Lady Penelope: TV Century 21, 1965
Of the four main colour strips to launch TV Century 21, Lady Penelope (subtitle Elegance, Charm and Deadly Danger) was very much the odd one out. At a time when advance knowledge of television programmes outside the industry or schedules was pretty much unknown, the largely male readership must have wondered who she was, and why she featured so predominantly?
With Thunderbirds still in production and not due on television until the autumn, the decision of taking two peripheral characters and giving them scope in their own strip, as an extended prelude, was taken. And undeniably, it works. Despite the fact a young socialite and aging criminal are hardly heroes in the same league as Steve Zodiac and Troy Tempest, there is something engaging about the double act, with dialogue both witty and well-observed, bringing some welcome characterisation absent from the adventure driven Fireball XL5 and Stingray. And whatever the situation, Penelope always has the right etiquette, whether it be be using the correct tongs to put sugar in Parker's tea, or asking to reapply make-up before being shot or being thrown into volcanic lava. Our minds reel, in much the same way as gob-smacked cockney Parker, at the cool unflappable stride in which she takes each death-defying escapade. But by the end of the first adventure, the pair are inseparable, and history was in the making.
Without any kind of introduction or fore-knowledge of the character, it is not until part 5 of the first story that we learn a little about Penelope herself, when Parker asks what is in it for her to risk rescuing her agent Roger Lyon. "Excitement, Parker!" she replies, "I enjoy skirmishing with the criminal element. It's convenient to allow people to think that I am just one of the idle rich, but as a few trustworthy friends know, such a life would thoroughly bore me." So under the guise of a correspondent for TV Century 21 itself, with a semi-regular Lady Penelope Investigates feature and a cover feature byline for issue 12, Penelope undertakes various covert missions with many suspecting, but none having proof of, her exploits.
Given that Penelope is not a member of International Rescue at this point nor, as we later learn, an official (or even unofficial) member of the Secret Services, one has to ask the question 'where does she get her many gadgets from?' While no doubt inspired by James Bond, does this mean she has a private equivilant of the long-suffering Q, running up all these disguised explosive items? It is a wonder she did not blow herself up everytime she rummaged around in her handbag, or changed her shoes for that matter...
Deprived of any other element from the as-yet unseen Thunderbirds, Penelope is immediately given a nemesis in the form of Mr Steelman. Initially implied to be a robot, we find him to be a bespectacled engineering genius - a kind of older, evil Brains - and in an interesting twist, the two never get to meet during this first year. This provides a tantalising promise of a final denouement at some point.
The Lady Penelope strip also introduces an unsuspected element to the unified world seen in the Fireball XL5 and Stingray series, and this is the renegade state of Bereznik. An analogy for cold war Russia, Bereznik is a throwback to the 'here and now' of the 20th century and a reminder of how rosy and desirable the new future could be. In the earthbound 'realism' of the Thunderbirds series, hinted at by unnamed military powers in episodes such as 'Edge Of Impact' and 'The Cham-Cham', the threat were not space aliens or green skinned amphibians, but mankind's own inability to move forward to a new era.
Lady Penelope strip guide - part 1
Story One (aka Mr Steelman)
Writer: Alan Fennell. Artist: Eric Eden. 2 pages, colour.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 01, dateline 23 January 2065
Burglar supreme, the Nose Parker is a craftsman, an absolute master of the illegal trade. The alarm systems prove tricky but no real problem to Parker. He removes the special suction pads by which he has scaled the walls, and goes to work.
As Parker cracks the safe open, the light comes on and the thief finds himself confronted by a young, well-dressed woman in a comfortable chair - offering him a cup of tea of all things! Parker recognises her from glossy magazines - Lady Penelope Creighton Ward. After getting Parker to put back the jewels, she tells him that she wants him to work for her, in particular to open a certain safe. And of course she has enough information to put him behind bars for twenty years to ensure he agrees! With Parker now also acting as chauffeur of Penelope's pink Rolls-Royce, he drives her to the Luthvian Embassy. En route, a car draws ahead and machine guns open fire. Unflappable, Penelope tells Parker the car is bullet proof, and instructs him on the usage of the Rolls own arsenal of machine guns concealed under the headlights. The attacking car smashes into a lamppost, carrying men who are also after the contents of the safe. Combining their skills, Penelope and Parker gain access to the Embassy unseen, and the thief examines the safe, only to find it is ticking. There is a bomb inside, and Parker shouts a warning...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 02, dateline 30 January 2065
The safe explodes but Parker has thrown himself to one side. Penelope has also taken cover quickly - most unlady-like but good for one's health! The bomb is supposed to protect a container, which Parker takes and the two leave by the same way they entered - a lift platform concealed in the boot of the Rolls. Home to Lady Penelope is the Creighton Ward mansion, which they arrive at as day breaks, and where she explains the container holds plans for a new hydromic device capable of destroying the world. Over morning tea, Penelope further explains a Luthvian scientist developed the plans, and they are the only ones in existence and must be destroyed. But the plans are impregnated with a special material and can only be disposed of by bombarding them with radioactive uranium G21. An alarm concealed in a painting flashes, signalling the grounds have been stormed by armed uniformed men, following the orders of 'Mr Steelman'...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 03, dateline 06 February 2065
Penelope watches the men with interest and annoyance - the gardeners won't be pleased at the men trampling the grounds - and suspects they are mercenaries of Mr Steelman. But the grounds are booby trapped with mines and pits, and as the windoes are bullet-proof, she asks Parker to guard the plans while she gets some sleep. As the mercenaries suffer more losses, a black-clad figure drives a sports car amidst the confusion and gains entry to the mansion, as if knowing exactly where to tread. He surprises Parker and clubs him to the ground, before making off with the plans...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 04, dateline 13 February 2065
The leader of the mercenaries uses a geiger counter and notes the plans are longer in the mansion, and the survivors retreat. Parker recovers to find Lady Penelope is awake, and that his assailant was expected - one of the few people who know of her undercover activities. He is disposing of the plans at Dunwell, an atomic reactor plant. But his movements have been followed and while the plans are destroyed, a limousine forces his car off the road as he leaves...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 05, dateline 20 February 2065
Stunned, the agent is forced at gunpoint from the wreck of his car but not before he actives a concealed signal. At the mansion, Parker is trying on his new uniform when he notices the eyes of a bust flashing. Penelope realises her agent, Roger Lyon, is in trouble. As Parker drives Penelope to where Roger's car is, she reveals a little about herself, and Mr Steelman. But the mission now is to find Roger, who has been blindfolded and taken to a cruiser. He manages to activate a homing device in his watch as it sets off and, strapped in a strange mechanical chair, is brought before a robot, who reveals himself as Mr Steelman...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 06, dateline 27 February 2065
Steelman believes Roger must have looked at the plans before destroying them, and will get that knowledge from his mind. But he also knows that, as an agent of Lady Penelope, he will have been trained to suffer more pain than they are capable of inflicting. Meanwhile, Parker notes that the homing signal has moved to the sea, so Penelope instructs him to head for Smuggler's Cove. There, in a concealed cliff hangar, she reveals her 'little boat' - a magnificent yacht called Seabird 1...
