Friday, 18 November 2011

TV Action - The Protectors (Part One)

Joe 90 Masthead
By the end of 1972 it was becoming apparent that the publication which had started asCountdown - the space age comic was moving further and further away from this claim. Unlike the 1960s where one Gerry Anderson series had followed another on an almost annual basis, UFO was to be the last space adventure orientated production for a few years. With thriller and action series becoming increasingly vogue on television, Anderson's next production - which he admits being thrust upon him by Lew Grade - would have to follow suit, and The Protectors was born. In order to stay afloat and with repeats of Anderson's earlier series like Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the recent UFO becoming increasingly sparce, Countdown had shifted from Countdown For TV Action [Issue 46] to TV Action [Issue 59] While UFO continued to have a high profile throughout, the other Anderson series slowly dwindled away to be replaced by more popular television strips such as The Persuaders [which started the trend in issue 35] Hawaii Five-O and Mission Impossible. After One Hundred issues the Countdown part of the title was dropped altogether to become just TV Action....

The new comic bore little resemblance to its predecessor, being more akin to Polystyle's publication TV Comic. Spiralling economic costs and power strikes at the time affected the industry and this consequently meant cost-cutting. By this time, the comic was already printed in litho offset, rather than the more lavish photogravure of TV21 or the original Countdown, and on cheaper paper.....

The only familiar thing was the rotation of strips, a feature of the comic since its inception, which meant that they alternated between stories, weekly serials being rested for an issue or two. The complete stories, or 'big stories' as they were sometimes known were usually heralded by a colour cover and after a colour photo centrespread introduction in issue 100 this was how The Protectos started.....

The Protectors exist to protect those in peril, its members are the super agents of the world's best detective agencies who now work for a private organisation which is unrestricted by red tape. Money is no object for The Protectors whose methods are as unconventional as they are hazardous!

The Protectors Strip Guide
Boxfull of Trouble:
Issue 101: 20th January 1973
Joe 90 Masthead
Two men arrive at the Grandchester Hotel in London to collect a large box from Mr Collodi but when there is no reply from his room the Manger allows them in. The departure is watched and the crate is delivered to Harry Rule's office. Inside, Harry finds Bartolommeo Collodi himself, a fugitive from the Camorra or the 'Black Island' an Italian criminal society. Collodi's Brother Carlo was the Chief of the Cammora and wrote a full confession before he died that could lead to their downfall. If he can reach Italy alive he will hand them over to the Police. However, the meeting is being watched and an anit tank shell tears the office apart. Paul Buchet arrives from Paris to be told by Suki that both Harry Rule and Collodi died.

Arrangements are made for Collodi's body to be taken to Italy by Caroline and Chino, Paul takes Harry's body back to America. Caroline's hearse is ambushed by Camorra henchman Gianni, only to find Harry Rule very much alive in the coffin. Gianni and his men are overpowered and left with Chino while Harry and Caroline contact Paul who is now on The Queen Elizabeth 2nd with Colodi, also alive and smuggled in the other coffin. Camorra men posing as Police overpower Paul and steal the coffin but Collodi is no longer inside. At Novamonte in Italy all are reunited at Carlo's grave where the confession is hidden. Colodi, however, wants to take control of the society with the information and is fooled by a fake package handed over by Harry and taken to the Police.
Dutch Reprint - issue 27
: While the strip is called 'Boxfull of Trouble' the cover title is give an, A Boxfull of Trouble'
: This is the only Protectors strip to feature all three, as well as Suki and Chino.
: Camorra is actually Italian for 'racket' and the term for members 'Camorrista' means 'Racketeer'
: The colour cover would appear to be by Gerry Haylock, following the painted style of his earlier covers for Doctor Who.

Boy Wonder:
Part 1: Issue 104: 10th February 1973
Dutch Reprint - issue 27
Harry Rule has been hired to protect young pop singer Wee Davey but when he calls on Caroline for assistance a woman enters the building at the same time and gases her. She then gets into the room where Harry and Davey are and gases them too. Abducting the singer, the woman pulls away a mask to reveal......a ,man!

