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.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Eagle: The Space Age Weekly - review

Eagle: The Space Age Weekly was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 23rd December 2010. 

My earlier post found cause to criticise the text the BBC put on its website in advance of the programme, and I expressed the hope that the programme would be better informed than whoever wrote the "blurb".  Sometimes hopes are fulfilled; and in this case they were. The programme proved to be an excellent, if all too brief, account of the Eagle magazine and the people who created it, explored enthusiastically a former reader, Sir Tim Rice, and including the voices of the late Frank Hampson and Marcus Morris.

My intended review has been delayed by Christmas activities. In the meantime, Bear Alley has beaten me to it with an (almost) excellent review by Steve Winders. Steve makes the mistake of mis-titling the programme Eagle: the Space Age Comic. This might not be considered so important were it not that the programme emphasises that the creators of Eagle avoided the description "comic" for their weekly magazine! Nevertheless I recommend you read Steve's review, as I would have to work very hard to find anything else to disagree about.

As I post this, the programme has ceased to be available to hear again on the BBC's iPlayer - but hopefully we can expect a repeat broadcast soon? 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Eagle Times - Sample Issue

Eagle Times is provided on an Annual Subscription basis to Members of the Eagle Society. However, we are sometimes asked if we can provide a Sample Issue to prospective subscribers, who may be unsure of the quality or typical content of the Eagle Times  magazine, or whether they want to join the Eagle Society.
Here is the good news: prospective members can now purchase a Sample Issue of Eagle Times
The Sample Issue price (2013) is £7 (for delivery to a UK postal address) or £10 (for non-UK addresses). These prices include current postal charges. In the event that you subsequently join the Eagle Society (in the year of the Sample Issue) the price may be deducted against your Annual Subscription for that year*. Postal applications can be made to the Membership Secretary's (Keith Howard's) address - see the sidebar of the blog - (cheque payable to the Eagle Society). Applications can also be made to the eagle-times e-mail address, but if you wish to use Paypal, please add £1.50 to your order. All payments in £ stirling, please.

The Sample Issue sent you will be a recent, not necessarily the latest, issue of Eagle Times and will be subject to availability after all Members issues have been distributed. If need to see a particular issue, please check for availability before ordering.

*eg. if you pre-order the 2013 Spring Issue and subsequently take out  a Subscription for 2013 you may subtract the price of the Sample Issue from the Annual Subscription.

Please note that, while there is no obligation to take out a subscription, Eagle Times has a limited print run based on the Eagle Society's membership numbers and therefore we will not be able to support repeated single issue sales.

29/03/2013 update to original post made on 19/12/2010

Monday, 13 December 2010

Eagle Times Vol 23 No 4

Winter 2010 Contents
  • Not all Lancashire Lads and Lasses - a brief article on the genealogy of ('Dan Dare' creator) Frank Hampson
  • The Incredible Shrinking Fish - a critical examination of the giant sea creatures that appear in the classic 'Dan Dare' story 'The Man From Nowhere'
  • Sammy: Swift's Space Fleet Cadet - takes a look at the strip in Eagle's companion paper Swift that was drawn by 'Dan Dare' artists Bruce Cornwell and Desmond Walduck, and drew heavily on the imagery of 'Dan Dare'
  • From Under the 1950s Christmas Tree - taking a look at the various Eagle and 'Dan Dare' stencil sets that were available for children in the 1950s
  • 'Nightmare on Dreamland', part 2 - continuing an examination of the (1986) story from the "new" Eagle, when the new (great-great grandson) Dan Dare met the original in an encounter with their arch enemy, the Mekon
  • Dan Dare - The Biography - a review of Daniel Tatarsky's recent book
  • The Life of Another Brian - memories about the illustrator Brian Lewis, who among his prolific output drew 'Home of the Wanderers' and 'Mann of Battle' for Eagle in the 1960s
  • PC49 and The Case of the Lone Wolf - part 2 - the conclusion of an adaptation of Alan Stranks' radio play.
  • Visual memories of the 37th World Science Fiction Convention, Seacon '79, which was held in Brighton in 1979 - with guests who included Frank Hampson and Arthur C Clarke.
  • The Lion and The Eagle - the text of Steve Winders' humorous monologue, which was presented on the occasion of Eagle's 60th Anniversary at Southport on 14th April, 2010.
  • Eagle Annuals 1961-1971 - reviewing the second decade of Eagle Annual, and the changes made after the takeover of Hulton Press
  • Christmas Albums during Eagle times - a look at ten best-selling seasonal LPs back then
The cover shows the emblem from the Christmas issue of Eagle, 24th December, 1952

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tomorrow revisited (review)

Standard Trade Edition
Within the space of a few weeks two books related to ‘Dan Dare’ have been published. I have already reviewed the first, Daniel Tatarsky’s Dan Dare - The Biography. The latest is Alastair Crompton’s Tomorrow Revisited, or to give it its full title Tomorrow Revisited: a celebration of the life and art of Frank Hampson. Comparisons between the two books may seem inevitable, but I find their scope and purpose different, and I will avoid making any critical comparison here. 

Besides, there is another comparison to be made. In 1985, shortly after the death of his subject, Alastair Crompton had published a book entitled The Man Who Drew Tomorrow, on the subject of “how Frank Hampson created Dan Dare, the world’s best comic strip.” In Tomorrow Revisited, as implied by the title, he returns to the same subject matter. It is inevitable therefore that comparisons of Tomorrow Revisited with the earlier book will be made; indeed, one might ask, “having bought the first book in 1985, why should I buy the same thing over again?” Well, I have, and hopefully I can dispel any reservations other owners of The Man Who Drew Tomorrow might have. There is plenty for you in this book that was not in the earlier book. 

