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.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 19

TV Century 21 weekly was launched in January 1965, primarily to promote Gerry Anderson's futuristic TV series, namely Supercar, Fireball XL5 and Stingray. His greatest success, Thunderbirds would follow a year later. The new weekly was heavily influenced by EAGLE, which is hardly surprising as EAGLE had been a great success in the preceding decade and its lead strip, Dan Dare was easily Britain's best and most popular space adventure strip. Like Dan Dare, TV Century 21 was about adventure in the future and its editor Alan Fennell was keen to emulate EAGLE's success. He persuaded many of EAGLE's former artists to join the new weekly and his efforts proved fruitful as TV Century 21 outsold the sixties EAGLE and its other adventure strip rivals in its first few years of publication. The steadily declining popularity of Gerry Anderson's series which followed Thunderbirds, coupled with a change of publisher and the loss of rights to Anderson's programmes led to declining sales and TV 21 was absorbed into Valiant in 1971.

In its early years, TV Century 21's size, paper quality, printer and layout were the same as EAGLE's. Eric Bemrose Ltd. of Liverpool printed both papers using the Photogravure process and during the sixties, both ran to twenty or sometimes twenty four pages, with six in colour. The front page of TV Century 21 was set out as a newspaper, which was a device first used by EAGLE in two episodes of Dan Dare. No less than six former Dan Dare artists illustrated strips in TV Century 21 while two more contributed to related publications. In addition to these, six others who had previously contributed to EAGLE, illustrated strips in TV Century 21 at various times during its six and a half year run and another three drew strips for annuals and specials. Of the Dan Dare artists, Eric Eden drew Lady Penelope and The Daleks, Don Harley drew Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Lady Penelope, Frank Bellamy drew Thunderbirds, Harold Johns drew Star Trek and Keith Watson drew Captain Scarlet and Joe 90. Keith originally drew Joe 90 for the Joe 90:Top Secret comic before it was merged into TV 21 and he wrote several stories himself. Dan Dare's creator Frank Hampson  drew a few episodes of Fireball XL5 for the weekly and a Lady Penelope story for a TV Century 21 Summer Extra in 1965. The two Dan Dare artists who drew for related publications, were Eric Kincaid, who drew a Fireball XL5 strip for a TV Century 21 Annual and Desmond Walduck who drew several Fireball XL5 strips for the pre-TV Century 21 Fireball XL5 Annuals. Finally, David Motton, who wrote the Dan Dare strip from 1962 until 1966, wrote some Burke's Law stories for TV Century 21. 


Of the other former EAGLE artists, Paul Trevillion, who drew Can You Catch a Crook? and U.F.O. Agent for EAGLE, drew Burke's Law and The Munsters for TV 21. Richard Jennings, who drew Tommy Walls, Storm Nelson, Earthquake Island and U.F.O. Agent for EAGLE, drew The Daleks. Harry Lindfield, who drew Mark Question for EAGLE, drew Star Trek. Ron Embleton, who drew Johnny Frog for EAGLE, produced illustrations for the credits sequence on the Captain Scarlet TV series and drew Stingray for TV 21, while his brother Gerry, who had drawn a few episodes of Riders of the Range and some factual strips for EAGLE, also drew Stingray and Catch or Kill. He would later draw Dan Dare for the 1980s EAGLE. John M. Burns, who drew Wrath of the Gods for EAGLE, also drew Catch or Kill and he too would later draw Dan Dare for the 1980s EAGLE as well as The Fists of Danny Pike. 

Three former EAGLE artists drew strips for TV 21 related publications: Pat Williams drew a Fireball XL5 strip for TV 21's 1965 Summer Extra, having produced many factual strips for EAGLE. Gerald Haylock, who drew Knights of the Road and The Guinea Pig for EAGLE, drew Land of the Giants for TV 21's companion paper Joe 90 and Gerry Anderson's U.F.O. for Countdown, while Brian Lewis, who had also drawn The Guinea Pig, as well as Home of the Wanderers and Mann of Battle for EAGLE, drew a Thunderbirds strip for a one-off Thunderbirds Extra in 1966. Brian would later draw a Dan Dare strip for the 2000 A.D. version of the character. Don Harley also produced a Thunderbirds strip for the 1966 Extra and some new Thunderbirds strips for Countdown weekly in 1971, after it acquired the publication rights. Another former EAGLE employee also worked on, TV 21. This was Roger Perry, who had been a layout artist on EAGLE in the early sixties. He worked as Art Editor on TV 21 and its companion comics from 1966 until 1969.

