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INTERVIEW: Lee Sullivan on his new Thunderbirds and Space:1999 jigsaw designs!

Two brand new jigsaw puzzles are now available from the Gerry Anderson Store! These 1000-piece Thunderbirds and Space:1999 designs are the work of artist Lee Sullivan, and we caught up with him to learn more about how the specially commissioned artwork was devised.

When the idea came up to produce an illustration for a jigsaw puzzle I was surprisingly thrilled. It’s not a reaction I would have expected – after all, who wants to see their artwork cut up into little pieces? Well, as it turns out, I do!

One of the earliest pieces of Anderson-related merchandise I had was a 140-piece jigsaw of Supercar, depicting a ‘deep sea adventure’. I really loved the image on this, its vibrant colours, octopus and shark and the really nice painting of Supercar made a deep impression on me, being around three or four at the time. So having the opportunity to make an artwork that would be turned into a jigsaw puzzle was an unexpected one to be relished.

What to illustrate? The popularity of Thunderbirds made it an obvious first choice, so I set about thinking of a scene that might work. There have been hundreds of great images produced by artists over the years, so it had to be striking and a little different. Jamie’s original thought was that it should be a single, very busy scene of an International Recue danger zone, featuring all of the Thunderbird craft and characters. I wracked my brains trying to work out how to produce this, but whilst a sort of ‘Where’s Wally’ image might have been fun, the problem of getting not only TB4 in an underwater situation but also TB3 and TB5 in space environments became too tricky. I also wanted the whole piece to be a striking design, and reminiscent of the marvellous Ron Embleton Captain Scarlet 1960s poster that I had recently remastered for Anderson Entertainment.

So I looked towards my background in comic art, and started to think in terms of individual scenes in separate panels. This was a much simpler solution, and it opened up the possibility of including Tracy Island too. I placed that in a central circular panel with jagged white panel borders which echo the videophone graphics from the series. The logo fitted nicely, and the idea came to me to have the faces of most of the main characters located around the circle in the style of a clock-face.

Then I played around with images of the craft to fit within the panels, and scenes started to suggest themselves. I wanted to show Firefly, the Mole, Fireflash, FAB 1 and Zero-X too. The latter was a reworking of some of friend and legendary comic artist Mike Noble’s pictures from TV21, and also of the print of the craft that he and I had produced a few years before his death in 2018. I also sneaked in a craft from another Anderson series for the fun of it.

The finished Thunderbirds piece was then followed by a series one Space:1999 image of the same general layout. This time I had the actors’ faces looking outwards towards the edges of the puzzle, to emphasise the questing nature of the series. Naturally there was a whole lot of space – of the final frontier kind (ouch) – to fill, which I did with several Eagles and many of the more memorable ‘guest’ craft. The Moon made a nice image for the centrepiece and the explosion had to feature too, as well as Moonbase Alpha. I wanted to feature the iconic spacesuits too, and the fight scene from episode one was an ideal way to do that. The various colours applied to the space backgrounds make for a vibrant image but in part were a response to a suggestion by the manufacturers that it would be less stressful for people trying to complete the puzzle than if there were only interminable white stars against a black backdrop.

I hope those of you who purchase the puzzles have as much fun with them as I did with the Supercar version from sixty years ago!

These new Thunderbirds and Space:1999 jigsaws are available to order separately or as a bundle (saving 20%!) from the Gerry Anderson Store!

Written by
Chris Dale

Writer, editor & voice actor on Big Finish's Doctor Who, Terrahawks, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet audio ranges. Host of the Randomiser on the Gerry Anderson Podcast.

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