|Illya in Oils by Ron Embleton|
A one off oil painting by much-admired TV Century 21 and Wulf the Briton comics artist Ron Embleton of David McCallum as Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘s Illya Kuryakin is currently being offered on eBay.
The Complete Gerry Anderson Comics history site, sourcing information from a 1966 issue of Retail Newsagent, notes the art was specially commissioned for a competition for TV Century 21‘s sister comic Lady Penelope, and was won by 10-year-old Lynda Barlow of Woolton, Liverpool (below).
The competition, which ran in Issue 7 of the best-selling comic in March 1966, challenged readers to match the mood of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. star with six photographs of him from the smash hit spy show.
Ron Embleton, who died in 1988, was not the regular artist on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. strip in the comic and is perhaps better known for strips such as Stingray (for TV Century 21) and Wicked Wanda (for Penthouse). His much-admired strip work also featured in titles such as Express Weekly, Princess, Boy’s World and Look and Learn.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. strip was drawn by Juan González Alacreu, an artist now better known for his fine art, who Bear Alley notes also worked on The Avengers for the girls comic Diana and many war library titles.
The Lady Penelope comic itself was a hugely successful title, less reliant on stories set in the future with lead character Lady Penelope more of an “action person” than she had been in her TV Century 21 strips, according to editor Gillian Allan, to make the stories more geared to her, and more interesting. “She was the heroine of the magazine, after all.”
Other strips in the comic during its run included The Monkees, Daktari, Marina, Girl from the Sea and Bewitched.
The competition was part of ongoing promotions by publisher City Magazines to promote the comic, along with the publisher’s other titles, and serves to illustrates how much effort was put into ensuring continued high sales. That hard work paid off: even in 1968, two years after the title launch, records show the comic was selling 315,662 copies a week.
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