In his introduction, Alastair starts with a quote from Oscar Wilde: “Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is usually Judas who writes his biography”. He then declares that his book is not a biography, although it clearly has a lot of biographical content, and he states his rationale for revisiting the subject. With 25 years of water under the bridge, by his own admission, he believes now “that the first edition of this book ... was a slightly fourth form hagiography, showing my subject through rose coloured glasses, and allowing him to make claims which in this edition I am forced to question”. But while he might not take Hampson’s every claim with so much credence these days, he also declares that he is “not Wilde’s Judas”. He might have said (though he doesn’t) that he provides no Brutus to Hampson’s Caesar, for he gives no stabs in the back, either. There are many shades, which he tries to fill, and in this edition he is more careful (objective?) about how he spreads the blame and the glory, while remaining sympathetic to his subject. This is, after all, a celebration of the man who created and produced ‘Dan Dare’ for a nearly a decade, and who, in 1975, was crowned by his peers as Prestigioso Maestro - the World’s Best Comic Artist since the Second World War

The text has been “totally rewritten”, not to imply that everything changed was “wrong”, nor to imply that you won’t find repeated sections of text - you will - but often he finds a different way of telling his, or rather, Hampson’s, story. 

Having a similar page-count to the earlier edition, Tomorrow Revisited is slightly larger, with about an inch greater height. (It is also considerably thicker, but otherwise slightly smaller, than the volumes in Titan Books’ ‘Dan Dare’ reprint series.) The Man Who Drew Tomorrow had a dustjacket; this does not, but the Bookshop Edition has a very attractive red cover using black and white pictures of Hampson in his later years. Inside, the front and rear endpapers include in their design the information that would usually be on the fold-in elements of the jacket. The text layout is entirely different, with much use of inset colour, and the most noticeable impact from leafing through the book is the many examples of artwork reproduced from original illustration boards. 

The original book had 216 pages of which only 24 contained colour. The latest has a few more pages overall, but this time more than half contain colour. Around 70 pages are full-page colour and, of those, around 35 reproduce artwork from complete original artboards. Other pages have examples of single frames of original art, which really show the detail that went into the drawings. Most of the artwork is from ‘Dan Dare’, but there are also examples from ‘The Great Adventurer’, ‘Tommy Walls’, ‘Rob Conway’ (black and white) and ‘The Road of Courage’. 

Since the original artwork reproduced in Tomorrow Revisited is largely from Paul Stephenson’s (the publisher’s) extensive collection, most of these illustrations appear for the first time. They are superbly reproduced. Anyone who has never seen a page of original Hampson-produced ‘Dan Dare’ artwork will be amazed at the detail that went into every frame of each week’s episode - detail that was sadly lost in the printing of Eagle - as can be seen by comparing the examples in Tomorrow Revisited with their counterparts in the Titan Books series of ‘Dan Dare’ reprints (where ‘Dan Dare’ pages from Eagle are reproduced at a similar size). 

The book also includes biographical pictures, photographs of the models built to help the Dan Dare Studio to visualize scenes, equipment and characters, photographs of members of the Studio posing for particular frames of the strip, sketches from Frank Hampson’s studio reference sheets and notebooks, and some of the merchandising that spun off the character ‘Dan Dare’. Although, inevitably, some images from the earlier book are reused, a large proportion of the visual content of Tomorrow Revisited is different from the old. 

Something not previously published (in book form - some have appeared previously in Eagle Times magazine and/or on Alastair’s Lost Characters of Frank Hampson website) is a collection of “strips that never were”. These, mostly, are strips that Hampson was commissioned to create after ‘The Road of Courage’ but were never developed since he was dismissed by the new management. The original artwork is lost, but they were photocopied by “someone in The Mirror Group” in the 1960s and partial restorations made from copies (of the copies) are presented. The quality of this “lost” artwork only emphasises the genius of Frank Hampson and the tragedy that beset him after Eagle

For the pedantically inclined (this is after all a critical review, and nothing in this world is perfect!) I did spot a few errors, eg.
A caption below a reprint of the first published ‘Dan Dare’ page (Eagle No. 1) refers to “The first ever page of Dan Dare. At this early stage Hampson wasn’t into his stride and drew all the frames the same size”. Clearly the frame sizes vary on the page, and the caption should refer to the dummy page of ‘Chaplain Dan Dare’, which appears on the opposite page! 
Frank Humphris, the (third) artist on Eagle’s ‘Riders of the Range’, is quoted at one point but his name appears as “Humphries”. (A mistake not unknown elsewhere.) 
Bruce Cornwell appears at one point as “Cornwall”. (Another mistake not unknown elsewhere!). 
Hampson’s ‘Modesty Blaise’ samples are shown, along with the statement that “what you see here is the a row of Hampson’s Modesty, followed by a row of the same strip drawn by Jim Holdaway.” There is no Holdaway art shown (though is can be seen on the Lost Characters of Frank Hampson website! 
I suspect that at least one page of artwork (from ‘The Road of Courage’) has been reproduced at slightly the wrong aspect ratio (“squashed” in the horizontal). 
The above criticisms aside, for anyone newly interested, or renewing their interest, in Frank Hampson and ‘Dan Dare’, or more generally having an interest in the history and development of sequential graphic art (the posh name for “comics”), Tomorrow Revisited surely is a “must read”, and its illustrations are a “must see”. As I previously commented after first seeing Tomorrow Revisited, it provides a visual treat, being adorned with illustrations including, as I have indicated, many full-page examples that are reproduced from original artwork. 

