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Top 10 Obscure Stingray Stories

When it comes to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s 1960s Supermarionation TV and film productions, we may think of that era as a cohesive body of work, but it’s easy to overlook how each individual puppet production was a vast multi-media property in its own right. 1964’s Stingray is no exception, boasting an eclectic array of non-TV stories across comics, annuals, novels, story books and audio dramas which stretched away from the classic television series.

Stingray‘s multi-media identity continues to this day with Anderson Entertainment’s range of novel and audiobook adaptations of the original 1960s spin-off media, as well as our forthcoming trans-media event Stingray: Deadly Uprising. As we gear up towards the super-sub’s 60th anniversary celebrations later this year, and having already counted down five of our favourite TV episodes, we’re looking beyond the TV series and celebrating ten of the best obscure Stingray stories!

10. The Waters of Hyde

Originally published in Countdown #15-#21

Like most of the other puppet-era Anderson strips which gained a new lease of life in the pages of Countdown, Stingray‘s 70s comic strips veered between standalone stories and multi-part adventures, suggesting a unfocused creative direction for the strip. However, Countdown‘s Stingray strip delivered up a modest handful of lesser-seen gems, of which The Waters of Hyde (also known as Monsters from Mars) is surely the most memorable.

With dual illustrative duties shared between TV Century 21-era artists Michael Strand and Rab Hamilton, this bizarre romp follows Troy and Phones’ gruesome adventures as their investigation into a missing group of underwater explorers on Mars leads them to discover an ancient civilisation living below the planet. Contact with the subterranean Martian waters transforms Troy and Phones into horrendous ape-men, which leads to perilous journey back to Earth and eventual confrontation with the subterranean race. The Waters of Hyde swings wildly between Martian mystery, freaky body horror and gun-ho action, embracing its freewheeling adventure with admirable energy. Without doubt one of Stingray‘s most surreal sagas!

9. The Silent Predator

Originally published in the 1994 Stingray annual

The 1990s BBC revivals of Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 led to their 1960s/70s comic strips from TV21 and Countdown being recycled by Fleetway Editions for a new line of series-specific comics, as well as a set of annuals. But where the 1990s comics eventually featured unique material such as episode adaptions and original storylines, the 1990s annuals were mostly content to repackage pre-existing material plucked from TV21 annuals, specials and comic storylines. The 1994 Stingray annual boasts the honour of featuring the only original annual-exclusive story during this time with The Silent Predator.

This short text story is the work of celebrated Anderson fans Helen McCarthy and Steve Kyte and focuses on Stingray‘s more moralistic stance of the hazardous price which humanity pays for dominating the world’s oceans. In The Silent Predator, the Stingray crew discover the hidden city of Neo-Atlantis, lead by its president Doctor Emanon, a former WASP scientist and who helped design Stingray. The doctor rescinded his professional life following the death of his wife and became part of Neo-Atlantis to help preserve the natural environment surrounding the great city, now looking upon the World Government as violent disruptors of the Earth’s oceans.

The Silent Predator becomes an instantaneous lost gem simply for being a beacon of original fiction amidst the glut of rechurned 60s material within the 1990s annuals. However, it’s also a satisfyingly enjoyable mini-adventure, brought to life by McCarthy’s economic yet faithful storytelling and Stingray super-fan Kyte’s brilliant artwork.

8. Lost Island

Originally published in the Stingray Television Story Book (1965)

This evocatively mysterious science-fantasy yarn sees Stingray and Titan battle for a world-ending power forged long before humanity or underwater races came to be. Stingray’s journey into an underwater volcano and eventual discovery of the remains of a long-lost pre-human civilisation is evocative of such TV episodes as Deep Heat and The Subterranean Sea. The idea of Titan and the WASPs venturing into a long-lost civilisation is an intriguing one; that the world’s oceans aren’t entirely known to either terranean or underwater race. Even in the far-flung future of the 2060s, the Earth’s seas still hold as many secrets as the deepest depths of outer space, a defining aspect of Stingray‘s appeal.

Authorship of the Stingray Television Story Book is unknown, but it could likely have been John Theydon, author of many paperback spin-offs for the puppet-era TV series. Lost Island certainly bears some recognisable stamps of Theydon’s writing style, chiefly the prolonged descriptive passages of Stingray venturing into the undersea volcano. Lost Island remains a handsome adventure that would surely have proved equally enjoyable if it were written as a full-length novel.

