Fireball XL5 by Mike Noble
Fireball XL5 (TV Century 21 #93)

Mike Noble was a British comics artist, who mostly worked on comic features based on popular TV series for TV Comic, TV Century 21 and Look-In. He is best remembered for his comic stories based on Gerry Anderson's 'Fireball XL5'. His work stood out for its use of bright airbrush colors.


Robin Annual #2 (1955)

Early life and career
Born in 1930 in South Woodford (North East London), Mike Noble attended the South West Technical College and School of Art in Walthamstow in 1946. He specialized in commercial art. During the late 1940s, he worked in an advertising studio in Holborn. By 1949, he served National Service by making graphics of armoured vehicles, in the drawing office of the 8th Royal Tank Regiment. Back in civilian life, he worked in a Chelsea studio and later in Billy Cooper's Studio in Oxford Street, London, where he made spot illustrations for magazines like Woman's Own, John Bull, Titbits, Wide World, Woman, Odhams and the Birmingham Weekly Post. His main influence during this period was magazine illustrator Leslie Caswell. Noble produced his first comic book work in 1953, when he created the one-page text strip 'The Twins Simon and Sally' (1953-1958) for the weekly children's magazine Robin by Hulton Press.


The Range Rider (TV Comic, 1 December 1962)

TV Comic
He left Cooper's Studio and turned freelance in 1958. He produced a comic strip based on the American western TV series 'The Lone Ranger and Tonto' (1958-1960) for Express Weekly. He also drew this character for TV Comic by Polystyle Publications (1960-1961). For this same weekly, Noble drew the feature based on another western TV series 'The Range Rider' (1961-1964), and he succeeded Chick Henderson on the locally produced front cover feature with E.C. Segar's 'Popeye' (1964-1965). Noble furthermore drew original gags with Mort Walker's 'Beetle Bailey' (1964-1965), presumably to tie in with the short-lived animated cartoons series. He was succeeded on this latter feature by Roland Davies.


Beetle Bailey strip presumably by Noble, from TV Comic (12 September 1964)

TV Century 21
By 1965 Noble left TV Comic and became a staff artist with TV Century 21 and its later incarnations (TV 21, TV21 & TV Tornado, TV21 & Joe 90). The magazine was published on a weekly base by City Magazines between 1965 and 1971, and was mostly dedicated to publishing comics versions of the science fiction marionettes TV series produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Century 21 Productions. Mike Noble started out drawing the color feature about the missions of the spaceship 'Fireball XL5', commanded by the heroic Colonel Steve Zodiac of the World Space Patrol. He later drew 'Zero X' (1967-1969) and 'Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons' (1967-1968), which were mostly written by Scott Goodall. Noble furthermore illustrated an early 'Star Trek' strip for the TV21 and Joe 90 comic in 1970. Frank Bellamy and Ron Embleton were other prominent artists in this magazine.

Captain Scarlet by Mike Noble
Captain Scarlet (TV21 #159)

Look-In
The final issue of the magazine was published in 1971, when TV21 merged with Valiant. Noble had by then already followed his editor Alan Fennell to Look-In, a new magazine which centred about the TV programs by ITV. Noble's art appeared in the first issue of January 1971, and remained a regular presence until 1986. Most comics in this magazine were written by Angus Allen, while Martin Asbury, John M. Burns and Arthur Ranson were other notable artists. Noble's first feature for Look-In was 'Timeslip' (1971), based on the British science fiction TV series of the same name. Noble's talent for drawing realistic horses was showcased in his subsequent comics features, which were based on the TV series 'Follyfoot' (1971-1974) and 'The Adventures of Black Beauty' (1974-1975).


Follyfoot

He was then assigned to draw mostly black-and-white features, starting with 'Kung Fu' (1975). He returned to science fiction with 'The Tomorrow People' (1975-1978), Gerry Anderson's 'Space:1999' (1976-1977) and 'The Man from Atlantis' (1978). His final 1970s work for Look-In was a comic based on the TV adaptation of Enid Blyton's book series 'The Famous Five' (1978-1980, with some fill-in episodes by Keith Watson in 1979). The 1980s saw Noble drawing the walking, talking scarecrow 'Worzel Gummidge' (1980-1982), as well as 'Into the Labyrinth' (1982), 'Star Fleet' (1983), 'When They Were Young' (1982-1984) and 'Robin of Sherwood' (1984-1986, initially colored by Arthur Ranson, then black-and-white).


Black Beauty (Look-In, 8 June 1974)

Later years
He retired from comics due to health reasons in the 1980s, but returned in the 1990s to draw covers and illustrations for Gerry Anderson's new publications with 'The Thunderbirds' and 'Captain Scarlet'. Through fellow Gerry Anderson comic artist Lee Sullivan, Mike Noble produced a couple of special commissions through the 2000s and 2010s, including a special poster with 'Captain Scarlet' for Network Distributing’s 50th anniversary blu-ray box set. The veteran artist spent his final years meeting fans at several comics conventions. On a local base, he illustrated a millennial celebration poster for his village, and he designed a lychgate and stained glass windows for his local church. Mike Noble passed away on 15 November 2018, at the age of 88.


Look-In, 27 March 1982

Mike Noble on the Bear Alley

Series and books by Mike Noble in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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