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.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 23

The 2002 C.G.I. Dan Dare TV series was heavily criticised by fans for changing Digby from a Wiganer to a cockney. Digby was voiced by the British actor Julian Holloway, son of London born Stanley Holloway, who famously performed the monologue The Lion and Albert and many other humorous narrative poems in a Lancashire accent. Julian himself could easily have portrayed Digby as a Lancastrian, having inherited his father’s talent for mimicking accents, but the misguided decision to relocate Digby came from the producers. Ironically, Greg Ellis, the actor who voiced Dan Dare in the series, actually comes from Wigan!

The new Eagle originally featured the adventures of Dan Dare’s great great grandson in its pages, but in a short flashback in 1983 it suggested that the original Dan had really been an R.A.F. pilot in the Second World War who travelled through a time warp to the 1990s. There seemed to be no point to this ‘revelation’ especially as it contradicted long established facts, but it was actually reported to tie in with the planned live action Dan Dare TV series, slated to star James Fox as Dan and Rodney Bewes as Digby. Bewes was a keen fan of Dan Dare and a member of the EAGLE Society. In his 1983 autobiography Comeback, James Fox commented on the role of Dan for which he had recently been cast, describing him as a Second World War fighter pilot who travels forward in time to become a space pilot.

Of course ATV's live action series was never made, but in a 2015 interview James Fox suggested that although he is now too old to play Dan, he could play Sir Hubert Guest instead! The aborted series was first mooted in the mid 1970s and in 1979, Gareth Hunt, fresh from his success in The New Avengers was reported to have been cast as Dan. Remarkably, in a poll conducted by 2000 A.D. comic, also in 1979, Gareth Hunt was the readers' choice to play their revisionist version of Dan Dare, as drawn by Dave Gibbons.  

In 1991 a short TV pilot was made by Zenith Productions in an effort to interest TV companies in a Dan Dare series. Robert Bathurst played Dan and Geoffrey Hughes played Digby. Like Rodney Bewes, Hughes was also a keen fan and in his role as Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street was once shown reading a copy of the 1980s EAGLE. Unfortunately a series was not picked up.   

 The only time a live action Dan was seen on TV was in 1987, when he and Digby, played by Niven Boyd and Jimmy Yule respectively were featured in three advertisements for Mobil Oil. 

Monday, 15 November 2021

THE EAGLE SOCIETY 70th ANNIVERSARY GATHERING IN SOUTHPORT 2021

 Report by Reg Hoare

For those who gathered for the 2019 meeting in Scotland, it would have been unbelievable at that time to think it would eventually be some two and a half years before the seventieth anniversary of the launch of EAGLE could take place at Southport. Originally scheduled for April 2020, the Society finally gathered on the nineteenth to the twenty first of October 2021. The fact that it happened at all was due in no small measure to the persistence of Darren Evans, David Britton and Bob Corn in particular, who between them were determined that the ubiquitous virus would not prevail, despite the Mekon's efforts to ruin our special occasion. Needless to say, the Bliss Hotel overlooking the waterfront promenade at Southport came up to expectations and provided comfortable rooms, conference facilities and good food.   

It was pleasing to see so many attending again, including the regulars, but noticeably this time, some not so regular made the special effort for the seventieth. Your scribe was particularly pleased to see Rod Barzilay again, known more to members for his past efforts on Dan Dare work, notably with his creation of Spaceship Away. However we were all very sorry to see Will and Anne Grenham depart early on the Wednesday morning due to Anne feeling unwell. We wish her all the best for a speedy recovery. Anne has contributed much work in the past for the Society as a proofreader for EAGLE Times and we all look forward to seeing her again next year. 

The programme of events was designed to follow the usual pattern over the three days, not least with Steve Winders opening the proceedings on Tuesday evening with another of his wonderful monologues titled A Foreign Country. Steve's contribution in this respect is quite unique, being both clever and zany and has become almost the highlight of the Gathering. It will appear in the Christmas edition of EAGLE Times and is recommended reading.

