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Batte of the Planets Comics

All information for this article was supplied by Briony Coote
Any mistakes can only be attributed to me


Gold Key/Whitman


Issue 1      Publisher: Gold Key      June 1979      Contents: 2 short stories

Story 1: Operation Decoy

Keeping G-Force distracted with a giant crab mecha, Zoltar sneaks into Centre Neptune to steal 7-Zark-7 away. However he only steals a decoy installed with a homing device which lures G-Force to Zoltar's hideout. The hideout is destroyed.

Story 2: Undersea Threat

Zoltar unleashes a giant sea turtle mecha and G-Force are baffled as to how he got past their defences. They soon find the answer: Zoltar has been creating hurricanes and sending his equipment down the eyes of the hurricanes. Zoltar's latest menace is quickly dispatched, but Zoltar using the eyes of hurricanes to send down his machines becomes a staple in both the Whitman and TV Comic versions of BOTP.

Comment: The cover features an inset of a still of Zoltar. Only it isn't Zoltar - it's Berg Katse. The still is unmistakably from Gatchaman #105 - an episode which was not translated into BOTP.

Issue 2      Gold Key      August 1979      Contents: 2 short stories

Story 1: Ice Creature

Scientists at Earth's polar base find two mysterious men frozen in ice and thaw them out. The men claim to be from 1990 (over 200 years ago) but the scientists are suspicious of the men and put them under strict observation. Strange things start happening at the base; sabotage is suspected and the two men are suspected of being responsible. G-Force are called in and quickly discover the men are indeed the saboteurs and Zoltar's agents. An inconclusive fight with the men is interrupted by the arrival of Zoltar and his ice creature mecha. The creature is destroyed with the Firebird effect but the fate of the two saboteurs is not recorded.

Story 2: The Flaming Menace.

A flaming giant is terrorising India and G-Force quickly track it down to its base. G-Force try to infiltrate the base and Princess is captured by the Indians who are slaves of the monster. She is rescued by her teamates as she is about to be sacrificed to the monster and G-Force destroy the monster by burying it in a snowy avalanche.

Comment: Whitman BOTP is apparently set in the 22nd century. "Ice Creature" reveals the year 1990 to be "over two hundred years ago".

Issue 3      Gold Key      October 1979      Contents: 2 short stories

Story 1: Solar Blockade

A mysterious shadow is obstructing the sun from Earth's solar powered defence base. G-Force find the cause is an orbital lens installed by Zoltar but they soon find they have a more pressing problem - Zoltar's approaching armada of spaceships. They destroy the lens then join Earth's defence forces in defeating the armada.

Story 2: The Lake Monster!

G-Force's vacation is disrupted by a lake monster which has suddenly appeared at Lake Wannoke where Tiny and Keyop are camping. Keyop foolishly decides to investigate the monster on his own and is captured by Zoltar (who does not realise who Keyop is). Zoltar's plan is to seize the Lake Wannoke dam to create a mass blackout which will pave the way for his invasion. The rest of the team arrive and Zoltar attacks them with the lake monster, but the monster is destroyed when Keyop damages Zoltar's controls. In order to buy time to escape, Zoltar ties Keyop up and leaves him to drown - unless the team rescue him, which they do.

Comment: The cover features G-Force being attacked by the lake monster. Keyop is mistakenly depicted on the cover but is in fact absent, having been captured by Zoltar.

Issue 4      Gold Key      December 1979      Contents: 2 stories which follow on from each other
Story: Gary Poole      Artist: Winslow Mortimer

Story 1: The Creeping Forest

The island of Malu, home of the largest diamond mine in the world, has suddenly lost contact with the rest of the world. G-Force arrive and discover the natives have become slaves of their own jungle, which has come to a strange and terrifying life. Princess is abducted by the creeping forest and the team track her down to a village. She is rescued by two boys called Opi and Topi who want to join G-Force They become honorary members but quickly find life in G-Force is not to their liking when they discover the reality of the job.. They are all attacked by a giant mole mecha, destroy it and then head for the diamond mine in pursuit of Zoltar. Zoltar had been after the diamonds and reluctantly leaves them behind to move on to his greater plan which is told in the next story.

Story 2: Earthquake Menace

Strange tremors strike California and Zoltar claims responsibility. They were a sample of his "earthquake power" and he issues an ultimatum: total capitulation in 24 hours or he will use his power to destroy the California Coast. G-Force manage to locate the source of his "earthquake power" and destroy it. Upon examining the remains of the base they discover what appears to be Zoltar's dead body - but when they remove the mask they find it is only a dummy.

Comment: Jason's costume is purple on the cover.

Issue 5      Gold Key      February 1980      Contents: 1 story in 2 parts, each part with an individual title.

Part 1: The Hidden Enemy

Realising his mecha are not working Zoltar decides on a more subtle approach - catching G-Force off guard. Tiny is entering the intergalactic "Mr Galaxy" contest and Zoltar sends in two entries of his own - Toko and Ivar (Ivar may be the Ivar who appears in #7). Tiny takes on Toko in the contest. Toko does not play fair but Tiny bests him. The Spectrans then kidnap Princess and use her to lure G-Force into a mine, then sets off an explosion in the mine to kill them.

