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Countdown to TV Action

January 28th, 2015 (02:46 am)

The userpic associated with this post is from a Doctor Who comic strip drawn by Gerry Haylock for TV Action, and Countdown to TV Action by Steve Holland tells the story of this comic and its first incarnation Countdown. Unexpected characters in its tale are Rupert Murdoch (whose role in the decline and demise of TV21 I had not known) and John Selwyn Gummer; the enterprise seemed based on poor market research, nostalgia for happy working conditions at former employers (especially the pre-Murdoch TV [Century] 21) and a publisher which was focused on editorial, advertising and circulation being dealt with by its parent who commandeered pages as required. Good to see a picture of Polly Perkins House, the office of Polystyle Publications for most of the 1970s, too - I'd wondered where it was for years, and had been misled by its 'Paddington Green' address, because strictly speaking it isn't there. Holland specialises in the indexing of British comics and there are full content listings and many, many reproductions of art, though apart from the cover it's in black and white. Nevertheless it's a valuable addition to Paul Scoones's The Comic Strip Companion, the first volume of which looks at Doctor Who in the pages of TV Comic, Countdown and TV Action, a must for historians of the creations of Gerry Anderson (whose characters and series were the original lead features of Countdown) a strong source of information about the careers of several British comic professionals and the comics industry in the early 1970s, though being me I have to note that the common ownership of Polystyle and TV Publications (from whom Polystyle 'bought' TV Comic, Playland and Pippin in 1968) isn't picked up, nor the nature of Independent Television Publications (a subsidiary of the ITV companies acting together under the ITA's supervision) and its acquisition of TV Times from TV Publications in 1968 quite understood. The shake-up of the youth market from ITP's Look-In is a constant presence and one Polystyle never quite dealt with - Look-In relied on more than constant promotion on ITV to help it, but its rivals could never get past that fact, it seems.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/2015/01/28/countdown-to-tv-action.html.


Posted by: Steve Green (stevegreen)
Posted at: January 28th, 2015 05:17 pm (UTC)

Somewhere in my attic, I have a complete set of Countdown (aka Countdown and Rocket) and TV Action; both were great comics. Keith Miller's recent trawl through the Dr Who Fan Club archives includes his ill-fated attempt to persuade its rather blunt-spoken editor to launch a title completely devoted to Doctor Who.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 28th, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)

I imagine you've seen this letter from Dennis Hooper before too. I was glad to find from Countdown to TV Action that he eventually created his own children's character Bump the Elephant and had a successful licensing deal in his later years. It does lead one to suspect that had he had the optimism and confidence in the form that, say, Alan Fennell displayed at Look-In, that Countdown/TV Action at least could have been more successful, but that's easy to say at this distance.

Rocket is mentioned too - a boy's weekly which had been merged with Express Weekly, subsequently TV Express in the 1950s and thence subsumed in TV Comic; the incorporation was transferred to Countdown in 1971, presumably to protect Polystyle's interest in the title should someone use it to mount a rival to Countdown. TV Action was used as a subtitle in the indicia to the short-lived Target in 1978 for a similar reason.

Posted by: Steve Green (stevegreen)
Posted at: January 28th, 2015 06:04 pm (UTC)

Actually, Matthew, I hadn't, or at least I don't recall seeing it at the time (I did pick up the occasional issue of Comic Media at marts, although I was a more avid reader of Fantasy Trader, Comics Unlimited and Bemusing). Given Hooper's tendency to stick his head in the sand, I'd have thought he'd be better suited to writing about an ostrich than an elephant.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 28th, 2015 06:34 pm (UTC)

Hooper wasn't that unusual, though, for the times - and slow-moving and with a long memory he seems to have been. He proved better at the nursery end of the market when editorial director of Polystyle, pioneering the move to more overtly educational titles with Buttons. His last venture into the youth market, Beeb in 1985, was such a disaster that when BBC Magazines launched Fast Forward a few years later, with much the same mix of features (though a more open and contemporary editorial voice) they were compelled to distance themselves from Beeb in publicity.

Edited at 2015-01-28 06:40 pm (UTC)