I first came across Land of The Giants in the pages of the first edition of the UK comic, Joe 90: Top Secret, issue dated January 18th, 1969, which although it was supposed to be a vehicle for Gerry Anderson’s new TV puppet series, Joe 90, it did feature, in full colour, a couple of ‘new’ American TV series, Star Trek and Land of The Giants, which, If I remember rightly, one or both hadn’t actually aired on British TV at the time.
The first three of issues featured an abridged comic strip adaptation of the pilot episode, before moving into original scripts, beautifully drawn by Gerry Haylock.
Interestingly, for some reason the comic scriptwriters referred to Spindrift as the Spendthrift from issue 23, which also coincides with several splash covers featuring scenes from the Land of The Giant’s strip. Prior to that Spindrift is simply referred to as ‘The Spaceship’.
The 1969 Joe 90: Top Secret Annual features two short Land of the Giants strip stories, one in particular, drawn by UK cult illustrator, Ron Turner.
Joe 90: Top Secret comic lasted for 34 issues before amalgamating with a new look TV21 comic, renamed at that point as TV21 & Joe 90. Along with Star Trek, the full colour strip still drawn by Haylock continued until issue 31, following that he continued to draw the strip in black and white until issue 40 (27th June 1970) . A new (unidentified) artist took over in issue 41 (4th July 1970) until the strip finished in issue 54, dated 3rd October, 1970.
However during the run in TV21 & Joe 90 (which later reverted back to its previous title of just TV21), several splash covers did feature scenes from that week’s instalment from the Giants comic strip.
The 1971 TV21 annuals featured three Giants’ stories, two strips and one text, while the 1972 annual featured just a single text story.
Prior to TV21, Americans had their own set of’ Land of the Giants’ comics. During 1968 Gold Key published five ‘Land of the Giants’ comics (which have since been released in a collected hardback edition (Hermes Press 2010)
Countdown to Escape.
Giant Damsel in Distress
Operation Mini –Surgeon.
Safari in Giant Land
Oddly, there’s no mention of the name of the spacecraft in the Gold Key comics, only the title ‘Flight 703’.
In the UK, between 1969 and 1970, two annuals were published by World Distributors, along with a storybook, published by P.B.S. Between them, these annuals and storybook contained four of the five comic strips from the Gold Key comics, unfortunately missing out Safari in Giantland. The annuals also contained text stories.
The first annual is notable in that the artist who illustrated the annual seemed to have had only one very limited reference photo for the Spindrift spaceship, which bore little resemblance to what we saw on screen. The second annual fared a little better.
Five paperback novels were also published. In 1968, an extended adaptation of the pilot was written by Murray Leinster. Interestingly the novel contained changes from the original TV pilot: In the book, Spindrift still has enough power to still fly. The Earthlings are also joined by another character not seen on screen, named Majorie who is a survivor from one of several other crashed ships which have also passed through the space warp a.k.a. the ‘dimensional lock’.
Murray Leinster also wrote two other original Land of the Giants novels which were published in 1969 – ‘The Hot Spot’ and’ Unknown Danger’.
Two of those Murray Leinster’s novels were also released in the UK by World Distributers. The first story was retitled, ‘The Trap’ while the second retained ‘The Hot Spot ‘title.
Two further titles were published by World Distributors for the UK market only – ‘Slingshot for David’ and ‘The Mean City’. Both were credited to James Bradwell, although there is speculation that this is simply a non de plume for two separate anonymous authors.
A further original hardback novel was released in 1969 for the US market, written for young children by Carl Henry Rathjen called ‘Flight of Fear’. Note the Spindrift in the cover illustration obviously taken from the same source as the illustration in the first UK annual.
I think it’s fair to assume that all these publications appear to have been written using publicity material released prior to the show’s release and subsequent changes as the series developed. One of the Gold key comics does use a vaguely similar theme to one of the actual episodes,’ The Creed’ in which a Giant doctor assists the little people in an operation to save Barry who has severe appendicitis. In the comic, Operation Mini-Surgeon, Barry contracts a virus and in order to save him the little people must help a heart surgeon with an operation.
The spaceship’s name, Spindrift appears to be something that wasn’t thought of originally, as apart from the Joe 90: Top Secret’s strip stories which do actually (miss) name it in later editions, both the Gold Key comics and the novels just call it ‘The Spaceship’ or ‘Flight 703’. Could this be something that was devised for the Aurora kit perhaps?
There’s also no mention of the S.I.D. or Inspector Kobick , and the totalitarian overtones of Giant society, although, the Gerry Haylock strips do appear to have a lot more visual reference material. All the stories, apart from the futuristic aspect of the little people’s technology, feature no science fiction or fantasy elements that became more prevalent in the TV series.