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 07, dateline 06 March 2065
Penelope reveals to Parker that her Rolls is equipped for water travel and hydrofoils carry it to the yacht. Setting 'George' the auto pilot, the yacht is programmed to follow the signal. Steelman's cruiser has arrived at Naples but before his gang take Roger to the hideout, the robot launches a torpedo to deal with the pursuing Penelope. She notes its approach with calm interest as she and Parker have tea, as the yacht appears to have no defences, and it is torn apart in a massive explosion...
Part 8: TV Century 21 Issue 08, dateline 13 March 2065
Amidst the wreckage floats the garge of Penelope's pink Rolls, which opens allowing the car to hydroplane its way to the shore. A baffled Parker thinks they should be dead but Penelope commends him on being so fast and agile in the moments before the torpedo hit. The homing signal is near Vesuvius, where Penelope has suspected Steelman may have had a base. Steelman himself leaves his cruiser underwater and travels on a hoverbike through a tunnel to his hideout. But Penelope is hot on the trail of his gang and anticipates their arrival at the Roman ruins of Pompeii, where the car drives into a concealed entrance which takes it under the heart of the volcano...
Part 9: TV Century 21 Issue 09, dateline 20 March 2065
Penelope was watching closely through binoculars, and uses the hidden switch to gain entry for Parker and herself. In Steelman's hideout, the robot arrives as his men strap Roger in another techno-chair with electrodes to his scalp. Activating it, the chair glows with energy and Steelman tells Roger his brain will soon be in his power. At the end of a long tunnel, Penelope and Parker come to barrier with an old-fashioned lock, which the thief makes short work of. Passing though a door, Penelope and Steelman face each other for the first time...
Part 10: TV Century 21 Issue 10, dateline 27 March 2065
Steelman has waited a long time for this, and with Penelope dead no-one can stop him. A ramp appears from the floor and one of Steelman's men forces her onto it with clamps at the wrists and ankles. A shutter rises, revealing the boiling lava of Vesuvius, which Penelope will be dropped into. Before she dies, Penelope makes one last request and that is for her lipstick - a girl feels much better with fresh make-up - and Steelman obliges. But when Luigi opens it for her, it shoots gas in his face...
Part 11: TV Century 21 Issue 11, dateline 03 April 2065
The distraction gives Roger the chance to overpower Gardoni, and when Steelman tries to shoot Parker with a bolt of energy, the chauffeur headbutts the robot into the lava below. Penelope is released but Roger is wounded by Gardoni before a bomb in her handbag makes short work of the hideout. The lava rises to find a new level, and Penelope and Parker carry Roger out into Pompeii as it covers the dead city once more. Roger is taken to hospital, and Penelope and Parker prepare to fly back to England. Parker thinks they are rid of Steelman for good but Penelope is not so sure. The robot may have been operated remotely, and the real Steelman may still be out there.
And Her Ladyship is wearing:
A tailored brown trouser suit with wide white collar.
A pink jacket and pencil skirt, with a white and purple flower-patterned blouse tied at the waist by a cord.
Action 21 - issues 1 to 10
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 24 to 34
Thunderbirds - Classic Comic Strips as Mr Steelman - Robot Master!
For some bizarre reason, FAB 1 is yellow in the mastheads of parts 6, 8 and 10.
The sleek futuristic design of Seabird I appears partly inspired by the Poseidon craft from the 1955 Dan Dare adventure 'The Man From Nowhere', which artist Eric Eden also worked on.
Steelman's right hand man, Gardoni, is not actually named in the strip until the last part.
The first cover flash promoting the strip appears on the front of TV Century 21 issue 5, titled Penelope Agent Feared Kidnapped!.
Each of the first 11 parts was accompanied by a small feature called Lady Penelope Investigates, in which her Ladyship would set out to answer questions about television stars - one notable being Graydon Gould, the voice of Mike Mercury in Supercar, in issue 3.
