While I was rummaging through my old TV21’s on the hunt for undiscovered SWORD ads I chanced on one of the almost forgotten Saturn Probe articles that ran in TV21 between issues 212 to 233. I thought I’d reacquaint myself with it.
For those unfamiliar with this intriguing little feature, it was a series of fictional articles about a manned mission to Saturn, and introduced during a decline in TV21’s popularity.
The rot seemed to set in when TV Tornado merged with the comic and brought with it strips like The Saint and Tarzan. The newspaper look of the comic was dropped much to most readers annoyance, and the cosy Anderson universe with it’s uneasy continuity that had existed from the beginning of the comic began to crumble.
The editors must have realised their mistake and following a minor revamp, the newspaper look of the comic returned along with a new series - Saturn Probe.
While it must be said that there was absolutely no attempt at accuracy, the series started off with promise featuring a full back page spread showing the Saturn Probe - the Outer Terrestrial Contact craft, ’Shindig 1’, taking off from Lincoln Space Port. The actual photo used was the rocket featured in the Joe 90 episode ‘Most Special Astronaut’. The Capsule and Space Station from that same episode would again feature in the following instalments as Shindig 1 made its way to Saturn.
It would seem the article proved popular with readers at which point issue 215 devoted the entire front cover to Saturn Probe proclaiming ‘Bull’s Eye - Bang on target for Saturn’.
An original piece of artwork of the Shindig 1 spacecraft, now looking very much like a Zero X MEV, passing through Saturn’s rings filled the entire back page of issue 217.
Sadly for us Sword fans this was the last edition of TV21 featuring a Sword story.
The comic went through a major revamp in issue 218 with a free gift - a Strato Streak space plane. Department S was added to the mix, but the new look which seemed to owe a lot to the past didn’t hide the fact that TV21 was beginning to lose its originality. However, the Saturn Probe series continued unabated with an original painting of the planet Saturn showing huge craters!
Issue 219 had a special report on the men who were on the mission with a header written by Agent 21. The report had a picture of a robot called George working with the team. However, readers weren’t fooled by the editors attempts to use stock photos. On the letters page in issue 226, Reader Norman Dunford of Market Weighton pointed out that the robot was in fact used by the Argonne National Library in Illinois, USA to handle radio-active material. He went on to say that the information was given in TV21 issue 179!
Issue 220 dumped the stock photos in favour of another fine piece of artwork. It once again covered the back page and showed the Shindig 1 establishing a base camp. A Spacex -like MEV could be seen trundling out of the cargo bay. This was the last issue to carry the Tarzan strip for a while.
Glenn Field Correspondent
Part Two tomorrow!