What does a Mysteron look like? The strange alien force waging a war of attrition against earth in Gerry Anderson’s tv series Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons was mainly a disembodied foe. The Martian menace would manifest as a gravely voiceover threatening doom and destruction, though this was accompanied by a circular light that passed across the screen. If this ominous halo moved over a person or vehicle recently killed or destroyed you could be sure they would be resurrected to carry out some deadly plot.
Except British comic readers knew differently. This omnipotent threat had a strange and alien physical form that traveled the stars and ravaged worlds apart from Earth. Last month, I mentioned Mark of the Mysterons, a comic strip that factored into a weird transformation for Disney-centric weekly Solo. That strip featured reporter John Marsh tracking down incidents of Mysteron interference, disrupting their plans where he could. Did he survive? I don’t know, but The Mysterons seem to have killed the staff of Solo which was cancelled with issue 31.
That final issue introduced a new strip to tickle our paranoia for the Mysteron menace. Dan Dare veteran artist Don Harley continued to illustrate the new feature which was called:
The first installment had a potted adaptation of the opening of the tv show we were awaiting with baited breath. An MEV crew accept the order of Spectrum agent Conrad Turner, otherwise known as Captain Black and attack the Mysteron city on the Martian surface.
Just to recap, we knew Zero-X and its Martian Exploration Vehicle from Gerry Anderson’s movie Thunderbirds Are Go. That had inspired a Zero-X strip for City Magazine’s flagship comic, TV21. The movie crew of that unlucky ship would carry on adventures exploring the stars and narrowly avoiding death wherever they went. Here we see their ship attack the Mysteron city which is recreated through the power of retrometabolism and then threatens revenge on Earth. In another fortnight, we would see these events play out in Supermarionation when Captain Scarlet reached our telly screens. But the comic posits other events besides a local war of the worlds.
Hitherto peaceful, The Mysterons decide the only way they can be safe is to dominate the entire universe. As one does. They reform part of their city as a flying saucer and head for Andromeda. Which might seem a bit futile if the comic telling this tale is coming to an end.
Ecept this is where one of the ancient conventions of British comics come into play. The same installment of The Mysterons appeared that week in a sister publication, TV Tornado.
And the following week Solo merged with TV Tornado, giving us an Anti-Mysteron badge to seal the deal. You could be forgiven for not noticing any difference, The Man from UNCLE had already been a recurring feature in TV Tornado but as text stories rather than a comic strip. Perhaps we should worry about that halo that appears over the top of Simon Templar? (I thought the Project S.W.O.R.D. strip crossed over, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. Adverts, yes, no stories unless it resurfaced in later issues?) In some ways, TV Tornado was the poor relation of TV Century 21. It was printed on the same paper but didn’t have the big pages, the bright colour or zing that its stablemate enjoyed. Early issues included Batman and Superman in the line up. That was a text story version of Batman, by the way. It mixed The Saint, Bonanza, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, with Magnus, Robot Fighter, The Phantom and The Lone Ranger. Covers generally had an illustration of a tv celebrity, not necessarily related to any of the comics inside. The mag was edited by MarvelMan creator Mick Anglo and by some miracle I think we enjoyed it. But I digress. The Mysterons ran in TV Tornado from issue 36 to 58, mostly drawn by Harley, occasionally supported by Tom Kerr.
Distinctively, in their initial adventure, The Mysterons take on physical form, strange crystalline lumps, not unlike the Mechanoids from Doctor Who. But not robots, levitating crystals that will enslave you rather than heal you.
Their plans of conquest never truly come to fruition, though by this point you wonder if Captain Black had a point. The Mysterons get crushed by increased gravity, destroyed by electro-guns,stopped by explorers from Earth, wiped out by dinosaur-riding cavalry in Atlantis, and by lizard men from Alpha Centauri. Continuity with the tv show seems to have been a minimal consideration. the comic Mysterons don’t seem to have the same sense of strategy, spite or patience as their telly counterparts. But there you have it, divested of the ghostly halo a Mysteron looks like a sugar lump from outer space. Just as well they never met the Astrans.