Part 2: The Vulture Menace

The explosion fails to kill G-Force, having been set off in the wrong position to be successful. However Zoltar believes they are dead and captures the Phoenix as a war trophy using a vulture mecha. G-Force retake the Phoenix, destroy the vulture, then set off in pursuit of Zoltar who may still be at the Mr Galaxy contest. They just miss him - he is only metres away, posing as a bellhop and lugging suitcases.

Comment: The vulture is green on the cover. Ivar may in fact be the same Ivar who appears in #7. They look very similar except that the Ivar in #5 has a moustache and the Ivar in #7 does not.

Issue 6      Whitman      April 1980      Contents: 1 story in 2 parts. The parts have no individual titles.

Story: Ghost Ship

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle has been resurrected as ships and aircraft have been disappearing in that area. G-Force investigate, and en route they encounter a mysterious fog, then a ghost ship, then finally a mysterious force rends them unconscious and their Phoenix is swallowed by an enormous whale. Upon awakening, they find themselves in chains and the missing crew in a strange hypnotic trance, working as slaves. Obviously they have been brainwashed and G-Force realise Zoltar is responsible. Zoltar's henchmen take them to the aforementioned ghost ship where they met up with Zoltar. They are then likewise brainwashed by an enormous "eye" and returned to the whale to work as slaves - except Keyop who is to stay on board as Zoltar's cabin boy. This proves to be a mistake. Keyop, being an android (Whitman was under the mistaken impression that Keyop was an android) has not been affected by the brainwashing. He sabotages equipment in the control room, then tricks Zoltar into giving him a second treatment with the Eye. The Eye explodes, Zoltar realises what Keyop has done and madly chases him over the ship. Meanwhile the rest of the team returns to normal, take command of the whale and use it to destroy the ghost ship. Keyop survives the attack, but so does Zoltar.

Comment: The cover depicts the brainwashing scene and there are two mistakes. On the cover the team's hands are unrestrained. In the actual scene they are wearing manacles. On the cover the Eye is emitting a beam, but it doesn't emit a beam - it hypnotises people by spinning.

Issue 7      Whitman      1980      Contents: 1 story in 2 parts with individual titles.
Story: Gary Poole      Art: Winslow Mortimer

Part 1: Enemy Within

There has been an apparent lull in Zoltar's activities and Captain Anderson takes advantage of it to develop a new weapon. But a Spectran infiltrator called Ivar (possibly the same Ivar from #5) has entered Centre Neptune disguised as Garth, the most trusted guard in Centre Neptune. His mission is to put G-Force out of action to pave the way for Zoltar's attack. Hearing about the new weapon, he steals the plans for it and uses them to frame Jason on a charge of treason. Jason is arrested and his teammates confined to quarters.

Part 2: Invasion of the Ant Creatures

Zoltar is awaiting news of Ivar's progress before unleashing his attack - a swarm of giant robot ants. Ivar seizes the Centre's communications and informs Zoltar of his success in neutralising G-Force - but then is surprised by Jason who has escaped custody and has been tailing him. Ivar almost kills Jason before he is overpowered by the rest of the team and G-Force is reinstated. They then defeat the ant army with the Firebird.

Issue 8      Whitman      1980      Contents: 2 short stories.
Story: Bob Langhans      Artist: Winslow Mortimer

Story 1: Surprise Surrender

G-Force has defeated Zoltar's latest menace, the Black Nova. Zoltar comes out in a shuttle to meet them. He claims he has come to surrender himself in the wake of his latest defeat. G-Force are sceptical, but allow him on board. They then discover it isn't Zoltar but a robot armed with a bomb primed to explode. They try to deactivate the robot but it damages the Phoenix's controls and renders three members unconscious. Princess and Mark flee to the shuttle where they find the real Zoltar. They overpower him then bring the robot back to the shuttle. When the bomb explodes, it is supposed to take the shuttle, the robot and Zoltar all in one. It accomplishes the first two objectives.

Story 2: The Tidal Wave

A strange increase in the ocean's temperature is threatening Centre Neptune' s computer. G-Force track down the source of the heat rise to an island called Tiki Atoll - and Zoltar's heat generator. Mark suspects it is all a trap and he is right. Zoltar sends a tidal wave crashing down on Tiki Atoll, intending to bury them alive in the killer wave. The team survive the killer wave, but they and their Phoenix are buried under a mountain of debris that was once Tiki Atoll. They escape with the Firebird effect then take on Zoltar as he prepares to attack Centre Neptune. They save Centre Neptune and without the super-heated water current the temperature of the computer returns to normal.

Comment: It is odd that Keyop was affected by the stun gas in "Surprise Surrender". He is an android in Whitman and cannot be affected by brainwashing or drugs. So why is he affected by the gas?

