Welcome to the bonkers world of 60s photo-strip, Candy, Andy and the Bearandas

The comic strip devised by Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson has been given unnerving new life by author and historian Alan Dein, as the weirdest family photo album you’ve ever seen.

27 November 2023

Rummaging through a charity shop in the early 1980s, historian and documentarian Alan Dein stumbled upon a strange old comic. Costing him just 10p, the comic has since led him on “a remarkable journey” in the form of a decades-long passion project. Titled Candy, Andy and the Bearandas, the comic, as it turned out, was devised by Century 21, a production studio founded by Gerry Anderson, who with Sylvia Anderson created iconic 1960s TV shows Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet. Like those shows, Candy used puppets but this time life-size, and existing in a wholly more realistic universe – a picture-perfect English village, albeit one where two humanoid panda bears are raising two (unwittingly) creepy plastic children.

“I was immediately captivated by the bizarre imagery, and that it was a creation of Gerry Anderson’s Century 21 team,” Alan tells It’s Nice That. “I was a child of the 1960s, and had adored [Anderson’s] TV shows, and all the assorted comics, toys and gum cards.” In contrast to the Thunderbird’s Tracy family, Candy and Andy interacted with our world, but in an uncanny way, Alan explains. “They dressed in with-it 1960s fashion lines and inhabited a familiar landscape of every-day Britain, but they also looked like the spooky alien children from the film Village of the Damned, based on John Wyndham’s terrifying sci-fi book the Midwich Cuckoos.” And as for their parents… “Well, the Bearandas are just bonkers,” Alan says. “Giant bipedal panda bears who are clearly parent-like figures, but of course we have no idea of their backstory.”


© Courtesy Four Corners Books / Alan Dein / Anderson Entertainment


© Courtesy Four Corners Books / Alan Dein / Anderson Entertainment

The “ever-so-realistic but crazy” series of comics show the Bearandas and their dead-eyed children going about their daily lives, sitting round the breakfast table, going for a boat ride, enjoying Christmas morning, even teaming up with the local real-life human children to change a car tyre. Targeted at a young audience, the comic aimed to explore a surreal fantasy of domesticity and childhood, using photography – which Alan says was an experimental medium for comics at the time, but also gave the project its uncanny edge. So it never reached the popularity of Anderson’s previous work and was abandoned after only a year.

When Alan discovered the comic decades later, there was no internet to dig or “any obvious information out there about why it had fallen through the cracks of history,” he says. Then, in the 90s, he serendipitously came across hundreds of original transparencies from Candy at a comic mart in London, and set out to find the creators. After tracking down Gerry Anderson and the comic’s photographers Doug Luke and Roger Perry, it transpired that the original photographs for the comic were taken on large format transparencies and had survived in pristine condition. Though they had been originally printed on cheap paper stock, much like other comics of the time, the photographs themselves could be printed to superb quality – first for an exhibition at the Barbican in 1994, and now in a beautiful publication by Four Corners Books. The book, Alan explains, removes the images from their originally intended sequential story format, displaying them like an eerie family photo album.


© Courtesy Four Corners Books / Alan Dein / Anderson Entertainment

With this latest project, Alan hopes to introduce the weird Candy world to a new audience. “Candy is unique – a cosy fantasy for youngsters, but taken out of its context it’s something very different,” he says. “Unlike so much of that 1960s popular culture world, it was uncited, forgotten and lost.” But when it reappeared at the Barbican show, Alan remembers art critics comparing the imagery to artists like Jeff Koons and the Chapman Brothers. “I know that there are so many graphic artists, musicians and writers who were inspired by watching Gerry Anderson’s shows. I’m now intrigued to hear what today’s generation think of Candy…”

Alan Dein’s Candy, Andy and the Bearandas is published by Four Corners Books.

Gallery© Courtesy Four Corners Books / Alan Dein / Anderson Entertainment

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© Courtesy Four Corners Books / Alan Dein / Anderson Entertainment

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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