Two other contributory artists to TV 21 would later work on the 1980s version of EAGLE. Carlos Pino, who drew some M.A.S.K. strips for EAGLE, which also reprinted his M.A.C.H.1 strips from 2000 A.D. had worked in partnership with Vicente Alcazar on Star Trek for TV 21. They used the name 'Carvic' for their joint work. Finally, John Cooper, who later produced Johnny Red strips for the 1980s EAGLE, which also reprinted his One Eyed Jack work from Valiant drew Secret Agent 21, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet for TV 21.


Repeats of Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds TV series on BBC 2 in 1991, prompted Fleetway Publications to launch a Thunderbirds comic the same year, which published reprints of many TV 21 strips. New contents were also produced and Keith Watson drew some new strips for this publication. Three more artists with Dan Dare connections also contributed to it. Graham Bleathman, who would later produce cutaways of Dan Dare spacecraft for both Spaceship Away magazine and a Haynes Manual, drew cutaways of the Thunderbirds and associated craft. Keith Page, who drew some Dan Dare strips for the 1980s EAGLE and a strip about the early career of Dan's boss, Sir Hubert Guest, for Spaceship Away, drew several new Thunderbirds strips and Andrew Skilleter, who, as a boy co-founded the very first Dan Dare Club in the 1960s  and later worked with Keith Watson on two Dan Dare stories for the 1980s EAGLE, drew an epic 32 part strip telling the whole story of how International Rescue was founded. He also drew some covers for the Thunderbirds comic and produced artwork for Fleetway's Stingray, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 comics. He illustrated covers and 'Mission Activity' pages for a later Thunderbirds comic produced by Redan in 2000, which Graham Bleathman also produced new cutaways for. Andrew also produced pictures for a Captain Scarlet Sticker Album. Recently he has produced a set of Art Cards relating to Gerry Anderson's shows.

In 2015, a new C.G.I. television series Thunderbirds Are Go! was launched on ITV and a comic of the same name appeared. This time, D.C. Thomson were the publishers and once again an artist with Dan Dare connections drew some of the Thunderbirds Are Go! strips. This was Martin Baines, who drew some Dan Dare pages for the early editions of Spaceship Away and has recently completed a Dan Dare cover for Comic Scene magazine to mark Dan's seventieth anniversary.

Information collated by Jim Duckett and Steve Winders. We are grateful to Shaquille Le Vesconte and Andrew Skilleter for clarifying some of the information for this article. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 18


EAGLE has a surprising number of connections with Doctor Who. In the 1965 film Doctor Who and the Daleks, based on the original TV serial from 1964, Peter Cushing as the Doctor is shown reading a copy of EAGLE. Interviewed some years later by Chris Kelly for the Clapperboard television show, Peter said that he had been a regular reader of EAGLE. 

In the mid sixties, three Dalek annuals were produced by Souvenir Press. The colour strips in these annuals and the covers were illustrated by Richard Jennings, a long time contributor to EAGLE, who had drawn the Storm Nelson and Tommy Walls strips. The former Dan Dare artist Bruce Cornwell also drew strips for the first two annuals. Jennings also drew a set of Dalek sweet cigarette cards in 1964 and was the first artist to draw the Dalek weekly strip for TV Century 21 comic, beginning in January 1965. Eric Eden, another Dan Dare artist (and writer), also drew this strip.