Issue 9      Whitman      1980      Contents: 1 continuous story
Story: Ms. Charlie Seeger      Artist: Winslow Mortimer

Story: G-Force Divided

Zoltar has built a weather station to create weather disasters on 4 different planets: Earth (tornado), Ranta (earthquakes), Vlotborg (floods) and Plevena (fires). The plan is to force the G-Force team to separate in order to combat these weather disasters. They will each in turn be greeted by robotic imposters of their teammates who are programmed to kill them. At first the plan goes smoothly: Princess, Tiny and Keyop are captured and brought to the weather station and Jason is sent into space frozen in a block of ice, doomed to die when his air runs out. But when the robot Princess arrives to kill Mark, she short-circuits, finds herself kissing him (yes!) instead of killing him then tells Mark of Zoltar's plan before she dies. Mark arrives at the weather station, frees his teamates, then they destroy the remaining replicas and the weather station. They rescue Jason in the very nick of time.

Comment: This story introduces an interesting power to the G-Force team. When necessary they can go into a meditative ritual to "tap into their super-power reserves". This ritual instills "incredible super-powers for a 24-hour period". Apparently once they go through this ritual they possess additional super-powers such as super-breath or super-strength for 24 hours.

Issue 10      Whitman      1980      Contents: 1 continuous story Story: Ms. Charlie Seeger      Artist: Winslow Mortimer

Story: Pioneer Planet

The planet Plevena, burned by Zoltar's weather station in #9, has been so badly devastated that it is now uninhabitable for the Plevenians. G-Force's job is to find a new home for the Plevenians and they quickly settle on the planet Anicka. Unfortunately the Katellians also have their eyes on Anicka, planning to use it as a spring board for their invasion of Earth. The Katellians attempt to dispose of this inconvenience by brainwashing G-Force into reporting to Captain Anderson that the planet Anicka is unsuitable for the Plevenians. Their plan is foiled by Keyop, who, being an android, was not affected by the brainwashing. The Katellians are arrested but they will certainly be returning to Anicka. Nonetheless, Anicka becomes the Plevenians' new home.

Comment: Both Plevenians and Katellians undergo remarkable changes in appearance. In #9 the Plevenians are two-legged reptilian creatures. In #10 they are purple humanoid creatures. On the cover the Katellians are depicted as green-skinned creatures wearing robes - but inside they are furry creatures wearing tunics and trousers.

PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON THE WHITMAN COMICS

     Fans would agree that the comics are not high quality, either in story in artwork. The comics also lack real research into BOTP. For example, Keyop being an android, not a clone as he is in the series. This was a Whitman invention and it was carried over into the TV Comic version. Zoltar's costume and the Luminous One were not drawn correctly and these mistakes were duplicated in TV Comic (but they were rectified eventually). Also carried over was Zoltar being "earth's arch-enemy".
     Another problem was the team's weapons. They didn't have their individual weapons from the series and there isn't a bird missile to be seen. Instead the Phoenix fired lasers (also carried over into TV Comic) or transmuted into the Firebird. The only weapons the team had were hand-held phasers. Oddly enough, this was NOT carried into TV Comic. In TV Comic they were not armed at all - they used their fists only.
     In Whitman Princess has an annoying habit of being captured easily. She is captured far more often than the others. If any individual member is captured, it is usually her. And when she is captured she depends on one of the other teamates to rescue her. Is there some subtle form of sexism here? In TV Comic it's usually Keyop who is captured on his own.
     Personally, I feel the Whitman series did improve and its plots became (slightly) more respectable (unlike the TV Comic version which grew steadily worse because TV Comic was starting to treat BOTP as a joke). This trend begins with #5 when Zoltar decides his advanced technology is useless and decides on a more subtle means. Up until then the stories had been about defeating the latest mecha (usually with the Firebird or lasers). But with #5 Zoltar's schemes begin to vary from traditional mecha and even come close to success. His scheme in #5 very nearly wipes out the team. The scheme in #9 to pick off the team members one-by-one with robotic imposters of their teamates does meet with a measure of success. The scheme in #7, framing Jason on a false charge, is potentially a good story (fanfic, anyone?). The Katellians could be serious rivals to Zoltar in the battle to conquer planet Earth if they could have been developed more.
     What about the mecha? Most of the mecha are ridiculous (sea turtle?) and are trashed fairly easily, usually with the Firebird. However there are a couple which did have potential: the lake monster and the flaming menace. The lake monster actually came close to destroying the team and was only defeated by Keyop sabotaging its controls. However it is the flaming menace which definitely deserves an episode in Gatchaman. It is a flaming giant which hurls fireballs ripped from its own chest. The Phoenix's lasers (and presumably the Firebird effect) are merely absorbed into the creature and make it grow even more. The more it is shot, the more it grows. The means of defeating it - a snowy avalanche - seems to be a bit of a cheat.
     From those who have copies of the Whitman series, what is the consensus? Is there some potential locked away somewhere in those comics? If the series had continued could it perhaps matured into something a bit deserving of our respect? Or was it a mercy kill to stop it at #10?


British TV Comic

The Gold Key/Whitman series inspired another comic version of BOTP: a weekly strip published in the TV Comic from 1980 or 1981 (actual date unknown) to 1983. The TV Comic strip borrowed heavily from the Gold Key/Whitman series, even reprinting some of the stories for holiday specials in B&W. The majority of the TV Comic stories were in Color, but there were three stories which were black and white. If additional information about TV Comic is required, please visit this site, where an article and scans of the B&W stories can be found, as well as information about all the various TV Series incarnations based on Gatchaman.