Story Two (aka Behind Enemy Lines)
Writer: Tod Sullivan. Artist: Eric Eden. 2 pages, colour.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 12, dateline 10 April 2065
Lady Penelope has been invited to a banquet at the Bereznik Embassy as, for the first time, the state is inviting foreign reporters to observe a test firing of a new rocket booster. Penelope is eager to gain access to the country, as visitors have not been encouraged, and the ambassador himself invites her to be one of the observers. Her guide will be Tobolsk, who Penelope knows as the head of their secret police, and believes she is not to be trusted. Four British agents have already been killed trying to find out more, and Penelope's own mission is smuggle Professor Laryak, the inventor of the booster, out of Bereznik. Some time later, Penelope and Parker are among the observers at the test firing in the remote Bereznik mountains, but the stay is short and she is not allowed to meet the inventor. But as Penelope is driven back to the airport, two men hidden in the peaks plot to shoot her...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 13, dateline 17 April 2065
Tobolsk stops the car to allow Penelope to see the view of the village where Laryak is imprisoned. He suspects her of being a spy sent to free him but when Penelope bend to ppick a flower, his men in the peaks accidentally shoot Tobolsk dead instead. Terrified at the consequences, the assassins flee, and Penelope and Parker take the car to find and free Laryak. But a border patrol finds Tobolsk's body, and before Parker can drive much further they find themselves confronting armoured patrol vehicles sent to arrest them for the murder of the chief of the secret police...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 14, dateline 24 April 2065
They are ordered to drive between the armoured vehicles, to the village where Laryak is held. But missile fire heralds an attack by Bereznik revolutionaries, and they are taken prisoner by them to their camp in mountain caves some hours away. The revolutionaries want to overthrow their oppressors and join the World Government, but one of them is suspicious of Penelope, as she had Tobolsk's car, and levels his rifle to shoot her...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 15, dateline 01 May 2065
A new arrival pulls the man's gun down - he is their leader, and found the real assassins as they fled. They are now prisoners, and can prove Penelope's innocence. She reveals her plan to free Laryak, and so Parker is despatched with the leader's right hand man Ernst to get the prison plans from the town hall. Parker's skill at breaking and entering gain them access to the safe that night, but a mechanical eye is watching them, and as they retreive the plans from a safe, armed guards burst into the room...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 16, dateline 08 May 2065
Ernst throws himself at the guards, allowing Parker to escape. Reaching their motor cycle, the ex-con cannot leave him to be be captured, but Ernst smashes through a window and both get away back to the mountain camp. Plans are well laid, and at dawn the armoured vehicles of the revolutionaries advance on the fortress of Kirov Prison. As several vehicles open fire as a diversion, one carries Penelope and Parker to a vantage point where an electro-suction device fires a linel, carrying a chair lift into the prison. But as they move over the high wall, the suction cup starts to spark, and it is a long way down if it fails...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 17, dateline 15 May 2065
The sparking suddenly stops, and the chair lift makes it to the window, allowing Penelope and Parker entry to the prison. The plans have revealed the location of the maximum security cell, and Parker makes short work of the lock. But unknown to them a guard is observing, and he seals the door again as they enter and find Laryak. The door has also been electrified but Penelope uses her explosive boots to blow it open. They make it back to the chair lift and start descending, but they are sitting ducks for the armed guards who take aim...
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 18, dateline 22 May 2065
Penelope tells Parker to swing the chair, and the shots miss, allowing them to get back into the armoured vehicle safely. With Laryak safe, the diversionary attack is called off and the vehicles retreat back to the mountains. But before he leaves the country, Laryak asks the revoutionaries to divert to the Tamba rocket base, and their vehicles destroy it. It will take years for Bereznik to redevelop the booster, and the revolutionaries take Penelope, Parker and Laryak to the border for a flight back to England. With an assurance the professor will not reveal her identity, Laryak meets up with British Secret Service as Penelope and Parker head for home.
And Her Ladyship is wearing:
A long, jade dress with embroidered sleeves and hem, matching wrist bag, and a fur wrap.
A blue coat with black fur trim, black hat and long black boots.
A green casual suit with stirrup pants, matching hat, with a fawn ribbed turtleneck top underneath. Her boots contain explosives.
A tan skirt suit with white top underneath.
Thunderbirds Holiday Special 1971 (abridged b/w)
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 35 to 41
The first part of this story features a new masthead, using the photo of Lady Penelope And Creighton-Ward Mansion that appears in the opening titles of the as-yet unseen Thunderbirds.
This strip is also introduces the fictitious renegade state Bereznik, and Tobolsk, the head of its secret police. The inspiration behind the name would appear to be Berezniki, a city in the Ural Mountains of Russia. Another town not too far away also bears the name Tobol'sk...
The reprint of part 6 omits Parker's one word reply in the third frame, which is 'Yes...'
The last part features a Fireflash with a different colour and livery than the normally seen blue and white of 'Air Terrainean'.
The start of this story was the first to be fully promoted on the cover, with the story 'New Rocket Engine Tested - Mystery Surrounds Inventor". Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward is also credited with being a correspondent for TV Century 21 for the feature text.
From issue 12, 'Lady Penelope Investigates' becomes a separate occasional feature, rather than being tagged on to the end of the strip.
Cover flashes appears on the front of TV Century 21 issue 14, titled Lady Penelope Arrested, and issue 17, titled Bereznik Prison Break.
'Penelope Takes Up The Search'
Writer: Alan Fennell (?). Artist: Eric Eden. 2 pages, colour.
TV Century 21 Issue 19, dateline 29 May 2065
Penelope and Parker fly to the world capitol Unity City in Bermuda to track down Count Lugosti, the top gunman in the world and prime suspect for the assassination of the Kaplan. At the main casino, Penelope finds and challenges him to a game of Century. Using an infra-red transmitter and special glasses, Penelope is able to read Lugosti's hand and beat him, but the assassin doesn't take kindly to losing all his money. Outside she is able to gas him with a truth drug, and leaves him for Steve Zodiac and Commander Zero of the World Space Patrol to find, for more detailed questioning.