7. A Trip to England

Originally published in TV Century 21 #90-#97

Despite TV21‘s shared universe remaining firmly in place throughout the comic’s lifespan between 1965 and 1969, genuine crossovers between characters were a rarity, with heroes mostly popping up as cameos or references. However, A Trip to England provides us with the hugely novel affair of what happens when the villains of TV21 unite! Stingray is invited to take part in the 1000th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Hastings, but surface agent X-20 enlists the help of none other than the Hood to help tarnish Stingray’s global image by laying waste to the event!

The idea of irreversibly damaging Stingray’s status is a unique twist, and the lengthily nature of the storyline enables the story’s mystery to convincingly grip the reader. The Hood’s true identity isn’t revealed until well into the tale. A Trip to England also serves as Michael Strand’s debut as the new primary artist for TV21‘s Stingray strip, taking over from Gerry Embleton, who in turn had illustrated a handful of adventures following on from his brother’s tenure, Ron Embleton. It’s a solid start to Strand’s artistic era on the strip, as well as one of Stingray‘s most unique adventures, leaning heavily towards the espionage end of Stingray‘s thematic wheelhouse.

6. Pacific Disasters

Originally published in the 1966 Stingray annual

This brief comic strip is devoid of ruthless villains or ancient civilisations and instead packs in a rapid-fire immediacy with its engineering disaster threat. The South Pacific uranium mine suffers a critical neutron explosion, prompting Stingray to come to the rescue of the trapped engineers. Indeed, the whole affair’s premise of Stingray being utilised to perform a complex and deadly rescue operation feels like a dry run for Thunderbirds. The 1966 Stingray annual would surely have been produced alongside early production of Thunderbirds, perhaps explaining why it feels to close to that other series. Rab Hamilton’s artwork serves the story well, communicating the severity of the danger to engaging effect, making Pacific Disasters a compact but memorable underwater rescue adventure for Stingray.

5. Seven Hours to Sunburst

Originally published in the 1967 TV Century 21 annual

This stimulating techno-thriller offers a similar premise to Lost Island, both stories sharing the same basic plot of Titan stealing atomic weaponry for his own ends. But where ‘Lost Island’ is all slow-burn mystery, Seven Hours to Sunburst charges along with nervous energy. Titan stealing a World Air Alliance Tact-Strike Dominator bomber mid-flight via a hidden underwater prison is pure 1960s Cold War action, and for once, it appears very much like Titan has gained the upper hand against the WASPs!

Seven Hours to Sunburst carries its deadly momentum with a sharply written focused from beginning to end, a firm reminder that the spin-off media of Anderson shows often matched its TV counterparts in rarely talking down to its younger audience. We’re also blessed with the heart-warming scenes of Troy and Phones escaping from the blast zone of the bomber’s deadly cargo as quickly as possible, but holding hands whilst they do so, as they prepare for what could be their final moments if they can’t escape the danger zone in time. From mecha-mystery to brotherly bonds, Seven Hours to Sunburst has it all!

4. The Marineville Traitor

Originally published in TV21 #155-#189

Stingray and Fireball XL5 helped catapult TV21‘s early days to phenomenal success, but both strips were eventually seen as redundant enough to be pulled from the comic by 1968 in favour of fresh material. Fortunately, both strips were given memorable send-offs, in Stingray‘s case, a gargantuan 34-part serial which occupied its entire 1968 run. Troy Tempest is framed for the destruction of a TRL 20 intercontinental strike-missile craft , but rather than face imprisonment, Troy escapes, steals Stingray, and embarks on a globe-trotting mission to discover the truth behind this sabotage.

The Marineville Traitor, as it was named when the storyline was repurposed for Stingray‘s Fleetway comic in the 1990s, remains Stingray‘s grandest comic adventure to date. Troy’s investigations takes him around the world, encountering dangerous underwater civilisations, maniacal dictators, and an elaborate scheme to destroy Marineville from within as he slowly pieces together the mystery behind his blackmailing. Troy cuts a lonely, desperate figure as a volatile Commander Shore hunts him down during his adventures, but Troy is eventually joined by Phones, their firm friendship becoming a welcome highlight of the storyline. Ambitious in scope, sprawling in execution, The Marineville Traitor sends Stingray‘s era in TV21 out on a riveting high.

3. Marina: The Full Story

Originally published in Lady Penelope #1-#23.