TV COMIC EPISODE LIST. Compiled by Briony Coote

A few pointers to take note of:

1: This is not a list of the entire run of the TV Comic BOTP but of the 28 stories I have from the run.

2: Some stories are incomplete for one reason or other. Each story is accompanied by how many episodes are in each story and what episodes I do have.

3: TITLES are unofficial. The stories were not provided with titles.

4: COMMENTS refer to any feature worth noting about a story.

5: FEATURES refer to any additional BOTP feature in an issue apart from the story e.g. pictures of BOTP characters on the covers.

THE STORIES

1: #1547-1550. "Ice Wheels" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: All
Zoltar attacks in a racing car armed with a freezer ray. Feature: The cover of #1547 features Zoltar, Rover and Zark. #1549 has a BOTP puzzle submitted by Simon Durrane, Nofolk.

2: #1551-1554 "Operation Python" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: 1, 3
Zoltar strikes in a fire-breathing python mecha.

3: #1555-1559 "The Doom Flowers" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar sows the Doom Flowers which the Firebird can't destroy. Comment: Princess's uniform changes from pink to lime-green and back again. Features: #1555 features G-Force (heads only) on the cover.

4: #1560-1561 "Davids and Goliath" Episodes: 2 Episodes held: All
Zoltar unleashes "Goliath" which is felled by ball bearings rather than slingshots.

5: #1562-1565 "The New Improved Zark" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: All
Zoltar tries to pave the way for his invasion of warships by replacing Zark with an evil double, but G-Force see through his deception. Comments: The space battle with Zoltar bears a striking resemblance to the one in "Solar Blockade" from Whitman #3. Features: #1564 features a Christmas cover with Zark and Rover. Zark has been wrapping Xmas presents and wrapped up Rover by mistake.

6: #1566-1569 "The Humanoid Factory" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: All
Zoltar abducts crew from spaceships and plans to replace them with robotic doubles to act as his agents. Princess destroys his base with a bucket of water.

7: #1570-1573 "Viking Invasion II" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: All
Zoltar tries to weaken Earth for his invasion by teleporting super-powered Vikings from the planet Ekros. Feature: The cover of #1572 features G-Force in their pyramid saying: "Ready G-Force! Strike like lightning!"

8: #1574-1577 "The Jelly Monster" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: All
Zoltar spoils Princess's launch of her luxury liner namesake with his new menace - the Jelly Monster. Feature: #1574 features a BOTP valentine saying: "The greetings plain, you're top-tip, in three hearts and one micro-chip!"

9: #1578-1581 "The Transport Museum" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: 2, 3, 4
G-Force visit a "transport museum" on an asteroid which has been collecting people and vehicles from Earth over the ages - and Zoltar is the latest exhibit.

10: #1582-1585 "The Terror Toys" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: All
Zoltar enters some exhibits at a toy fair - toy soldiers which grow to full-size terrors. Comment: Jason says he has a nephew. Features: Zoltar is on the cover of #1583 saying: "Tremble Earth people! My master plan will bring you to your knees!"

11: #1586-1589 "The Sting" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar unleashes a swarm of giant bee mecha. Comment: Keyop calls Zark a "clockwork clown."

12: #1590-1594 "The Orbs of Doom" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar's new menace, the Orbs of Doom, gives Keyop a chance to teach his teamates not to take him for granted. Features: the covers of #1592 and #1594 feature insets of pictures from the BOTP story inside.

13: #1595-1599 "The Asteroid of No Return" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar sends G-Force to the "asteroid of no return", from which nobody has ever come back - but there's always a first time. Comments: Zoltar is wearing an odd-looking belt while Princess suddenly switches to long johns, but only for this story. Features: the cover of #1597 has an inset of G-Force and the BOTP logo. The cover of #1599 has the BOTP logo and the caption: "Will the giant spiders catch Princess?"

14: #1600-1604 "Hot Crocs" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: All
G-Force find a swamp full of fire-breathing crocodiles. Features: the cover of #1600 has Zark saying: "Watch out, G-Force, you're in for a big blow!" The cover of #1602 has an inset of the Phoenix superimposed by the BOTP logo.

15: #1605-1608 "Cowboys and Spectrans" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: 1, 2 ,3
Spooky goings-on at a Wild West tourist attraction. Features: the cover of #1605 features the BOTP logo with the caption: "Great new BOTP adventure starts inside!" The cover of #1606 has Zoltar saying: "Hail your master, Zoltar, ruler of planet Earth!" and the BOTP logo.

16: #1609-1613 "Pirate Planet" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar lures G-Force to a planet of the past where Blackbeard the Pirate makes them walk the plank. But Zoltar's plan backfires when he himself is captured by Blackbeard and G-Force are the only ones who can help him.

17: #1614-1618 "The Great Train Robbery II" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar hijacks a train carrying gold bullion, intending to use the gold for a special ray. Feature: The cover of #1614 features an inset of Princess and Zark, along with the BOTP logo and the caption: "Thrilling new adventure!"

18: #1619-1623 "The Knightmares of Camelot" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar takes hostages using mechanical black knights and a flying medieval castle. Comment: G-Force try hang-gliding and find it "trickier than [their] usual way."

