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.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Bryan Talbot and Dan Dare

In common with many US comic books, the covers of Virgin Comics' Dan Dare are drawn by different artists from the content. While the comic series is written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Gary Erskine, the first issue cover was drawn by Bryan Talbot (with a variant cover by Greg Horn), and a number of different artists' work will adorn the covers of future issues.

As an interesting comparison with Bryan Talbot's 2007 interpretation, Richard Sheaf has sent in this image of Dan Dare, drawn by Bryan Talbot in 1985, and which somehow came to be used on the front cover of the short-lived Dan Dare fanzine Sufferin' Satellites (Issue 2, July - August, 1997).

See the earlier post Virgin's Dare for a short review of Dan Dare issue 1

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Virgin's Dare?

In August 2007, the British press (eg The Times) leapt to announce the return of 'Dan Dare' in a new comic (ignoring, as already pointed out by Lew Stringer, that he's already been back five years in Spaceship Away).

Virgin Comics' press release emphasized that "Dan Dare has been an icon since 1950 … selling nearly 1 million copies each week in the pages of the Eagle". It also said: "Readers familiar with Dan Dare stories will recognize many of the original cast …." It specifically referred to "Colonel Dare" being back. The expectation of the press and of fans of the original 'Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future' was, therefore, that Virgin were going back to the original characters, albeit some ten years or so on.

In the first issue of Dan Dare (published 29 November) some of those original characters (Dan, Digby and Jocelyn) appear in name, but their appearance is markedly different from the characters created by Frank Hampson, so in this respect it can’t meet the expectations of fans of the original 'Dan Dare'. Since very little actually happens to the main characters in the first part, it is difficult to judge whether their behaviours will be true to the originals, though Dan seems to want to do "the right thing", and Digby wants to help him do it. What is clear is that the universe inhabited by Dan Dare in this story is not the same one developed for him by Hampson and his team. Hampson’s optimistic world of an Interplanetary Space Fleet serving a World Government of United Nations has been binned in favour of a post-apocalyptic scenario. Not only has the whole world order changed, with Britain emerging as top dog, but the Royal Navy seems to have taken over Space Fleet and the design of everything is different: spaceships, space-stations, uniforms. And, presumably, service ranks are now those of the Royal Navy. How the latter will square with Colonel Dan Dare being back I don’t know. The inside front cover credits may include "created by Frank Hampson", but I doubt Hampson would recognize this as his creation in other than name.

One feature of the original 'Dan Dare' was the care taken to ensure everything was “right”. I found it annoying that there are incongruities in the visual telling of this story that are irritating, especially on re-reading. There is a war memorial that seems to be on the cricket pitch. There is lack of continuity: pictures on walls, and other incidental objects, are arranged differently from shot to shot, or disappear. For example, a lamp and papers that disappear from Dan’s table, a teapot that comes and goes from the same table during Dan’s conversation with the PM – petty things, you might think, but such continuity gaffes erode the illusion that this is a depiction of an alternate reality. It wouldn't have happened in Hampson's day.

If you can ignore all the above, or if you have no great attachment to the early 'Dan Dare', then the story may hold some interest for you. In the UK, Dan Dare is only available in specialist comic shops (a point Virgin Comics failed to make clear in their press release), but apparently it is "selling well" in UK - as reported by downthetubes. It's not clear what the numbers are (possibly tens of thousands?) but if the success were to equal that of 'Dan Dare' in the 1950s Eagle, it would need to sell something like 4 million copies a month!

According to the Southport Visiter, the local paper at the birthplace of the original Eagle, Colin Gould, proprietor of the local comic shop 'Planet Eater' said: “A lot of the regular customers have been coming in and asking for it, many are people who read the original Eagle in the 1950s." I wonder how many of those, after seeing issue 1, will be back for issue 2?

Quote from writer Garth Ennis (see downthetubes): "I've pretty much ignored all subsequent incarnations. The one exception would be the Irvine jacket Dare wore in the 2000AD strips, which is a British aviation icon we just couldn't do without." Er, actually Mr. Ennis, Dan's leather flying jacket is from the original Eagle version. Dan was first seen donning it in 'The Red Moon Mystery'. It was one of the few things carried across to the 2000AD incarnation of 'Dan Dare' from the original Eagle - and, apparently, one of the few things carried forward here!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur

Arthur C Clarke – Eagle contributor - reaches his 90th birthday.