Peter Dyer of Southport completed the first day with a very 'EAGLE' type talk entitled Southport Beach and Russian Rockets. Peter is a member of the British Amateur Rocket Association whose local members attempt (with some success) to launch small home made rockets on Southport beach. He produced film of these attempts, showing some spectacular efforts and demonstrating a most unusual hobby. He also brought in several of his rockets. He had become interested when his father bought him a spacesuit when still at school and started launching rockets at thirteen, having been a regular fan of Journey into Space on B.B.C. radio and Dan Dare on Radio Luxembourg as a young boy. Apparently it is not against the local by-laws to launch rockets from the beach, but they take precautions against any problems through insurance! 

The main and only full day, on Wednesday was initially devoted to and outing by coach to Liverpool and a trip on the Mersey Ferry accompanied by the famous song by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Unfortunately it was a wet and murky day, with the views along the Mersey not as clear as normal. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable experience. As soon as we arrived there was an excellent photo opportunity for our own resident photographer (Paul Napp) at the famous Beatles statue. Paul always manages to capture the key moments of any EAGLE meeting and this was one of those occasions when his expertise was on display.

Darren had kindly given us all the afternoon off for free time to explore the area and museums in particular. Your scribe found it a nostalgic occasion, having passed through the area several times in the sixties and seventies on the way to the Isle of Man TT Races, although the docks area seemed unrecognisable from those days. 

We returned to the Hotel for our seventieth anniversary dinner, complete with the celebratory cake. Our main talk was given by Keith Hick who is a civil engineer and architect, titled Donald Campbell and Bluebird K7. Our special guest was Gina Campbell who is the daughter of Donald and granddaughter of Sir Malcolm Campbell and herself a record holder of Ladies' Land and Water Speed Records in her own right. 

In a Q and A session she gave a vivid account of those record-breaking days involving Donald and the terrible day when her father was killed on Coniston in his last record-breaking attempt on water. Donald achieved both land and water speed records in the same year (1964) but was eventually killed in 1967. Gina is the last of the dynasty and it was not until 2001 that they managed to recover her father from the water and give him a church funeral. A truly engrossing story which went on to nearly midnight. We were all indebted to Darren for arranging such an interesting and famous speaker for the evening. 

On the Thursday morning of our Gathering we were treated to three talks. The first was by our own David Britton, who usually speaks on Riders of the Range, but this time it was a talk entitled Storm Nelson - Talking Up a Storm. Although this particular strip was not the favourite feature of any of the EAGLE characters whenever a survey was constructed, it did appear in 44% of all the EAGLES, running from Volume 4 No. 26 until Volume 13 No. 9, comprising some eighteen stories and 433 episode, including one repeated in error! It was written by Edward Trice (Guy Morgan) and drawn by Richard Jennings and sometimes Giorgio Bellavitis, who David suggested drew clearer drawings. It was an interesting study by a member who writes regular articles for EAGLE Times on a variety of subjects. In conclusion, David informed us that the Society had received phone calls in the light of this special anniversary, from Colin Knight, Ron French and Isobel Ryan (the younger daughter of John Ryan). 

The second talk of the morning was by again our very own Eric Fernie, titled Three Reminisces, a Parallel and Something Else. A highlight of this piece was his recollection of meeting Marion Ryan (daughter of John Ryan), who had no record of her father's work for EAGLE, so Eric helped her to acquire copies. Brought up in South Africa, Eric met a fellow countryman while walking in Southport, having recognised his distinctive accent. A fascinating parallel and one of Eric's usual interesting anecdotes. 

John Freeman completed the session with a talk entitled Down the Tubes about strip magazines today. John is professionally involved with modern day publishing of action adventure comics for both children and adults. His early influences were Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, Rainbow, TV Century 21 and Arthur C. Clarke's books. He became a graphic designer and editor for Marvel U.K. and worked on Doctor Who, Ghostbusters and Star Trek. He also worked on I.P.C.'s Vulcan comic. He launched strip magazine in 2011, which was part of Print Media Productions' plans for new comics for the U.K. He opined that if Frank Hampson had continued working on Dan Dare beyond Terra Nova, he would have kept abreast of scientific developments and discovery. He liked the idea of weekly comics, like EAGLE where the next edition is there the following week, unlike the American comics which lack consistency. 

