WELCOME

Welcome to the web home of THE EAGLE SOCIETY.

THE EAGLE SOCIETY is dedicated to the memory of EAGLE - Britain's National Picture Strip Weekly - the leading Boy's magazine of the 1950s and 1960s. We publish an A4, quarterly journal - the Eagle Times.

This weblog has been created to provide an additional, more immediate, forum for news and commentary about the society and EAGLE-related issues. Want to know more? See First Post and Eagle - How it began.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 8




The above frame is from Operation Triceratops, the Dan Dare story in Eagle Annual Number Four, published in 1954. It features a character called Sir Nigel Tawny, who engages Dan’s services to transport a Venusian triceratops to his Zoo on the Isle of Wight. This story marks his only appearance in the Dan Dare saga, but remarkably the character went on to have a notable career in comics! In 1958 his adventures as an explorer provided the front page lead strip in Zip! comic and Sir Nigel’s adventures ran until 1962, moving into Swift when it absorbed Zip! in 1959.

The strip was written by John B. Myers and drawn by ‘Redvers Blake’, who was really Harry Winslade. Of course, Sir Nigel in the Dan Dare story is much older than his namesake in Zip! but he should be, as Operation Triceratops is set in the early twenty first century, whereas the Nigel Tawny strip begins in the late fifties. An explorer from that time, whose adventures sometimes involved unusual animals – as in the story shown above, might well become President of the Interplanetary Zoo after he retired. The pictures of him are not dissimilar when this is borne in mind, even though one was drawn by Harold Johns and the other by Winslade. So how did a minor character from a Dan Dare story become a star in his own right? The answer lies with John Myers who also wrote Operation Triceratops. As we know, Frank Hampson called upon several various writers to help with the Dan Dare strip before Alan Stranks became the regular scriptwriter and this was the case with the annual stories. As Sir Nigel was such a minor character in Dan Dare he presumably saw no copyright problems in using the character’s name again. When Zip! began the Nigel Tawny strip, its publisher, Odhams did not own the rights for Eagle, only acquiring them the following year.   

Friday, 12 October 2018

EAGLE TIMES AUTUMN 2018 Vol. 31 No.3

The new EAGLE TIMES is out now and it is a strong, varied and interesting issue.



LOOK OUT FOR:

EAGLE's Extended Family by Jeremy Briggs
. The Seth and Shorty western strip by Joe Hoole
. Jeremy Briggs' review of A Concise Guide to EAGLE Plastic Kits by David Welsh
. Charles Chilton and the Indian Wars by David Britton
. The Dan Dare adventure The Big City Caper by Andrew Coffey
. Another Glimpse inside the workings of EAGLE by David Britton
. Space Fiction Movies by Will Grenham
. Alfred the Great by Steve Winders
. Another In and Out of the EAGLE by Jim Duckett
. A new Archie Willoughby story: The Case of the Vanishing Police Box by Steve Winders

Sunday, 7 October 2018

THE MAN WHO DREW DAN DARE

EXHIBITION REPORT BY DAVID BRITTON

A reception was held on Thursday evening 20th September at the Atkinson Art Gallery in Lord St. Southport, to launch three new exhibitions that all have a local relevance. The one of particular interest to our readers is dedicated to “The Man Who Drew Dan Dare”, an exhibition marking the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Frank Hampson and his life’s work. The evening was opened by Stephen Whittle, Principal Manager at the Atkinson, who gave a brief background to each of the exhibitions and introduced Peter Hampson as guest speaker for Frank Hampson’s exhibition. 

Peter then related the story behind Frank’s career commencing with his demobilisation from the Army and the attendance at Southport College of Art. On leaving the College he was initially involved in producing commercial work for advertising and did illustrations for “Anvil”, Marcus Morris’ local church magazine that was later taken up by the Anglican Church. When Marcus decided to embark on his mission to create a comic or magazine to compete effectively with the gratuitous, pulp comics that were flooding the country from America, setting a higher moral standard yet appealing to children with an exciting product, he collaborated with Frank and EAGLE was born.  Shortly after Jocelyn Thomas, Greta Tomlinson and Joan Porter joined them at the Bakehouse, 22, Botanic Road, Churchtown. The Bakehouse has been restored recently and has a plaque honouring those who worked there in the early days of EAGLE.  Joan remained Frank’s assistant right through to the end.


Peter talked about the move to Epsom, the development of the studio at Bayford Lodge and of the humour that accompanied the hard work and weekly deadlines. That was followed by the unhappy departure from Odham’s , The Road of Courage for EAGLE , working for Ladybird books, more commercial work, such as an advertising strip series for the National Coal Board and finally the North East Surrey College of Technology (NESCOT) where he taught and worked.

The exhibition is really very well laid out and has examples of Frank’s work from the very beginning, with some beautifully executed pencil sketches and work in pen and ink. It continues through the early work on Dan Dare, illustrated by pages from the start of The First Venus Story, later episodes, pencil roughs and ending with post-EAGLE illustration for Ladybird books, a period that Peter described as a very happy one after the trauma of the final years with Odham’s. One of the highlights is some original pages for “The Road of Courage”, which for many represents the pinnacle of Frank’s output. Peter also pointed out the fact that Frank loved to put lots of detail into the background of his frames. This is apparent throughout his work.

The recognition that Frank received in Lucca in 1975 - The Yellow Kid  and his award of the title 'Prestigio Maestro' - the Best Comic Book Artist Since the Second World War, were also on display. 

