From as early as 1957’s The Adventures of Twizzle, the various television series associated with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson enjoyed a plethora of associated merchandise that only increased in scale and scope as the pair entered their creative golden period of the 1960s and early 1970s – and among the most highly prized items young fans could hope to find in their stockings on Christmas morning was the latest annual based on their favourite series.
Sometimes referred to as ‘gift books’ in the late 1950s, the Anderson annuals of the 1960s generally presented a selection of text and comic strip stories, puzzles and games, character biographies and even cutaways showing off the various vehicles and bases. From Supercar to Joe 90, most of the classic Supermarionation shows received the annual treatment (with Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds receiving the most attention), and these are still worth picking up today if you can find them in good condition – and at a good price!
Despite having their own annuals, the characters from Four Feather Falls, Supercar and Fireball XL5 also regularly appeared in the TV Comic annuals, based on the publication for younger readers. Additionally, several of the comics that featured strips based on Anderson shows also received their own annuals, including Lady Penelope, Joe 90 Top Secret, TV21, and Countdown, the releases of which were always heavily promoted in the parent comic. Here familiar Anderson shows such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet could be seen alongside strips and stories from such series as The Munsters, The Persuaders!, and Star Trek, while Project Sword – a TV21 strip not based on any existing television property – even received an annual all its own!
The TV21 annuals continued into the 1970s, by which time the parent comic had been purged of all Anderson related content. However, 1971 and 1972 saw annuals for Thunderbirds, proving that more than five years after it had first aired on television the series was still just popular enough to receive the annual treatment – but not quite popular enough for these titles to receive more than only a limited print run, making the 1972 annual particularly hard to find today. Around this time UFO and The Protectors each saw a single annual, while Space:1999 received five between 1975 and 1979.
As the 1980s dawned, annuals were looking a little thinner than they had in previous decades. Terrahawks was the focus of two annuals, the second of which ran for 63 pages (against an average of 90-100 pages for most of the 1960s annuals), although a shorter page-count also helped ensure that some of the more extraneous features that had been mainstays of such publications for decades (including joke sections and articles about real world space travel and science) were kept to a minimum.
With the flurry of renewed interest in the Anderson shows in the UK thanks to repeat runs on BBC 2 in the early 1990s, annuals based on Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet began appearing on the nation’s bookshelves courtesy of Grandreams (who had also published an annual based on Thunderbirds 2086 in 1983, three whole years before the series would be seen on British television). Space Precinct also received its one and only annual from the same company and was one several of these Grandreams titles to be later re-released in paperback form, stripped of any mention of their origins as annuals and waiting to disappoint young fans who had already read them.
Although Space Precinct would be the last annual produced for a new Anderson production, another revival of interest in the UK in the early 2000s saw Thunderbirds the subject of four more annuals between 2001 and 2004, as well as a Captain Scarlet annual for 2002. A 2005 Thunderbirds annual was released focusing on the live-action feature film rather than the original television series, and in 2016 the CGI Thunderbirds are Go series also received an annual. In recent years Fanderson have also created several annuals based on Anderson shows, including The Secret Service – a series that never saw an annual back in the 1960s! – helping to ensure that Anderson fans can continue to find exciting annuals under the tree on Christmas morning!
However, the printed page is not the only way to enjoy an annual! Inspired by the Doctor Who audio annuals released by the BBC, Anderson Entertainment is proud to present the very first audio annual from the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson universe! Anything Can Happen features brand new audio versions of seven stories taken from the pages of the classic 1960s Thunderbirds and Stingray annuals and the Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 hardback storybooks, brought together under the umbrella banner of TV21. Read by Nicholas Briggs and Wayne Forester, this collection brings these old stories to a new format for the very first time, in what we hope will only be the first of many Anderson audio annual releases!
The TV21 Audio Annual 2022 – Anything Can Happen is released on September on CD from the Gerry Anderson Store, and digital download from the Big Finish website. If you fancy a free teaser of the collection, then the first story – Thunderbirds Four Hours to Eternity is also available as a free download here!