There are two versions of the book, the standard Bookshop (or Trade) Edition, which I have reviewed, and a Limited (to 100 issues) De Luxe Edition, which I believe internally identical with the Bookshop Edition, but is leather bound and comes in a leather presentation case with an original ‘Dan Dare’ illustration by Don Harley, a print by Andrew Skilleter and a Certificate signed by Alastair Crompton, Peter Hampson, Andrew Skilleter and Don Harley.

I said I would avoid critically comparing Tomorrow Revisited with Dan Dare: The Biography, and so I will. They are sufficiently different in scope that any serious student of the story of Eagle and ‘Dan Dare’ should read both books. If you are new to this, I would recommend reading Dan Dare: The Biography first, as a primer, but you might want to steal a look at Tomorrow Revisited before you begin - if only for the wonderful artwork.

Tomorrow Revisited: A celebration of the life and art of Frank Hampson is published by PS Art Books in two hardback editions: 
Deluxe Slipcase Edition (ISBN 978-1-84863-122-9) at £299.95
Standard Trade Edition (ISBN 978-1-84863-121-2) at £29.99

Eagle: The Space Age Weekly (BBC Radio 4)

As most of our readers will know already, 2010 saw the 60th Anniversary of the launch of Eagle. As the year draws to a close, the BBC is marking the anniversary with a half-hour radio documentary presented by Sir Tim Rice and produced by Stephen Garner. The programme will air at 11.30am on 23rd December.

The BBC provides the following information about the programme:
Eagle: The Space Age Weekly
Sir Tim Rice explores the lasting appeal of British magazine Eagle and the impact of its flagship character Dan Dare.
Eagle ran in two main incarnations between 1950 and 1994. Dan Dare, often referred to as "Biggles in space", is regarded in some circles as the greatest British science fiction hero of the 20th century
In this feature we chart the influences behind the comic, and explore the life of its creator Marcus Morris, a fascinating man who began the publication because of his concern over 'horrific' US comics which presented 'disturbing' storylines which he felt 'corrupted British youth'.
The programme reveals how Dan Dare was originally envisaged as a space chaplain before becoming the popular astronaut. It also examines the work of illustrator Frank Hampson who introduced technology years ahead of its time. Hampson knew the Space Age was on its way while serving in the Second World War and seeing the German VI rockets. He made the Dan Dare strips as realistic as possible by dressing his team in spacesuits and uniforms, basing the look of the fictional characters on his colleagues.
We reveal how the stories had educational value and, along with Dan Dare, we look at other Eagle offerings including Shakespeare's plays and the Greek myths which ran as comic strips.
Featuring contributions from author Philip Pullman, Sally Morris the daughter of Eagle Creator Marcus and Eagle Society member David Britton.
Leave aside the reference to Biggles in Space (Biggles and Co. were much more thuggish in my view), Dan Dare is so imbedded within British culture, that references to other British fictional characters are unnecessary. To most 1950s schoolboys Dan Dare is The Pilot of the Future!

Eagle certainly had an educational value and contained many more features, fictional and non-fictional, than Dan Dare, but I don't think Shakespeare or Greek myths featured much, so it will be interesting to see what the programme has to say on those aspects. 

Oh, and Frank Hampson's inspiration was the German V2 rocket, not the V1. 

Hopefully the programme will be better informed than whoever wrote the BBC's "blurb"!

News of this broadcast has also been reported on Down the Tubes

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Tomorrow Revisited - book launch

Alastair Crompton signing copies
The launch of Alastair Crompton's book Tomorrow Revisited took place at the Chris Beetles Gallery in London's Mayfair on 30th November, 2010. A good few people braved the winter-come-early weather and the resulting traffic chaos, the risk from rioting students and the film fans turning out for the premier of the latest Narnia film, to be the first to buy a copy, and to take a look at the original 'Dan Dare' artwork on display, and for  sale at the gallery (typically at £5,500 a board!). Alastair and his publisher and collaborator Paul Stephenson were in attendance, Alastair cheerfully signing copies of his book for those who wished to buy. These were advance copies, flown in especially for the launch. The main shipload was due to arrive by sea from China the next day, ready for the publication date of 6th December.

Tomorrow Revisited (as implied by the title) is a wholly updated, rewritten and redesigned version of Alastair Crompton's 1985 book, The Man Who Drew Tomorrow. It is a "celebration of the life and art of Frank Hampson", the creator of 'Dan Dare' and the artistic creator of the Eagle magazine. I hope to provide a full review when I have read the book, but visually it is a treat, being adorned with illustrations, including many full-page examples that are reproduced from original artwork, largely from Paul Stephenson's extensive collection.

