The Spy In The Sputnik

Over the last few weeks, both fans of this blog may have felt that I have been neglecting it. But I have been deeply involved in some comic goodness as I am still researching the breadth of work that Ron Smith has done over the years. And as a major fan of Ron’s work, I have been blown away by some of the gems that I have never seen before. I have put a few examples of his work in my Ron Smith Research article a week ago.

However, the research is beginning to pay off in more ways than one. And I am sure that some of the stories that I have uncovered will give me plenty of material for future articles in this blog. But one fact that I have uncovered interests me more than most is the story that is the title of this piece. I have already referenced The Spy In The Sputnik in my Dave Gibbons article from October 2015 and it’s run from issue 882 to 889 (11th September to 30th October 1976). And to give you a taster of Dave’s work on this, I have attached the picture from the first episode.

Sputnik Gibbons 882 Hotspur

But I was completely unaware that this was yet another example of D C Thomson’s canny re-use of scripts. The script had been previously used in the Hotspur in 1962 when it ran from issues 155 to 162 (6th October to 24th November 1962). Now this alone was quite exciting for me, but I had to do a double take when I recognised the artist.

Actually, the reverse is more true as I recognised the artist instantly and it was the title of the story that had me do a double take as I could not believe what I had just read. I’ll keep you in suspense for a few words more as I am sure you will also recognise the artist when I put up his original interpretation next.

Sputnik Kennedy 155 Hotspur

As you can see, the similarities in story telling are quite striking and it would not surprise me if I later discovered that the original print run had been copied and sent to Dave Gibbons for reference material. In case you haven’t guessed who our mystery artist is, it’s the ever brilliant Ian Kennedy. As Sputnik was only launched in 1957, it would not surprise me if this was the only two uses made of this story. However, it would not surprise me if there were other uses made of this script elsewhere as a text story. I could give you a synopsis of the story, but I will leave that to the original author, who is currently unknown, to do so in this image from the final episode from issue 162.

Sputnik Kennedy 162 Hotspur Full page

As you may have already worked out, the story ran for only seven issues in the first incarnation, but needed an extra part as it ran for eight issues in the second incarnation. This is due to the simple fact that there are less panels per page in modern comics than there were in older comics. The last page of each episode is a case in point. As you can see in the previous image, Ian’s example has eight panels, the title and the synopsis of the story whereas Dave’s example only has seven panels and does not even have the title or the synopsis.

Sputnik Gibbons 889 Hotspur

This is not to denigrate Dave Gibbons’ work, but it does help to illustrate the fact that British comics were constantly evolving and rarely these static entities that everyone assumes that they were. I will leave you with one final example of each version from the penultimate episode in each run.

Sputnik Kennedy 161 Hotspur

Sputnik Gibbons 888 Hotspur

All imagery (c) D C Thomson

4 thoughts on “The Spy In The Sputnik

  1. It was an even cannier reuse of scripts than you thought, Col. However, perhaps because of your focus on the launch of the Sputnik in 1957, you overlooked Secret Weapon W1, the earlier text version of the serial, which appeared in The Wizard 1578 (May 12 1956) – 1594 (Sep. 1 1956). It is entry 658 in your copy of This Was The Wizard.

    Liked by 1 person

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