The Catacombs The Merchandise Guide
Look-In Comic
Compiled by Martin Willey

John Burns colour art

There were three comic strip versions of Space 1999: the Charlton comics published in the US, the Italian Farinas-Cardona comics (republished in Zack magazine in Germany), and the UK children's comic Look-In. Best, both in artwork and in story, were the Look-In strips.

Look-In was a weekly comic devoted to children's television, pop and sport. It featured comic strip versions of the top television series of the 1970s, such as The Six Million Dollar Man and The Tomorrow People, as well as oddities such as the Abba story, plus pinups of pop stars and footballers. The stories lasted 6 to 8 issues, but with the weekly instalments just two pages long, each ending in a melodramatic cliffhanger, they were certainly action packed.

News pages gave addresses for fan clubs, which is how many UK fans, myself included, entered fandom. One Star Trek fan club, Omicorn, was mistakenly listed as a Space: 1999 fan club; the response was so large that the club decided to create a 1999 section in its newsletter. Space 1999 was featured in several competitions (one offered the winner a trip to the set of the series to meet the stars). There were some magnificent cover paintings (although the subjects were sometimes incongruous: Koenig posing with Lee Majors or a 1970s pop group). A "Worlds Of Gerry Anderson" column was a long running feature, with Gerry answering questions about 1999 and his other series (similar to his Starlog column, although the children's questions were regularly more interesting). The column began in 1977 and lasted 15 months.

The Space: 1999 comic strip began in the 13th September 1975 issue, and closed 81 issues later, in March 1977. All the stories were written by Angus P Allen, who also wrote the British annuals. Although designed for children and hyper actively paced, the stories were intelligent science fiction adventures. Vigorous narrative and effective use of character made even the more predictable stories thrilling. Some plots made excellent use of the Space: 1999 format, although the characters and especially dialogue were interchangeable. All the characters, including Helena and Victor, were obliged to serve as all-action heroes, running and fighting to get out of danger, uttering "My stars!" or "Ye Gods" at frequent intervals.

The two artists were John M Burns, for the early colour stories, and Mike Noble, for the black & white ones. Burns specialised in dramatic frames, tight close-ups of characters alongside striking action scenes, all in vivid colours. His scenes of physical violence and crazed or terrified faces were very forceful. Noble excelled in sleek technology, notably some stunning views of Eagles and alien spaceships in combat, and in figures in dynamic poses, conveying a sense of movement and dramatic tension. His strips are filled with battles, explosions and running figures.

Likenesses of the major characters were fair. Burns drew some exceptional single frame studies of Koenig, although Noble had more consistent depictions. The sets and Eagles were well done, although somewhat stylised. Noble in particular seems to be the only artist to have no trouble drawing Eagles accurately, from unusual and exciting perspectives. That said, both artists were working from photographs and they made mistakes. Noble's Eagles have just three rocket nozzles at rear, large single rockets underneath (rather than pairs of vertical rockets), and glass canopies over the cockpit insets.

Story One (1975/38- 1975/44)

A space warp shifts the Moon in space, close to a planet. Alan's copilot loses control and their Eagle nearly crashes. Landing on a beach, they are attacked by giant ants and the copilot is killed. Koenig and Helena's rescue Eagle arrives to destroy the ants, but Alan has disappeared. Helena realises the planet is Earth. The ants capture them, and they are forced to fight a ferocious bull aphid in an arena. Stealing swords from ant guards, they kill the aphid and are rescued by Victor and Paul in an Eagle.

An uninspired start to the series, but including some terrific artwork of the Alphans fighting the ants and Eagles in flight. Reprinted in black & white and abridged to 10 pages in the 1980 Look-In annual. Reprinted in colour in the Fanderson magazine from issues 50 (October 2004) to 56 (March 2006).

Story Two (1975/45- 1975/49)

The Moon passes Mars and detects a call for help- in Chinese. They find a dome, but it is deserted. As they leave they are attacked and the Eagle destroyed. They are captured by Nam Lee, leader of the Chinese- the "yellows"-, who are at war with the westerners- the "alternatives". Both had colonised Mars a thousand years ago, after the Moon left orbit and the Earth became uninhabitable. The alternatives mount a massive assault on the underground Chinese city. Nam Lee tries to force Koenig to bring the Alphans into the war, but the alternatives break in and kill him. Koenig declines to join the alternatives.