David Motton, who wrote the Dan Dare strip between 1962 and 1966, wrote several Doctor Who scripts for TV Comic in 1965 and two stories for the Doctor Who Annual 1967. Another EAGLE contributor, Pat Williams, who drew several factual strips for the weekly, drew several Doctor Who strips for TV Comic Holiday Specials and two for TV Comic Annual 1968. He also drew a set of colour picture cards (and the cover for the picture card album) to be given free with Wall's Sky Ray ice lollies in 1968. As Wall's were not licenced to use the actor Patrick Troughton's image as the Doctor, Williams had to create a new likeness for the character.

Gerald Haylock, who had drawn Knights of the Road and The Guinea Pig  for EAGLE, drew the Doctor Who strip in Countdown and TV Action comics between 1971 and 1973. Dan Dare's creator Frank Hampson produced a large colour illustration for the Radio Times Doctor Who Tenth Anniversary Special in 1973 and Frank Bellamy, who had illustrated Dan Dare and Heros the Spartan for EAGLE, drew many short strip extracts from TV episodes of Doctor Who for the Radio Times in the mid seventies.

Dave Gibbons moved from drawing Dan Dare for 2000 A.D. comic in 1979 to draw Doctor Who for the first 69 issues of Doctor Who Magazine. The first story he drew was written by Pat Mills and John Wagner, who would later work on the first Dan Dare story for the 1980s EAGLE. Pat Mills contributed a story called The Song of the Space Whale for the Doctor Who TV series in 1982, but it was never produced as Mills and the programme's script editor Eric Saward could not agree on certain elements of the story. It was later produced as a Big Finish audio production in 2010 (retitled The Song of Megaptera) and Mills has subsequently written more Doctor Who stories for this range.

Andrew Skilleter, a founder member of the Dan Dare Club from which our current society eventually emerged, illustrated forty nine covers from 1979 for the Target novelisations of Doctor Who adventures from the television series. He also illustrated Doctor Who VHS covers, calendars, prints and the cover of the Radio Times which featured the Five Doctors anniversary special in 1983. He set up the Who Dares publishing company in 1983, to publish Doctor Who related material, but he also published Alastair Crompton's book about Frank Hampson The Man Who Drew Tomorrow and the name of his company links Dan and the Doctor. He assisted Keith Watson on two Dan Dare adventures for the 1980s EAGLE, colouring one and colouring and partly inking the other. Keith himself, who worked on the Dan Dare strip in both the original EAGLE and the 1980s version, produced a full page illustration for David Banks' book about the Cybermen from Doctor Who in 1990, that was published by Who Dares. Andrew Skilleter also contributed illustrations for this publication.     

John Ridgway drew a four part Dan Dare strip for the new EAGLE in 1990 and one for the Dan Dare Holiday Special the same year. He drew many Doctor Who strips for the Doctor Who Magazine between 1984 and 1993 and in 1991 he contributed a page to the Comic Relief Comic in which Dan Dare and Digby met all the Doctors to date (up to and including Paul Mc Gann's portrayal). John Freeman, who edited the Doctor Who Magazine between 1990 and 1992, contributing to several Doctor Who strips, wrote two Dan Dare adventures that appeared in Spaceship Away magazine in 2011 and 2017 and was employed as creative consultant on B7 Media's Dan Dare audio series in 2016.

There is one other occasion where the Doctor has met a version of  Dan Dare. This was in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Dying Days, published in 1997 and written by Lance Parkin. Here the eighth Doctor (as portrayed by Paul McGann) meets a space hero called Alex Christian, which is an early name created by Marcus Morris for the character who Frank Hampson would develop into Dan Dare.

But one EAGLE contributor actually wrote a televised Doctor Who adventure. This was Peter Ling, creator of Eagle's Three 'J's text serials, who wrote the 1968 story The Mind Robber for Patrick Troughton's Doctor. Additionally it has often been claimed that Terry Nation's first Dalek story for Doctor Who was heavily influenced by Frank Hampson's first Dan Dare story for EAGLE and Kit Pedler, the co-creator of the Cybermen actually stated that they were inspired by Frank Hampson's Treens.    

