November 22, 2015

JAZ WISEMAN INTERVIEW

Interview: Jaz Wiseman. If you are a fan of The Avengers, Danger Man, The BaronThe Persuaders!, and many other classic spy series from the 1960s and 1970s, chances are you have enjoyed the work of Jaz Wiseman. He's been the man behind the curtain, as it were, and his efforts to preserve and document these British programs has left a wondrous trail of DVD and Blu-ray box sets, cast/crew interviews and commentary, soundtrack recordings, and numerous publications. Jazz has three books available now on Lulu, which are also currently on sale! Buyers can get 25% off through November 23rd with the sale code: SHOP25 (case sensitive). It's a great time to pick up his two excellent volumes of The Morning After (containing interviews, news and commentary about The Persuaders! and other shows) and his new book covering the history of The Persuaders! trading card collection. Jazz joined us in the Spy Vibe lair this week to tell us more about the new books and his various projects. Welcome, Jaz Wiseman!


Tell us more about the original Persuaders! card set. When was it produced? Was it available outside of the UK?

The Persuaders! gum cards were produced by the Dutch company Monty Factories in 1971. The set was made up of 97 colour cards and they were available in the UK, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. The set was also licensed in Israel but I’m unsure if these were printed at the factory in The Netherlands or in Israel itself.




Do the cards contain images of any scenes that were cut from transmission? What are some of your favorite cards?

The cards don’t contain any cut scenes but there a number from rehearsal scenes that I have identified in the accompanying captions. There are also some nice publicity photos taken on set that were for the German TV magazine Bravo. I think these will be interesting to fans as they are unusual.

What are some of the bonus images included in the book such as card wrappers, backing images, etc?

The book includes images of the front and back covers of the collectors album plus the two pages of the stars that are inside the album. The wrapper front and back and the distributor box that contained 200 gum packs are also included. In 1976, Monty produced a set of 100 cards called The Cops that included 15 cards from The Persuaders!. Also included are the four silver foil cards that were issued as part of a larger 55 card set that featured popular TV series, popstars and film stars. Individual cards were given away packets of biscuits in Belgium during a promotional campaign in 1971/72.

What are the dimensions of the book? Is it hardcover or softcover?

The book is softback, 216mm x 216mm and printed in colour throughout.


When did you first discover the great spy shows? What were some of your early impressions?

My earliest memory of these kind of shows is loving Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons as a young child in the early 70s. I had the Dinky toys, annuals, etc and because I had older brothers and sisters I ended up watching lots of TV shows with them. I remember seeing the 50 minute episodes of Danger Man repeated in 1981 and really got into these as I was a James Bond, spy film fan, as most kids my age were back then. Then in the early and mid 80s, ITV and Channel 4 started showing repeats of everything from The Avengers, Danger Man (25 mins), The Champions, The Baron, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Captain Scarlet and more so my VHS machine was in overdrive taping all these. Some of these shows were new to me but others I had very vague memories of – I just loved them as they were like one-hour short films.


Did you collect spy tv memorabilia as a kid?

Not necessarily collect but I had a lot of spy film and TV toys, such as James Bond Corgi cars (DB5 and Lotus Esprit), various annuals and paperbacks (mostly Gerry Anderson and Countdown/TV Action). I had a board game called Spy Ring that I really liked when I was about 8!

Have you been able to collect unique items like props, scripts, or original production materials?

Since I began collecting in the early 80s I have been very fortunate to collect a lot of ITC items. I’ve got a lot of the promotional brochures and series information books. I have about 100 original scripts from various ITC series including The Persuaders!, The Saint, The Baron, Department S, Man In A Suitcase, The Champions, Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased), The Adventurer, Danger Man, Gideon’s Way and Strange Report. I’ve also got a lot of production paperwork, memos, etc.

That sounds like an exciting collection! How did you transition from fan to scholar and preservationist?

I did my first fanzine in the late 1988 when I was 20 and had built up a small collection of ITC memorabilia and just wanted to find out more about them. I’d been a member of Fanderson since 1985/86, Six of One probably around the same time and RAHDAS from its creation. You have to remember that in those days there was very little coverage for these shows and it felt that very few people were interested in them so I just started writing about them because it seems no one else was. Once I’d got The Morning After (TMA) going properly in 1991, ITC very quickly gave me their blessing and invited me to their Perivale office and from then on I started working with them and in particular, Jon Keeble, very closely and he got me involved in all sorts of things so it led on from there.


You’ve done extensive work on The Morning After (and its compiled volumes), and the complete Avengers set. How have you approached your research? Have you been able to track down old office files, conduct interviews, etc? Tell us about some of your adventures chasing after artifacts and information.