And Her Ladyship is wearing:
A pink sleeveless dress, with pink and black hat.
A long blue evening dress, with a pink/purple two tone coat. Penelope also dons glasses to see Parker's infra-red signals.
In a nice touch of continuity, at the end of the strip Penelope is seen in the same blue lounge suit and pink necklace she is wearing at the start of the next strip. This is actually based on the outfit Penelope is seen wearing in the first Thunderbirds episode 'Trapped In The Sky' (right), and is also the outfit she sports in her appearance in the series title sequence.
Action 21 - issue 4
Thunderbirds The Comic - issue 48
An one-off adventure, part of the on-going Fireball XL5 'Astran War' strip that also crosses over with Stingray in issue 22.
This interweaving of the series into one future world was integral to the success of the comic, though it has caused much confusion with continuity between the various TV series.
A cover flash appears on the front of this issue of TV Century 21, titled Lady Penelope Investigates.
Story Three (aka The Return of Mr Steelman/Mr Steelman Returns)
Writer: Tod Sullivan (?). Artist: Eric Eden. 2 pages, colour.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 20, dateline 05 June 2065
The early warning systems had saved the Parisians... but on that fateful day two months ago when the Crustavon rocket struck, the greater part of Paris was destroyed...
The extensive vaults below the ruined Banque Nationale de France have become the new workshops of the world's public enemy Number One - Mr Steelman. Revealed now to be a bespectacled man in his fifties, Steelman has built more robots in the mould of the original. Some time later, Penelope is sent to cover the rebuilding of Paris, and flies to the capital with Parker and FAB 1 by Fireflash. But as a press hoverplane watches site clearance taking place, and new buildings are flown in, Steelman takes action to prevent being discovered and blows up an approaching bulldozer...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 21, dateline 12 June 2065
Another hoverplane brings two site engineers to investigate, who decide it may have been unexploded matter from the Crustavon missile, and advance the robot machines again. But when a second explosion wrecks another vehicle, work is stopped. Watching, Penelope sees that the explosion pattern is that of deliberately placed charges, and decides to look closer at the site before the Explosives Detonation Unit arrive. Distracting a gendarme with a story about a lost poodle, Penelope is able to gain access to the area with Parker. But Steelman is already on the move with his robots into the Parisian sewers, and by the time Penelope and Parker find the workshop, he is gone. However, Penelope recognises the robotic parts left, and is sure he is planning something big...
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 22, dateline 19 June 2065
Penelope and Parker follow what seems like Steelman's most like escape route, into the sewers. Using a device that amplies movement, they are able to trace him. But even though Steelman does not suspect he is being pursued, he leaves his wristwatch explosive in a pipe outlet, set to detonate at midnight. At the exit to the river, a barge awaits, and with his robot cargo aboard, the vessel moves off down the Seine. Penelope and Parker are not far behind, but as they near the sewer exit, the watch explodes...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 23, dateline 26 June 2065
Penelope and Parker are only bruised and shaken, and after a couple of hours dig themselves free from the rubble. But Steelman has escaped in a boat onto the river, and as the EDU detonate the mines around the bank, Penelope and Parker are forced to backtrack. Discovered outside the bank, Penelope tries to explain to the head of police about Steelman, but she and Parker are detained in jail while they investigate...
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 24, dateline 03 July 2065
As police stop and search all boats on the river Seine, Steelman anticipates events and chains his robots to the underside of his barge and evades capture. This places Penelope and Parker under further suspicion, as they were the only ones found in the area where the mines were placed. Penelope requests her handbag, and uses a laser beam concealed in a pen to cut a hole in the wall. But as she waits outside for Parker to cut himself a hole from his cell, Penelope is spotted by two gendarmes...
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 25, dateline 10 July 2065
Penelope twists the clasp of her handbag, and a mesmerising light immobilises the gendarmes. As Parker clambers from his cell, he finds them hypnotised by Penelope, and the two decide to leave Paris. Meanwhile, Steelman has travelled to the Black Forest and dispensed with his barge, using a hovercar to direct his robots to a disused rail track station. As Penelope and Parker drive east in FAB 1 to Strasbourg, Steelman moves form his new base with six robots, planning to break into the Trans-Europe Monorail Headquarters in the same town...
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 26, dateline 17 July 2065
That night, Steelman directs his robots into Strabourg's deserted business section. After a brief battle with two guard robots, Steelman's creations effortlessly gain entry to the TEMCo vaults and take microfilm recordings of top secret information. As the robots file outside, they are spotted by a solitary driver, and an electrical blast from one forces him to crash. Chancing into the area shortly after, Penelope and Parker try to tend to the motorist, who dies after muttering " Robots... robots... monor... " The following morning, Penelope reads that the TEMCo offices were broken into, and the robot connection leads her to suspect Steelman may be responsible. At the monorail headquarters, staff are puzzled that nothing was actually stolen, and new robots guards with orders to destroy anyone or anything are to be installed that night. But Penelope and Parker are going to break in to find out what happened...
Part 8: TV Century 21 Issue 27, dateline 24 July 2065
Parker makes short work of the alarm mechanism but Penelope suspects, quite rightly, there are 'extra precautions'. The loss of both her and Parker's hats, tossed across an entrance, determine the new guard robots have a limited angle of firepower, and they use FAB 1's elevator platform to gain access through the roof skylights. Special 'coins' dropped on the robots explode, disabling them, and Penelope and Parker climb down a rope to examine the vault. But another robot appears in the doorway behind them...