We concluded as usual with the obligatory EAGLE Society Members Meeting, conducted ably by Darren. Bob Corn (our worthy Treasurer) took us through the accounts, showing a healthy bank balance and a membership currently standing at about 140. It is intended that we meet again next year in Greenwich, probably in June, but final plans will be settled by the Team in due course. There was a vote of thanks to David Britton for all his past Committee work and although he is no longer on the Committee due to other commitments, he remains an integral member of the Society and in particular as a contributor to EAGLE Times. Your scribe offered the usual thanks on behalf of the lay membership and congratulated the Team on all their efforts and in particular to Darren Evans, (not to mention Susanne for all her forbearance), in running the whole show.


Although the official Gathering had now concluded, some members had arranged a visit to Churchtown to have another look at the Old Bakehouse, where Dan Dare was first produced, as it has been restored since our last visit. This was followed by a visit to the Hesketh Arms for lunch. Your scribe cannot comment on this visit as both he and his lady wife were off to Blackpool to see family and in your scribe's case (much to Steve Winders' delight as a Preston supporter), to watch Blackpool v Preston North End at Bloomfield Road. By coincidence, so were Mike and Kathy Miles, but not to watch football. By the way, Preston lost!      

THE BAKEHOUSE VISIT       by Darren Evans

Seven of us made the trip over to the Bakehouse, four of whom had never visited before. We had prearranged the visit with Mr Henneker, who seemed to enjoy the visit as much as we did. We stayed longer than I expected. Afterwards we all went to the Hesketh Arms for something to eat. The visit was rounded off with a pleasant walk around the Botanical Gardens (to walk off the food) before we went our separate ways. All enjoyed the trip and found it worthwhile. The picture (right) shows the inside of
 the Bakehouse today and below shows the exterior.







Thursday, 23 September 2021

EAGLE TIMES Vol. 34 No. 3 Autumn 2021


The new EAGLE Times is out now. Featuring an interview with writer Alan Hebden and an article about his strip The Tower King, the 1980s EAGLE is strongly represented in this issue. Dan Dare is featured in two articles - about the Phant war drum from the Rogue Planet story and Part Three of Ernest Reed's examination of The Phantom Fleet. There are also articles about the Riders of the Range story, Last of the Fighting Cheyenne, the back page biography of  Gordon of Khartoum and the first of a new series about Sporting Heroes who appeared in EAGLE features the famous West Indian cricketer Sir Learie Constantine. Finally, the new two part Archie Willoughby story which begins in this issue is set at the 1957 World Science Fiction Convention held in London and features several well known attendees.

Monday, 20 September 2021

GRETA TOMLINSON (1927 - 2021) a tribute to the former EAGLE artist by Steve Winders

 


Greta Edwards (nee Tomlinson) was born in Burnley Lancashire. She studied at Burnley Art School and the Slade School of Fine Art in Oxford and London, graduating in 1949. Seeking work, she applied for a job advertised in the Advertisers Journal which proved to be working for Frank Hampson’s studio on EAGLE which was then still in development. She recalled the studio in a newspaper interview:

“It was very basic, a flagstone floor and a tin roof; there was cold running water in the corner. It was freezing cold in the Winter and boiling hot in the Summer…..I went for an interview and saw the bakehouse, saw Frank’s work on the board and just thought it was fantastic! Just wonderful! And I felt, I’ve just got to have this job.”