There are two versions of the book, the Bookshop Edition at £29.99 and a Limited (to 100 issues) De Luxe Edition, which is leather bound and comes in a leather presentation case  with an original 'Dan Dare' illustration by Don Harley, a print by Andrew Skilleter and a Certificate signed by Alastair Crompton, Peter Hampson, Andrew Skilleter and Don Harley. The De Luxe Edition is priced at £299.95.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: A Biography (review)

On first seeing the title of this book I was half expecting a biography of the character Dan Dare, written as if the alternate universe created by Frank Hampson, his studio team and their successors, might be real - something along the lines of what Philip José Farmer did (in 1972) for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous jungle character in Tarzan Lives! That idea remains for some future project, perhaps, but if the title of this book might be misleading, I am not about to criticize the book for what it is not. 
Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: A Biography (or Dan Dare: The Biography as the dust jacket would have it) is the story of the ‘Dan Dare’ strip in the Eagle - how it was created, developed, produced and eventually (all but) killed when Eagle ended. Although it (rather briefly) continues the story through the further incarnations of ‘Dan Dare’ to the present, and even anticipates a future movie, the overwhelming focus is on those Eagle years (1950 - 1969). It is written by Daniel Tatarsky, the editor of Orion Books’ other Eagle-related publications: Eagle Annual the Best of the 1950s Comic, Eagle Annual of the Cutaways, Eagle Annual the Best of the 1960s comic, and the 2011 Eagle Diary).  
The book, hard-covered in red and with a colourful dustjacket, has around 250 pages of text with the occasional black and white illustration, plus another 64 glossy colour pages grouped into themes at intervals through the book and variously adorned with illustrations from archive copies of Eagle, studio photographs, Frank Hampson’s sketchbooks and roughs, and various pictures of ‘Dan Dare’ spin-off merchandising. The text includes an introduction (by Terry Jones), nine chapters, an appendix (summarizing all the ‘Dan Dare’ adventures from the original Eagle) and a bibliography. There is no index, reflecting perhaps that it is not all that mighty a tome.
As well as reading the main published works (Alastair Crompton’s The Man Who Drew Tomorrow, Sally Morris’ and Jan Hallwood’s Living With Eagles etc.), the author has talked (directly in some cases; via letter, telephone or e-mail in others) with a number of people associated with ‘Dan Dare’ and Eagle, including surviving former Dan Dare Studio team members Greta Tomlinson, Don Harley and Bruce Cornwell, plus Margaret Jackson (Frank Hampson’s sister), as well as with other Eagle and ‘Dan Dare’ enthusiasts (Alan Vince, Adrian Perkins, Rod Barzilay, et al) and to a number of people who were influenced by Eagle and ‘Dan Dare’. (At this point, perhaps I should declare that my own name is mentioned in the acknowledgements - though I'm sure my own contribution was quite modest!)   He also had access to Alan Vince’s 1974 interview with Frank Hampson, to Penny Spark’s 1978 interview with the same, and talked with Frank Hampson’s son, Peter - so plenty of opportunity to bring something new to the history. While bringing his own voice and thoughts to the proceedings, Tatarsky often quotes his sources directly, letting their voices illuminate the story.  
While I have some familiarity with the subject matter, I did not read this book deliberately hunting for errors or discrepancies with other accounts (besides I do not count myself as an expert in the detail). Nevertheless I suspect that the colour section comparing characters drawn by different artists contains at least one error in the artist attributions. Also, the text implies (at the end of the fourth chapter) that Don Harley was the only other artist working on the strip with Frank Bellamy after Hampson’s departure in 1959, whereas (and it is obvious by looking at the strips produced at that time) there were various artists still at work. One artist, Gerald Palmer, doesn’t even get a mention. 
Despite the criticisms mentioned above, I found it a very well written book - Tatarsky has a natural, easy style, making for relaxed reading. His book provides a sympathetic account of the story of ‘Dan Dare’ - from conception to resurrection, you might say. It should be an essential primer to anyone with an interest in the 1950/60s Eagle ‘Dan Dare’ and a good read even for those more familiar with the story. For anyone who has come to ‘Dan Dare’ after the 1960s, through 2000AD, the "new" (1980s) Eagle, the Titan Books reprint series, Spaceship Away, or even the Virgin Comics “remould”, the book provides a readily accessible primer on the ‘Dan Dare’ strip and a homage to the creativity, achievement, personal tragedy, influence and legacy of the original creators of an enduring British comic strip hero.

Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: A Biography (ISBN: 978 0 7528 8896 5) is published in hardback by Orion Books @ £14.99. 
Copies are currently available at reduced price from Amazon.co.uk (where I bought mine!) Play.com, and other outlets.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Eagle Times Vol 23 No 3

Autumn 2010 Contents
  • A look at the "Realtime" chronology of the original Dan Dare saga, from the birth of Sir Hubert (1943), to Dan's appointment as Spaceship Controller (2022) 
  • Memories of Marcus Morris - the man - provided by former members of the St James Youth Club, which was set up by Marcus in the 1940s.
  • A summary history of 46 years of Eagle enthusiast publications, from the Dan Dare Club Newsletter (1964) to Eagle Times (1988 to date).
  • The Case of the Lone Wolf - the first part of another 'PC49' story adapted from an Alan Stranks' radio play
  • The Name's the thing - a humorous look at the varied and strange names of aliens in the Dan Dare saga. 
  • Measuring Eagle's success - a look at the readership survey instigated by Hulton Press in 1950, which concluded that Eagle then had a readership of 60% of the boys of Britain.
  • Now you see him - now you don't - how in the early 1980s a flying Dutchman tried, and failed, to publish reprint books of the Eagle strips 'Heros the Spartan' and 'Dan Dare'
  • 'Rogue Planet' remembered - a personal reflection highlighting iconic moments from Dan Dare's 7th Eagle adventure.  
  • Putting Eagle Times together - how the editorial team (and some unsung helpers) put together a 56-page magazine every quarter 
  • 'Nightmare on Dreamland' - a look at the 1986 story from the "new" Eagle, when Dan Dare (the great-great-grandson) meets the original Dan Dare in an encounter with their arch enemy - the Mekon
  • Rivals of Jeff Arnold - the fifth in this ongoing series looks at the impact of western hero Davy Crockett, brought to screen in 1955 by Walt Disney. 
  • Eaglers of the future - a former Eagle reader introduces his collection to his grandchildren
  • Did You Really Shoot the Television? - a review of the Family Fable by Max Hastings, journalist son of Eagle's Special Investigator, MacDonald Hastings
  • Bill Dean, Kenneth McDonough and Ray Malstrom - a short illustrated article on the prolific model aircraft and vehicle designers who contributed to Eagle and Eagle books throughout the 1950s and 1960s 
  • Lancastria - a relook at Eagle writer Geoffrey Bond's book (published in 1959 and serialised in John Bull magazine), following the 70th anniversary (in June 2010) of the biggest maritime disaster in British History