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

WENCESLAS THE GOOD


THIS ARTICLE BY STEVE WINDERS APPEARED IN THE CHRISTMAS ISSUE OF EAGLE TIMES IN 2016.

Francis Dickson, alias ‘R.B. Saxe’ died in February 1953, having written three back page ‘real life’ serials for EAGLE. He had also written strips about the lives of Elizabeth Fry for GIRL ANNUAL and Wenceslas of Bohemia for EAGLE ANNUAL and these were his final published works, appearing many months after his death when the annuals were published ready for Christmas 1953. In his strips for EAGLE, Saxe never let the truth get in the way of a good story and he sometimes placed events at the wrong time and outside their proper context to make his story flow better. Wenceslas the Good is no exception. Running for just six pages in black and white, it tells the story of a Duke of Bohemia from the tenth century who was a champion of Christianity. Although greatly venerated in England in the years following his death, Wenceslas would have been unknown in contemporary Britain but for a popular Christmas carol written in 1853 by an Anglican clergyman John Mason Neale  who was a prolific writer of hymns. The hymn was set to the melody of a thirteenth century Spring carol called Tempest Adest Floridum, which he had found in an old Finnish song collection. The words themselves are believed to be based on a Czech poem by Vaclav Alois Svoboda. 

In both the strip and the carol, Wenceslas is described as a King although he was actually a Duke. However, after his death, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto the First posthumously conferred the title of King on him. Born in 907, Wenceslas was heavily influenced by his pious grandmother Ludmila, while his younger brother Boleslas was more influenced by their mother Drahomira, a nominal convert to Christianity with strong pagan sympathies. Saxe correctly recounts all this in the strip omitting only Wenceslas’ year of birth. The strip wrongly reports the death of his father as 926 while most authorities place his death in 921. If he had died as late as 926 then Bohemia would not have needed a regent as both the strip and reality show. Wenceslas is still depicted as a young boy. The strip says that his mother was made regent, but Saxe omits to say that she was obliged to share authority with Ludmila and that Drahomira had her killed! A frame shows Wenceslas telling his mother that now he is ‘King’ he will build more churches and convert his people to Christianity. She reminds him of her authority and says that no churches will be built as it would offend the pagan barons.

According to the strip, Wenceslas’ mother persuades the barons to carry out raids into what Saxe describes as ‘the German Empire’ led by Boleslas, prompting his older brother to warn her of the folly of this as Henry of Germany is strong. His mother dismisses his fears saying that neighbouring states will help if the Empire attacks. Henry invades Bohemia ‘the very next day’ and is soon besieging Prague. To overcome this crisis, Wenceslas abolishes the regency and takes control. He makes peace with Henry which brings Bohemia into his Empire and having to pay an annual tribute, but the treaty is described as fair. As usual in Saxe’s stories, the truth is far more complicated.

What actually happened was that Wenceslas’ father Vratislaus had secured an alliance with the Bavarian Duke Arnulf, an opponent of Henry, to avoid being absorbed by his Empire, but in 921, the year of Vratislaus’ death, Arnulf and his forces were besieged by Henry in Regensburg and Arnulf was forced to sue for peace, making the alliance worthless. Wenceslas assumed leadership of his Duchy in 924 or 925 when he came of age and exiled his mother. As in the strip he began to build churches and schools, including a rotunda church dedicated to Saint Vitus in Prague Castle, which exists to this day as Saint Vitus’ Cathedral. It was not until 929 that the joint forces of Arnulf and Henry attacked Prague in a sudden attack and forced Wenceslas to pay a regular tribute, so the events as described in the strip are misleading. However some historians believe that when Drahomira was regent she had opposed accepting the Christian Henry as overlord of Bohemia, whereas Ludmila who strongly influenced Wenceslas was believed to support Henry’s authority. Although Wenceslas did not subsequently ally himself with Henry until he was forced to, Arnulf began raiding Bohemia in 922, which put him in a difficult position and his banishment of his mother may have been partly due to her enmity towards the powerful Henry. Saxe was correct in showing that Henry and Wenceslas had great respect for each other. They recognised their shared aims in spreading Christianity.    