As Arthur C Clarke, former Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society (BIS) and world-renowned science and science-fiction writer, reaches 90 let’s remember the contribution he made to the Eagle in its early days. Marcus Morris’ biography tells us that two days after the issue 2 of the Eagle appeared on newsstands, Arthur Clarke (then Assistant Secretary of the BIS) wrote to the Eagle’s Editor to report that, at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society where he had been lecturing on space navigation, another speaker (D H Sadler, head of the Nautical Almanac Office) had ended a highly technical series of remarks about navigation in space, etc. with the question “Will Dan Dare reach Venus?” While another speaker was sure that he would, Clarke “had expressed fears that he might encounter space-pirates!”

Within the month Clarke had been commissioned by Morris to write a synopsis for 'Dan Dare'. This resulted in three episodes in the first 'Dan Dare' story. There is uncertainty which three, but it seems Clarke was responsible for suggesting the outline of Treen behaviour to Frank Hampson, and might have been responsible for appropriating the word Treen (from a town in Cornwall, or from a descriptor for small carved wooden articles) as the name of the belligerent Venusian race. Clarke became a consultant on 'Dan Dare', and it has been suggested by Stephen Baxter, (in Matrix, the media magazine of the British Science Fiction Association) that the Treen’s use of communications satellites is a sure sign of the Clarke touch. It was Clarke who first suggested (in Wireless World, May and then October, 1947) the use of geostationary satellites as radio communications devices. Clarke was also commissioned to write a 'Dan Dare' story (presumably to appear as a strip) for one of the Eagle Annuals. This appears to have come to nothing, but a four page article “Is Space Travel Possible” was published in the 1953 Dan Dare's Space Book.

Separate from Clarke’s approach to Eagle in 1950, it was Eagle’s Fiction Editor (Chad Varah) who discovered an unsolicited manuscript sent in by the agents of a then comparatively unknown science fiction writer. It is unclear whether the story that appeared under the pseudonym Charles Willis was originally submitted as the work of Arthur C Clarke, but the story “The Fires Within” appeared in Eagle Vol 1 No 17 , dated 4 August, 1950. This was one of a number of stories written in the 1940s by Clarke when he was a student at King’s College, London. He variously used the pseudonyms Charles Willis and E G O’Brien at that time. It is unclear whether Eagle’s editors knew that a story of the same title had already been published under Clarke’s other pseudonym in Fantasy, The Magazine of Science Fiction, in August 1947!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Eagle Times, Volume 20 No 4

Winter 2007 Contents
  • Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future - The Untold Stories
  • EAGLE Autographs (part 2)
  • Obituary - Revd. Dr. Edward Chad Varah, CH, CBE, MA Oxon.
  • Comics Britannia picks Max Hastings to speak for EAGLE
  • Jack o'Lantern in Wiltshire - an exploration of setting (part 3)
  • EAGLE on the Web
  • Frank Hampson in The Post (part 1)
  • Virgin's Dare?
  • Dick Barton - special agent (part 5)
  • Eagle Annual - The Best of the 1950s Comic - Book Review
  • Whatever happened to Harold Johns? (part 3)
  • A PC49 Christmas story - The Case of The Third Ace
  • Obituary - R.W. Kinder
  • The Art of Cecil Orr
  • Eagle Novels
  • 'This artist guy owes me an apology'
  • Did this artist have the greatest influence on Frank Hampson?
  • Pop Music during Eagle Times - 1960

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

"The magazine for mugs"

In the online archives of Time magazine is a review from 1 May, 1950, of a new British story paper "the spanking new London weekly Eagle, dazzlingly successful magazine brain child of a boyish, 35-year-old vicar of the Church of England" (Marcus Morris), and published by "Hulton Press, owners of Picture Post (circulation 1,500,000)".

This contemporary report from "across the pond" indicates the nature of the publicity machine of Hulton Press, and the impact the arrival of Eagle had. According to the Time report, 750,000 copies of the first issue sold out, and there were "1,986,000 cash-backed orders from newsdealers for the second issue".

According to Marcus Morris' account, and his official biography, it was a print run of 900,000 that sold out in the first week. But, acccording to his biography, things went horribly wrong for the second issue, when the printing press broke down and only 300,000 were printed. There must have been a lot of disappointed readers that week, and disgruntled newsagents! By the third week, and following announcements in the British national press that "There is a national shortage of EAGLE - but more copies are coming soon!", production was "back to normal" - and was soon in excess of 1 million copies per week.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Is it more than nostalgia?

A recent article in The Times referred to Orion Books' Eagle Annual:The Best of the 1950s Comic and quoted Ian Preece, a commissioning editor at Orion, saying “Nostalgia is a real trend in publishing at the moment. I think for a lot of people in their 30s, 40s and older there’s a yearning to revisit the simple world of their childhoods.”