She was taken on and originally paid £4 10s .a week. Initially based in an old lean-to bakehouse in Churchtown, Southport, Hampson’s small team produced Dan Dare, Rob Conway, Tommy Walls and The Great Adventurer (about the life of St. Paul) for the early issues of the forthcoming weekly. As a figure artist, Greta originally drew figures which Frank Hampson would then use to develop the characters, but as this was a long process, photo reference began to be used and in addition to her other work on the strips, Greta became the model for the principal female character, Professor Peabody. As Dan Dare became a success the other strips were dropped or taken over by other artists and the team concentrated on Dan Dare. Greta worked closely with Harold Johns, Hampson’s chief assistant and in 1952, when Hampson became ill, she and Johns produced the art for the Dan Dare adventure Marooned on Mercury. They also produced the art for several Dan Dare strips in EAGLE Annuals, notably The Double Headed Eagle which appeared in the third annual, published in 1953.

Unfortunately, in 1953, Greta and Harold Johns were sacked from Hampson’s team after taking on other work, despite having been given permission to do so by EAGLE’s editor Marcus Morris. Nevertheless, Greta had the fondest memories of Frank and her work on Dan Dare. She moved on to work as a fashion artist and later worked for an advertising agency in London, producing storyboards for television commercials for products including Lucozade and Collier’s suits, before her marriage to Richard Edwards, who worked for BP. She moved to Iraq with him, where she continued to draw and paint. Their only child, Francesca was born in Baghdad. The family later spent time in Iran and Kuwait, where she also painted and exhibited her work. They returned to Britain in 1969 and settled in Haslemere, Surrey. After painting in oils for many years, she changed to water colours, later experimenting with adding inks and pastel to the water colours, before moving on to acrylics and collage, while using oils for smaller paintings and portraits. The Atkinson Arts Centre in Southport has several of her works in its collection. There are also private collections of her work in Australia, America, Italy, Kuwait and Mallorca.  

I met Greta on several occasions as she attended many events relating to Dan Dare and EAGLE. I first met her briefly when she was a guest at Eaglecon '80 in London - the first event organised by fans to celebrate EAGLE. A decade later in 1990, she attended the official opening of the Dan Dare Exhibition which was held at the Atkinson Arts Centre in Southport, when I was able to chat to her at some length and found her approachable and eager to talk about the early days of Dan Dare. Also in 1990, she unveiled a commemorative plaque on the wall of the Old Bakehouse in Churchtown, where it all began. I met her again at Southport in 2000, when she attended the unveiling of a Dan Dare bust at the entrance to the Cambridge Arcade on Lord Street and also the EAGLE Society Gathering which was held that weekend. Once again she was most happy to talk to fans. Finally, I met her again two years later at a special event held at Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery's Dan Dare Exhibition, which she attended with another Dan Dare artist, Don Harley and we spoke at some length about her work on Dan Dare and her own artistic techniques. That year, along with Don and another Dan Dare artist, Keith Watson, she showed EAGLE Society members around Bayford Lodge in Epsom, where the Dan Dare team were based after leaving Churchtown. 

Greta was also happy to answer questions and contribute memories of working in Frank Hampson’s studio to articles for EAGLE Times, television programmes and to several books, including Tomorrow Revisited by Alastair Crompton, Living With Eagles by Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood and Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future – A Biography by Daniel Tatarsky. Her fondness for her time on the early EAGLE is apparent from her appearance in a 1990 television programme Future Perfect when she was shown revisiting the Old Bakehouse. After recalling happy memories of her time working there with Frank and the rest of the team, she was suddenly overcome with emotion at the experience and asked the director to cut.  

She will be greatly missed by her family, friends and her many fans.  



Monday, 16 August 2021

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 22

Two contributors to EAGLE had been prisoners of the Germans during the War and both recalled their experiences in significant post war films. Guy Morgan, who wrote the Storm Nelson strip for EAGLE, using the nom de plume of Edward Trice, wrote The Captive Heart, which was made just a year after the War and was filmed in the actual camp where he had been held. Although the central plot of this film is fictional, it focuses on a large group of characters and convincingly conveys the experiences of prisoners of War. Morgan also worked on the script of Albert R.N. (1953) which is a fictionalised account of a real event that had involved another EAGLE contributor, the artist John Worsley, who illustrated The Adventures of PC 49 from 1951 until 1957. As a prisoner, Worsley made a dummy to fool the Germans at roll call, enabling a prisoner to escape without being missed. (See above). The original 'Albert' dummy did not survive the War, but Worsley made another one for the film and this can still be seen in the Royal Naval Dockyard Museum in Portsmouth. 

