Polystyle Publications Ltd
The 1978 Mighty TV Comic Annual
|SBN (not ISBN)||85096 080 0|
|Starring the fourth Doctor and Sarah|
A Review by Finn Clark 11/9/04
There wasn't a 1978 TV Comic annual. No, instead the world gazed in awe at the relaunched Mighty TV Comic - and 'twas right to do so. The "Mighty" prefix wouldn't last, but personally I see this year's annual as a big improvement on last year's. Tarzan has gone, but in addition to the usual Doctor Who strip there's a Doctor Who text story and a rather good Star Trek strip (also by John Canning). The latter is more surprising than you'd think since this was the Trekless seventies. The original series with Kirk and Spock died at the end of the sixties and The Motionless Picture wasn't released until 1979. Perhaps Polystyle simply felt they needed more SF adventure strips?
Even the kiddie stuff seems livelier. Maybe it's genuinely improved, or maybe the book just feels fresher with a more varied mix of stories. We have new characters... The Baker's Dozen, Lochy The Funny Wee Monster and Texas Ted (oh dear) as well as old favourites Barney Bear, Basil Brush, Captain Pugwash, TV Terrors, etc. However I can't give all the credit to the new boys. For some reason, this year I enjoyed Popeye and the Pink Panther for what felt like the first time ever. Popeye's first action this year is to punch out Brutus for no reason at all, presumably on general principles. Fair enough! There's a good Pink Panther story (pp57-58) and a good Popeye story (pp42-43). The Popeye artist even signed his work: Mevin. Might that perhaps be Bill Mevin, Hartnell artist extraordinaire? Was TV Comic at last producing home-grown Popeye material instead of simply importing it en bloc from the States?
In the Star Trek story, 'The Gods Have Come!', the Enterprise is "moving through the edge of Galaxy 517". Wow, and Voyager's crew thought it was a long way home from the Delta Quadrant! I quite liked this story, though perhaps I shouldn't have. It's about Two Alien Factions, but at five pages it's too short for this to be a problem. The painted art is pretty and it's written faithfully to the TV show's characterisation. You could do worse.
Master of the Blackhole, the Doctor Who text story, is utter bollocks but amusing nonetheless. Note that I'm not merely comparing it with "proper" stories when I say this. Master of the Blackhole is bollocks even by the standards of TV Comic or World Distributors. The Doctor timeloops the Tardis (no, not the TARDIS), shoots the bad guy with his trusty laser torch and eventually realises that it was all a dream:
"Well, I'm blowed," he chuckled, picking up the fragment of gorgonzola and peering through the small hole in its creamy surface. "Just a bad dream! That's what comes of eating strong cheese in space!"John Canning's illustrations are surprisingly faithful to what was happening on TV (especially if you come to this from the same-era World Distributors annuals), clearly depicting the secondary control room introduced in ,a href=masq.htm>Masque of Mandragora. This continues in Jackals of Space, Canning's fully-painted five-page comic strip which is mainly notable for the fact that the Doctor needs permission from the Time Lords to blow up some space pirates. (This was an ongoing misconception in TV Comic, whose writers seemed to believe that the Time Lords' control over the TARDIS had continued long after The Three Doctors.)
It's not a bad story. I enjoyed it. However I wouldn't rate it nearly so much without John Canning's art, especially his portrait of Sarah Jane on p49. Liz Sladen never looked better!
Things I learned from reading this book: