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.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 11


Biographies of Dan Dare state that he was educated at Rossall School near Fleetwood in Lancashire. Founded in 1844 as a sister school to Marlborough College, which had been founded the previous year, Rossall has produced several famous old boys. These include Leslie Charteris, the creator of The Saint, Sir Thomas Beecham, who founded both the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, the Booker Prize winning novelist J.G. Farrell, James Donald the famous film actor, Walter Clopton Wingfield who invented lawn tennis, Sir Francis Graham Smith, the former Astronomer Royal and Fr. Thomas Byles, the priest who refused to leave the sinking Titanic, insisting on remaining to help and console fellow passengers. 

Rossall was possibly chosen as Dan’s school in tribute to another old Rossallian, Terence Horsley, the editor of the Sunday Empire News, who was about to publish Frank and Marcus Morris’ Lex Christian strip when he died in a glider accident. His death prompted Marcus to create a whole comic weekly instead of a single newspaper strip and Frank to develop the East End Vicar Lex Christian into Dan Dare.

Most appropriately, in view of its most famous fictional old boy, the school houses the Lawrence House Astronomy and Space Science Centre, which includes an observatory and planetarium. Opened in 2006, the Centre resulted from efforts by parents and Governors to restore an old established observatory in the school. Since the 1990s Rossall has been co-educational and now includes a nursery and preparatory school, catering for children from ages 2 - 18.

Rossall was never identified as Dan’s old school in the strip. He visited his school in The Double Headed Eagle story in Eagle Annual Number Three but it was not named. The information originally appeared in Raphael Tuck’s ‘Happy Hours’ series book of Dan Dare Water Transfers produced in 1951. This book included twelve pages detailing Dan’s career, interleaved with six pages of colour water transfers. It is likely, but not certain, that the information was provided by Frank Hampson, but we can take it as official because in a radio interview in the late 1970s Frank himself told listeners that Dan had attended Rossall and the information was also repeated in the text accompanying the 1955 Presso Dan Dare Spaceship, the 1974 Dan Dare Annual and the Dan Dare Dossier in 1990, although the Dossier incorrectly stated that Rossall is in Manchester! 

(When this page first appeared in EAGLE Times I mistakenly believed that the information about Rossall originally came from The Calvert’s Toothpowder Dan Dare Picture Card album. However I am grateful to Charles Evans-Gunther, Adrian Perkins and David Gould for their correction and their work on tracking the origins of Dan’s background details.)

Friday, 30 November 2018

DAN DARE AT CHRISTMAS

We'll be posting some articles from EAGLE TIMES occasionally on the blog and to start here's a piece by Steve Winders from the Christmas edition in 2016.


Christmas was enthusiastically celebrated by Eagle. In the fifties the editor would always refer to the Christian significance of the feast. Harris Tweed, Chicko and Tommy Walls always acknowledged the occasion and the continuing serials included references to it whenever possible. There was a Christmas party at the Boys’ Club in two PC 49 adventures and even Riders of the Range incorporated Christmas into the opening instalment of The Arizona Kid, featuring an incident in a saloon decorated with Christmas trimmings. The front page of Eagle was invariably decorated in some way for the Christmas issue. In most years the words of the Eagle logo were shown covered in ‘snow’ and several times the eagle itself was depicted against a background of the night sky, with the star of Bethlehem featured prominently. Throughout the fifties, Eagle Carol Services would be held at churches and cathedrals around the country, often led by the Rev. Marcus Morris, the editor, and Christmas parties were held for Eagle Club members at several venues. Sadly, the sixties marked an end of the Eagle Club and the range of activities that the paper organised, including the Carol Services. No longer edited by a clergyman, the religious aspects of the feast were not emphasised. Nevertheless within the comic itself the shorter lengths of the serials enabled The Iron Man, Sergeant Bruce, The Guinea Pig and Blackbow the Cheyenne to include scenes set at Christmas and Eagle continued the tradition established in the fifties, of informing readers of Christmas traditions in a variety of articles or short factual strips.

In the first Christmas issue in December 1950, the frames of the Dan Dare strip were separated by a holly pattern instead of the usual white borders. As the lead strip and also on the front page, Dan Dare managed to mention the event on a remarkable number of occasions - remarkable because the stories involved long continuing adventures on other planets where Christmas was obviously not celebrated by the native populations. In 1950 Dan and his friends were in the middle of their first adventure on Venus and the episode begins by revisiting the Ranger spaceship orbiting the planet, where the crew are reflecting on the joys of Christmas back on Earth. Then follows a frame showing Aunt Anastasia and Mrs Digby preparing for Christmas and thinking how the celebrations won’t be the same without Albert. The next frame shows a television newsreader announcing that the price of turkey has reached an all time high and another shows the officers at Spacefleet Headquarters eating their Christmas dinner and drinking a toast to their absent colleagues. The story now moves back to the main events on Venus, but Christmas is not forgotten as Sir Hubert, Digby and Professor Peabody, all prisoners of the Mekon, imagine what they would be doing to celebrate the feast if they had been back on Earth. Digby would have dressed as Father Christmas to give presents to his children; the Professor would have gone on a skiing holiday and Sir Hubert would have dozed in front of the fire. This would have resonated with many readers and their parents, who only five years previously were at war. Many fathers would have spent Christmases away from their families, thinking of home, while their families feared for their safety.

But in Dan Dare’s world this was 1996 and by 1997 the Mekon’s tyranny would be temporarily ended. Eagle Annual No. 5 features a story set at Christmas 1997 and I will examine this later, but in the weekly comic the action moved to 1999 after the Venus story ended and the Christmas issue for 1951 found Dan and Digby at the Martian North Pole in The Red Moon Mystery. Trudging through water and ice with a rescued dog protected inside his spacesuit, Digby comments “I feel …like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. Talk about a white Christmas!” This was a clever touch on the writer’s part – either Frank Hampson or George Beardmore.  Digby was able to reference Christmas in the Christmas issue without it actually being Christmas in the story.

Another year, another planet and this time Dan and Digby were on Mercury. Captured by the Mekon again, as an evil Treen scientist outlines the latest plan for world domination, Dan says “And to think that back home now it’s Christmastime,” to which Digby replies “These green monsters don’t know what Christmas means - and don’t care.” This was the only reference to the feast in the story, but it gently reminded readers that Christmas is about peace and goodwill. A year later at Christmas 1953, Dan and co. were on Titan, Saturn’s moon and Digby explained what Christmas means to a Saturnian boy. He tells him about peace, goodwill and presents and even about people going to church or chapel before returning home to Christmas dinner. The scene then shifts to Earth where Sir Hubert is dressed as Santa for the Spacefleet Christmas meal and once again a toast is drunk to Dan and the other members of his expedition. Despite the mention of religious worship, Digby does not mention that the feast celebrates the birth of Jesus. Although the Nativity was always referred to in Marcus Morris’ editorial and sometimes on the back page ‘true life’ adventure strip, reference to Christ was avoided in the fictional strips. While Eagle in the 1950s was a Christian publication, it was never produced exclusively for Christians.

Christmas 1953 was the last mention of the feast in the weekly Dan Dare strip for many years. In the following three years, circumstances in the stories prevented them from taking place at Christmas and the tradition was dropped in later adventures. In 1954, Dan was facing the Mekon on Space Station XQY in Prisoners of Space; a story where a lot of the action took place in a short period of time and the early episodes on Earth show that it clearly wasn’t Christmas time. However Dan and Digby did manage to celebrate Christmas in a humorous single page strip by Frank Hampson, called The Editor’s Christmas Nightmare in which all the Eagle characters appeared. Given the frivolous nature of this strip, it is safe to say that it does not relate to a ‘real’ incident in Dan’s life.

In both December 1955 and 1956 Dan was outside the solar system on Cryptos and Phantos respectively. Believing that they had travelled faster than light but actually having spent time in suspended animation, Dan and his friends could not have known what the date might be on Earth, so again Christmas was not alluded to in the strip. However in Eagle Annuals No. 5 and No. 6, published in 1955 and ’56 respectively, both Dan Dare adventures took place at Christmas. The first, Operation Plum Pudding, had a strong Christmas theme as the title suggests. Necessarily set several years in Dan’s past (1997) because he was currently involved in the epic Rogue Planet story several light years from Earth, it opens with a frame showing Digby and Flamer Spry carrying armfuls of presents across a snowy Spacefleet Headquarters. The presence of Junior Cadet Spry in 1997 has raised objections from several Dan Dare enthusiasts as his first appearance in the weekly was at the start of Prisoners of Space which must have been set late in 2000 at the very earliest and more likely 2001. Given that Flamer was still a Junior Cadet in that story, he must have been Primary school age in Operation Plum Pudding.

Flamer comments on the peace and goodwill that now exists between Treens, Therons and Earthmen, emphasising the message of Christmas as Digby plans for a big feast. But even in this story, the most Christmas orientated of all Dan’s adventures, our heroes are called upon to take over the Christmas delivery run to the crews of space stations because the scheduled pilots – Hank and Pierre have injured themselves tobogganing in Switzerland. Dan volunteers himself and Digby to allow those with families to enjoy Christmas with them. Digby’s wife and family in Wigan, with the exception of Aunt Anastasia, having been conveniently forgotten after the first Venus adventure. Digby decides to smuggle Christmas dinner and Flamer aboard the delivery ship so that they can enjoy the feast in space. Unfortunately two escaped prisoners, Starbuck and Vulcani have stowed aboard the ship in order to escape to Venus and after it is spaceborne they shoot Digby with a paralyzing pistol and force Dan to fly them to Venus. However Flamer, who has been sleeping in a gyrobunk, unknown to Dan and the villains, awakens and throws Digby’s Christmas pudding in Vulcani’s face. Dan reacts by punching Starbuck on the chin. Both convicts are quickly trussed up and Dan completes the deliveries, before returning to Earth in time for an evening banquet at Spacefleet Headquarters. He leaves Digby paralysed until they return to Earth so that he can be revived just as the meal is about to begin. Incredibly he is hailed as the hero for making the pudding that Flamer threw at Vulcani! Everyone, including Flamer, an eleven year old boy, who bravely threw the pudding at a dangerous criminal, enabling Dan to overcome both villains, sings “For he’s a jolly good fellow” to Digby who has slept through it all!

There are some other interesting elements of this story which are worthy of mention. Dan comments that both St. Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben would be rubble “if the boffins hadn’t dreamed up that Tungstal – Maximite spray.” While remedial work has admittedly been carried out on both buildings in our reality and more is regularly necessary, it is now twenty years after the adventure was supposed to have taken place and both are still standing and functioning without so much as a squirt of Tungstal - Maximite spray. Another interesting element is a celebration on television of the long career of Gilbert Harding, described in the strip as “TV’s grand old man.” Harding was a panelist on a range of programmes in the real 1950s and while it was conceivable that he could have lived till 1997, when he would have been ninety, he sadly died in 1960. 

The next Eagle Annual also had a Dan Dare story set at Christmas. This was Operation Silence and was a sequel to the previous year’s story. However it could not have been set just a year after Plum Pudding because it features the Mekon as a prisoner at Venus Rehabilitation Centre. This fact means that this story must take place between the weekly adventures Prisoners of Space and The Man from Nowhere, because this was the only time that the Mekon was a prisoner there. Unfortunately there was little or no time between the two stories to fit Operation Silence in. At the end of Prisoners of Space, Sir Hubert tells Dan and his friends that they have a date at the Venusian Embassy and The Man from Nowhere begins with a Ball at the Embassy. In order to accommodate Operation Silence we have to assume that Dan and co. had two dates at the Embassy and the Ball was some weeks later.

While Operation Silence begins with Digby looking forward to Christmas leave in two days’ time, a news flash announcing that the Mekon and a number of other villains including Starbuck and Vulcani from the previous year’s annual have escaped, ends all thoughts of the festive season as far as this story is concerned. Dan and Digby discover that the convicts have captured the Presidents of Earth, Saturn and the Therons as well as Sir Hubert and are holding them for ransom in the ruins of old Mekonta. They fly immediately to Venus to the rescue. Under cover of darkness Dan enters the old city from above using a Second World War barrage balloon, appropriated from Mekonta’s Museum of Earth Science, to surprise the criminals. However he too is captured, but in the absence of Junior Cadet Spry, Digby also enters the ruins using a barrage balloon and he has the good sense to bring a paralyzing grenade and to wear a spacesuit. He simply drops the grenade among the villainous throng, paralyzing everyone except himself. Then he sneaks around the guards and lookouts posted at the entrances to the ruins and fires a paralyzing pistol at each of them in turn. For his trouble he is awarded the Solar Star by a grateful World President. The Christmas setting is superfluous to this story, except insofar as many readers probably read it on Christmas Day when they received the annual as a present. However the story has several merits. The idea of entering the ruins from above using a silent ‘vehicle’ is clever and the presence of barrage balloons on Venus is also sound, as it was established in the very first Venus story in Eagle in 1950 that Mekonta had a Museum of Earth Science full of working replicas of Earth technology. Digby may not have been the real hero of Operation Plum Pudding, but he is certainly the hero here, saving Dan’s life, not for the first time or the last. Ironically the Planetary leaders had gathered on Venus to discuss security and given that they all finished up being kidnapped by a group of convicts, it was not before time! Clearly they were completely inept without Dan Dare and his friends to protect them as they would soon prove in spectacular style in the pages of Eagle, when during Dan’s long absence on Cryptos they managed to allow the Mekon not merely to escape again, but to conquer and enslave both Earth and Venus!

The next mention of Christmas in Dan Dare came in the weekly, but not until 1960 and the final episode of Mission of the Earthmen in that year’s Christmas issue. Dan and Digby return to their expedition’s deep space base after their adventure with the Zylons to find it deserted. Dan notices the date on the clock which tells Earth time and realises that it is Christmas Day. Digby then sees a microtape addressed to Dan and says “What’s this sir? A present from Santa Claus?” There is no further mention of Christmas in the episode or indeed in the Dan Dare saga until 1967, when a four part ‘filler’ story was slipped in between repeats of Prisoners of Space and The Man from Nowhere. This was to allow The Man from Nowhere to begin in a special ‘free gift’ issue in the new year to attract new readers when all Eagle’s regular characters began new stories. Again Christmas features in just one frame, but at least this shows Dan and his friends at a party – only the second Christmas party ever attended by Dan and Digby in the strip. Christmas also provides the opportunity for the pair to go on leave to the Greek Islands where the rest of this short story takes place. Here they mistake divers in experimental new underwater breathing apparatus for alien invaders! This was arguably the weakest ever Dan Dare story, but it was the last new one to appear in the original Eagle weekly. However it was not the last mention of Christmas in a Dan Dare strip! Eagle Annuals continued to be published until 1974 and each carried a new Dan Dare story. The final annual (dated 1975) also provided our final strip set at Christmas. Dan and Digby are travelling through space to investigate ‘unusual activity’ in ‘Sector 4000’ and it is Christmas. Once again Digby is complaining about having to work at Christmas and once again as in Operation Plum Pudding, he has smuggled a Christmas pudding aboard ship! The pudding also provides the resolution of the problem presented in the strip, but here the similarities end. Although Dan and Digby are recognisable, their spaceship and spacesuits are unlike any ever seen previously in the strip. The ship’s red nosecone is identical to that on Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbird One while the rest of the ship echoes Thunderbird Three without looking as credible as either craft. Wide below the nosecone and tapering towards a ball shaped base, it looks ungainly and cartoonlike. The strip refers to ‘Space Control’ not ‘Spacefleet’ and while Dan communicates with an officer on Earth in Spacefleet uniform, he is referred to as ‘General’! 

Dan and Digby discover that two planets are about to go to war over a huge chunk of a rare and valuable mineral which has broken off from a distant planet. Their ship suffers slight damage in the crossfire between ships of the opposing planets and is forced to land on the rock containing the mineral. Here, Dan devises a plan to stop the conflict. He sets explosive charges to destroy the rock entirely. However the timer on the explosives was damaged when his ship was hit, so he wraps it in Digby’s pudding, which will slowly melt in the heat emanated from the rock and when it has done so, the charges will explode. This gives them time to escape safely. The plan works and the conflict ends immediately as there is nothing to fight over. Dan promises Digby the biggest Christmas pudding he has ever seen when they return to base. And so ends the last Christmas related Dan Dare story and indeed the last Dan Dare story before the very different 2000 A.D. version just over two years later.


