A little late for spy week, too early for the Thunderbirds revival, but bidding has started on a bit of comic gold, namely the first issue of Lady Penelope. The regal spy with a pink Rolls-Royce also had her own weekly title which launched in January 1966.
UK comic readers were already used to getting a weekly dose of Penny's brand of "Elegance, Charm, and Deadly Danger". Her adventures had been a staple spread in TV Century 21 for the previous year, alongside Stingray, Supercar, Fireball XL5 and the Daleks. Written by Alan Fennell, the colour strip was usually drawn by Dan Dare alumni Eric Eden and worked its way round to Penelope and Parker making contact with a mysterious billionaire hidden away on a Pacific island. The strip was an extended introduction to the world of Thunderbirds which made its debut with electrifying artwork from Frank Bellamy.
As Thunderbirds took centre stage in TV Century 21, Lady P moved out to her own colour gravure comic with support from the Man from U.N.C.L.E. (which included an excellent stint by Ron Embleton), Bewitched, Beverley Hillbillies, and naturally, Parker. Stingray's mute heroine Marina also got her own strip detailing Titan's rise to power and the curse placed upon her father.
At various times Lady Penelope also carried strips about The Monkees, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., a UK version of Space Family Robinson (drawn by John Burns?), and a hospital drama called Creighton Ward. Later issues would introduce five female pilots being tested for a mysterious mission. Again, The Angels foreshadowed the arrival of Captain Scarlet.
Lady P would eventually be deposed from her own title through a mix of corporate takeovers and licensing re-assignment. The re-styled Penelope was merged with a rival girls' comic and consigned to history.
It might be a secret, however badly kept, but there is stiff competition for copies of Lady Penelope when they come up for auction and the original 7d price (three-and-a-half new pence to you decimalised people) falls away quite sharply. The first issue currently being touted also includes the customary free gift, "Lady Penelope's Fabulous Signet Ring", an item frequently lost, eaten or thrown away.
If my pocket money can stand it, I might try to resample those golden days.