Part 2: Issue 105: 17th February 1973
Joe 90 Masthead
Whilst his accomplice, Craig, takes Davey, the man now dressed in a suit - wakes Harry and Caroline, asking where the singer is? Caroline recognises him as Brook, Davey's Publicity Manager and tells him to invent a cover story while they attempt to find him. But unknown to them this is supposedly a publicity stunt that Brook and Davey have planned. However, Craig is a real conman and has duped Brook, who has gambling debts and now wants One Hundred Thousand Pounds for Davey's return. With a personal appearance planned for that afternoon Brook has to try his skills as a make-up artist to get Caroline to pass as Davey.....

Part 3: Issue 106: 24th February 1973
Brook's skills show themselves and Harry decides that the ruse is good enough to throw Craig off his stride. Arranging a television interview and with Davey realising the trick and playing along. Craig is fooled into thinking he has kidnapped a look-alike stand-in instead. Harry Tells the worried conman that if he lets Davey go free, he will not tell the Police. Craig, however, wants revenge and will shoot anyone who approaches to collect him.

Part 4: Issue 107: 03 March 1973
Harry and Caroline, still in her 'Davey' get-up arrive at the Deserted Farmhouse where Craig is holding the real singer. Davey manages to slip his gag free and warn Harry just in time. Caroline shows herself and approaches, only to be abducted by Craig who still believes her to be the real Davey. Playing along, Caroline is taken back to the Palace Hotel by Craig, only to be greeted by a crowd of Davey Fans......

TV Action 108

Part 5: Issue 108: 10th March 1973
Craig takes Caroline back to the penthouse and jams the lift. Inside, Brook is surprised by their return but realises what has happened and maintains Caroline's deception. Craig tells Brook to get the ransom and sends him down the stairs where he meets Harry and the real Davey. Brook begins to explain what has happened, leaving Harry with only one alternative - to attempt to get to the penthouse by use of a crane. Bribing the driver, Harry is winched up to smash through a sky-light and disarm Craig. The case solved, Davey asks Caroline if she would consider a permanent position as stand-in, in order for him to get some privacy.

Busman's Holiday:
Issue 109: 17th March 1973

TV Action 108
Relaxing in a new restaurant, Harry is slipped a drug in his drink which fakes a heart attack. Recovering in a clinic, Harry is propositioned for a job which entails him to work alone. On the pretence of taking a break, Harry boards a seemingly ordinary passenger jet but which is in reality the flying home of eccentric Millionaire Hammond Larson. Hammond bought his Grand - Daughter, Greta, a film company to make her a big name actress but she has joined revolutionaries in the North African state of Syrenen. Unfortunately, royalists have captured her and intend to execute her. Given a local guide called, 'Yussef' Harry fights of rebels and rides by camel to reach the capital city Brahema where the ruler, Abrahem Ben Sadin has Greta prisoner. Posing as a press agency rep and claiming that he needs photographic evidence of Greta's capture, Harry manages to slip the girl a message. The following morning Harry is asked to act as a propagandist for the execution and is able to rescue Greta with an explosive concealed in his camera. Greta is a reluctant rescuee but is grateful to be reunited with her Grand-Father. Harry's explosion acts as a catalyst, causing an uprising which Yussef joins. Back home, Caroline is impressed with Harry's tan!

A Piece of the Moon:
Part 1: Issue 113: 14th April 1973
TV Action 108
In a Swiss Bank vault Harry has been shown a piece of moonrock that, being harder than diamond could revolutionise science. However, the next day someone knocks out Paul Buchet and subsequently poses as him in order to arrange the theft of the rock by a 'Mr Scorpio.' Recovering, Paul chases the imposter but loses him. Suspicious that there may have been inside help Harry is outwitted by Scorpio as the rock is taken in a different deposit box. Bank Clerk Larcoise is tricked into believing he is under suspicion and when he contacts his boss, an order is given for him to be eliminated. Watching Larcoise, Paul is shocked when the Clerk is shot as he leaves the bank!.....

Part 2: Issue 114: 21st April 1973
Larcoise is still alive and manages to tell Harry and Paul about Scorpio and his home on Atrones before dying. The assassin nearly shoots Harry before Paul is able to capture him. The three Protectors travel to the island of Atrones, off the South West Coast of Greece, where Harry and Paul evade boat patrols by using scuba gear to get ashore. Scorpio has cameras everywhere and before too long Harry is captured.....
Dutch Reprint - issue 27
Part 3: Issue 115: 28th April 1973
Harry tries to bluff his way by claiming he is a reporter trying to get a story but Scorpio already knows who he is and has him locked up. Meanwhile, Paul has reached the Villa and broken in but he too is captured just as Harry tricks his guard and escapes. Rescuing Paul, the two men confront Scorpio......

