Remember when Charlie’s Angels came together as an elite group of agents disguising their activities as an air-display troupe? When they were not flying loop-the-loop, the girls took orders from a mysterious voice who communicated over the radio. Sound familiar, no?
Actually, their story starts in January
1967 2067 with Charlie Richards giving freight pilot Diane Simms her notice. Their firm just can’t compete in the 21st Century marketplace. And getting work is still tough for lady pilots. This was the first installment of The Angels, a new one page comic strip in City Magazines/Century 21 Publications’ Lady Penelope, a weekly girls comic centered around International Rescue’s favourite London Agent. Lady Penelope had previously featured in TV Century 21, paving the way for Thunderbirds. Once the Tracy family arrived on the scene, Penny was spun out into her own FAB title. The comic also featured her chauffeur/butler/safe-cracking burglar Parker stretching his legs, The Man/Girl From U.N.C.L.E, The Monkees, Space Family Robinson, Marina, Beverley Hillbillies, Bewitched, Daktari, among other features.
The new strip was drawn by Jon Davis who drew other strips for TV21 and later Countdown. He would also illustrate the Ladybird Frankenstein, Mr Bubbles and Klanky the Robot for DC Thomson, and numerous other titles. He was made MBE for services to children’s literature in 2013. As mentioned, Diane has lost her job but Charlie has has one last package for her to deliver to Italy, customs cleared and paid in advance. Away she flies only to meet up with four other girls who have similar packages. The multi-national team are not named at this point, but they are Karen Wainwright, Juliette Pontoin, Magnolia Jones and Chan Kwan. In the second installment, the packages turn out to be identical uniforms. A mysterious voice promises thrills and adventure if they follow orders and pose as a display troupe in-between assignments. The girls are given five advanced fighter planes and take to the air.
They are also given code names - Destiny (squadron leader), Harmony, Melody, Rhapsody, and Symphony. But once in the sky, Melody has problems and spirals out of control. The others fly to her aid, but not to worry - it has all been a test to see if they can work together.
Diane, now Rhapsody, goes awol when she learns Charlie Richards is in trouble. The others shoot her down, but she manages to keep moving. But there is a happy ending, he is now the team’s mechanic. See, they really are Charlie’s Angels. He is going to keep them flying high!
Over the next few months, The Angels have to dodge the USAF, kidnappers, spies, smugglers and nosy reporters. All through the uniforms and planes are unbranded, but mysteriously, about 20 weeks or so in, mid-adventure, they gain a rainbow coloured swastika on their gear. No mention as to why? Is it Hydra? Are they trying to tell us something?
Having made their debut in issue 53, The Angels get to meet the man behind the voice in issue 88. In a remote part of Asia, they encounter Colonel White.
Welcome to Spectrum! This is what we’ve been building up to, girls! The five babes in the fighter planes are going to be defending the earth against alien menace in a groovy new television show that will be starting next month. Take heed, The Angels were around, a full seven months before Mr Metcalfe had his retrometabolic experience. Could still be Hydra though? This White guy seems fond of helicarrier style flying bases. Don’t worry! Spectrum is Green!
It might not be clear how this televisual revelation was received by readers. The Angels would go on to have kitten problems and clash with Captain Black in their comic adventures. In fact, that encounter would drain all the colour out of them. The last ten installments, ending in Lady Penelope issue 120, were in black and white.
Not to worry, they would live again in a 2005 CGI tv series. No Charlie this time though!