Part 9: TV Century 21 Issue 28, dateline 31 July 2065
Parker spots the robot, and he and Penelope hurl themselves to the ground as it fires. Parker knocks the robot over and a small explosive form Penelope's handbag disposes of it. Free to work now, Penelope runs the computers while Parker opens the vault, and after a couple of hours they find one thousand million pounds in gold is being taken by monotrain to Berlin. This is payment for special medical isotopes, and the shipment leaves Strasbourg in three days. The question now is... where will Steelman strike? And near a lake over which the monorail runs in the heart of the Black Forest, Steel directs his robots to work on the embankment as part of his plan...
Part 10: TV Century 21 Issue 29, dateline 07 August 2065
Penelope and Parker watch discretely from a cafe at Strasbourg monorail depot, as the bullion is loaded under guard to a unmanned remote controlled train. As Steelman finalises his plans, Penelope and Parker hire a hoverjet and wait for the monotrain at the Frankfurt-Berne intersection, where it slows enough to be boarded by rope ladder. But leaving the hoverjet on remote, Parker finds he cannot gain entry into the train, and he and Penelope are stuck on top as it starts to accelerate again...
Part 11: TV Century 21 Issue 30, dateline 14 August 2065
Penelope uses one of her shoes, which contains explosive, to shatter a window and the two climb aboard. But Steelman is putting his plan into action, and his robots move a large section of the monorail out of the way. With Penelope and Parker aboard, the monotrain hurtles off its single track, and into the lake...
Part 12: TV Century 21 Issue 31, dateline 21 August 2065
Water floods in through the shattered window, and Penelope and Parker swim to another cabin where air-tight presurised doors give them a breathing space. The submerged monotrain suddenly moves, as Steelman's robots move the track back into place, leaving no sign of his crime. Spotter planes have nothing to report, and Steelman waits for nightfall to retrieve the gold. But underwater, the air is running out, and the cabin of the monotrain starts to buckle and leak. Trapped, Penelope and Parker will drown...
Part 13: TV Century 21 Issue 32, dateline 28 August 2065
Penelope and Parker swim back to the other compartment, and out through the shattered window. Making for the shore, they see Steelman arriving with his robots, using the old railway and trucks as a transport for the bullion. Parker thinks they should stop them but Penelope realises that the unloading of the gold will take at least two nights, and they will require FAB 1 and its armaments. Hitching a lift, they return to Strasbourg but will have to stop Steelman alone as they are still wanted criminals by the police. Meanwhile Steelman and the robots have returned to their heavily defended, disused railway station base... anyone approaching within half a mile will be blown sky high...
Part 14: TV Century 21 Issue 33, dateline 04 September 2065
That night, Penelope and Parker return to the forest in FAB 1, and see Steelman and his robots taking the last of the gold. Following him to his disused railway station hideout and, realising the area is probably mined, fire a missile above the base to draw him out. Steelman despatches his robots, and a battle starts. FAB 1's armaments destroy the robots, but more appear to outflank the Rolls, which cannot turn in time to bring its guns to bear...
Part 15: TV Century 21 Issue 34, dateline 11 September 2065
Penelope takes a cigarette case from her handbag and flings it at the robots, which are blown apart as the cigarettes explode. The battle is over, but Steelman escapes in his hoverplane before Parker can elevate the guns to stop him. With the authorities alerted to the location of the stolen gold, Penelope is able to get the charges against Parker and herself dropped. Their cover still not broken, Penelope and Parker return home.
And Her Ladyship is wearing:
A tailored blue lounge suit with pink faux-pearl necklace.
A black dress and coat, with white abstract patterned trim, and humbug-striped hat - which she loses.
In prison, Penelope changes back into her blue lounge suit.
A black skirt suit and red hat.
A pink quilted dressing gown.
A blue short-sleeved sailor's outfit with red collar bow, over a red and white striped top, and white sailor's hat.
A pink short-sleeved top and blue trousers. Her shoes contain explosives again, and she mysteriously regains them in the following instalment.
A blue skirt suit.
A blue turtleneck jumper and jeans.
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 42 to 56
This first part starts in a Paris ruined by the Crustavon rocket attack 'two months ago' - in issue 13 of TV Century 21 (see Stingray: 'The Curse of the Crustavons') - but several weeks elapse after this before the story proper.
Penelope is sent on the mission by the editor of TV Century 21, and takes the call on a phone that would have been old-fashioned even in 1965!
Part 6 implies that conventional railways have been abandoned for thirty years (i.e. since the 2030s) with the development of the monorail.
The monorails from Thunderbirds feature in this story, but in a development unseen on television, these are capable of hanging from an overhead track or sitting on one underneath (left).
The 'News In Brief' on the front of TV Century 21 issue 24 reports Lady Penelope is their special reporter in Paris, and has been arrested.
A small cover flash appears on the front of issue 25, titled Lady Penelope in prison break.
Two covers of TV Century 21 give the strip headline promotion. Issue 29 is titled Bullion Train - Thousand Million Pounds in Isotopes, and indicates the six thousand special isotopes are held at the Frankfurt Institute of Isotopic Research, and are destined for disease hit cattle areas in Siberia, Texas and India. The monotrain was dubbed the 'Isotope Flyer', and travels at 400 miles per hour.
The 'Stop Press' on the front of issue 30 reports Lady Penelope Aboard Bullion Express.
A cover flash on the front of issue 31 is titled Monotrain Mystery.