The picture on this issue's front depicts the Launch of the Hirondelle by John Yardley (after Frank Hampson studio). It is based on the opening frame from the 4th episode of 'The Red Moon Mystery' first published in Eagle, Vol 2 No 29, 26th October, 1951.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Eagle Diary 2011 (review)

Here's a fun, but practical item from Orion Books. I've had mine for a little while now, but just got around to reviewing it.

The Eagle Diary 2011 is hard-backed, red-bound and features a red ribbon bookmark and a black elastic closure strap.

This follow-on from the publisher's Eagle Annual: Best of the 1950s Comic, Eagle Annual of the Cutaways and Eagle Annual: Best of the 1960s Comic draws on the same wealth of material - The Dan Dare Corporation's archive copies of the original Eagle

Measuring a respectable 8½ x 6 inches and ¾ inches thick and with 7 days per page the diary provides plenty of space for the diarist's own entries and features reproduced selections of artwork, advertisements, comic strips, etc. from the original Eagle. Other useful items of included information are: interplanetary dialing codes (though including one for the Sun might seem a little odd - perhaps it's a hot-line!), bank holiday dates, interplanetary flight schedules and a vintage wine chart covering wines from all the major planets, including (from Venus) Mekonta Special Brew.

An additional bonus: the edge of the pages serves for a flick book - whereby a rocket ship takes off (or descends if flipping in the reverse direction!)

As with the former Orion Books' offerings the diary has a "retro look" and there is a one-page introduction from Daniel Tatarsky. Somehow that "retro look" (which before gained criticism from some reviewers, including this one) seems more acceptable this time around.

This is a very attractive nostalgia (but usable) item, and would be an ideal Christmas (or other) present for any 'Dan Dare' fan or former Eagle reader - there should be plenty: a survey by Hulton Press in the 1950s indicated that at that time 60% of British boys read Eagle! 

Priced at £12.99, Eagle Diary 2011 (ISBN 978-1-4091-1269-3) is at the time of posting available at reduced price from a number of outlets, including: Waterstones (at £9.09) Amazon.co.uk (at £8.57), Play.com (at £9.99) W H Smith (£8.05) 

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Eagle Times Vol 23 No 2

Summer 2010 Contents 
  • A photo-illustrated report on the Eagle Society's April 2010 gathering  to celebrate Eagle's 60th Anniversary in Southport
  • 'Scale-face speaks with Thorked tongue' - a look at the ways in which alien languages were treated in the Eagle's 'Dan Dare' saga
  • 'Jim Stalwart' - part  2, covering story synopses and foreign reprints of this "forgotten" strip from 1954, drawn by Bruce Cornwell for Junior Mirror
  • 'Eagle's "No!" to Frank Humphris' - describing how in 1962 the editor of Eagle rejected the idea from Britain's leading western artist for a 'True Stories of the West' series 
  • 'I was There' - some third-party recollections of when, in 1980, space artist David Hardy met 'Dan Dare' creator Frank Hampson 
  • 'More complaints from the Dustman?' A look at some of artist Ron Embleton's lesser known work
  • 'Rivals of Jeff Arnold' - the latest in this series examines the depiction in films and British comic strip of the masked avenger - 'The Lone Ranger'
  • 'What the papers say' - topical press coverage of Eagle's 60th Anniversary
  • 'Plastic Ship Kits by Eaglewall' - a review of some of the "Authentic Plastic Assembly Kits" made by Eagle/Wall Plastics Ltd in the 1950s
  • 'Haynes Apollo 11 Owners' Workshop Manual' - a review of the recently published book
  • 'The Case of the Begging Girl' - a 'PC49' story adapted from Alan Stranks' radio play
  • 'This is where we came in' - recollections of the origins and activities of the Astral Group 'Dan Dare' Club in the 1970s
  • 'Eagle Annuals' - a fond look back and review of the first ten Eagle Annuals, published between 1951 to 1960
  • 'Frank Bellamy's The Story World War 1' - a review  of the book which collects the series written by Michael Butterworth that was originally published in Look and Learn

The cover illustration shows the celebratory Birthday Cake which was cut and consumed by members of the Eagle Society  at the Southport on 14th April, 2010 - the 60th Anniversary of Eagle's first publication

    Wednesday, 9 June 2010

    The Eagle Story

    Readers of Eagle Times magazine will be aware that in the Spring 2008 issue, we publicised the existence and availability on DVD of The Eagle Story, a short documentary film, made by Cheshire-based, nonprofessional filmmaker, Frank Baker. The film was more recently seen by members of the Eagle Society who attended Eagle's 60th Anniversary in Southport in April 2010. Since then Frank has kindly made a video copy available on YouTube - and so it can appear here!   Thanks, Frank.