Another rather routine adventure, full of captures and escapes, not really progressing anywhere. Good battle scenes.

Story Three (1975/50- 1976/5)

An alien spaceship is pursued and shot by another ship; it crashes into Alpha. Zar, law enforcer of the Kolbar alliance, arrives to explain they were chasing Kalax, a dangerous criminal. Kolbarians can transfer their minds into others, and Zar suspects Kalax has taken over an Alphan. Unless they can identify him, Zar will destroy the whole of Alpha. Kalax has taken over technician Donatti, and murders another Alphan named Mosby, pretending that Mosby was trying to steal an Eagle and thus was likely to be Kalax. But suspicion turns to Donatti, who has to escape in Zar's flagship. Zar cannot order his fleet to attack, as his brother is aboard the flagship. Koenig takes an Eagle, and eventually manages to shoot the flagship command centre, killing Kalax.

A well developed series of twists and action set-pieces. Some panels see Burns experimenting with full painting instead of line drawing, and there are good examples of his skill in portraying fights.

Story Four (1976/6- 1976/12)

After the space burial of crewman Baker, dead of a heart attack, Koenig and Bergman fly down to a new planet- where they are greeted by Baker. Baker urges them to evacuate the base to the planet, Lassa, under the protection of a being called the Great Makka. Baker refuses to return to Alpha for examination, and they return to the base, where the expectations of a new home are high. Koenig flies back to Lassa to look for Makka, and learns the truth: Makka needs the Alphans to die, so they can be reborn as his immortal mindless slaves. The lush vegetation of the planet was a solid illusion- which Makka now removes, leaving Koenig gasping for air amongst barren rocks. Unable to contact Koenig, Paul orders the evacuation and the Eagles descend. Koenig manages to return to his Eagle and launches, flying under the Exodus Eagles to warn them off.

The first black & white Mike Noble strip. An exceptional story (slightly reminiscent of Guardian Of Piri), a well sustained mystery, some great action, and some nice human touches such as the scenes of ordinary Alphans and families looking forward to a home on the planet.

Story Five (1976/13- 1976/18)

The Alphans watch a film of a prehistoric ceremony, a priest dedicating the Long Man of Wilmington chalk figure. Then they discover the Moon is heading into a black sun, and a chain of nuclear devices are set in space. But Koenig's Eagle, with Bergman and Helena, is lost. The bombs are exploded and the Moon diverted. But the three Alphan leaders have found themselves on Earth, by the chalk carving in Sussex, England. The prehistoric tribe captures them and they realise the carving is a trap to lure aliens who had previously attacked the tribe. Koenig is killed with a spear, but Helena and Bergman manage to escape with his body to the Eagle. The Eagle returns from the black sun, and Koenig wakes as if from a dream.

An inconclusive story perhaps based on Black Sun and Collision Course. Some nice visuals contrasting the primitive tribe and the sophisticated Eagle.

Story Six (1976/19- 1976/27)

The Moon travels through an asteroid storm. The forcefields protect Alpha, but a pilot is sent out to check the nuclear waste dumps. After his Eagle explodes, Koenig and Helena recover the pilot's body... watched by aliens, who have established a base under cover of the storm. The alien leader, Tark, with Pheron, arrive at the base in a buggy and claim to have crashed. They admit they attacked the Eagle, and to prove they are not hostile they bring the dead pilot back to life. Koenig and Victor inspect the alien buggy- it is in perfect condition, showing no signs of having been in a crash. At that moment, Sandra is interrogating the aliens. Pheron slips up, and the two smash a window to the lunar surface to escape. Koenig and Victor, still suited, save Sandra from being sucked into space. The two Eagles sent to pursue the aliens are shot down, and alien tanks attack Alpha, now briefed of their defences. Helena, tending the wounded on the lunar surface, is captured, and Tark demands they surrender. Alan discovers the alien base and destroys it. Tark is distracted by the setback, enabling Helena to escape. Alan's Eagle destroys the remaining tanks.

A terrific war story, with some great action sequences: Sandra caught in explosive decompression, the magnificent battle scenes ("Back, back, you vermin!" cries one Alphan astronaut firing his laser), and Helena smashing the aliens with her helmet as she escapes.

