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Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Bionic Arm

SPEED & POWER : THE BIONIC ARM by Jeremy Briggs

One of the joys of going through old copies of Look and Learn, and the majority of it siblings, is in admiring the illustrations. Since many of these were used elsewhere within the IPC Fleetway stable of titles, the realisation that the picture you recognise from elsewhere actually came from Look and Learn happens quite often. Here is a twist on this particular subject.

Going through some copies of Speed & Power, I came across a black and white photo send in by a reader of a model he had constructed of a bionic arm. Ken Roscoe, the editor of Speed & Power, obviously thought highly enough of it to print it on the letters page of issue 55 dated 4-11 April 1975 and to reward the sender, G Symons of Basildon, Essex, with £1 for his efforts. That may not sound much but in 1975 it would have bought 8 copies of Speed & Power with money left over for some sweets. This was one of those times when I realised that I had seen the picture of the arm before.

It took a while, but I did eventually find where it was also published. In the mid 1970s there were several short lived magazines published in unusual formats in the UK. One of these was TV Sci-Fi Monthly, published by Sportscene Publishers Ltd, which lasted for 8 issues and was a glossy colour unstapled A3 magazine which was folded to the more normal A4 size for distribution. It covered the then current television science fiction shows such as Star Trek, Doctor Who, Space:1999, and more importantly for this story, The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. Sure enough in issue 6, which is undated but has a 1976 copyright, was the same B&W photo of the model bionic arm sent in by the same reader, G Symons. This time the "honour" of the printing of the photo had to be enough for him since TV Sci-Fi's fictional editor, The Wanderer, did not stretch to rewarding his letter writers with cash.

TV Sci-Fi Monthly, like Look and Learn or Speed & Power, was a magazine heavily devoted to its visuals, be they large colour photographs or large colour paintings. Artists providing the A3 (and sometimes A2) colour illustrations included Joe Petagno, better known for Motorhead album covers, and Jeff Cummings who would later illustrate Doctor Who Target book covers. Artists providing black and white illustrations included Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland, before then became "art droids" for 2000AD.

I wonder if G Symons ever did anything professional with his modelling talents?

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