Serving the same function as the Lady Penelope prequel strip did in TV21, the Marina, Girl of the Sea strip from TV21‘s sister comic Lady Penelope is set prior to Marina allying herself with the World Aquanaut Security Patrol. Readers are presented with this gorgeously realised underwater science fantasy, which firmly places Marina as the heroine, alongside her father Aphony. Much of the Marina strip remains undocumented by reprint collections, save for this debut adventure, named as The Full Story when it was included in 2014’s The Gerry Anderson Comic Collection.

Illustrated by Rab Hamilton and presumably written by Alan Fennell, The Full Story crafts a thrilling yet tragic saga to serve as a definitive explanation for Marina and Aphony’s mute existence. Prior to their life of silence, Marina, Aphony, and the people of Pacifica were entirely capable of regular speech, and lived in relative harmony whilst still cautious of the villainous Titan. When Titan launches a surprise devastation of Pacifica, Marina, Aphony and Aphony’s aide Barinth embark on a perilous string of adventures to lead their people to safety. Pacifica is eventually rebuilt, but in a final act of revenge, Titan dooms Marina and her father to a life of silence, declaring that one or the other will die if the other dares to utter another world.

Marina’s pre-Stingray adventures would continue after The Full Story, but this introductory adventure is well worth seeking out. From Hamilton’s lush artwork to the tragic undertones running throughout the story, it’s an emotionally-charged saga of revenge, hope and salvation for Marina and her people.

2. Barracuda 5

Originally published in the TV Century 21 Stingray Special (1965)

Stingray is probably not regarded by many Anderfans as one of Gerry’s darker efforts, but Barracuda 5 proves otherwise. This electrifying yet cautionary tale of unfounded revenge sees Stingray thrust into a race against time when WASP lieutenant Tom Sands embarks on a vengeful mission of suicide against Titan for the suspected killing of Tom’s younger brother. It’s rare for death to be thrust into the spotlight of a Stingray story as it is here, and Barracuda 5 wastes no time in highlighting the severity of its premise.

The text stories featured throughout the TV21 seasonal specials/extras were often stronger than the actual comic strips, with Barracuda 5 serving as a notable peak of storytelling quality. This short tale boasts a climactically jeopardous action scene involving Stingray attempting to stop Lieutenant Sands from piloting the titular Barracuda 5 patrol submarine in a kamikaze manner into Titanica. This would have been impossible to convincingly bring to life in Supermarionation, which in turn serves as a handsome reminder that a wealth of exciting Stingray adventures can be found away from the classic TV series.

1. The Deadly Alliance

Originally published in 1966

It’s rather appropriate that one of the best Stingray stories you’ve probably never heard of maintains some mystique about it. Neither its writer or artist are credited, making the 1966 story book The Deadly Alliance‘s impossible attribution all the more frustrating, given how brilliant it is. This darkly intense action drama catapults Stingray straight into Cold War territory as Troy and Phones are tasked with venturing into hostile Bereznik territory to uncover a suspected union between the enemy state and Titanica. This simple enough premise gives way to a bleakly thrilling military saga as Troy and Phones battle their way through hostile enemy forces, enduring impossible odds throughout the story.

Written with an earnest straight-faced attitude, The Deadly Alliance is a hugely engrossing read, enlivened by its spellbinding illustrations. Much of the story takes place within Bereznik territory, making the artwork all Soviet-styled retrofuture brutalism and nuclear terror. Remarkably, we learn a great deal about Bereznik’s history in this story book, more so than in just about any other TV21-related publication, but quite bizarrely, Titan himself makes no appearance throughout the story. Nevertheless, the tensely coiled nature of the storytelling throughout The Deadly Alliance makes up for this oversight, offering us a rare insight into Bereznik as an enemy state. As dangerous as it is enthralling, The Deadly Alliance is a severely underrated classic in Stingray‘s canon.

Stingray‘s adventures across comics, books and beyond continue with Anderson Entertainment’s forthcoming multimedia event Stingray: Deadly Uprising! Do you agree with our pick of Stingray‘s greatest obscure adventures? What are some of your favourite lesser-known Stingray stories? Let us know in the comments below or on social media! To be the first to hear about the latest news, exclusive releases and show announcements sign up for our newsletter here.

Written by
Fred McNamara

Atomic-powered writer/editor. Website editor at Official Gerry Anderson. Author of Flaming Thunderbolts: The Definitive Story of Terrahawks. Also runs Gerry Anderson comic book blog Sequential 21.

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