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

EAGLE TIMES Vol. 34 No.2 Summer 2021

 


The latest EAGLE Times is out now. It includes tributes to the late Don Harley and the Duke of Edinburgh and articles about the back page biography of Sir Walter Raleigh and the Riders of the Range strip The Heir of Duncreiff. Dan Dare features in articles about his Phantom Fleet adventure and Frank Hampson's studio ideas book. There is also a feature about how the EAGLE Book of Cars and Motorsport inspired some young readers to restore a jeep and the final instalment of the latest Archie Willoughby adventure The Case of the Plastic Cowboys. Details of how to join the Society and obtain copies are on the right.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

THE IRON MAN

STEVE WINDERS EXAMINES THE CAREER OF EAGLE'S POPULAR ANDROID

1963 was a good year for iron men. First there was the American Marvel super hero Iron Man who debuted in issue 39 of Tales of Suspense in March. Created by Stan Lee, this strip features a millionaire engineering genius, Tony Stark, who is wounded when a piece of shrapnel lodges itself close to his heart. He is captured by a Vietnamese warlord and forced to develop weapons for him. Stark then colludes with Yin Sen, another prisoner, to build himself a suit of powered armour, primarily to keep him alive. However, such is the strength provided by this armour that he is able to use it to help him escape and ultimately to fight evil and injustice. The armour completely disguises his features and in the finest traditions of super hero fiction, Tony Stark is able to keep his identity a secret. 

The second Iron Man, who is the subject of this article, appeared four months later in the British weekly comic Boys' World. The strip began in issue 24, dated 6th July 1963. This iron man was really a powerful robot, but wearing a suit of plastic skin, appeared to be human. Consequently he was the exact opposite of Marvel's Iron Man who was a human inside an exoskeleton.     

Boys' World was a magazine which closely resembled the sixties EAGLE and came from the same publisher. Like EAGLE, it contained a mixture of adventure and humorous strips, text stories and features. Its first editor was American born Jim Kenner, who brought a lot of ambitious and imaginative ideas for the new paper. Unfortunately his knowledge of the British market and its writers and artists was extremely limited and EAGLE's editor Bob Bartholomew was called in to oversee its production, becoming editor of both weeklies. Issue 24 marked a relaunch, with new stories, features and layout changes in response to relatively low sales in the first few months.  

Bob Bartholomew introduced more strip stories to the comic to replace some text stories and features. Among these were The Iron Man, which occupied one and a half pages in black and white and The Angry Planet, a science fiction story based on the first Deathworld novel by Harry Harrison, who would achieve international fame by the end of the decade. Harrison had already contributed a text serial called Spell of Magic, featuring Merlo the Magician, which began in issue 11 and Merlo's adventures continued in strip form from issue 24, with Harrison still as writer. The Iron Man's authorship is not so clear though. The most prolific writer of the strip was Ken Mennell, who took over the scripting in August 1964, shortly before Boys' World merged with EAGLE and continued to be involved until the strip ended, with EAGLE's merger with Lion in April 1969. Mennell may well have been involved with Bob Bartholomew in the creation of the character as he was regularly consulted as an 'ideas' man. He created EAGLE's popular Heros the Spartan in 1962, although he did not subsequently write the strip and he was also involved in the creation of The Steel Claw for Valiant, but again he did not write the strip. However there is no documented evidence of his involvement with The Iron Man until a year later and Bob Bartholomew couldn't remember. After the first scene setting episode, which was written by someone on the editorial team, possibly Bartholomew himself, the stories were subsequently written by one or more members of the editorial team. Payment details do not identify the writers as payment was made through the Alec Harrison and Associates Literary Agency and it is their name that is recorded. This was because when the Mirror Group took over Odhams Press and Amalgamated Press in 1961, they did not pay staff members additional fees for writing stories or lettering strips, claiming that this additional work was part of their jobs. Previously these had provided opportunities for staff to supplement low incomes. In order to receive pay for this additional work, staff would submit work through agencies or using relatives or friends. The first Iron Man story to be credited to a named individual was the third story, where the Iron Man fights a villain called the 'Ruler' who finds a way of controlling the weather. Running from the issue dated 4th January 1964 until the issue dated 4th April 1964, it was written by Derek Long, who mostly wrote Women's fiction and occasionally detective stories.   