    In its ten minutes, The Eagle Story covers, briefly but effectively,  the history of Eagle and 'Dan Dare', from the beginnings in Southport and the setting up of the studio in Churchtown, through the move to Bayford Lodge in Epsom, the launch of Eagle's companion papers, 'Dan Dare' toys and merchandise, and the eventual unsympathetic take-over of Eagle by Odhams. Also covered are the later lives of Marcus Morris and Frank Hampson, including the latter's breakdown, and his later recognition as 'Prestigio Maestro' at Lucca. Some of the later commentary reflects the fact that this film was made a couple of years ago. For example, comments regarding the expected biography of 'Dan Dare' are somewhat dated - the book by Daniel Tatarsky is currently expected to be published by Orion Books in late October, 2010. 

    On 10th April, 2008, The Eagle Story  took the top prize in the  Inter-Club Competition at Southport giving, as I understand it, Swan Movie Makers (Wirral) their eleventh win in the competition. Although the film was submitted with less success to the OSFAF International Film Festival in Skopje, Macedonia, another of Frank Baker's films Knot in Motion saw more success (taking second prize) there. The Eagle Story was also nominated for the fledgling Wirral International Film Festival in November 2008. Frank tells us that after its success in the Inter-Club Competition, The Eagle Story was selected for the North v South Competition, winning the Mermaid trophy. A bit of internet searching tells me that the North v South Competition is run annually by the Institute of Amateur Cinematographers (IAC). The Mermaid Trophy is awarded to the IAC Region whose film receives the greatest number of audience votes.

    Tuesday, 20 April 2010

    Eagle Society at Southport - video

    Thanks to Chris Phillips there is a four-part video record of the Eagle Society's three days in Southport, celebrating Eagle's 60th Anniversary.

    Part 1 includes the cutting of the Eagle 60th Anniversary cake, Steve Winders' after dinner tribute to Eagle - a humorous rendition entitled 'The Lion and Eagle' (based on the well-known comedy piece, Marriott Edgar’s 'The Lion and Albert'), and Nigel McMurray's introduction over dinner on the first evening.

    In Part 2 Jim Ryder and Adam James provide the evening's entertainment on the first night, in the spirit of Jeff Arnold and the Riders of the Range, with 'cowboy' and country and western songs.

    Part 3, takes us, among other things, on the 'Eagle Trail' on 14th April, led by local author and artist Peter Dyer, and visiting the places in Southport associated with the creation of Eagle - including the famous 'Bakehouse Studio'.

    Part 4 covers the events of the 15th April, including John Swan's review of Portuguese and other "Eagles", and a meeting with some of the Eagle Times editorial team.

    Wednesday, 14 April 2010

    Eagle's (and Dan Dare's) 60th Anniversary

    Sixty years ago, on 14th April, 1950, Hulton Press launched a revolutionary new paper for children (aimed at boys, but many girls read it too). The Eagle magazine was a new concept in juvenile publishing and its combination of four-colour photogravure and black-and-white pages presented a mix of fictional and factual material, in both picture-strip and textual form. Eagle was published weekly from 1950 until 1969, and is best known for the picture strip that for much of its history appeared on the front and inside-front pages: 'Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future', created for the Eagle by writer and artist Frank Hampson.

    Edited by Marcus Morris, Eagle was destined so to brighten, and in some cases inspire, the lives of children in austere post-World War II Britain that, 60 years on, it is still fondly remembered. The fondness of our memory and our inspiration derive from the ideals and hard work of its creators, which provided a quality of writing and artistry, and a range of content, that surpassed that available in other juvenile publications of the time. Our earlier post Eagle - How it began provides a short introduction to the subject.

    As the Eagle Society celebrates the 60th Anniversary of Eagle (in Southport where it all began) it is time to remember the debt we owe to the creators of Eagle, principally its first Editor the Revd. Marcus Morris and its lead artist Frank Hampson, but also the many other contributors (editors, artists and writers) who through their work (and often over-work), inspired Eagle's readers - some to be artists, some to be writers, others to be scientists, engineers, pilots or sportsmen. Though many of Eagle's contributors are no longer with us to hear it, we still say "Thank you".

    Tuesday, 6 April 2010

    UniComics 2010

    Via our friends at Spaceship Away and Downthetubes we have learned of a new comics festival, which should be of interest to many Eagle Times readers and fans of Eagle and 'Dan Dare'. The festival will be held at the De Havilland campus of the University of Hertfordshire at Hatfield, Herts. from Thursday 22nd – Sunday 25th April 2010.

    According to the Press Release, UniComics "will feature a varied programme of ticketed and non-ticketed events suitable for just about everyone". The festival "comprises a selection of author/illustrator lectures, schools and family events, film presentations and screenings, open mic sessions, theatre performances, art workshops and panel discussions."