19: #1624-1628 "The Not-So-Terrifying Toadstools" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
In a story very similar to "The Doom Flowers", Zoltar unleashes a plague of giant toadstools on the planet Ryon. Features: The cover of #1624 features the BOTP logo and the caption "Great new Battle of the Planets Adventure inside!"

20: #1629-1633 "Animal Antics" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: All
Zoltar sends animals at a safari park on a rampage then sets off on a series of robberies using mechanical elephants. Comments: This story marks the phase of what I call "the latter stories." The artwork changes to become more accurate in depicting the characters, no doubt because BOTP had returned to British television.

21: #1634-1637 "The Flying Dutchman" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: 1, 2, 4
Zoltar is raiding cargo from ships on the planet Torro using a "Flying Dutchman" projection.

22: #1638-1642 "Unholy Spirits" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar is stealing art treasures by using "ghost monks." Comment: Keyop has blond hair for this story.

23: #1643-1647 "The Thurbus Turkey" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: None
In order to acquire a vital crystal for a new weapon, Zoltar visits the planet Thurbus where the inhabitants are still living in Victorian times. Comment: a goon calls the Luminous One "Glitter-bonce." Feature: #1643 includes a copy of the famous picture of Mark/Ken against the starry background.

24: #1648-1652 "The Grotty Bus Conductor" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar attacks in a trolley bus which fires electrical bolts.

25: #1563-1656 "Roman Rubbish" Episodes: 4 Episodes held: 2
Princess and Keyop become prisoners on an asteroid where the people are living in Roman times and their emperor is - Zoltar. Comments: The strip changes from colour to black-and-white with episode 4 of this story. Zoltar is wearing a toga instead of his usual purple cape and Keyop throws a pumpkin in his face. Features: #1653 features a "NEW Battle of the Planets adventure!" caption.

26: #1657-1661 "The Amusement Park that is not Amusing" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar and his goons are accidentally teleported to an asteroid where they are endangered by a bizarre amusement park and G-Force have to come to their rescue. Comments: Zoltar and his goons are in the Tunnel of Horrors. One of the goons points to a skeleton and says to Zoltar: "Crikey! They're as Žorrible as you!" Features: The cover of #1657 features Tom, Jerry, Bugs Bunny and his friends fleeing from the Phoenix and Sylvester says petulantly: "The noise levels in this comic are getting QUITE RIDICULOUS!", along with the BOTP logo.

27: #1662-1666 "Zoltar Goes Ape" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar strikes on the planet Kadir (which is 70 years behind Earth times) with his "metal ape" in order to acquire crystals for his latest weapon. Comment: This is the only story where G-Force transmutes.

28: #1667-1671 "The Ice Planet" Episodes: 5 Episodes held: All
Zoltar blackmails the people of the ice planet into plunging Earth into an ice age with freeze-rays, but he is the one who is put on ice - quite literally. But instead of throwing him in the cooler as they should have, G-Force thaw him out and send him back to Spectra.

MISCELLANEOUS

TV Comic Holiday Special 1981: reprints Whitman #3 (minus a few panels)

BOTP Holiday Special 1982: Reprints Whitman #6 and #7

BOTP Holiday Special 1983: Reprints Whitman #2 and #4

TV Comic Holiday Special 1983: "Vintage Cranks." Zoltar tries to teach the "superbrats" i.e. G-Force, a lesson by blowing up a vintage car museum.

TV Comic Annual: In the absence of a copy, the BOTP contents are unknown, but it does feature a panel of Zoltar and the Phoenix on the cover.



DUM-DUMS!

