Tuesday, 30 August 2016



The MAN From U.N.C.L.E. was big - very big.  It was probably the closest thing to JAMES BOND that viewers of a certain age could watch before they were old enough to see 007 in his own big-budget movies.  And NAPOLEON SOLO had been created by Bond author IAN FLEMING himself, thereby lending an air of secret agent authenticity to the show developed by SAM ROLFE for TV.

I had an attache case with U.N.C.L.E. badge and gun, plus the ID card that one sent away to the RADIO TIMES for - and it was free!  I don't remember ever buying any of the Annuals though, of which there were four.  The first one (above) was for 1967, and there were ones for '68, '69 & '70 as well.  There was a comic album issued in 1966, and two Television Picture Story Books for '67 & '68.

The comic strip in the '67 Annual was reprinted from a GOLD KEY Man From U.N.C.L.E. comicbook, but the remainder of the contents were predominantly text stories.  WORLD DISTRIBUTORS was the publisher for all three of the Annuals we've seen in this blog series thus far, and this was the format of most of their output at the time.  No doubt it was down to budgetary restraints, but I can't help think that they missed a trick by not having more comic strips in their many hundreds (at least) of Annuals over the years.

Strange to think that the first Annual was issued only the year before the TV show was cancelled, and that they continued for a year (the 1970 Annual was issued in 1969) past the show's demise.  However, I guess it continued in repeats for a year or two afterwards.

Coming in Part Four - The AVENGERS Annual 1970.  Don't miss it!

And, below, my two U.N.C.L.E. ID cards.


paul Mcscotty said...

I used to love the “Man From U.N.C.L.E” TV series as a kid . I never had any of the annuals (annuals and comics of TV Shows and films never really intrigued me) but I do remember getting a “Man From U.N.C.L.E” triangular badge, a gun with holster and my favourite the Corgi car which I seem to recall came with a signet ring with Napoleon Solos picture in it (unless I got that separately). I think that was my favourite toy car (with the 007 one from the 1960’s ) with the bullet holes in the windscreen, the U.N.C.L.E logo on the bonnet, the 2 movable lights on the front of the car and of course, the action figures where Napoleon and Illya popped out the car windows shooting when you hit the clicker on top of the car (disguised I think as a “periscope” ) – sigh great times (I really will need to pick one up if I see it for a good price). I wasn’t aware that Ian Fleming created Napoleon Solo , you learn something new every day. The pictures of Illya and Napoleon look like they have lipstick on, was that the printing or did someone colour it that way with a pen?

Kid said...

I've got the Corgi car, PM, and yes, the ring originally came with it. I don't have the ring, but someone sells replicas of them on eBay, so I'll get one eventually. The car was called the Thrushbuster, which sounds like something you'd buy in a chemists. I think the lips were printed that way, but I couldn't swear to it. You didn't know that Ian Fleming created Napoleon Solo? I've mentioned it before, so you're obviously spending too much time on some other feller's blog. Shame on you!

Phil S said...

Uncle memoriabilia is worth money. Not as much a few years ago. It's suffering from old fan syndrome. Us old fans are all aging at the same rate and selling our collections at the same time. I don't remember the Uncle comic but I do remember one Avengers comic where Steed falls in the water!

Kid said...

I don't remember ever seeing the TV Avengers comic or the U.N.C.L.E. one, Phil, but I wouldn't mind adding a few of them to my collection. Roll on that Lottery win.

B Smith said...

I'm pretty certain I recall reading that Ian Fleming's only contribution to UNCLE was Napoleon Solo's name - nearly everything else came from the mind of series "developer" Sam Rolfe.

Have to say the recent film remake was a (no unexpected) letdown.

TC said...

As you say, U.N.C.L.E. was as close as a lot of preteen kids got to James Bond-type stuff in the 1960's. I was 12 or 13 when I first saw a real Bond movie. Thunderball and You Only Live twice were re-released on a double bill, as were Dr. No and From Russia With Love, ca. 1970. I then saw Diamonds Are Forever and the Roger Moore ones when they were first released. And I saw Goldfinger and also the Flint and Matt Helm movies on TV at about that same time.

I had two issues of the Gold Key Man From UNCLE comic, a Whitman Big Little Book ("The Calcutta Affair"), and two 6" soft plastic figures of Solo and Illya. (Don't ask; I don't have any of them now.) Recently, I learned that Marx also made figures of Mr. Waverly and some T.H.R.U.S.H. henchmen.

There were also "real" James Bond toys. Action figures of Bond and Oddjob, and a toy Aston Martin. I never had them. When I was young enough for toy cars and action figures, I was too young for Bond movies.

I vaguely knew who "James Bond" was, since, even when I was seven and eight, the name was being used as a metaphor, both for a cool action hero and for espionage. (In Detective Comics #352, the denouement involves smuggled microfilm, and Sue Dibny says, "How James Bondish!") And the spy-fi fad was showing up in the stuff that I was allowed to see. U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart on TV, and S.H.I.E.L.D. and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. in comics.

Kid said...

Haven't seen the recent movie, BS, but the trailers didn't impress me. Fleming is purported to have created the names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer, with Sam Rolfe developing the rest of the show. However, given the secret agent theme and the fact that U.N.C.L.E. and T.H.R.U.S.H. are reminiscent of MI6 and S.P.E.C.T.R.E., I can't help but wonder if Fleming had more of a hand in that he could let on, for legal reasons. (His agreement with EON productions.)


I knew who Bond was only from the Corgi Toys Aston Martin D.B.5 - it was 1972 before I saw my first Bond movie, TC, and I was lucky enough to see all the Connery Bonds in the cinema before they were sold to TV. I had a cheap Napoleon Solo action figure bought from Safeway, an ID card, a badge, an attache case, and my brother had a badge, ID card and invisible writing pen. I think we also had the Corgi Thrushbuster car.

Great days, eh?

SCOOP said...

Nice article, Kid. I'm enjoying this look back at the old annuals you're doing.

I have seen the new UNCLE film, and to be honest, while it has very little in common with the TV series, I reckon its not a bad stand alone stylish sixties period spy movie. It's much better than the Val Kilmer 'Saint' film.

Kid said...

Good to hear that they're appreciated, Scoop. I haven't seen the new movie, but I'd heard pretty much the same as what you said. I'll make a point of watching it when it comes on the telly.

John Pitt said...

Loving all these annuals, Kid! I would have loved them all as a kid!
I also used to collect the Man from UNCLE bubblegum cards!

Kid said...

I might have had them, JP, but I'm not sure. I collected the Batman and The Champions ones (but disposed of the disgusting confectionery that accompanied them).