The strip goes on to show rebellious barons objecting to Wenceslas sending out missionaries to convert their serfs into ‘rebellious dogs of Christians’ and the missionaries and their converts are forced to worship in hiding. This was certainly a period of tension in Bohemia as Christianity steadily replaced paganism and given Drahomira’s objections to Wenceslas’ promotion of the Christian faith, there was clearly a resistance to it in high places. Wenceslas is then shown giving gifts to the poor and Saxe follows this with the story told by the famous carol. On the Feast of Stephen (December 26th) Wenceslas sees a poor old man out in the snow gathering twigs for his fire and asks his page if he knows where the man lives. The page tells him that he lives a good ‘league’ away (the distance specified in the carol which equates to about three miles) and Wenceslas instructs him to gather wood and food for the old man. They then trudge through the snow to the man’s cottage and surprise him with the wood and a feast. The story is based on old stories of Wenceslas which tell how he went out at night, assisted only by his chamberlain to take gifts of food and money to the poor. Given that the carol is the only reason that most readers would have heard of Wenceslas, it is inevitable that the story is told in the strip.

Saxe’s account ends with the barons persuading Boleslas that his brother must be killed and he is ambushed by Boleslas and two others on his way to Church. The date is given as September 28th 926. The date is correct but the year has been misprinted. Earlier the strip had incorrectly given his father’s death as 926! The correct year of Wenceslas’ murder is given on the next page as 936, although many authorities say 935. It was a long time ago! In the strip Wenceslas is stabbed to death by one of his brother’s companions. Tradition holds that he was indeed killed by his brother, aided by three other men. Although not mentioned in the strip, his body was dismembered and buried at the scene which immediately became a place of pilgrimage and many miracles were reported there. Subsequently his body was moved to St. Vitus’ Church in Prague by a repentant Boleslas. The strip concludes with Boleslas feeling remorse for his brother’s murder and dedicating his newborn son Stratchk to the Church. This is true. Stratchk grew up to become Bishop of Prague, although sadly he died suddenly on the day of his consecration. 

After his martyrdom a cult grew up around Wenceslas, particularly in Bohemia and England. The Anglo-Saxon English identified with his struggles against paganism, having faced similar experiences with their pagan Viking neighbours, who were now gradually converting to Christianity. They were probably also influenced by the esteem in which he was held by Henry and later his son Otto, who were the leading Saxon rulers in Europe, with Otto becoming Holy Roman Emperor in 962. Wenceslas was hailed as a saint and his death significantly promoted the cause of Christianity in Bohemia, not least because of his brother’s remorse.

The strip provides readers with a flowing and well-constructed account of Wenceslas’ life. In simplifying the complex political situation after his father’s death it contains inaccuracies and there is some confusion about dates, but it gives a reasonably accurate portrayal of a saint who everyone has heard of but few really know anything about. As in all Saxe’s EAGLE strips Wenceslas the Good was drawn by Norman Williams, although in black and white whereas his back page weekly stories were in colour. Unable to make use of his skills in using contrasting colours to show characters’ emotions, he nevertheless uses fine and heavy lines most effectively. He also uses a lot of dark shading which gives the images depth and sharpness.

Wenceslas the Good was a most appropriate strip for EAGLE ANNUAL. Telling the story of a hero most closely associated with Christmas, it appears in a book that most readers would receive at Christmas, which is also why it is featured in this blog at Christmas. Almost uniquely among Christmas carols, Good King Wenceslaus makes no reference to the Nativity of Jesus, yet its theme of giving binds it firmly to the season.  

