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.

Monday, 13 October 2008

The Eagle Annual of the Cutaways (review)

The latest in the series Eagle Annual of the… has now been published by Orion Books.

The Eagle Annual of the Cutaways
takes the same look and format as last year’s Eagle Annual - The best of the 1950s comic, with an identical page-count (176 pages), but is priced at £14.99 (£2 more than the earlier book). Rather than the dark green spine with yellow lettering previously used, though, this book has a dark blue spine with cream lettering. Both books have a "distressed" look and feel. The Editor is again Daniel Tatarsky, and the book has a Preface by Colin Frewin, Chief Executive of the Dan Dare Corporation Limited, and an Introduction by Jonathan Glancey, Architecture Critic, the Guardian.

The Eagle Annual of the Cutaways collects together, in (what seems to this reader's mind) a less than systematic manner, around 142 of the 946 cutaway drawings that appeared in Eagle throughout its life from 1950 until the penultimate issue in 1969. For anyone who fondly remembers Eagle and its cutaways, but who doesn’t still have their collection, this will be a “must buy”. But the market for this book is clearly “nostalgia” rather than serious appreciation or study. This book will sell, and deserves to, but it will also disappoint the more serious collector or student.

Comparisons are inevitable with Denis Gifford’s earlier collection, The Eagle Book of Cutaways (Webb & Bower, 1988). While covering less material and restricting his book (with one notable exception*) to the work of Leslie Ashwell Wood, rather than the full range of Eagle cutaway artists, Gifford treated the material with more respect than is evident here. In Denis' book, the page layout and colour reproduction were excellent, there was no cropping of the illustrations – and the pages are clean! Here, there is better coverage of the work of the many artists who produced cutaways for Eagle, but sometimes their illustrations are cropped - to the extent that occasionally explanatory text is partially lost, or the artists’ signatures are partially, and in some cases completely, lost. As an example Laurence Dunn’s ‘The Dome of Discovery’, from Eagle, 4th May, 1951 (which incidentally is reproduced less cropped in the Eagle Annual - Best of the 1950s comic) is cropped top and right, in the process losing some of the illustration and Laurence Dunn’s signature. In addition nearly all the pages carry that artificial "distressed" look which was a problem for many (including me!) when we saw Orion Books’ earlier offering. In my opinion, putting artificial "grime" on the pages detracts from the content and shows a lack of respect for the original artists, especially when it strays onto the artwork. I don't think these aspects sit easily with this dedication, quoted here from the Preface:

"This book is dedicated to all the highly talented artists who created these wonderful cutaways."

There is much to commend this book. Eagle Society member Steve Winders has already written an excellent review, posted at Steve Holland's Bear Alley blog. Any more detailed comments I might make would inevitably repeat much of what he has said there, so I will leave my comments to those above. There is also a review by Jeremy Briggs, well worth reading, at the Down the Tubes blog.

Further related links:

* The cutaway of Dan Dare's spaceship Anastasia, published in Eagle 7th February,1958, was not by Ashwell Wood, although Denis Gifford included it in his book. By the way it does not appear in the Eagle Annual of the Cutaway.