THE TV COMIC VERSION OF BATTLE OF THE PLANETS

WRITTEN BY BRIONY MERRIN COOTE

That's what Zoltar called his goons in the TV Comic version of BOTP, instead of his usual "imbeciles!" But who are the real dum-dums...? To begin with, what was the TV Comic? The now-defunct TV Comic was a British publication which ran cartoon strips based on popular TV shows such as: The A-Team, Basil Brush, Tom and Jerry, the Pink Panther and Dr Who. The comic was designed to be funny. From 1981? to 1983 it ran a BOTP Strip. I don't know when it began but I picked it up with #1547 and followed it through to the end with #1671. I believe the TVC version borrowed very heavily from the Whitman version - for one thing, they reprinted #'s 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the Whitman comics for two BOTP specials and one TV Comic special. A number of features from the Whitman version also showed up in the TVC version eg Zoltar being referred to as "Earth's-arch-enemy" and Keyop being an android. What was the strip like? To begin with I believe the quality was fair, truer to the spirit of BOTP and some of the stories are quite fun. In one story Zoltar tries replacing Zark with an evil double. Unfortunately there was the odd silly story; in another adventure G-Force meet Blackbeard the pirate who makes them walk the plank! As for the artwork, the TVC version had several artists (unlike the Whitman version). Quality ranged from reasonable to awful; nobody's costume was drawn correctly and for some reason Jason's uniform was red-and-white! With the later stories the artwork did improve and the costumes were rectified (apart from the fact that everyone lost the heels on their boots). I have since learned that BOTP had returned to British screens at that time. But here is the great irony of the TVC version: the earlier stories were better but the art wasn't very good; the later stories had improved artwork - but became abysmal reading. There will be more on this later. A perhaps more serious problem is that TVC were borrowing heavily from Whitman, while adding bits of their own, but had no proper idea of what the real BOTP was about. Mistakes cropped up, and among them: When G-Force changed into their outfits they did so in the same way you would change into your clothes (as did the Whitman version). Eventually they began transmuting, along with other corrections. Never did we see their individual weapons or vehicles On the other hand they didn't have the hand lasers they had in Whitman. They used their fists for hand-to-hand fighting. TVC took very literally what Whitman said about them being able to transmute into various forms when they formed their pyramid. They turned not only into a whirlwind but everything else under the sun. The forms they took included: buzzsaws, lightning, wind gusts, blowtorches, Victorian cabs, smoke, fences and even a sheep. In one story Jason says he has a nephew! This only happened once, fortunately. Keyop was sometimes treated as a dogsbody because he was an android. Since he didn't need food or sleep he was made to keep watch and do other dirty jobs. Zoltar never EVER put on a disguise. For most of the time this omission was no problem but it became glaring in the stinker "The Thurbus Turkey." This particular story will be discussed later. A particular annoyance was "planets of the past" i.e. planets that are living in an exact replica of some period in Earth's past. One planet lived in Victorian times, another in Roman times and another 70 years behind Earth times. No Colonel Chronos. Another indicator of simple lack of research was the way the characters were portrayed in TV Comic. The portrayal of the villains in the strip will be discussed later and for now the overview will concentrate on the heroes and how they were handled in TV Comic. Perhaps the most glaring is the absence of Chief Anderson. Of all the issues of TV Comic I have collected, Anderson appears in only one panel. Yes, JUST ONE PANEL! This is in the " New Improved Zark" story where he gets zapped unconscious by the evil Zark sent in by Zoltar. This is the only appearance of him and throughout the rest of the entire run he is never even mentioned again. It is Zark who takes over the role of sending G-Force out on missions, but he doesn't act as mentor, help them with their personal problems or even help them to defeat the Spectran menace. He relays information when requested but doesn't help them any further. Since there is no Anderson to guide and assist G-Force when Zoltar strikes the team have to rely on their own initiative to defeat Zoltar. Of course, there is no shortage of initiative. Mark is the one the team count on to come up with a brilliant idea for defeating the latest menace but sometimes it is Keyop, occasionally Princess or sometimes both who defy Mark's authority and go their own way to defeat Zoltar. They always succeed and never get a telling off from Anderson for defying authority since there is no Anderson. It is indeed strange that it is Keyop, not Jason, who is the impulsive one and Princess doing the same is even more astonishing. The reason why Keyop gets so impulsive may be that in the strip the team tend to take him for granted because he is an android and Jason particularly likes to make fun of him. (TV Comic had taken the idea from Whitman that Keyop is an android). The idea of Jason calling Keyop names like "clockwork kiddo" disappeared quickly but the team taking him for granted and treating him as a dogsbody did not. How exactly did they take him for granted? Since Keyop didn't need sleep or food he was ordered to keep watch while the other slept, left behind in the Phoenix (yes, it was Keyop who moaned about being left behind, not Tiny) and doing chores like cooking the food (but not washing dishes). As a result Keyop sometimes went hotdogging to teach the others a lesson (but they never seemed to learn it). The reason why Princess sometimes went her own way are less clear but in one story she did it to prove: " I'm not just a pretty face! I'll show those males I'm no dove. I'm tired of leaving all plans to them." On several occasions she paired up with Keyop and came up with the brilliant ideas for foiling Zoltar. However when she and Keyop were with the rest of the team they always looked to Mark for the bright ideas. In TV Comic it is Keyop and/or Princess who tend to go their own way, not Jason. Poor old Jason remains a colourless character with