Growing up in the 80s, Gerry Anderson’s shows seemed to be a reliable constant on the television. Though most of the time it was repeats of classic shows that led […]
Growing up in the 80s, Gerry Anderson’s shows seemed to be a reliable constant on the television. Though most of the time it was repeats of classic shows that led to many of us discovering the brilliance of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray and Joe 90 for the first time, there were still a few new projects left to come from Anderson’s stable – Terrahawks in 1983, Dick Spanner in 1986, Space Precinct in 1994 and New Captain Scarlet in 2005 as a few examples.
This anthology comic showcases stories from three of Anderson’s richly detailed worlds: The Equinox Gambit (a New Captain Scarlet story), The Marionette Killer (Space Precinct) and Squared Away (a Terrahawks tale).
Each of them are great, albeit brief, pieces that do well to showcase the style and lore of each show they’re drawn from.
The Equinox Gambit sees the Mysterons taking over a scientific research station disguised as an oil rig, in order to gain control of a potentially devastating device. Captain Scarlet and Captain Grey are dispatched to deal with situation by international peacekeeping force Spectrum (which is, of course, the source of this anthology comic’s title). Steve Tanner writes a great piece with a swift pace that won’t leave newcomers scratching their heads as to what’s going on; everything feels pretty well explained and new reader friendly. Pete Woods does a great job with the still-excellent costumes and tech design of Captain Scarlet’s world. Lovely stuff.
Space Precinct was a show that I never really got into; its ambition was admirable but far outstripped its budget – and its bold, bright visual design often clashed with a tone that tried to play things straight. For the most part – a bright and slightly confusing open chase sequence aside – that problem is avoided in the story featured here, The Marionette Killer. It applies a suitably dark colour palette and visuals for its macabre tale of a copycat killer that returns to haunt the ex-Earth cops on the planet Altor. Though feeling much more adult than the other two stories included, writer Richmond A Clements and artist/letterer James Gray have the sense to not dwell on the grim details of the murders themselves and stick to the crime solving; it’s a well handled story that, like the New Captain Scarlet tale, does a great job of bringing the world to new fans without requiring a great deal of knowledge of the setting beforehand. Characters are well handled and the drama nicely done with some useful exposition that doesn’t feel too forced.
Despite being the only show I had any familiarity with – unless you count the original Captain Scarlet, rather than its ‘New’ reboot, the latter of which I’ve never seen – Terrahawks is less successful as a standalone story, mostly because there are so many wacky elements that seem to need a bit more time to settle in than the page count allows. Like the other stories, it’s fast paced and fun (I did particularly enjoy the satirical barbs aimed at Richard Branson), but – having not seen an episode of Terrahawks for nearly 40 years – it didn’t feel as clear in terms of characters and settings as the other two stories featured. That said, there wasn’t anything wrong with either Dan Whitehead’s script or Ste Pickford’s great, cartoony art (his Zelda was a wonderful depiction of the terrifying villain) at all; perhaps it’s the overly busy, convoluted source material itself that’s at fault here.
Each story is prefaced with a great text page that gives a neat refresher on the premise of each show, which is very welcome. All three are brilliantly concise synopses of the lore of the shows they summarise; it does go to show how much backstory is in each of them too – that is to say, quite a lot!
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the stories features three of the last few shows in Anderson’s oeuvre, but I did miss seeing some of the more familiar worlds pop up – Stingray and Thunderbirds for example. That said, there are so many richly detailed Gerry Anderson shows to choose from and it’s a good thing to see some that don’t get enough love represented here. The beautifully painted Steve Pugh cover does a great job of bringing each show to life too and was definitely a big reason that I was drawn to the comic in the first place.
Hopefully, this isn’t the last we see of Spectrum as an anthology; for the most part it’s a really enjoyable showcase of fondly remembered, if not always beloved, shows created by someone who was a true one off. Gerry Anderson’s worlds brought excitement, danger and fun to generations of kids and adults – so it’s fantastic to see the flame kept alive with comics such as Spectrum.
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