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The Art of Tie-In Comics

Simon Pitt | Television | Wednesday 21st December 2011

These days, I often find myself revisiting my childhood when I come home. This year, I came across this Lego comic which made me start remembering the comics from my childhood.

For many years, when I was younger, I wanted to be a cartoonist - or, more accurately, a comic book artist.

Lego characters

I was particularly inspired by this Lego comic book. I loved the pictures, the neat little story and the style of the whole thing.

Lego characters

Even looking at it now, I think it's a really nice item. I'd forgotten that Lego made this, but I'm really glad they did. As far as I can find on Google, this is the only comic like this Lego made, which in some ways is a bit of a shame. There are some others, but these ones picture the characters as Lego mini-figures. In some ways this is nice, but it lacks the real pleasure of this Pirate Comic.

Lego wasn't actually the only toy that inspired a comic. Around the time I was 10, Tower Publishing launched a range of Action Man comics.

These, I thought were really special. Nice drawing, and, like the Lego comic, a similarly neat, twisting story line.

Of course, none of these come close to my all time favourite comics, the Gerry Anderson comics in the TV21 comics. The artwork in these is spectacular, in a way that we just don't get modern comic artwork for children anymore.

These were not just comics, these were works of art.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the Action Man comics when I was a child, and, again, looking back at them now, they still stand up.

Evidentially, I'm not the only person who thinks this. In 1998, the Action Man annual, subtitled "The Omega Mission" was published, containing reprints of the Action Man comics, with Action Man's suit replaced and new dialogue.

It's an interesting idea, and it must have been quite a challenge to write a plot and script to fit into the existing pictures, and it reminds me of the English version of The Magic Roundabout. There are a couple of times where it seems slightly jarring and doesn't quite work, but generally, if you didn't know you wouldn't guess.

Action Man had a disappointingly short life and only ran for seven comics. A year or so later, though, it was back. However, the artwork suffered. Gone were the beautifully illustrated, complete stories. In their place were some overly simplistic, incredibly short narratives, that were over before they even got started.

Completely devoid of tension or sophistication, even the pictures seem to lack the subtlety and care of the originals.

Whereas the original were detailed and intricate, the new ones were large and obvious.

While the original Action Man comics stood alone from the toys, the new series seemed to be a cheap attempt to sell the toys. It reminds me of the original TV21 Gerry Anderson comics. The artists and writers between these took the series as a springboard to an expanded and enhanced universe. That, I think, is what the best "tie-in comics" do. When done well, they create a new world that piques your imagination and, often, surpasses the original. I have much more fond memories of the original Action Man comics than I actually do of the toys.



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