    It is a panel discussion on 25th April that will be of most interest to Eagle and 'Dan Dare' fans, viz:
    Sunday 25th April, 6pm - 8pm: Weekly British Spirit - Sixty Years of the Eagle and Dan Dare
    On April 14th, 1950, a new boys' comic called the Eagle vigorously introduced some wonder in to the drudgery of post-war Britain and, with its star strip 'Dan Dare: Pilot of The Future', showcased a profoundly alluring fantasy of a strong and vital Britain in then far-flung 1997 that boldly led the way in the exploration of outer space. One of the most successful comics in British history, at its height, the Eagle remarkably sold just under a million copies a week. In celebration of the 60th anniversary of both this landmark, much-beloved title and its highly-memorable flagship character, UniComics presents a panel discussion to explore what is considered to be one of the high watermarks of British Comics history. The panel includes Pat Mills (founder of 2000AD), Nick Jones (founding editor of Titan Book’s Dan Dare library), Dr. Will Brooker (Kingston University) and Gary Erskine (artist, Virgin Comics’ Dan Dare). Hosted by Danny Graydon.

    Tickets are priced £10 (full) £8 (concessions), £5 (students and children).
    More information at the Unicomics website or download a pdf of the Programme

    UniComics is presented by the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with Laydeez do Comics, Herts County Council (Libraries), the St Albans Children’s Book Group, the Hertfordshire Film Consortium and Danny Graydon (Film and Comics Journalist).

    Tuesday, 16 March 2010

    Eagle Times Vol 23 No 1

    Spring 2010 Contents
    • An examination of the career of Sergeant Bruce, whose single-episode exploits ran for nearly four years in the 1960s Eagle, firstly as 'Sergeant Bruce, C.I.D.' and then in 'Can You Catch a Crook?'
    • A tribute to Geoffrey Bond (1920-2009), best known as the writer of 'Luck of the Legion' in Eagle; also a friend of the Eagle Society, who wrote the 'Justin Tyme' strip for Eagle Times
    • Complaints from the Dustman? - reminiscences of some of Ron Embleton's "discarded" artwork
    • A look at the life and career of Paul Trevillion, better known for his sports illustrations and his work on 'Roy of the Rovers' for Tiger, who drew some of the 'Can You Catch a Crook?' and 'U.F.O. Agent' strips in Eagle in the 1960s
    • The Tales of a Southport Lad - reviewing Peter Dyer's book When I Went a' Walking
    • Fond recollections of the Space Patrol Official Handbook that was the invention of Denis Gifford in 1952
    • A revisit to the Eagle connections with Ladybird Books, including some examples of the work of Roy Worvill (writer) and covers by the artists Robert Ayton, Frank Hampson, Frank Humphris and Martin Aitchison
    • A Frank Humphris 'Ladybird' Rough, showing the sketch which led to one of the full-page illustrations in the Ladybird book The story of the Indians of the Western Plains
    • The Case of the Shocking Shadow - taking a look at Alan Stranks' PC49 stage play from 1950
    • A look at 'Jim Stalwart', Bruce Cornwell's "forgotten" Space Captain, whose exploits graced the pages of the Junior Mirror in 1954
    • 'Rivals of Jeff Arnold' examines the history and the myth of Billy the Kid
    • Same Again Next Week? A review of the issue of The Champion that was published the week before Eagle's debut in 1950
    • Pop Music in Eagle Times - 1968
    The cover of this issue of Eagle Times commemorates the birth of Eagle 60 years ago on 14th April, 1950.

    Tuesday, 9 March 2010

    Classic Bible Stories

    The first of an intended series of books reprinting Classic Bible Stories from Eagle has been published by Titan Books. The first volume collects two stories: 'The Road of Courage', the story of Jesus of Nazareth, written by the Revd. Marcus Morris and illustrated by Frank Hampson, and 'Mark the Youngest Disciple', written by the Revd. Chad Varah and illustrated by Giorgio Bellavitis. 'The Road of Courage' which appeared in Eagle in 1961, was Hampson's last work for Eagle and shows him, arguably at his best, and certainly at his most consistent. 'Mark the Youngest Disciple' appeared in 1954, and has been described as Giorgio Bellavitis' finest work for Eagle.

    Although The Road of Courage was previously published as a hardback book by Dragon's Dream in 1981, none of the other Eagle bible stories has previously been seen in book form. A future volume of Classic Bible Stories is expected to collect 'The Shepherd King', the story of David, by Clifford Makins and Frank Bellamy, and 'The Great Adventurer', the story of Saul/Paul of Tarsus, by Chad Varah, Frank Hampson (and team) and Norman Williams.

    The format of Classic Bible Stories is very similar to Titan's Dan Dare reprint series; ie, 9" x 12" red covered hardback with dustjacket. As with the Dan Dare series, all the strips in Classic Bible Stories are reprinted from scans of Eagle pages. It is well known that most of the original artboards for strips that appeared in Eagle have been lost, destroyed or dispersed to various collectors, so that most Eagle reprint series cannot be from original artwork. However, Dragon's Dream's 1981 offering of The Road of Courage was almost entirely (ie, with the exception of the third page) from the original artboards of that story, and comparison of the two versions is inevitable.

    Whether the artboards were not available to the current publishers, or it was an editorial decision not to use them to achieve consistency of quality with the other stories in the series, or for some other reason, this reviewer does not know. Although a close side-by-side comparison with the Dragon's Dream version shows some increase in image contrast and loss of detail due to line thickening in the Titan Books version, the quality of reproduction is as good as the best of their Dan Dare reprint series, ie excellent. An advantage of reproducing the strip from scans of the published comic strip (combined with some careful restoration) is that the result is a close facsimile to the original published edition. A detraction of the Dragon's Dream issue was that new captions had to be created because they were not present on the original boards. Unfortunately, the captions were produced in an unsympathetic type-face, the size of which often was too small for the boxes in which the captions were placed.