none of his characteristic impulsiveness to make him stand out. Tiny also remains a colourless character and the only thing which makes him stand out is the running gag about his love of food (but there isn't a spaceburger in sight). What of the relationship between Mark and Princess? There is no hint of romance but when any team members go off duty it is always Mark and Princess (and sometimes Keyop) who are together while it is always Tiny and/or Jason (sometimes Keyop as well) who stay behind on duty at Centre Neptune and griping about it all the while. It is never the other way around; Jason and/or Tiny off duty while Mark and/or Princess stay on duty in Centre Neptune. Keyop certainly wasn't the only one being taken for granted. The only time Jason and Tiny come off duty to enjoy themselves is when they are all on vacation together. Aside from these and other faults the earlier stories were better to read, they were played fairly straight and the quality was truer to the spirit of BOTP. Unfortunately the quality of the stories gradually deteriorated (although the artwork improved) until they became abysmal. I think this is because TVC was aiming for cheap laughs (or "space-age laughs" as TVC called it) to bring it into line with the funniness of the comic. Instead the stories became increasingly stupid, pointless and definitely unfunny. However the real problem was not so much silly stories but in the way TVC was now (ill)treating the entire concept. Their treatment of BOTP falls under three counts: 1: In the earlier stories G-Force regard Zoltar in the way he should be regarded - an utterly despicable and dangerous villain. They tore their hair (feathers?) out when he eluded them and cheering when he appeared to be killed off. But in the latter stories they regarded him as...well, see for yourself: (Wondering why they haven't heard from Zoltar for so long) Princess: "We miss the silly old villain. I hope he's all right?" (Zoltar eludes capture again) Jason: "Never mind! Life would be dull without him." (Another escape) Mark: "I'd hate him not to. Whatever would we do without the old creep!" To underline this attitude, G-Force now literally have Zoltar in the palm of their hands time and time again - AND THEY LET HIM GO!! They don't even bother to unmask him (nor does anyone else who happens to catch him) and that's certainly not for lack of opportunity! 2: Zoltar's constant bragging that he is a genius. Yes, I know that the BOTP Zoltar bragged that he was a genius - but the bragging was kept to a minimum. In TVC it was flung at us in just about every panel until it became irritating, boring and undermining Zoltar's credibility as a villain. 3: Even worse than the bragging was the dialogue passing between Zoltar and his goons (and between the goons behind Zoltar's back): (Zoltar has stolen priceless paintings. Since when did he show an interest in art?) Zoltar: "Applaud, you oafs! Soon every museum will lose its priceless old masters!" Goon: (aside) "know a priceless old master around here, I wouldn't mind losing!" (Zoltar has dried up a creek some boaters are using) Zoltar: "Heh, heh! Left high and dry! Up the creek without even water. Laugh, morons! Goon: "Zoltar's said a "funny!" Er, haa-haaa!" Zoltar: "Witless oafs, cease your guffaws. By Spectra, it will be no joke for earth." Goon: {"He's never funny for long. Back to normal!"} ( Zoltar's mecha is going to throw a boulder at G-Force) Zoltar: "Egad, they'll get a sock with a rock! Laugh, dum-dums, I've said a funny!" (Goon has turned on a ghost projection and cracked a joke about it) Zoltar: "Silence - or I lower your spirits, minion. I say the funnies!" And yet another problem was the Luminous One. All it ever does is greet Zoltar's assurances that "I will not fail" with the tired reply " I will try to believe it" and at the end it groans at hearing yet another excuse as to why Zoltar failed again. Which further undermines Zoltar's credibility as a villain until we end up as bored and fed up with Zoltar as the Luminous One. Among these later stories are two unbelievable stinkers that perfectly epitomise the way TVC was treating BOTP. I call them The Thurbus Turkey and Roman Rubbish, and no account of the TV Comic version of BOTP will be complete without chainsawing these stinkers apart: THE THURBUS TURKEY (#'s 1643-1647) SYNOPSIS: Zoltar needs a special crystal (malignite crystal) for a death-ray laser and is going on a "swift trip" to the planet Thurbus to get it. G-Force have been alerted and secretly follow him as he teleports to Thurbus. The planet Thurbus is living in Victorian times - yes, Victorian times, complete with its very own Queen Victoria. Now, Zoltar and his men immediately hit a problem because they materialise in front of the Victorians in their usual costumes. Yes, Zoltar shows himself right in front of a bunch of Victorians in his regular costume, mask and all! And what do the Victorians make of that?!? Their "fancy dress" causes quite a stir and some boys start pelting the Spectrans. The Spectrans try using their phasers on the boys but they don't work because, as Mark says, "phasers weren't around in those days." Eventually the Spectrans flee - with an angry mob in hot pursuit. G-Force manage to (without them knowing it) save the Spectrans from the mob - but not from the Peelers who arrest them for causing the riot. Anxious to know what Zoltar is up to, G-Force hatch a break-out and then they actually help him to steal the crystal from the museum! But this isn't enough - they need to know WHY he wants it; so they almost allow him to escape with it when he suddenly spills the beans with one of his boasts. Now they know why he wants it, they finally go into action and snatch the crystal - but allow Zoltar to go on his way! PROBLEMS An alien planet, light-years from Earth, is living in an exact replica of Victorian times!?! Now how is this possible? The explanation is that Thurbus is a "planet of the past," but what is that supposed to mean and how does it explain the exact replica? What was Zoltar thinking of, beaming down in his regular costume? Goon: "Zoltar, you said that the "old timers" would be stupid, that we'd have no trouble." This is even more glaring because Zoltar is a disguise artist and could easily have disguised himself to look like the locals. Since the Spectrans knew where to go for the crystal, why not beam themselves down into the museum and not in a populated