|Characters copyright relevant and respective owners|
As I was coming back from the main shopping centre in my town this evening, I took the route that was near to the house in which I'd lived when TV CENTURY 21 first came out in 1965 (but dated 2065 remember). I've often walked along that way in the last few years, and had noticed an elderly man who used to sit in the open doorway of his bungalow, listening to his radio and watching the world go by. We nodded to one another on two or three occasions as I passed, but never spoke a word other than a brief "A' right" in the few scant seconds our gaze connected on my circuitous way home. I'd even started to keep an eye out for him whenever I was in the area, so that I could swap 'nods' with him in case my acknowledgement of his presence was the only interaction he had with another person in his long and lonely day. It would've bothered me if, while lost in thought, I'd forgotten to glance at his doorway and thereby inadvertently ignored him on my way past. What if he looked at me in anticipation, expecting a nod that never came?
Tonight his door was closed, and several items of household furniture and appliances lay scattered on his small lawn and footpath. A fireplace, washing machine, tumble dryer (or small fridge), several odds'n'ends - and his wheelchair. That tends to suggest he's passed away, rather than gone into an old folks home, and although I didn't know the man or anything about him, I felt kind of sad that another light had apparently gone out in the world. I couldn't help but wonder what his interests or hobbies had been, what he'd done with his life, and whether he'd owned anything that he'd wish to be preserved or passed on, rather than thrown in a skip or given to a charity shop.
For all I know, he could have been an ardent comics collector with a full set of the original EAGLE, and maybe even, as a young adult, collected TV21 because it had been cast in Eagle's mould. Now perhaps his collection lay in bin bags, or had been given to grandchildren or nieces and nephews, who would read these prized gems with no regard for their condition and then casually, callously, discard them afterwards. Whenever I'm in the area in the future, I'll probably find myself automatically preparing to nod to him as I walk by his bungalow, before remembering that he's no longer there. Which means, I suppose, that in some kind of ironic way, he'll always be sitting in that doorway - at least in my mind. It also made me think of what lay ahead of me in my own future, and whether I'll likewise be an old man on my lonesome, worrying about what's going to happen to my collection of comics and toys when I die. A sobering thought indeed.
(Update: I've since learned that the gentleman's name was MATT, and that he'd once been a banker. A neighbour told me he was cheated out of his life savings by his girlfriend, but I don't know at what stage in his life that happened. He has indeed passed on, so let's hope he's now at peace in a better place.)
And so, because I was thinking of TV21, and having just recently acquired the last two Annuals I needed (1969 & '70) to complete the set of eight, I thought I'd display them here. As you can see, the last three come from a time when the comic was completely different to what it had started out as. Despite what it says on the cover of the 1971 book, JOE 90 doesn't appear inside - nor does any other strip based on a GERRY ANDERSON puppet programme. The comic had taken the nation by storm, but was barely a feeble puff by the time it finally breathed its last in the early '70s. And thus do the mighty fall into ruin - as, also, must we who look at the stars while lying in the gutter, hoping for an immortality that may not exist and therefore may never inherit.
Enjoy the covers.
Y'know, it's hard to believe that there were a mere eight Annuals in total over a period of seven years - and that only the first five of them were in the style of the TV21 weekly as it had been when first released. Back then, the comic seemed to have been around forever, yet five slim volumes on a bookshelf are all there is to represent its yearly output, in what seemed like an eternity at the time. Funny that. The remaining three Annuals spring from an entirely different style of comic altogether, the same in name only.