Issue 33, headlined Black Forest Siege! Mystery Rolls-Royce in Fierce Forest Battle!', reports Captain Hans Werger of the German Air Police had witnessed the event during a routine search for the missing monotrain. Police Commando Units were being despatched from Frankfurt, which explains their sudden arrival in the final part of the story. A specially shot photo of FAB One in one of the Thunderbirds cityscapes was used to show FAB 1's recent departure from Strasbourg.
The 1993 reprint of this story was preceded by a recap of events from the Stingray strip, which had appeared at the end of the previous year in Stingray The Comic.
The artwork for the second page of the final part is still known to exist in a private collection.
Story Four (aka The Isle of Arran Riddle/Mystery)
Writer: Tod Sullivan (?). Artist: Eric Eden. 2 pages, colour.
Part 1: TV Century 21 Issue 35, dateline 18 September 2065
Penelope receives two visitors, solicitors Charles Dobson and Reece Chumley, who have details of her inheritance from the recently deceased grand uncle Lord Neddy Clingsdale. She has been left a superior ruby worth half a million pounds, but the eccentric relation has set her a problem to solve before obtaining it...
"Fortunes lie waiting in Britain's Fair Isle,
kidney in shape and wearing a smile.
A smile that is bonnie - a hey diddle diddle.
That fortune is yours if you answer this riddle."
The lawyers depart, leaving Penelope and Parker to ponder its meaning. In the library, a map projector shows many isles are 'kidney shaped', and Parker thinks they are being had. But in the family gallery, they notice the portrait of Uncle Ned is smiling - and on the back of the painting is another riddle...
"Tis west of the Clyde and south of Argyll;
Two ahs, and two eyes and an en, that's the style."
Penelope races back to the library to look closer at Scotland...
Part 2: TV Century 21 Issue 36, dateline 25 September 2065
Uncle Ned may have cheated a little but the isle he is referring to is undoubtedly Arran. Meanwhile, Dobson and Chumley have returned to their London office, and plot to have Penelope followed as she unravels the mystery in order to obtain the ruby for themselves. A man called Hawkins is despatched, with orders to kill Penelope and parker if they obstruct him. Penelope is still musing where on Arran the ruby could be, and recalls Uncle ned has a ruby ring on his finger in the portrait. Closer examination using an x-ray scanner reveals another clue in the ring itself...
"Village, Castle, Bay and String. Under the bed in Western Wing."
Part 3: TV Century 21 Issue 37, dateline 02 October 2065
A map of Arran reveals that the location must be Brodick, which has a village, castle and bay, with a road called 'The String' leading to it. Penelope and Parker leave for Scotland, to be tailed by Hawkins, who reports to Dobson and Chumley under the codename 'Hawk'. At Ardrossan, FAB 1 crosses to Arran by ferry, but that night Hawkins steals the clue from Penelope's handbag. The West Wing in the clue probably refers to the castle, but a directionless Hawkins ends up in the East Wing, allowing Penelope and Parker to get to the bed...
"Horns and beard, do not fall, climb to the north and turn the ball"...
Part 4: TV Century 21 Issue 38, dateline 09 October 2065
Penelope decides the 'goat and beard' refer to a goat, and there is a Goat Fell which is the highest point on the isle. Unseen, Hawkins hears them discussing the new clue as they leave, and knocks Parker out when they returns to the inn. With the clue, he makes haste to the fell, as Penelope and Parker - now realising they have an adversary - give chase. Parker takes FAB 1 up the Fell, passing Hawkins, and allowing them to find another clue etched in rock under a large ball-like boulder...
"Castle for Robert when on the run,
nor' west stands the ruin, facing the sun."
Part 5: TV Century 21 Issue 39, dateline 16 October 2065
As they have already been to Brodick Castle, the clue must refer to the only other castle on the isle, at Loch Ranza. As they drive off, Hawkins reports to Dobson and Chumley, and the two solicitors head for Arran themselves. Reaching the ruined castle first, Penelope and Parker find a loose flagstone under an east sunlit window. Hawkins arrives, and attempts to shoot Penelope through the window but misses. Desperate, Hawkins uses a time delay explosive, which Penelope is able to throw back out just in time. Under the flagstone, another clue is revealed...
"Stand in a circle and look some more, third on the right beside the Tor"
Part 6: TV Century 21 Issue 40, dateline 23 October 2065
The clue refers to standing stones at Tormore but with Hawkins still taking potshots through the window, they are trapped. While Parker obliterates the clue, Penelope uses a compact atomic pistol, disguised as a lighter, to deter the would-be assassin. Getting back to the safety of FAB 1, Penelope and Parker drive off to be pursued by a gun-happy Hawkins. Safe in the bullet-proof interior, Penelope orders Parker to 'see to his tyres' as Hawkins draws alongside, and the three-pronged wheel motif of FAB 1's own hub springs out to puncture them. With Hawkins off the road, FAB 1 reaches the sones, and Penelope and Parker find a new clue in the third one on the right...
"Light for the Firth, now facing South. Go to the edge and 'ware seal's mouth."
Part 7: TV Century 21 Issue 41, dateline 30 October 2065
The Firth of Clyde is south of the isle, with a lighthouse on a smaller island called Pradda. But Hawkins has walked to Tormore and places a bomb to the mileometer of FAB 1 that will cripple the car after ten miles. There is no serious damage caused to the bomb proof car by the explosion, but the burnt high tension wiring means FAB 1 is off the road. Penelope and Parker hitch a ride on a passing horse and cart, as Hawkins finds the abandoned FAB 1... and the clue! Driving ahead, Penelope and Parker spot him, and Penelope decides on using faster means, hiring a fishing boat out of Lagg Inn. But Hawkins is already at Pradda, and finds the clue in the skull of a seal on the beach...