area? The Spectrans' phasers don't work because "they weren't around in those days." But wait a minute - what can they mean by "in those days?" They haven't gone through some time warp, just beamed down to a planet that is not as advanced as theirs. For that matter, how is it that G-Force's powers are still working? They "weren't around in those days" either! Even if they had gone back to "those days," why should that affect the phasers or any other equipment? G-Force save Zoltar from the mob, but why not apprehend him themselves? This is a golden opportunity to catch Zoltar but they throw it away time and time again! When the Peelers arrest the Spectrans they don't unmask them. If you had a masked person in custody you would remove the mask, wouldn't you? While the Spectrans are in the police cell Zoltar says: "We're likely to get three months in Newgate." How can Zoltar know about Newgate? Don't tell me Spectra had a Victorian age as well! G-Force help Zoltar to escape because they need to know why he has come to Thurbus. BUT WHO CARES WHY HE CAME TO THURBUS? Why not just arrest him? G-Force transmute into a cab for Zoltar to drive. But how can Zoltar drive it? Okay, so it isn't really a cab, but...! Does it occur to G-Force that they are becoming accomplices and accessories to Zoltar's crimes by helping him steal the crystal? After Zoltar steals the crystal G-Force read the sign beside it. The lettering is green, goofy and comic-booky. Surely that wouldn't be around in Victorian times! The Spectrans board a train to go to their rendezvous point. Earlier their costumes caused a riot. The only comment now is: "Oi! Where are your tickets?" Since they obviously don't have tickets, why don't they get thrown off the train? Malignite crystal does possess amazing properties: it has suddenly expanded in size between episodes 4 and 5! After helping Zoltar to steal the crystal G-Force still take no action because they don't know why he wants it. Do they really have to know why he wants it? It isn't until Zoltar is on the verge of departure that he reveals the secret AND THEN G-Force finally go into action. This raises a disturbing question: what if Zoltar had NOT revealed why he wanted the crystal? Would G-Force have allowed him to escape with it? If so, they would have been partially responsible for any harm he would have caused with the death ray laser. There are a few more problems still but I think you get the point. Let's move on to: ROMAN RUBBISH (#'s 1653-1656) SYNOPSIS One of Zoltar's traps leaves Princess and Keyop on an asteroid where the people are living in - Roman times (sigh, yes, I'm afraid so). The centurions bring them to Caesar, who is none other than - Zoltar, who is in regular costume but wearing a toga instead of his cape. Keyop unwisely throws a pumpkin in Zoltar's face and he orders them brought to the circus to be thrown to the - bulls (not lions). However the rest of the team have caught up and they go to the rescue by landing on the backs of the bulls. A mad rodeo ensues, climaxing with the bulls collapsing Zoltar's platform and toppling him into the circus, to the delight of the spectators. Noting that Zoltar "doesn't seem to be top of the Roman Pops" the team transmute into a giant mechanical claw (making the Romans think they are gods), seize Zoltar and make him "resign" from being emperor. One of Zoltar's goons (named Charlie!) is then proclaimed as the new Caesar. G-Force release Zoltar and he departs for Spectra. PROBLEMS I won't bother commenting on an asteroid where people live in Roman times. Zoltar is wearing his mask in front of the Romans but they don't seem to be turning a hair. His costume caused a riot on Thurbus. Wouldn't the Romans be burning him at the stake as a demon or something? Princess and Keyop are out of uniform but as you can see from the photocopy, their civvies are definitely not correct (and yes, TVC did know about the numbered t-shirts although they never got the trousers right). At this point in the strip they still don't transmute. There is something carved on a building: "ZOLTARUS DOLTUS CAESARUS EST IN C..." I wonder what the "DOLTUS" means? While on the subject of the language: Goon: {"Strewth! [Zoltar] even talks Roman, too."} Shouldn't that be "Latin"? This story contains probably more than its fair share of awful dialogue but there are two gems definitely worth mentioning: The first is when the team land on the bulls: Zoltar: "Aim archers! Bring down the riders! {Heh, heh! I won't charge the prisoners extra! Laugh dolts! A joke!}" Two nits for the price of one! Does Zoltar seriously think arrows will be effective against G-Force? And how does he expect the goons to laugh at his joke? He's thinking it, not saying it aloud! The second is when G-Force have freed their friends: Zoltar: "Friends...and other twits - seize those superbrats!" Goon: "But Zoltar, you don't have any friends." Zoltar: "Silence, cokehead! I have to keep control of this shower." Was it a wise move for G-Force to use their powers in front of these Romans, who automatically think they are gods! What if those Romans start worshipping them?! Again they let Zoltar go with his mask still on, and they do the same in the last TVC story. A sorry farewell indeed.

MESSAGE TO THE FORMER TV COMIC EDITOR:

THE AUTHOR OF THIS OVERVIEW WILL TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY GALACTORS OR GATCHAMEN THAT COME AFTER YOU WITH EXPLODING ROSES OR FEATHER SHURIKENS!

POSTSCRIPT: If anyone wants to take a look at the Thurbus Turkey and Roman Rubbish, I regret to say that I have burned my copies. However I did overlook one episode and it follows for your own judgement. I can just see Katze and Ken tying the TVC Editor to a stake amid a pile of his own comics and setting fire to it...

Similarities Between the Two Comics

By the way, the team used laser weapons in Gold Key, both for the Phoenix and hand-held weapons. Not a birdrang or bird missile in sight. And in TV Comic they used no hand-held weapons at all. Maybe it was because TV Comic was supposed to be non-violent. The Phoenix had lasers and the Firebird effect. Keyop is an android (actually he is a clone with a lousy speech writer). Zoltar dodges Earth's defences by sending down his equipment through the eyes of hurricanes, which is purely a Gold Key invention. There are mistakes in Zoltar's costume. The way the Luminous One is drawn (completely, utterly wrong!) Zoltar is "Earth's Arch Enemy."