Stingray: the comic

I came across a Stingray graphic novel (haha not really, it’s a squarebound collection of old strips – but I thought I’d abuse the term the way it so often is these days) in a charity shop today. There are all sorts of oddities about it, some of them technical matters.

For a start, it’s one of the least suited comic works EVER for the squarebound format: the strip ran in TV Century 21, a comic largely based on Gerry Anderson SF puppet shows, one I loved at the time (late ’60s), and these Stingray two-pagers always ran as a double page spread, and the art and lettering go across the join, so some bits are very hard to read in this format.

The odder thing is what made it stand out at the time: I’m not sure what the printing technology used was (photogravure?), but (for the Americans reading) in those days British comics were even more cheaply produced than US ones, on very poor paper and with very limited colour, if any. This comic was a rarity, on glossy paper in full painted colour.

And that leads to another strangeness. This comic had lots of tremendously talented illustrators – Mike Noble, Frank Bellamy, Don Lawrence, John Burns – and Stingray’s Ron Embleton (whose name is in the small print here, after two more prominent mentions of the editor of this collection) was up there with the best of them. There are some gorgeous images of underwater explosions and old buildings and sailing ships looming out of the fog; but of course the central characters and hardware all has to look just like it does in the TV show. (Wish I could find some good examples of his Stingray art on the web, but I can’t.)

I couldn’t honestly recommend you all seek stuff like this out – the stories are mostly pretty dreary, to be honest – but it is worth taking a look at the art, if you ever get the chance.