With TMA it was quite easy once Jon Keeble got involved – he gave me an open invite to visit the offices as often as I wanted to and allowed me access to lots of materials. Things like scripts, production paperwork that I have acquired mostly have come from cast and crew members I got to know since the magazine started, but I have found such items at film fairs since the mid 1980s. Sometimes things have turned up by chatting to people at events like this. On one occasion a dealer had some artwork from TV21 comic (Gerry Anderson shows) and I asked if he had any of The Persuaders! artwork from Countdown/TV Action and he said he did at home but not with him. It turned out he had the original cover artwork for issue 124, featuring The Persuaders! in a story titled Who Is Sylvia? – it’s a lovely piece of artwork to own.


In terms of The Avengers DVDs it was a case of already knowing a lot of people involved with the series and asking them what they might have kept. One person I didn’t know was the original producer Leonard White who initially was reluctant to get involved as he feared it would be another release focusing on Brian Clemens side of the story. I reassured him that I wanted to start from the beginning of the story and it was his chance to give his version of events. I got to know Leonard well and I was amazed when he handed me his scrapbooks containing telesnaps from a number of the missing Ian Hendry episodes. He’d had them for all those years and no previous author, dvd company, etc had bothered to ask him about the series he basically created (he came up with the title, series premise, found Patrick Macnee and much more) – I think that both ignorant and scandalous so hence why I have tried to address this.




The new Blu-ray editions are wonderful, by the way! The black and white Diana Rigg episodes look especially stunning in hi-definition. Your projects have included collaborating with many past cast and crew members for special features and content. What have been some of the most memorable interactions and discoveries?

In terms of tracking down people to interview once I spoken to Bob Baker and Johnny Goodman back in the early days of TMA it became easier as they introduced to many people and gave me contact details for so many members of the crew from a lot of ITC productions. On one occasion I was with Johnny Goodman in his office and we were talking about old members of the crew and he said he recently spoke to Harry Pottle, art director on the black and white Diana Rigg episodes of The Avengers and The Persuaders!. He looked up his phone number and the area code was the same as mine – it turned out that Harry lived about 10 miles down the road from me and I visited him a couple of times and he very kindly gave me Roger Moore’s original script from Chain of Events that Roger had signed and given to him during the shows production.
I have been lucky to interview, work and become friends with a lot of ITC and Avengers cast and crew over the last 30 odd years. It’s sad that so many of them are no longer with us.


The Persuaders didn’t seem to gather the following in the States that The Avengers had. Apparently it was pulled from the air mid-season. For those who don’t know the series well, what are some of the elements and qualities of The Persuaders that you find most enjoyable and interesting? 

The pairing of Tony Curtis and Roger Moore is superb, both actors were brilliant at ad-libbing and the spark between them is fantastic. The series was shot on location including the South of France, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, London and the English countryside and this gave it a very continental feel. The guest stars and leading ladies were of high quality and all got into the spirit of the show. The cars driven by the stars, an Aston Martin DBS and Ferrari Dino, added a lot and the race sequence between them in the opening episode is something out of a Hollywood movie. The series scripts were fun and part of the attraction is that it didn’t take itself too seriously.


You have published two beautifully collected volumes of The Morning After. Tell us about the history of the magazine and your new publications.

The Morning After was established in February/March 1991 and was immediately recognized as the official The Persuaders!/ITC Appreciation Society by the then copyright owners, the ITC Entertainment Group Ltd.

The society mainly concentrated on The Persuaders! in the club magazine, The Morning After, but some issues were 'specials' dedicated to other ITC action-adventure series made in the 1960s and 70s such as The Champions, Man In A Suitcase, Department S and The Baron. A sister publication, Nuisance Value, was also published. In total there were 27 issues of TMA and three issues of Nuisance Value.


As well as receiving the magazines, subscribers could also attend TMA events, such as The Persuaders! - an exhibition of memorabilia (1997), The Persuaders! 30th Anniversary Party (2001) and the ten Location Day tours (1994 – 2004).

The TMA reprint books (Volume 1 and 2) reproduce issues 1 – 18 of TMA and 1 and 2 of Nuisance Value in their entirety. Also included in volume 2 is the unpublished TMA 28 that sadly never made it to print. These back issues have long been out of print and were printed in very small quantities. Original copies rarely turn up and now sell on auction sites for anything between £15 – £20 per issue so I took the decision to reprint them all in the books and let fans have access to them for a relatively cheap cover price. They have both sold well and have been given fantastic reviews by a number of people. They were also a lovely personal trip down memory lane for me and I really enjoyed putting them together. I’m hoping they will continue to sell and that fans will appreciate them as time capsules on ITC shows prior to the explosion of the internet.


What are a few interesting things you discovered by working on the project? What were some of the highlight features you were able to include?

In terms of research for TMA, it was good to reveal to fans the origin of the character name for Danny Wilde (Chuck Kirk), unearth the unmade storylines, find lots of the locations, but mostly interview people who worked on the ITC shows. I always wanted to include one interview per issue and I think I generally managed that.

Are The Morning After volumes available in different formats (softcover, hardcover, kindle, etc)? Where can fans find your publications?

