume carries no such number. I wonder could this be the start of a new run in hardback only? Fingers crossed...