EAGLE TIMES - WINTER 2019


The Winter EAGLE Times is out now and contains a range of articles about our favourite weekly.
Luck of the Legion and the Phantom Story by David Britton. A planned story about the Foreign Legionnaire that was never published. 
Pop Goes The EAGLE by Will Grenham. A look at Pop music in EAGLE.
Patrick- Fighter for Truth by Steve Winders. An examination of EAGLE's back page strip from 1951.
EAGLE's Annuals by Joe Hoole. The first of a three part series about all the EAGLE Annuals.
Sergeant Luck's Christmas Quiz. 
Charles Chilton and the Indian Wars Part Seven by David Britton. A look at the Riders of the Range story The Cochise Affair.
The Case of the Counterfeit Constable by Steve Winders. The final part of Steve's Archie Berkeley- Willoughby story about art forgery.
In and Out of the EAGLE (40) by Jim Duckett. This edition focuses on Harris Tweed .
Tailpieces by David Britton.
Postbag: Readers' Letters. 
     REGULAR SUBSCRIBERS ALSO RECEIVED A FREE EAGLE TIMES CALENDAR FOR 2020.

Friday, 11 October 2019

EAGLE TIMES Vol. 32 No.3 Autumn 2019


The Autumn edition of EAGLE Times is out now. Tintin appears on the cover and in an article about his Moon adventure inside, which highlights the similarities between Frank Hampson and Herge's working methods. Of interest to readers of the 1980s EAGLE is a feature on the photo strips which were such an important element of the early issues.
IN THIS ISSUE:
*Charles Chilton and the Indian Wars: Part 6 of David Britton's in depth look at the Riders of the Range Adventure The War With the Sioux and the real story of the war.
*Dan Dare Mint and Boxed: A look at the impressive Dan Dare toy collection in the MINT Toy Museum in Singapore.
*Dan Dare Radio: A document from the B.B.C. archives about Radio Luxembourg's Dan Dare radio series.
*The Shell: The Motor Mechanic's Own Strip Cartoon Magazine: A look at an educational comic magazine produced by the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company in the 1950s with several similarities to EAGLE by Jeremy Briggs.
*Destination Moon: Tintin's Moon Adventure examined by Jim Duckett.
*The Case of the Counterfeit Constable: Part 3 of Steve Winders' latest adventure of Archie Berkeley-Willoughby.
*In and Out of the EAGLE: Another page in the series of short EAGLE related items.
*Smile Please! You're in EAGLE: Steve Winders examines the photo strips from the 1980s EAGLE.
*Tail Pieces: A short piece on the Yugoslavian comic Plavi-Vjesnik which featured Dan Dare.   

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

EAGLE TIMES Vol. 32 No. 2 SUMMER 2019

The latest EAGLE TIMES is now available. Running to 48 pages, it features a wide range of articles:
*Charles Chilton and the Indian Wars (part five) by David Britton. 
*The Dan Dare studios Ideas Book
*Pogo Possum: The Early Years. Eric Fernie examines the American newspaper strip.
*The Travels of Marco Polo (part two) by Steve Winders
*The Case of the Counterfeit Constable (part two). Continuing Steve Winders' latest Archie Willoughby adventure.
*Come Fly With Me: Steve Winders' talk to the EAGLE Society Gathering at Dundee in April.
*In and Out of the EAGLE by Jim Duckett. Looking at EAGLE reprints in books.
*Chris Abbott Remembered: Memories of a much missed former member of our editorial team who died in March.
*Report on the EAGLE Society Gathering by Reg Hoare.

Monday, 24 June 2019

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 17



Sadly the well known character actor William Simons, who played P.C. Alf Ventress in the long running TV series Heartbeat died last week. As a boy William had two unusual links with the 1950s EAGLE. He was the subject of the article Schoolboy in the African Bush in Eagle Vol.2 No.39 (dated 4th January 1952) when as an eleven year old he featured in the film Where No Vultures Fly. The article describes his experiences of filming on location for four months in Kenya. His other link with EAGLE was that he played Alfie Cutforth in the B.B.C. TV adaptation of Anthony Buckeridge's Rex Milligan stories, which had been specially created for EAGLE. 
Where No Vultures Fly was the second most successful film at the box office in Britain in 1952 and led to a sequel West of Zanzibar, released in 1954 in which William also featured. Both films starred Anthony Steel as a Game Warden who sets up a Wildlife Reserve in Kenya and both feature villainous ivory poachers.