Saturday, October 06, 2007

Comics Merchandise

(* Jeremy Briggs ponder on...)

The Most Obscure Piece of Comics Merchandise?

The photo of the Blackpool illumination of "Come On, Steve!", and the little toy of (a rather unrecognisable) Moonie From The Moon some time back got me thinking about what the most obscure comics tie-in or piece of merchandise might be. Here is my contender.

In the late 1960s Triang produced a series of toys under the generic title of SpaceX. These were in the main based on real research aircraft and NASA inspired designs for future spaceships and planetary probes. Some of the toys were small and some were large thereby covering all price ranges from pocket money up to birthday or Christmas presents. One of the box sets, SpaceX Superset 1 from 1969, included a little orange plastic spaceship called Space Patrol 1.

Now taking a big side step, in its first two years the Gerry Anderson comic TV Century 21 had a single page, full colour comic strip of Doctor Who's The Daleks on its back page. Originally illustrated by Richard Jennings, by issue 49 the strip had been handed over to Ron Turner and while his highly stylised art may have not have always been accurate enough for some Doctor Who fans in later years, he created some truly magnificent art in his time on the strip. In issue 92 dated 22 October 2066, which of course was really 1966, the Daleks capture the spaceship Guardian in their Magnetrap and force it to land on Skaro.

Could the designers of the British SpaceX toys have been referencing the TV21 Dalek comic strip for ideas? Those readers who remember the Project Sword in Solo comic and later in TV21, and in its own annual, would recognise some of the other SpaceX toys.

Taking a further side step, the toy and comic strip spaceships bear more than a passing resemblance to the Lockheed YF-12A interceptor version of the awesome SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. In reality only three YF-12As were manufactured as development aircraft for the US Air Force and were eventually passed over to NASA, but that didn't stop Sydney Jordan including some in RAF markings at the start of the Jeff Hawke story 'A Foreign Body' in the Daily Express on 31 August 1964.


  1. My goodness Steve!
    I had completely forgotten those toys, but I loved mine! It astounds me how much I have forgotten over the years and how much bloggers share that jogs (or drags up!) the memories. Again THANKS!

  2. This is why I like having guest writers at Bear Alley, especially when they come up with something I wouldn't have a clue about (and that covers a very broad range of things). I'm more than happy to encourage people treat BA as an online magazine and submit interesting articles or pictures. If it's something I find interesting I'll be happy to run it.

  3. It wasn't just the Dalek strip Steve! If you look at the 'World of 2066' drawn by Eric Eden in (I think) the TV21 Summer Extra 1966, the Needleprobe is there too, as are two of the larger SpaceX toys (a rocket on a launching pad and something called a Nuclear Pulse?). A P3 helicopter appears in a later 'Agent 21' story, and variants of the Prospector and Moon Bus were part of the Project SWORD range...

    It's a serious 'chicken & egg' question... the similarities are so close we're forced to ask... did the TV21 artists have access to these toys before they were issued here? I can't believe the SpaceX makers cherry-picked from random designs in the comics.

  4. Stumbled by here by accident while searching for pocket money toys :-), but I'm glad I did, great blog, well done.

  5. Hey Steve,
    I saw your Spacex thread way back in 2007 and loved it then. It was part of the inspiriration for starting up my own blog - on Project Sword and Spacex toys. Have a gander!

    I've taken the liberty of including your Space Patrol 1 picture in the toy timeline on the blog. Great observation!

  6. Oh, great galaxies! I had this little ship when I was a kid, in the late '60s/early '70s. I lived in Southern California at the time, so those molds got around. I'm pretty sure it was exactly that color scheme.

    Wow. Waves of overwhelming nostalgia. I've gotta use that design somewhere now.



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