In the dramatic opening episode of The Iron Man the readers meet Tim Branton, a man aged about twenty, who will be the only regular character in the series apart from the Iron Man himself. The story begins at the home of Tim's uncle, Professor Wentworth Farad, who is demonstrating his latest invention of a steel robot to his nephew. Tim, who has studied sculpture, suggests that the robot could be made to appear human, with a 'skin' made of a special plastic material and he goes to Edinburgh to get some from a friend. During his absence, enemy spies led by a sinister figure called the 'Whisperer' plan to kill the Professor to prevent Britain from gaining from his inventions. When Tim returns, he hears an explosion from the house which quickly burns to the ground, killing everyone within. The episode ends with the robot emerging from the blazing ruin. 

In the second episode, as Tim approaches the house he is knocked unconscious by one of the murderous agents, who starts to drag him towards the flames. However the Iron Man appears and frightens the villains into fleeing from the scene. Tim disguises the Iron Man in the plastic skin and over the next nine episodes, the robot, whose advanced mechanical brain has already enabled him to learn to speak, quickly acquires a vast knowledge and a range of skills as he and Tim battle and eventually defeat the Whisperer and his men. The villains are really no match for the Iron Man, who quite apart from his ability to assimilate information with remarkable speed , also has the strength of a hundred men. Nevertheless the suspense is maintained by his tendency to suffer slight damage which temporarily incapacitates him. For example, although he is resistant to electrocution, when he is electrocuted some of his fuses blow and whenever his 'control panel' is bumped, it either activates or deactivates him. This control panel is presumably a safety measure in case the Iron Man goes out of control, as he functions perfectly well independently of it and it was soon dropped from the strip. Although the Iron Man would suffer further technical breakdowns in future adventures, these were mercifully rare and so the writers were obliged to create ever more powerful opponents to provide a realistic challenge for him. 

The death of Professor Farad in the first episode was a shrewd development, because it meant that the Iron Man became an independent character. He alone could carry out repairs to himself and if he was destroyed there was no one to rebuild him. While Tim Branton initially acted as a kind of mentor to introduce the Iron Man to the world, he was a young man and definitely no scientist and the relationship between the two became one of trusting friends. Tim was the human character for readers to identify with. 

The first story, which ran to eleven episodes was drawn by Gerry Embleton, who later illustrated Dan Dare in the early issues of the 1980s EAGLE in 1982. Embleton depicted the Iron Man in his plastic skin as a stocky character with a broad expressive face. (See above). At the start of the second adventure the strip was taken over by Martin Salvador, who changed his facial appearance significantly. Salvador gave the Iron Man a long angular face, which allowed him to look sleeker and more streamlined when shown without his plastic skin and and slightly less human when wearing it. The change was made deliberately to convey the Iron Man's robotic nature, as he would normally be featured wearing his plastic skin. (See below). 

Both artists produced detailed frames, although Embleton's backgrounds tended to include more fine details and Salvador's face illustrations were slightly more caricatured. In his first story, Salvador created a memorable villain in the mysterious 'Doctor', who used plastic surgery and drugs to enable his accomplices to impersonate men of power and influence, including senior police officers and politicians, in order to carry out major crimes. With his heavily lined face, squat nose and wild staring eyes, the Doctor cut a sinister figure. 

After the Iron Man defeated the Doctor he went on to face more criminal masterminds, mad scientists, megalomaniac dictators and other powerful robots. Villains such as Dynamo, Maskface, Count Barlac and Doctor Fear provided the opposition in stories which ran from between six and fifteen episodes. Throughout his adventures, the Iron Man maintained the pretence that he was human, adopting the name 'Robert' to identify himself, with only Tim Branton knowing his secret. 