"Black, bare and Royal, kept so spruce, now up again to the lie of Bruce."
Part 8: TV Century 21 Issue 42, dateline 06 November 2065
Hurrying back across the Firth to his car, Hawkins is seen by Penelope from the boat, and asks the captain to turn back at full speed. Back on their horse and cart ride, Penelope and Parker find FAB 1 has been repaired by the AA, and the chase is on again! Parker punctured Hawkins tyre with a pitch fork as he passed again, and when they find his abandoned car, Penelope and Parker follow the track to King's Cave. There, Hawkins pulls a gun on them but a button on Penelope's tunic ejects a stream of liquid plastic at his face. Stunned, Hawkins is bound , and Penelope finds another clue etched in the rock...
"Legend you know of a long dead king. Lash has a hill where you'll find a ring."
Part 9: TV Century 21 Issue 43, dateline 13 November 2065
The only place with 'lash' in the name is Lamlash, which Penelope is sure is the final location as Robert the Bruce - the king in other other clues - watched a spider try to climd the wall six times before succeeding on the seventh. Leaving a bound Hawkins to be found and freed by tourists, they make for Lamlash Hill, unaware Dobson and Chumley have been forewarned. At the top, they find a ring of stones, and buried under the central one - at long last the ruby ring! The two solicitors arrived, and demand it from her at gunpoint. Penelope would like to powder her nose before being killed, and an explosive in her compact creates a smokescreen, allowing Parker to knock the two crooks out. The three men are handed over to the police, and Penelope and Parker make for home.
And Her Ladyship is wearing:
A mauve floral-patterned blouse with pink skirt and tan heeled shoes.
A green lounge suit, and matching flat courts.
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 15 to 23
The instalments of this story do away with the established photographic masthead, replacing it with a logo flash over an illustration of FAB 1 driving through mountainous country.
Again, following the week by week reporting of TV Century 21, this story starts 'a week after Lady Penelope's return from Germany'.
As FAB 1 drives to Scotland in part 3, it passes a truck for 'TOD Transport' - a reference to assitant editor of TV Century 21, and probable writer of the strip, Tod Sullivan.
As in the series, FAB 1 is shown to have remarkable off-road abilities, driving up Goat Fell in part 4.
In part 6, Penelope's lighter-come-atomic pistol is monogrammed 'PCW'', and fires a 'minute atomic capsule with regulated safe fall-out'!
The A.A. (Automobile Association) appear to still be going strong in the 2060s, and now use helicopters!
A small cover flash promotes the start of this story for TV Century 21 issue 35, titled Lady Penelope - INHERITANCE.
The 'Stop Press' on the front of issue 38 reports Parker Attacked.
Another cover flash appears on the cover of issue 41, titled FAB 1 Sabotaged!
A full cover appears on the front of TV Century 21 issue 42, headlined 'FAB 1 Back In Action! Pursuit of the Hawk continues', with a photo of FAB 1 in one of the Thunderbirds country road sets.
Story Five (aka The Invisible Ray)
Writer: Alan Fennell (?). Artist: Eric Eden. 2 pages, colour.
Part One: TV Century 21 Issue 44, dateline 20 November 2065
Parker brings Penelope her post, among which is a package containing what appears to be a torch. But the device projects a ray that makes objects invisible, something scientists have been trying to perfect for years. There is no letter, and the package is postmarked Hong Kong, so penelope and Parker have a mystery on their hands. In Whitehall, the head of the British Secret Service receives a personal letter informing him of the invisible ray, and since very few people know he holds the position, sends Steel to investigate Lady Penelope. And in the Malayan jungle, one of the world's most dangerous men - the Hood - also learns of Penelope and the ray, and flies to England on a Fireflash liner to obtain it at any cost...
Part Two: TV Century 21 Issue 45, dateline 27 November 2065
Hiring a car under a false passport, the hood heads for Creighton-Ward mansion but Steel has arrived there first. Posing as a salesman for the new Universal Cook Book, he finds Penelope already has every cook book ever published. But the ray torch sits on a nearby table and he is able to pocket it, and which Parker - being an experienced pickpocket himself - is able to retrieve. Penelope's suspicions are aroused, more so when a second Universal Cook Book salesman, in reality the Hood, arrives. The Hood feigns an accident with his tea, and pockets the torch, but Parker is unable to get near the cagey spy's pockets before he leaves...
Part Three: TV Century 21 Issue 46, dateline 04 December 2065
Penelope is not worried, as she substituted the real thing for a ordinary flashlight, which the angry Hood discovers later. Penelope has also placed a transmitting cell in the torch, and Parker recognises the signal as coming from Big George's gaff - an expert at break-ins. Believing they may have further visitors, Penelope places the ray in a hidden walk-in safe under the floor. Steel is chided by the head of the Secret Service for his failure to obtain the ray, and that night three sleek black cars leave Whitehall. Arriving at the mansion, Penelope and Parker are arrested...
Part Four: TV Century 21 Issue 47, dateline 11 December 2065
Before being driven away, Penelope sets the alarms for the whole mansion, which is just as well as no sooner have the cars left than the Hood arrives with hired crooks. The first two are stunned by electrified gates, and when more try to scale the wall, electronic clamps grip their legs. The Hood flees as police sirens sound, leaving the crooks to their fate. At the Secret Service building, Penelope is being interrogated, but when she recognises Steel as the book salesman who 'stole' the torch, suspicion falls on him. Penelope and Parker are released, but outside the Hood is waiting with a gun...