    Readers of Titan's Dan Dare reprint series might be surprised that, apart from the two stories, the title and credit pages and some brief information provided on the dustjacket, this volume has no further editorial content. It would seem this book has undergone a few changes along the way, meaning that some of the information on the book (eg at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com), indicating feature content, is inaccurate. It would have been nice to have seen the article by Frank Hampson that was published in Eagle when 'The Road of Courage' was first published, describing his trip to the Holy Land and the research that went into the strip.

    Although pre-publication pictures emphasise the Eagle legacy by use of the Eagle emblem and the name of Frank Hampson on the cover (with no mention of the other contributors!), neither of these elements are present on the front of the published dustjacket (though Frank Hampson is credited on the book's spine), nor does the Eagle emblem appear anywhere in the book. Presumably the book is aimed at a wider audience than "just" Eagle (or comics) enthusiasts.

    Inside full credits are given to the creators of the strips including, on the dustjacket front flap, mention of Frank Hampson's assistant, Joan Porter. The rear dustjacket provides some extremely short biographical information on Marcus Morris, Frank Hampson, Chad Varah and Giorgio Bellavitis.

    Classic Bible Stories [ISBN 9781848565258] is published by Titan Books at £14.99.
    At the time of posting it was available from Amazon.co.uk at £10.74

    Monday, 1 March 2010

    The Eagle Society Gathering and Annual Dinner, 2010

    SOUTHPORT (Merseyside)

    13th - 15th April 2010

    The Eagle Society will be meeting to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the birth of Eagle - the National Strip Cartoon Weekly. The event will follow the format of previous gatherings, the all-inclusive package this time comprising two nights in Southport at the Duke's Folly Hotel (of which we have exclusive use), all meals including the Society's Annual Dinner, and a mix of presentations, talks and visits of interest to Eagle Society members. A break with tradition is that the event will be held mid-week so that we can celebrate on the exact anniversary.
    • Tuesday 13th April - Arrive at the Duke's Folly Hotel (from 3pm), with afternoon tea and biscuits as you settle in. After a 3-course Dinner, gather "round the campfire" with Cowboy Singer Jim Ryder, who will sing all those songs associated with 'Riders of the Range' and the Old West. Also, relive memories of previous Eagle Society gatherings with an audio visual presentation by Paul Napp.
    • Wednesday 14th April - Eagle's Birthday! Partake of a full English Breakfast before joining the Eagle Trail led by Peter Dyer and visiting in a private coach the places associated with Marcus Morris, Frank Hampson and the birth of Eagle. Lunch at the Botanic Gardens Banqueting Suite. During the afternoon, a special visit will be made to the Southport Model Railway Club, followed by Compline at St. James, Birkdale, led by Rev. Ian Mainey. In the evening enjoy the Eagle Society's Annual Dinner with the popular After Dinner Speech by Steve Winders, meet the author of When I went A'walking (with a chapter on the Eagle Trail), and be further entertained by our guests, including former members of the St. James Youth Club with their "Recollections of Marcus Morris", Southport Moviemakers and a presentation of Southport, the 1958 promotional film produced by the St. James Film Society.
    • Thursday 15th April - After another full English Breakfast hear, about Portuguese Eagles from John Swan, and Eagle Economics from Cliff Maddock. Discuss the future of Eagle Times and the Eagle Society. After lunch make a leisurely departure for home.
    For Members of the Eagle Society, the inclusive cost for the weekend is £135 sterling per person.

    Please note that this event is fully booked through its prior advertisement to readers of the Society's magazine Eagle Times. In the event of cancellations places may become available. If you would like to be added to a stand-by list please contact Nigel McMurray by e-mail.

    Tuesday, 9 February 2010

    Frank Hampson Revisited

    The life-story, career and artwork of Frank Hampson, the creator of 'Dan Dare' and artistic creator of the Eagle, are to be revisited by Alastair Crompton in what is described as a "wholly rewritten and updated" version of an earlier biography. The earlier work, written by Alastair, and published by Andrew Skilleter's Who Dares Publishing in 1985, shortly after the death of Frank Hampson, was called The Man Who Drew Tomorrow.

    The new book, to be published by PS Publishing to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Eagle's first publication, is titled (appropriately enough) Tomorrow Revisited, and promises us "the complete Frank Hampson story".

    It will be a large format "coffee table" book, with over 200 pages of text and illustrations, including full colour reproductions from original 'Dan Dare' artboards (from the apparently extensive collection owned by Paul Stephenson). Also promised are sketches from Frank Hampson's notebooks and some of the many hundreds of photographs that were taken to help create the strip.

    The book will come in three editions:

    • A deluxe leather-bound hardback in leather-bound presentation case, with an original 'Dan Dare' illustration by Don Harley, an illustrated homage to Frank Hampson by Andrew Skilleter and a certificate of limited availability (signed by Alastair Crompton, Andre Skilleter and Don Harley). This edition is limited to 100 copies and is priced at £295.
    • A cloth-bound hardback in a foil-blocked slipcase, with an illustrated homage to Frank Hampson by Andrew Skilleter and a certificate of limited availability (signed by Alastair Crompton and Andrew Skilleter). This edition is limited to 250 copies and is priced at £69.99.

    Note: PS Publishing are currently offering a pre-publication discount of 10% off the above prices for orders taken before 30th April 2010. Full details at the PS Publishing website.

    More information about Tomorrow Revisited can be found in a two page pdf at Alastair's Frank Hampson website