Freewheelers was the brainchild of producer Chris McMaster, an attempt to do a James Bond and ITC style adventure series for children. The Freewheelers of the title were a group of young teenagers who, by various adventures, had become unofficial assistance to the British Secret Services. Like most of Look-In's earliest fare, the series had already been running for a few years, having started in April of 1968, and the publication launched a scant fortnight before the debut of its fifth season.
The first three seasons had maintained a pretty regular cast in Colonel Buchan (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) aided by Bill Cowan (Tom Owen), with season one's Chris Kelly (Gregory Phillips) replaced by Nick Carter (Chris Chittel), and Terry Driver (Mary Maude) giving way to Fiona (Carole Mowlam) for season three. Nick was in turn replaced by Mike Hobbs (Adrian Wright) from season four, but he would be the only familiar face to readers of the 'Look-In' strip, starting in the very first issue dated 9 January 1971.
Buchan had been replaced by Major Tom Graham (Eric Flynn) of M.I.6, with newcomers Max (John Colcough) who - according to the strip - shared a boat on the Thames with Mike, and Sue (Wendy Padbury). Unrestrained by the budget restrictions the series had innovatively tried to overcome, the Freewheelers strip managed to go one better than McMaster's later European co-productions, which allowed location filming in France, Spain and Sweden, by travelling further afield to 'the tiny oil kingdom of Rabat' for the second strip, and Atlantic island Greenfell and Washington D.C. for the third adventure, unusually for 'Look-In', a text story.
Also unusual for 'Look-In' at the time, the strip was able to call on the series' continuity and feature Colonel Buchan in a cameo for the second strip, though this may actually have been a forewarning of the character's return in season six, which aired from the end of September 1971, with Max replaced by Steve (Leonard Gregory). With the strip having been 'rested' after issue 26, it returned in issue 50, dated 18 December 1971, just as the new season came to end, and continuing where it left off with the re-jigged character line-up. This second run only lasted thirteen weeks, ending with issue 11, dated week ending 11 March 1972.
The art for the strip was somewhat variable, with Brian Lewis and Mike Noble faring better than their foreign counterparts Alcazar and Badia during the first run, but Carlos Pino, a Spanish artist who had worked on 'TV21' drawing 'The Saint' and 'Department S' did a passable effort with good likenesses for the second. Authorship may have fallen to 'Look-In' editor Alan Fennell, who wrote the two Freewheelers novels 'The Sign of the Beaver' (based on season six) and 'The Spy Game' (based on season seven, and reviewed in issue 50 dated week ending 9 December), published in 1972.
Despite warranting covers and features on two further occasions, for issue 34, dated week ending 19 August 1972 (a few weeks before season seven), and issue 36, dated week ending 1 September 1973 (halfway through season eight), the strip was not to return - the line-up of 'Look-In' now comfortable with more current successes like 'Follyfoot', 'Catweazle', and The Tomorrow People.
(Article by Shaqui Le Vesconte)