Nostalgia is one thing. And no doubt Orion will be selling any number of copies on the back of it. But is there is more to the appreciation of things past, including the Eagle, than what might be called "homesickness for one's childhood"?

We think so. What do you think?

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Eagle - How it began

The Eagle magazine was the brainchild of the Revd. Marcus Morris, the Southport Lancashire vicar who became its first Editor. Having engaged a young Southport-trained artist, Frank Hampson, and then others, in enlivening his parish magazine, The Anvil, and turning it from local church magazine to a nationally distributed periodical, he sought Hampson’s assistance in creating a Christian-based comic strip. The idea, fuelled by both men’s enthusiasm and Hampson’s artistic creativity, and not a little influenced by another man of the cloth (the Revd. Chad Varah), eventually resulted in not a comic strip but a complete magazine for boys. The Eagle, comprised a mix of comic strips, factual features and text stories. Rather than a Christian padre, as originally intended by Morris, the Eagle featured on its front cover the stirring science-fiction adventures in full colour of Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future. Inside it featured a variety of black-and-white, and colour, strips plus illustrated text stories and factual articles. The first “dummies” that sold the Eagle idea to its publishers, Hulton Press, were almost entirely the work of Frank Hampson, but soon a large team of writers and artists was needed to keep up with a weekly publication schedule.

There have been several fairly detailed accounts of the birth of Eagle, including (in order of publication):
  • Best of Eagle, compiled by Denis Gifford and edited by Marcus Morris, Michael Joseph and Ebury Press (1977). This contains in an Introduction, Marcus’ own account – which can be read online, courtesy of Nicholas Hill’s Eagle and Dan Dare site.
  • The Man Who Drew Tomorrow by Alastair Crompton, Who Dares Publishing (1985) is a Frank Hampson biography and the story of the Dan Dare studio, published the year of Hampson’s death.
  • Before I Die Again by The Revd. Chad Varah, Constable (1993), is the autobiography of 'Eagle’s third man'.
  • The Frank Hampson Interview by Alan Vince, Astral Publications (1994) records and updates an interview made by Alan with Frank Hampson in 1974. The interview has since been republished (further updated) in Dan Dare: The Voyage to Venus, part 2, Titan Books (2004).
  • Living with Eagles, by Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood, Lutterworth Press (1998), is a biography of Marcus Morris by two of his daughters.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Eagle Times, Volume 20 No 3

Autumn 2007 Contents
  • Frank Hampson's pre- and post-Dan Dare Art (part 2)
  • Some thoughts on Dan Dare's 'Operation Saturn'
  • Jack o'Lantern in Wiltshire, an exploration of setting (part 2)
  • EAGLE Autographs (part 1)
  • Hulton's Book Flyers
  • PC49 - Cases from Radio Times
  • If Hampson was drawing Dan Dare Today..?
  • Whatever Happened to Harold Johns (part 2)
  • PC49 - Case of Black Daffodil (part 3)
  • Keith Watson's Dan Dare (part 3)
  • EAGLE on the Web
  • Frank Hampson's 'Doctor Who'
  • Pop Music in Eagle Times - 1959
  • Dick Barton (part 4) Films (2)

Saturday, 24 November 2007

First Post

As this is a new blog, for those not in the know (apologies to those who are!), a few words about the EAGLE, Eagle Society and Eagle Times may be in order.

EAGLE was a British boys' magazine, created and originally edited by the Revd. Marcus Morris. It was published weekly from 1950 until 1969, initially by Hulton Press. EAGLE is probably best known for the picture strip that for most of its history appeared on the front cover and inside front page: Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future. Dan Dare was created by artist Frank Hampson. However, EAGLE also contained many other strips, stories, articles and features that warrant its description as a magazine, rather than a comic.

The Eagle Society is a worldwide, though relatively small, collection of individuals, many of whom were readers of the original EAGLE, or have been attracted to its content more recently, for one reason or another. For those who grew up with it, there are many reasons for remembering EAGLE: strips such as PC49, Luck of the Legion, Jeff Arnold, Jack o'Lantern, or Storm Nelson; text stories such as The Three J's or Rex Milligan; the Cutaway Drawings; the factual articles, Nature, Sport, Historical or Religious strips.

EAGLE Times (rather than the blog eagle-times - which is free to all) is the Eagle Society's quarterly journal. Membership of the Eagle Society is by subscription to Eagle Times (Or Eagle Times comes free with your subscription - if you want to think of it that way!)