The TMA reprints volume 1 features issues 1–10, volume 2 contains 11–18 and NV 1 and 2, both of these are softback. These are available direct from Lulu and have recently been discounted by 20% (www.lulu.com). Issues 19 through to 27 and NV 3 are available as the original magazines and direct from me. There are no electronic versions available.

I really enjoy the covers. Tell us how the designs came about?

It was always a case of finding the strongest possible image and letting it talk for itself. I didn’t want to cover these beautiful images with lots of text so it was always a case of just using the TMA logo relatively small and that was it. I don’t like busy covers with lots of text, that’s not my style – I prefer something clean and let people discover the contents by actually looking inside.

You’ve worked hard to preserve and archive the history of The Avengers, The Persuaders!, and other series. Tell us a bit about your many other professional projects making books and DVD collections.

Blimey, there has been so much! I’ve designed and published magazines, written books, produced DVD featurettes, moderated well over 100 DVD audio commentaries, designed official calendars, designed and co-ordinated soundtracks, organized numerous events and been involved as a consultant on many other projects.


You have dedicated your time and talent to supporting many efforts to preserve our favorite series in the culture. Can you tell us a bit about your contributions to publications and websites by fellow scholars?

I used to design and contribute to the magazine Action TV. That was a fantastic magazine and such a shame it ceased publication. I’ve been involved with various books including Robert Fairclough’s on The Prisoner, Robert Sellers’ book on ITC, Richard Webber’s That Was The Decade That Was. I co-authored the De Agostini Danger Man partwork, helped out with authors like Marcus Hearn and Chris Bentley with their books on The Avengers and UFO and Captain Scarlet.
There are a lot of websites, always connected to ITC shows and The Avengers, some of which have disappeared.

From a design perspective, what are some of your favorite vintage book and poster designs?

Poster designs have to be anything by Saul Bass – what a genius he was! Everything he did from logo design, to film titles to posters are fantastic. It would be really difficult to select a favourite. As for books, John D Green’s Birds of Britain (1967) is a visual feast of delectable ladies, lots of which have links to ITC series.

I’m curious about the design process when creating DVD packaging for foreign markets. What have you noticed about the use of design motifs, images, and layout when targeting audiences in different countries?

I haven’t actually designed anything for foreign markets. I enjoy looking at the way other countries designed their ITC memorabilia and I love it when designers in different countries create designs unique for their own markets – eg the John Barry theme single or the paperback novels.


I regret not making it to The Avengers 50th celebration. Were you there? Any fun stories, impressions, or full-circle moments?

I co-organised the event – I was pretty much responsible for getting the majority of guests, I designed the programme and timeline, conducted a lot of the interviews and sourced most of the archive materials. It was fantastic to reunite Leonard White with his two leading ladies, Honor Blackman and Julie Stevens, and with the Head of ABC Brian Tesler. The fire alarm went off towards the end of the reunion and as we outside waiting to go back in, Linda Thorson and Paul O’Grady arrived by helicopter in full view of everyone.

We launched Howard Blake Tara King soundtrack CD at the event. I designed the booklet for that and came up with the concept of the release so it was great to give Howard such a brilliant opportunity to meet so many fans. It was a real one-off, very exhausting but huge fun and fantastic to get so many people who worked on the series back together for one last time.


Have there been similar events planned to celebrate The Persuaders!?

That would be in 2021 and without meaning to sound morbid, there aren’t really that many people alive who worked on the show. There is only really Roger Moore and Malcolm Christopher and we are six years away from that anniversary and none of us are getting any younger. It’s the same for most ITC series, especially when I think back to events that I’ve organized in the past, for example The Persuaders! 30th Anniversary Party – of the nine invited guests only three are still with us and that’s a very sad thought.

It's really sad. My own book project is starting so late and I'm sad to have missed so many people. What are you working now? Are there upcoming releases that you can talk about?

I am continuing to write my book on The Persuaders! that I hope will eventually get published – Roger Moore has written the foreword and I’ve interviewed so many people over the last 25 years that it’s going to be mammoth. I’ve got unused storylines, original production paperwork, production artwork, unpublished photos, etc that I want to include. Three publishers have shown interest and approached the copyright holders but all of them have failed to reach an agreement. I live in hope that one day this can be sorted and it will see the light of day.

I hope so! Let’s finish up by playing a Spy Vibe version of Desert Island Discs. Which 5 spy episodes would you bring to an island and why?

Now that is very difficult so I’m going to cheat and say five DVD or blu-ray sets. These would be: The Persuaders! (Network blu-ray), Danger Man 50 minute episodes (Umbrella DVD), Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased) (Umbrella DVD), Gideon’s Way (Network DVD) and The Saint black and white episodes (Network DVD).

What if you could take one book and one luxury item with you?

A TV with a build-in blu-ray/DVD player to play my box sets and as for a book, how about a folder containing all the original ITC brochures for each series!

Sounds great! Thank you, Jaz!


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1 comment:

  1. new 30% off sale through Nov 30 with codeword: GWT30

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