and of course it wasn't just Sapphire and Steel. Angus
P. Allan not only wrote the adventures of the Time agents
but also virtually every other comic strip in classic
TV/pop mag Look-In from its first issue in 1971 until
the mid-80s. A stalwart of the classic Gerry Anderson
comic TV21 in the 60s, his role in Look-In has gone
generally uncredited since then so it was a delight
when Angus contacted me from his farmhouse in the South
of France. Angus spends his retirement toiling in his
fields but he graciously gave of his time to remember
his days shuttling to and from 247 Tottenham Court Road.
I was amazed just how clearly Angus recalled events
of the 70s but he advised me to be wary of inevitable
memory loss. He feels there really should be a warning
printed on every bottle of whisky ...
You spent many years at TV21
(and girls' stablemate Lady Penelope) and the story
of this classic comic is well documented by Anderson
devotees but in brief what were your duties there? You
were strips script editor at one point weren't you -
did you stay long at this 'desk job'?
I started with TV21 as a freelance, pure and simple,
at first supplying text features for such things as
Stingray Annual - the story of the deepest bathyscaphe
dives in the Marianas Trench, for example. I was eventually
approached by Alan Fennell, who, with the advent of
Penelope magazine, reckoned that he really needed a
Script Editor to look after all the mechanics of strip
production - making sure stories were scripted in time,
properly sub-edited so that they made sense, sent to
the right artists, properly drawn to specification,
correctly and readably lettered by lettering artists
- and so forth.
It made my job easier if I wrote a percentage of the
strips myself. No problem there. However, I remained
behind a desk at the TV21 office for only a year or
so. Perhaps 18 months. I hated office routine, and eventually
Alan and I both felt we'd all be happier if I went freelance
again as a scriptwriter. Certainly office tensions (artists
being late with their work and so forth) were not to
my taste. I almost came to blows with one artist's agent
on one occasion, such was my frustration. Also, Alan's
immediate henchmen, Tod Sullivan and Dennis Hooper (later
editor of Countdown comic - Alistair), incorrectly assuming
that I was after their jobs, were keeping diaries on
my comings and goings to and from various Fleet Street
pubs, and showing them to Alan.
called me in at one time, tossed me the diaries and
said: "what do you think of these?" I replied: "Christ.
Haven't those twerps got any work to do?" He nodded,
grinned, and that was that.
What about the Daleks comic strip
at TV21 - this was credited on the page to Terry Nation
but it's usually accredited to David Whitaker [John
Ainsworth's articles in Classic Comics state this, with
Alan Fennell joint writing episode 1. David Whitaker's
nephew Steve contacted me to say that most if not all
were Whitaker's including most definitely 'The Archives
of Phryne' whch he recalls discussing with his Uncle
prior to publication. Steve also suggests writer/artist
Eric Eden may have scripted on occasion]. Reading episodes
of it again surely Angus Allan took a hand in this somewhere?
I took no hand whatsoever with the Daleks strip, except
that on one occasion the writer (I always assumed that
Nation wrote the strip himself, but it may have been
Whitaker) either fell ill or was otherwise indisposed,
and I had to do a couple of weeks of fill-in - that
is, advancing the story without actually altering storyline
or plot. A tricky enough task! What I do remember is
that (I was actually in-house as Script Editor at the
time) I very unexpectedly received a cheque - from Terry
Nation, and I am certain of that much - with a letter
of thanks. He insisted that he had no right to money
for which he had done no work. It was a most generous
gesture, and what's more, he paid me at his rate, which,
naturally, was many times my own.
TV21 had a lean period towards
the end of its life, going through all sorts of format
revisions and cutbacks - what was it like to work on
at that time and did you stay the course? Century 21
Publishing wound up in Summer 1969 but TV21 continued
with Marx Press and City Magazines. The Anderson content
finally disappeared with the demise of Thunderbirds
in June 1970 but the comic continued with Star Trek
and reprints until merging with Valiant in September
1971. I'd assume you'd severed all ties with TV21 by
January 1971 at the latest, to start at Look-In?
I remained with TV21 almost until the end. I went with
it, as freelance, you understand, to Marx Press - which
coincidentally had been founded by an ex-boss of Alan
Fennell's and mine - Leonard J. Matthews. I had no problems.
I have always regarded scriptwriting as a job of work
that I am lucky enough to be able to do. It was another
coincidence when TV21 merged with Valiant. I had been
freelancing for Valiant for years!