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Lee Sullivan on his Andercon Experience

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Lee Sullivan Mike Noble and Graham Bleathman at AnderconThe first Andercon is widely regarded as having been a wonderful convention; it was certainly quite a significant one for me. One rarely grasps the effect one’s work is having on others until well after the event. I never met Gerry Anderson, but I have a feeling that this was definitely the case for him, only belatedly starting to come to terms with the love his early work inspired in a young audience.

I too had an ambivalent feeling towards my run as comic-strip artist on Redan’s ‘Thunderbirds Magazine’, which ran for five years from 2000. For various reasons, I never felt that I’d given the title the kind of attention or quality of art that either it deserved or that I was capable of. I was fully aware, having grown up with the gorgeous work in TV21 comic, of what had been done by my predecessors, in particular Frank Bellamy on Thunderbirds; Ron Embleton and – my own particular favourite artist – Mike Noble, on the other Anderson strips in the title.

I was also aware that later artists had carried the torch in fine style, with Steve Kyte and Graham Bleathman continuing the TV21 traditions in strips and cutaway artworks for Fleetway’s ‘Thunderbirds The Comic’. Oh, certainly there were commercial, demographic and age-range reasons why my strips were drawn the way they were; the readership profile had changed; also the deaths of my parents happened mid-way through the run. It would never be possible for the title to recreate the first Golden Age of Anderson comics. However, I soldiered on and concentrated on making sure the art was technically accurate as far as machinery, likenesses and locations etc. were concerned. Eventually the title went to reprint, I moved on to other work, and for many years I put my time on Thunderbirds to the back of my mind. A sort of missed opportunity, which hopefully no-one had witnessed.

Lee & Mike Andercon 2014Recently, I’ve tried to redress the balance with covers for the Signum Century 21 and Eaglemoss TV21 reprints. But at the same time I started to get back into the swing of attending signing events and conventions, and an interesting process of rehabilitation has started. I’ve begun to meet some of the (then) young readers of Thunderbirds Magazine who – amazingly – have the same love for my work that I feel for my own childhood heroes: even down to copying the drawings – just what I had done myself back in the 1960s.

So for me, Andercon turned things full circle; my association with Thunderbirds has allowed me to get to know the great man’s charming son Jamie, and even to share a panel with new friends Steve Kyte, Graham Bleathman and Mike Noble. Through meeting all the lovely people who attended the con (and incidentally saw far more of it than I did!) I finally felt a legitimate part of the extended family of the worlds of Gerry Anderson. As we look forward to the 50th anniversary of Thunderbirds, I have no doubt that the next generation of arty Anderson devotees are already snapping at our heels and will be creating artworks based on the new series, as well as the new works that Jamie is already overseeing. This is going to run and run!

You can get hold of Lee Sullivan and Mike Noble’s beautiful illustration from the Gerry Anderson Shop

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