Angus Allan Interview   Look-In
20/1 they're mine
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... 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.

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!

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