Part Five: TV Century 21 Issue 48, dateline 18 December 2065
The Hood fires just as Penelope is bending to remove a shoe, so she and Parker take flight. The Hood is distracted by a Secret Service man investigating the shot but in evading him he loses Penelope. Some streets away nursing a sore foot, Penelope sets about calling Fab 1 again from a device in her shoe, and in fifteen minutes the Rolls has journied at 200 miles per hour, using a sophisticated automatic pilot drive, from the mansion to pick up its owner. But as they drive back, the Hood spots the distinctive pink Rolls and gives chase, opening fire...
Part Six: TV Century 21 Issue 49, dateline 25 December 2065
Parker uses the oil slip, and the Hood's car slides off the room into a tree. Back at the mansion, Penelope is sure the pursuer was 'the bald-headed gentleman' and warns Parker to be careful when they receive a late caller. It appears to a policeman but when he knocks Parker out, a mask is removed to reveal... the Hood. Holding Penelope at gunpoint he binds her hand and foot in a chair, and demands the invisible ray. When she feigns innocence as he 'stole' it the first time, he opens fire...
Part Seven: TV Century 21 Issue 50, dateline 01 January 2066
The shot is a deliberate miss inches from Penelope's head, and a second shot is nearer still. When the Hood aims for the kill, Penelope twists the armrest and a chandalier drops on the spy. When Parker recovers and unties Penelope, the unconscious Hood is deposited with the morning milk on the doorstep of the British Secret Service. When it is discovered his only known crime is illegal entry to the country, he is deported back to Malaya. Penelope decides to examine the invisible ray in detail and discovers it has been constructed from parts all over the world, and assembled by a person of superior intellect. It remains a mystery... until a postcard arrives with the message 'Will explain all at ten. Thunderbirds are nearly go!'...
Part Eight: TV Century 21 Issue 51, dateline 08 January 2066
Penelope and Parker ponder on the message, and at ten a car draws up. The visitor is Jeff Tracy, an old acquaintance who Penelope was beginning to suspect may have been involved in this. The ray was a test to see how she could handle herself as the British end of International Rescue, and passed with flying colours. The ray itself is useless as Brains, who arrives with a replacement table for Penelope, cannot work out a counter-action. But they must deal with the British Secret Service, and drive to London where Penelope meets its chief. He has enough evidence to get her into serious trouble for hoodwinking M.I.5. and produces the only copy of her top secret file. Penelope has decided to let him have the ray, but first uses it to make the file permanently invisible so there is no evidence now. Jeff and Brains are dropped off at London Airport to head back for Tracy Island, which Penelope will visit next week.
"Well, M'Lady... " says Parker, "That's it... "
"Yes, Parker... " Penelope replies, "But don't look so sad... remember, Thunderbirds are definitely coming!"
Thunderbirds The Comic - issues 9 to 14
Thunderbirds: Lift Off! - Comic Album No.4
Thunderbirds - Classic Comic Strips as The Invisibility Ray
And Her Ladyship is wearing:
A loose-fitting tan kaftan top with large elaborate green flower-burst design over the left shoulder, with matching tan slacks and shoes.
A sleeveless deep fuschia dress with while flower embellishment.
A sleeveless, long gold dress with loose raised collar, with a fur wrap. This is not unlike the one Penelope is seen wearing in FAB One at the end of the first episode 'Trapped In The Sky' (left).
A casual tan trouser suit, with green shoulders, back and sleeves for the jacket.
By the start of this story, Thunderbirds was already well underway on television so the inclusion of the Hood probably comes as little surprise in this, his strip debut. He would not appear in the comic again until the Thunderbirds strip Atlantic Tunnel a few months later.
In some ways this strip almost acts as a prequel, not only to introduce the new Thunderbirds strip, which begins in issue 52, but the first episode by implying how the Hood may have come to know of the existence of International Rescue.
The postcard seen at the end of part 7 refers to Penelope's home as Creighton-Ward Manor.
This story was chosen to introduce the Lady Penelope strip to the 1990s Thunderbirds comic, as it had the closest ties with the series.
The dialogue of the last frame was altered for the subsequent reprints in the 1990s Thunderbirds comics and graphic novels to "Yes, Parker... we're part of Thunderbirds now." But the original "Thunderbirds are definitely coming!" line was retained for the Thunderbirds - Classic Comic Strips version.
A cover flash on the cover of TV Century 21 issue 51, the last to feature the strip, indicates the launch of the Lady Penelope comic the following week.
Illustration: Lady Penelope's FAB 1, from the TV Century 21 Summer Extra, 1965.
Artist on the strip was Eric Eden, himself no stranger to the Anderson series having already illustrated for the Supercar and Fireball XL5 annuals. Eden was capable of producing extremely slick technical illustrations with the use of an airbrush, becoming responsible for many of the cutaways and features that appeared in TV Century 21. But as a standalone comic artist his work could be described as whimsical when compared to Ron Embleton and Mike Noble. That said, his style matched the characterisation and humour of the scripts better than a more action-oriented artist might.
Despite its legitimate ties to Thunderbirds, and the growing Anderverse, Lady Penelope was still out of place in TV Century 21. It is interesting to speculate whether, anticipating the potential success of the comic, the strip was also created as a springboard for Lady Penelope as a separate publication, or whether it was a happy coincedental circumstance. Certainly none of the television series had been failures, each building on the success of its predecessor, but TV Century 21 as a standalone publication was something of a risk in new territory. As Thunderbirds made its television debut, and the comic built towards adding a strip version to its pages, plans were made to move Lady Penelope into her own sister publication, one for girls who loved television.
The Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History would like to thank:
- for her help with this feature.
Version 1.2 - 01.05.05
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