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and Books on the History of Television
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Page updated 24th May, 2015.
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TV tie-in books have been around for the past half-century. They developed from comic and movie tie-in books and annuals, once so popular in Britain and the old Empire. See CHILDREN'S ANNUALS. In the United States, Whitman, the company which published the Little Big and Big Little books, brought out a lengthy series of laminated hardback novels based on popular TV series of the 1950s and later. It was they who had become famous for their similarly published versions of Donna Parker and Trixie Beldren novels. Earlier, Whitman had produced a number of novel-sized laminated hardbacks using the Adprint imprint, mostly on cowboy stars such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. These books differed in appearance: the Adprint editions had curved spines while the Whitman authorised TV tie-in editions had flat spines and were both thicker and wider.
[Note: For those of you interested, Lloyd Bridges co-wrote a combined autobiography and history of skin diving with Bill Barada called MASK AND FLIPPERS. It was published by W H Allen, London, in 1961.]
The Whitmans tie-ins of the later 1960s suffered a drop in quality although the covers were still laminated. Some of the better ones were THE MONKEES and GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. The photographic art was replaced by the slap-dash illustrative style of the period. The two books based on THE MUNSTERS were nicely done but around this time the lamination was dropped, with the result that the covers picked up dirt very easily. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE featured on two books, both of which were nicely drawn, but the matt finish damaged very easily. Perhaps the worst cover of all was that to be found on the STAR TREK book 'Mission to Horatius', not that this fact has stopped this book being one of the most popular titles.
According to Australian Whitmans researcher Paul Kennedy, the stories were not based on TV scripts. They were original stories; in fact they may be seen in the light of day as the first fan fiction. Paul found (back in the mid-1980s) a total of 124 Whitmans TV tie-ins featuring 73 TV series and personalities. His breakdown revealed 9 devoted to LASSIE, 8 on GENE AUTRY, 8 on ROY ROGERS and 5 on ANNETTE FUNICELLO. Paul was reasonably sure that no other novelised versions of either GILLIGAN'S ISLAND or F TROOP appeared. The rarest title of all is thought to be that on Gerry Anderson's sf series, UFO. Does any reader have a copy?
While Whitmans supplied the US and Australian markets with TV tie-in NOVELS, it was the British publishing industry which supplied TV tie-in ANNUALS. So far as is known, these were not sold on the US market due to copyright restrictions. Any readers who can supply us with information on this topic is invited to contact John. Perhaps the first and finest annuals to appear were those on the famous ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, starring Richard Greene. The first two editions contained beautifully reproduced b/w and colour photographs on high grade glossy paper. Just as nice and less well-known is the IVANHOE annual. Unfortunately, the mostly western annuals which followed reverted to the cardboard-type pages so infamous in children's annuals of the 1940-50 period. Crude line drawings replaced photographs, thus avoiding (this is a guess) royalty payments to the actors.
It wasn't until around 1970 when printing techniques had improved (and publishers had mostly moved off-shore) that photographs began to re-appear in these annuals. In the meantime, publishers had also resorted to an old staple - they put the characters into comic strips. Some of the better titles of this period were ones featuring Gerry Anderson series: UFO, CAPTAIN SCARLET, JOE-90 and the like.
TV tie-in annuals have mostly disappeared due to the high costs involved in printing. Perhaps the best to appear as the 1980s came to a close was that on THE BILL. This annual was published by Grandreams in 1989 and is believed to have sold out in less than a month.
One of the more bizarre thrillers on British TV, Adam Adamant Lives! was created after Sydney Newman (the imagination behind earlier hits Dr Who and The Avengers) failed to obtain the rights for a series based on the popular detective Sexton Blake. Adamant was part Blake, part Scarlet Pimpernel, part Jon Pertwee's Dr Who, and the series was intended to draw humour from contrasting the character's Victorian gentlemanly values with those of swinging sixties London. The original pilot for the show, now lost, was never broadcast, and the storyline reworked into the (now) opening episode: in 1902, Edwardian adventurer Adam Llewellyn de Vere Adamant, portrayed by RADA-trained Gerald Harper, was tricked by his arch nemesis The Face (in collusion with Adamant's beloved, Louise) and trapped in a state of suspended animation until workmen revive him in 1966 by which time his name has passed into legend. Escaping from the hospital where he was revived from his icy sleep, he meets Georgina, an ardent fan of Adamant's exploits (he was a friend of her grandfather) but whose liberated sixties self-confidence Adamant finds baffling; her confidence is misplaced as, inevitably, Adamant needs to rescue her every episode and thwart the villains, usually dispatching them with his sword stick. The second episode added William E. Simms, a former music hall artiste with a proclivity for rhyming couplets who becomes Adamant's valet; originally portrayed by John Dawson, he had to be replaced due to an injury and the role was taken over by Jack May.
Despite tight production schedules and some frankly shaky action, the show proved successful enough to warrant a second season, in which The Face was revived by a now dodderingly ancient Louise and the plots became even more offbeat. Newman, however, was unhappy with the series - he was not keen on the actors, the production or the quality of scripts - and decided to call it a day on the show after only 29 episodes.
When it started, TV Century 21 was solidly based on the shows produced by Gerry Anderson. The comic had launched in 1965 (dated 2065) the capitalise on the success of Stingray and the front cover was designed like a future newspaper, helping to tie together the various worlds Gerry Anderson was creating. Those early issues also offered a sneak preview of a new show Anderson was in the process of making, and Lady Penelope became a regular in the comic long before she was ever seen on the small screen in Thunderbirds.
The comic was a lavish production, with plenty of colour which showed off the strips to their best vantage, especially Ron Embleton's Stingray, Mike Noble's Zero X, and -- a little way into the future -- Frank Bellamy's Thunderbirds and Ron Turner's The Daleks.
The Annual was a good reflection of the comic but slightly dulled by the not-so-good paper and cheaper production (you couldn't do a photogravure annual) so the colour was never as good, and there was a concentration on the humour strips which were printed in black & white anyway. But under City Magazines it was still an excellent production.
Fast forward a few years to when the paper fell into the hands of IPC. Now the only TV strip is Star Trek and most of the remaining contents are reprints from hither and yon (Sir Percy Vere, for instance, used to appear in the Eagle). No wonder it didn't last long. The final insult was that the paper was absorbed into Valiant in 1970, shortly before a national printers strike knocked the paper off the shelves for months (destroying Saturday mornings as far as this youngster was concerned). Star Trek was the only strip to survive printed (horribly) via four-colour lithography which I hated in American comics and didn't particularly want to see in my favourite title. These issues were printed by Fleetway's own print works just south of the Thames called Southernprint, and they always had nasty holes in the side of the page where they had been pulled through the printing machine. It made the comic look cheap and nasty and things only improved -- and then only briefly -- when they switched to a web-offset printer for a while during, I believe, another period of industrial action. Anyone in the UK will remember the union troubles of the early 1970s which, along with decimalisation and rampant inflation pushed the price of comics through the roof until they were no longer cheap entertainment.
Sad days for us comic fans.
A 'must have'
for collectors of British TV tie-ins are the
DAD'S ARMY annuals and related books. At least six
annuals were published 1973-1978. The
other books are as follows:
TV LINKS SECTION
BOOKS, TV HISTORY and
recommended by the CB&M editor.