Boys' World ran for 89 issues until October 1964, when it merged with EAGLE during the course of the Iron Man's fifth adventure. Ken Mennell took over as writer on The Iron Man six issues before the merger and continued when the strip was one of four which transferred to the combined weekly. The Iron Man was the only one to establish itself in EAGLE, continuing right until the last issue in April 1969. 

Martin Salvador proved a successful and long serving artist on the strip, remaining until late October 1967. As in Boys' World, the story occupied one and a half pages in black and white, but its popularity saw it increase to two weekly pages with the second issue of 1967. Salvador's comic art career had begun in his native Spain, where he created the Western strip Mendoza Colt for Chicos comic. He illustrated a strip called The Golden Sword in Britain's Sun comic and carried out work for Britain's Thriller and Cowboy Picture Libraries, before coming to The Iron Man. After leaving EAGLE, he illustrated European comic versions of The Saint and James Bond. He also drew the Wildcat Wayne strip in the Ranger section of Look and Learn in 1969. In the seventies and eighties he produced a lot of work for the American publisher Warren Comics on titles like Creepy.    

As the sixties progressed, the American TV series of Batman became a success in Britain and Marvel Comics' new super heroes also crossed the Atlantic. These stories began to have an influence on the Iron Man's adventures, with more exaggerated and costumed villains appearing. The strip also took on more science fiction and fantasy elements, with monsters and lost civilisations featuring in several stories. The influence of Marvel Comics was never more evident than in Salvador's final strip, where Professor Ollson, an archaeologist, becomes unhinged, believing himself to be an ancient Viking warrior, Ragnar the Red. He forms an army of criminals who dress as Vikings and terrorise Britain with powerful force ray weapons. Marvel's super hero Thor was a Viking warrior god whose secret identity was Donald Blake, a medical student. Professor Ollson reverts to his former law abiding self when he recovers from a fall down stairs after seeing the Iron Man without his plastic skin and realising he is really a robot. He then sacrifices his life in destroying the force ray dynamo. Several other villains discovered the Iron Man's secret in the course of his adventures, but all were conveniently killed off at the end of their stories. 

Another Spanish artist, Miguel Quesada, took over the strip in the issue dated 18th November 1967, after the former Dan Dare artist Desmond Walduck completed the last two episodes of the Professor Ollson story. Coincidentally, a repeat of the Dan Dare story Prisoners of Space illustrated by Walduck was running in EAGLE at the same time. Quesada had previously worked on many comics in Spain including Pantera Negra and shared a studio in Valencia with EAGLE stalwarts Jose Ortiz and Luis Bermejo. Quesada's work was slightly more detailed than Salvador's and he drew with a finer line. In his first story set in an unexplored mountain area of Bolivia, the Iron Man encounters intelligent anthropoid apes and a reptilian swamp monster and discovers a lost city. The story provided plenty of scope for imaginative artwork and Quesada made an impressive debut with his detailed backgrounds, confident figure work which conveyed action well and expressive character faces. He depicted the inhabitants of the lost city in costumes that echoed both traditional South American dress and Tibetan clothes and contributed greatly to the exotic mood of the story. 


Quesada illustrated seven more Iron Man adventures before the series ended when EAGLE merged with Lion in April 1969. These included battles with a giant sponge creature, an army of robots whose creator 'Dynamo' briefly gained control over the Iron Man and giant robotic insects built by a race of intelligent troglodytes from the bowels of the Earth! For the last year of EAGLE's life, the most prominent strips took turns to feature on the front page in colour, so in the issue dated 15th June 1968, The Iron Man made its first appearance in colour, subsequently featuring on the cover on six more occasions. (See above).   