Overall, the evening was a great success, although attendance may have been curtailed by a disastrous night of bad weather, with high winds and very heavy rain, as the tail of Storm Bronagh passed Southport. We were graced however by the presence of Frank’s sister Margaret, currently 91 years of age and her daughter Tina and son-in-law Les, as well as Peter’s wife Sue.

The exhibition runs until 16th March 2019 and is a must for all EAGLE, Dan Dare and Frank Hampson fans.





Monday, 17 September 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 7

WITH JIM DUCKETT


You don’t tend to bump into people called Horatio every day, but no less than three Horatios featured in their own strips in Eagle. First was John Ryan’s Captain Horatio Pugwash, who appeared from the first issue until the nineteenth in 1950. The next was the real life Horatio Nelson, who was featured in the back page serial The Great Sailor in 1956-57 and finally there was C.S. Forester’s fictional naval hero, Horatio Hornblower, whose adventures were adapted for Eagle in 1962-63. Of course all these Horatios are linked by the sea and all captained ships at some time in their lives. Nelson was one of Britain’s greatest heroes of the Napoleonic wars and Eagle included no less than three fictional strips set during this period. Only the wild west and contemporary times were featured more. First was Jack O’Lantern, about a young boy in the later years of the conflict, which ran in Eagle from 1955-60. Then came the already mentioned Hornblower stories and finally in 1964, Johnny Frog, about another young boy, this time set around the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. Both Jack O’Lantern and Johnny Frog were written by George Beardmore.    

Staying with the sea, Eagle forged strong links with the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Eagle, including featuring her as a cutaway drawing. H.M.S. Eagle was launched in 1946 and was the fifteenth Royal Navy ship to bear the name. Commissioned in 1951 she saw war service during the Suez Crisis of 1956. After service all over the world, she had an extensive refit in 1959 and another in 1966, finally being withdrawn from service in 1972. She was subsequently moored in the River Tamar, where she was held in reserve until 1976, although she was stripped for essential parts needed by H.M.S. Ark Royal. She was finally scrapped in 1978. I was lucky enough to see the ship’s brass name plate on a visit to the Royal Naval Dockyard Museum at Devonport a few years ago and one of her anchors can be seen at the entrance to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton.

FRANK HAMPSON EXHIBITION

A major exhibition of Frank Hampson's work began this weekend at the Atkinson Arts Centre in Southport. The official opening is on Thursday September 20th and the exhibition will run until March 2019. Original Dan Dare artwork is on display as well as models and film of Frank's studio. Original art from his Ladybird books and his Road of Courage strip is also displayed.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 6

WITH JIM DUCKETT



It’s a sobering thought but the first recorded Dan Dare adventure was set at least thirty years ago! This was Moon Run in the EAGLE Annual for 1961, which includes Dan’s first meeting with Digby and consequently must take place before the Mars 1988 story which was featured in the 1952 Annual where Dan and Digby already know each other. Born in 1967, Dan would now be fifty one, although having spent the best part of a decade in suspended animation, travelling to and from Cryptos, he would now effectively be about forty. With his return in 2012 and the Mekon’s invasion of Earth defeated, by 2016 the Pescod threat would probably be over too and by now Dan and friends may well be involved in the Terra Nova adventure, meaning we’ve reached the end of the Frank Hampson era in real time! At least Frank Bellamy, Don Harley, Eric Eden, Keith Watson and David Motton’s work should keep us going for a few more years, but none of us will be around in 2177 when Dan is revived with a new face for his 2000 A.D. adventures!

Most sobering of all though is the fact that in our version of reality, the possibility of a colony on Mars as depicted in Mars 1988 is still many years away. We have yet to land a man on the planet. But to end on a happier note, at least we aren’t likely to be invaded by robots controlled by intelligent reptiles from Venus any time soon, either.         

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 5

WITH JIM DUCKETT 





When EAGLE began, radio was still king and two of its most popular strips originated as BBC radio series. PC 49 began in 1947 and 112 half hour adventures of the London policeman, played by Brian Reece, were made before the programme ended in 1953. PC 49’s adventures began in the first issue of EAGLE and ran until 1957. The radio adventures of Riders of the Range, featuring Paul Carpenter as Jeff Arnold, began in 1949 and six serials were broadcast between 1949 and 1953, with the EAGLE version beginning in December 1950 and running till March 1962. Unlike strip versions of later television series in other comics, which were invariably notably inferior to their originals, the EAGLE versions of both these radio series compared most favourably, probably because they were written by their creators and illustrated by excellent artists in John Worsley and Frank Humphris, who made the strips their own. Their success is evidenced by the fact that both outlasted their radio counterparts by several years.

Of the characters who were specially created for EAGLE, Dan Dare featured in a hugely successful series of radio serials on Radio Luxembourg between 1951 and 1955, where he was played by Noel Johnson, who had originated the popular Dick Barton character in 1947, for BBC radio. The BBC produced their own four part Dan Dare serial in 1990 to mark EAGLE'S fortieth anniversary, which featured Mick Brown as Dan and Donald Gee as Digby. In 1954, EAGLE began its own promotional programme on Radio Luxembourg, called Spread Your Wings and this featured a six part Luck of the Legion serial, narrated by Norman Shelley as an old legionnaire. Sergeant Luck also appeared on the commercial Springbok Radio in South Africa in 1979 in his own series, written by his creator Geoffrey Bond, twenty years after the strip ended in EAGLE.