(* Another feature from Jeremy Briggs, this one covering the topic of a little-known comic strip TV tie-in...)
On a similar note to the piece on The Moon Stallion, here is another little known comic strip associated with a television series, although not a telefantasy one this time. While it was made by Avengers Mark One Productions, the people behind The New Avengers, The Professionals was a much grittier series than its predecessor, being broadcast at a later time of night. While it did have seven annuals published to tie in with it, it never seemed like a typical subject for a strip in a children’s comic.
The main reference book on the series entitled simply The Complete Professionals by Dave Rogers does contain a short listing of Professionals merchandise but lists no comic strips. For that matter neither does the officially sanctioned fan website in its much more detailed merchandise section.
In 1981 D C Thomson created a comic magazine called Tops as an equivalent to the much better known Look-In. Like Look-In, Tops was a mixture of TV, film and pop music related comic strips, articles and pin ups and was, initially at least, aimed at both boys and girls. The first issue was dated 10 October 1981 and in addition to The Professionals included comic strips of Little and Large and Adam Ant, a strip entitled 'The Horse That Came From The Sea' based on the book 'Khazan' by Joyce Stranger , a school photostrip called 'The Witch Of Westwood High', and a home front World War Two strip entitled 'Kid’s Army'.
The Professionals strip began in Tops issue 1 as three pages of black and white art telling a complete story each week. The art did bear reasonable likenesses of Lewis Collins as Bodie, Martin Shaw as Doyle, the late Gordon Jackson as their boss Cowley, and even their Ford Capri car which to many fans is the fourth Professional.
The strip must have been popular enough with the readers for multi-part stories were soon introduced allowing a little more depth to be added to the plots and by issue 15 one page of colour had been added. In addition to the comic strip there were features on the series actors and at least one painted centrespread.
Tops would change its name to TV Tops over the course of its two year life with The Professionals still being featured into its second year. However while advertising itself as ‘Tops For Guys’n’Girls’ in its early days the only other D C Thomson publications it advertised were girl’s titles such as Jackie, Blue Jeans and Patches. One would assume that it became more even more “For Girls” towards the end of its run as the title that it was amalgamated into was Suzy. The last TV Tops issue was dated 28 January 1984.
Of course Tops wasn’t the only comic that had a Professionals strip in the early 1980s. It may have been a one-off but the UK version of MAD did cover the men from CI5 as well, with 'The Not So Professionals' appeared in issue 232 in August 1981. This black and white five page strip was written by Neil Bailey with art by Dave Stoten, who also produced the painted cover. The story, such as it is, involves our heroes chasing an assassin while discussing the more repetitive aspect of the series. Featuring chases followed by pauses before bursting into rooms, it had cameos by Eddie Shoestring, a BBC detective of the time, Shaw Taylor from Police 5, and Paul Daniels who wanted to assassinate Terry Wogan(!), plus a nod to the real series heritage with Steed and Purdey from The New Avengers.