In his final adventure The Hands of Kyrac, which is the only Iron Man story to bear a title, an avaricious man called Strickman, searching for Viking treasure, discovers an ancient sword hilt. When he grips the hilt, great strength passes into his hands and he begins to wreak havoc and destruction with them. He almost crushes the Iron Man in the fight that ensues between them, but he suddenly loses his power and the damaged Iron Man is saved. While the Iron Man repairs himself, Strickman escapes and after grasping the hilt again his strength is restored. He fights a final battle with the Iron Man, who defeats him when his strength again fades. The Iron Man destroys the hilt to protect mankind from its evil. This last adventure again contains echoes of Marvel's Thor, for Donald Blake gained his power from grasping the hammer of Thor!

The popularity of The Iron Man might have seen it survive the merger but for the presence of Lion's own robot hero, 'Archie'. Although essentially humanoid in shape, Archie was not an android. With a head resembling an oxy-acetylene mask and an armoured steel body he was very obviously a robot. His career began in a strip called The Jungle Robot in issue one of Lion in 1952. This story finished in issue 25 and Archie did not return for another adventure until January 1957, following the success of Robbie the Robot in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet. Archie's second adventure finished in June, but was successful enough for him to be brought back on a permanent basis in November. With his childlike boastful personality, Archie now established himself as a most popular and memorable character. 

While Archie had a strong clear personality, the Iron Man had none. This highlights a weakness in many stories in both the sixties EAGLE and Boys' World, where humour was completely absent and the heroes had no personality beyond their courage, sense of justice and whatever skills they possessed. While there was some light humour in the form of witty remarks in The Guinea Pig and the U.F.O. Agent and Smokeman adventures, Heros the Spartan, Blackbow the Cheyenne and The Iron Man were devoid of humour. Even Digby in the Dan Dare strip was significantly less funny in the sixties stories. In the fifties, strips such as Luck of the Legion, Storm Nelson, PC 49 and Dan Dare featured many humorous incidents and amusing characters and were better for them. As a robot, the Iron Man might reasonably be expected to lack personality and humour, so as such he fitted comfortably in the sixties EAGLE. In the fifties, when EAGLE's editor Marcus Morris publicly rejected heroes with superhuman powers, the strip would not have been seriously considered for publication.

With its downplay of character and relationships, the sixties EAGLE ignored any real examination of the Iron Man's motivation to combat evil and injustice, except to suggest it was part of his original programming. Whether his acquisition of knowledge ever adjusted his motivation is not considered and whether he ever reflected or was able to reflect on the nature of his existence is also ignored. On several occasions, villains were able to gain temporary control of him, but although he carried out robberies and other crimes while under their influence, he never killed anyone or caused irreparable damage before he regained control. Consequently the moral questions of his potential for evil were never explored. 

                           

The new EAGLE, launched in 1982, did explore these issues in a strip called Manix, about a powerful android robot who worked for British Intelligence and who was surely inspired by The Iron Man. Originally featured as a photo strip, but later drawn by Manuel Carmona, Manix was written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, using the pseudonym Keith Law. The stories examined the whole nature of robotic thought and reason and their limitations. Manix was initially controlled by Colonel Cameron, who used him as an assassin to further his own quest for power, but after applying his survival impulse logically to his situation, Manix was able to override Cameron's orders and bring about his defeat. In succeeding stories he was used to carry out legitimate missions by British Intelligence. 

Despite its shortcomings, The Iron Man maintained a steady popularity throughout the life of Boys' World and the last four and a half years of EAGLE. Regardless of the fact that it did not explore wider themes of robot consciousness and moral awareness, the basic premise of the story was a strong one and at the time of its creation, a highly original one. In the hands of Bob Bartholomew and Ken Mennell and its three excellent artists, The Iron Man kept the readers of EAGLE and Boys' World well entertained. 

I am most grateful to the late Bob Bartholomew and to Steve Holland, Adrian Perkins and Ian Wheeler for providing and confirming some details for this article, which first appeared in EAGLE TIMES in the Spring edition 2008. It has been slightly updated in the light of subsequent information coming to light.

Steve Holland has produced an excellent highly informative book about Boys' World. He can be contacted at  http://bearalleybooks.blogspot.com/2013/08/boys-world-ticket-to-adventure.html