Part 4: Issue 116: 05th May 1973
Harry takes the moonrock but Scorpio has pressed an hidden alarm. Harry and Paul jump out of the window into the harbour and steal a boat. Scorpio in his launch soon gains on them but with their fuel nearly out Harry takes a gamble and aims the boat back at their pursuers. As Harry and Paul jump clear the boats collide and explode. The pair are picked up by Caroline and the three find Scorpio in the water, ready to be brought to justice......

The Dodo is Dead:
Part 1: Issue 117: 12th May 1973

TV Action 117
In the Scottish Highlands, Harry and Caroline have been assigned to guard the nest of a rare lesser Auk Bird, thought to have been extinct for over a century. The bird or its eggs would be worth thousands to a fanatical collector, like Sir Henry who has the finest collection of stuffed birds in the world. Sir Henry and his aide, Simms, are watching Harry and Caroline who have camped close to the tree where the Auk is nested and that night they set fire to the bracken to try and get rid of the two Protectors. Harry drives himself and Caroline through the ring of fire in their Range Rover, both jumping free as the tank explodes. Sir Henry and Simms escape but Harry and Caroline are now stranded without radio or transport. Simms hires a local gang to try to scare them off which results in Harry being knocked out and Caroline forced to flee. As Sir Henry climbs the tree to get to the Auk nest Caroline finds a herd of Stag Deer and stampedes them back at the gang. Returning, Caroline overpowers Simms who has Harry prisoner but Sir Henry threatens to destroy the bird and eggs if he can not have them. The returning Father Auk protects its mate and young and a startled Sir Henry falls out of the tree to be caught by Harry and Caroline.....

The Combat Man:
Part 1: Issue 120: 02 June 1973
TV Action 117
The Protectors have been hired to protect a valuable exhibition of art at the Liencester Gallery. Having privately set up a Security operation Harry and Caroline travel to Wandsworth Prison where ex-Sergeant Peter Crump is being released after a sentence for taking bribes, on the possibility of offering him a job. Whilst pleased to see Harry and Caroline, Crump already has other arrangements and a lift to the estate of Millionaire Raymond Dunkley. Dunkley shows him his group of chosen men in training but they prove no match for the Judo expert Crump, who says they will have to do far better if they are goling to kill The Protectors!........

Part 2: Issue 121: 09th June 1973
Crump organises a dummy training run to crash one of The Protectors' cars in order to put one of them out of action. After finalising security arrangements at the gallery Paul leaves Harry and Caroline to be jumped by a couple of Crump's men and knocked unconscious. However, one of them thinks they should kill him now and finish the job......

Part 3: Issue 122: 16th June 1973
TV Action 108
Crump arrives and stops them, saying it has to look like an accident or the incident will attract unwanted attention. Taking Paul back to his hotel they leave him in his room and then set it on fire. Recovering, Paul's only hope is out of the window but it is a hundred foot drop! On the balcony Paul sees a Fire Engine approaching but the flames are getting closer. Paul leaps for a flag hanging from the side of the building but it starts to tear under his weight......

Part 4: Issue 123: 23rd June 1973
As the flag finally gives, Paul is saved by a Fireman on a ladder. On the ground, he relates what happened to Harry and Caroline. Paul is unable to identify the attackers but recognises the chop to the neck used on him - the same method taught to them by Peter Crump! Harry thinks that there is a connection between this and Crump's lift from prison, so Caroline sets off in her Chauffeur driven Rolls. Caroline's ever alert oriental driver, Chino, notes that they are being followed but before he can do anything the car is rammed and overturned.......

Part 4: Issue 124: 30th June 1973
Dutch Reprint - issue 27
Caroline and Chino are taken to St. Bart's Hospital and Harry is now certain someone is out to get them. Checking newspaper files on known art collectors Harry recognises a photo of Dunkley as the man who gave Crump a lift from prison. Breaking into Dunkley's home, Harry fights off his men leaving a showdown between himself and Peter Crump. Teacher and ex-student fight but Harry ultimately wins and Dunkley is arrested. At a health resort sometime later the battered and wounded Protectors finalise their security arrangements and ponder that the pupils had eventually got the better of their master!......