Story Seven (1976/28- 1976/36)

In a jealous quarrel over a girl, technician Vince Kassel kills his rival. Taking the girl, Tina, hostage, he eludes the guards and escapes in an Eagle for a new planet. Koenig's Eagle, with Helena and Bergman aboard, gives pursuit, and they engage in a dramatic shoot out in space. Koenig's Eagle breaks up, and the Alphans float in space by the wreckage, dangerously close to re-entering the atmosphere. Alan's Eagle grabs their safety line with a hook, blacking them out. Meanwhile, Kassel has crashed the Eagle on the planet surface. He is briefly triumphant, before a native knocks him out. Koenig is revived, and takes Alan to try to rescue Tina. The locals believe Tina is a goddess, and intend to sacrifice Kassel to her. He escapes but is stunned by Alan. They rescue Tina, but Kassel wakes and gets Alan's gun. He refuses to return with them to face an Alphan court; he will take his chances on the planet.

A superb, totally gripping story. The thrills and plot twists are expertly done, notably the Eagle shoot out which results in Koenig's Eagle breaking up.

Story Eight (1976/37- 1976/45)

An alien planet, Leptar, finds the Moon suddenly appearing in its sky. In the Moonbase, the Alphans are still, maybe dead. Fearing a disease, the aliens launch missiles to destroy Alpha- just as the Alphans awaken. Contact is established and the missiles diverted. The alien leader, Tarfon, arrives in a shuttle. An alien mutineer, Martak, tries to kill Tarfon and blame the Alphans. As the shuttle returns to Leptar to arrange the destruction of Alpha, Koenig and Maya pursue it in an Eagle. They avoid an antimatter bomb, letting it destroy the Eagle's transporter pod, and Maya boards the shuttle through an airlock, assuming the form of a spider. The ship lands on Leptar, and Martak emerges to make a full confession. Tarfon, saved by Helena, then contacts the planet to confirm the story. But Martak is Maya- she drugged him as a spider and took his shape.

The story introduces and makes good use of Maya's powers. However, we remain in Main Mission, rather than Command Centre. An exciting, well developed adventure with excellent cliffhangers.

Story Nine (1976/46- 1976/48)

The Alphans prepare to evacuate to their new home on Leptar. The Eagle returning Tarfon to his planet disappears as the Moon goes through another time warp. The planet Leptar is now a volcanic wilderness at the end of its life.

A short postscript to the previous story, drawn by John M Burns, in suitably apocalyptic shadows.

Story Ten (1976/49- 1977/3; 8 issues)

Koenig, Helena, Maya and Alan land on a planet, finding a wrecked base with dead cybernetic humanoids. They are attacked with a bazooka, but capture the attackers- two humans. They explain this is Earth- in 2154, now ruled by a robot race, the Cyberons. A Cyberon ship arrives and destroys the Eagle, but the humans make it back to their guerilla base camp. They attack a Cyberon base and steal a rocket and shuttle, carrying the guerillas back to Alpha.

Another classic Noble pitched battle, with robot hover guards firing rays against human infantry armed with machine guns, bazookas and grenades. The slang of the humans, Jaffy and Joeboy, is an interesting touch.

Story Eleven (1977/4- 1977/9)

A strange asteroid appears in the Moon's path, and neither Alpha's lasers or a robot Eagle carrying a bomb have the slightest effect. Koenig and Alan crash into the asteroid, but are able to return to Alpha- finding themselves miniaturised and unable to contact Main Mission. Alan flies to Main Mission and uses the Eagle rockets to burn a message for Maya into the windows. Maya changes into Koenig, giving her telepathic contact with the real Koenig, and they realise the situation. A special bomb is used to destroy the asteroid, and Koenig and Alan are returned to normal.

A competent but unremarkable story, distinguished by some fine artwork of Eagle crashes and the miniaturised Koenig and Alan on a huge launch pad.

Story Twelve (1977/10- 1977/13)

A Eagle fleet flies to a planet's seas to extract the mineral attrion. They are attacked by a sea monster, then by primitive aircraft, dropping grenades and firing crossbows. A biplane crashes deliberately into Koenig's Eagle. The Eagle is undamaged and Koenig rescues one of the pilots, who explains they have been attacked by aliens, the Varrakons, and a bomber, crewed by a suicide squad, is now flying to destroy them. The Eagles leave, letting the pilot jump into the water to be picked up by his colleagues.

A short but atmospheric story ends the series, setting Eagles against a primitive sea monster and the ancient biplanes and monoplanes.


Copyright Martin Willey