The original Dan was revived for the new version of Eagle in 1989 and Keith Watson drew a Christmas related cover featuring Dan and Digby that year. It shows Dan piloting a ‘rocket sled’ with Digby dressed as Santa on the back with a sackful of presents. The strip inside was unrelated to the picture, which was effectively a Christmas greeting to readers. The new Eagle became a monthly in 1991 and finally closed with the January edition in 1994, but even this didn’t end the Dan Dare saga. Our own Rod Barzilay created Spaceship Away! Magazine to tell new stories and the Autumn editions have included short Christmas related strips on several occasions, notably in 2011 which featured a cover by Don Harley showing Dan and Digby carrying presents across a snowy Spacefleet Headquarters, strongly recalling the opening frame of Operation Plum Pudding, although the picture actually relates to a short frivolous strip in the magazine called Missiles and Mistletoe drawn by Don and written by Sydney Jordan, in which Dan thwarts an attempt by the Mekon to destroy Spacefleet Headquarters. Two years later, it was Xel who needed thwarting at Christmas, in a strip by David Motton and drawn by Don Harley, where Dan destroys a missile with artificial snow.

So even now Dan Dare and Christmas continue their association, although Dan himself must approach the Feast with some trepidation. Even when he isn’t millions of miles away in the middle of some desperate mission, something always seems to crop up to threaten the festivities for him.

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 10


The late lamented comedy double act Morecambe and Wise have an unusual connection to Eagle’s 1961 - 62 strip Danger Unlimited. The strip was written by ‘Steve Alen’ whose real name was Leonard Fincham and who in 1954 co-wrote Running Wild, the very first TV series starring the pair. Another contributor to this show was Denis Gifford, the comic historian. Unfortunately the series was a disaster and put Morecambe and Wise off television for several years. However Leonard Fincham had several more successful TV writing credits including single episodes of The Avengers, The Invisible Man and the Police drama No Hiding Place and six episodes of Interpol Calling, for which he was also story editor.  Danger Unlimited, which ran for 29 episodes was not his only work for Eagle. He also wrote text stories under the pseudonym Lee Mayne, notably the Special Agent serials about Interpol Inspector Jean Collet, alias ‘the Hawk’.




Wednesday, 28 November 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 9


A significant contributor to both Eagle and Girl was George Cansdale, the zoologist, writer and TV presenter who wrote half page strips about wildlife for seven years for Eagle, which included series called Around the Countryside, British Birds, Prehistoric Animals, Our Pets and Nature Had It First. Impressively ilustrated by Backhouse, Tom Adams and George Bowe, these informative strips promoted readers’ interest in animals and the natural world. But George’s involvement in ‘education without force’was not confined to Eagle and Girl. He wrote several successful Ladybird books, notably The Ladybird Book of Pets and British Wild Animals. From the early 1950s he featured in several wildlife series on television and made regular appearances on Children’s Hour on the radio. After Eagle, he was a frequent guest on Blue Peter on television through the 1960s, 70s and early 80s.    

               
Geoffrey Bond wrote six Luck of the Legion novels in the fifties and sixties and two were translated into French. These were Les Tigres de Chai-Fang (Sergeant Luck Takes Over) in 1968 and La Garnison Fantome (Carry On Sergeant Luck) in 1969. They were published by Alsatia with cover illustrations by Pierre Joubert. Sergeant Luck was created for Eagle and his adventures ran from 1952 to 1961 and occupied the lower part of the centre spread, below the 'Cutaway' drawings. The strip was illustrated by Martin Aitchison.  

Sunday, 4 November 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 8




The above frame is from Operation Triceratops, the Dan Dare story in Eagle Annual Number Four, published in 1954. It features a character called Sir Nigel Tawny, who engages Dan’s services to transport a Venusian triceratops to his Zoo on the Isle of Wight. This story marks his only appearance in the Dan Dare saga, but remarkably the character went on to have a notable career in comics! In 1958 his adventures as an explorer provided the front page lead strip in Zip! comic and Sir Nigel’s adventures ran until 1962, moving into Swift when it absorbed Zip! in 1959.

The strip was written by John B. Myers and drawn by ‘Redvers Blake’, who was really Harry Winslade. Of course, Sir Nigel in the Dan Dare story is much older than his namesake in Zip! but he should be, as Operation Triceratops is set in the early twenty first century, whereas the Nigel Tawny strip begins in the late fifties. An explorer from that time, whose adventures sometimes involved unusual animals – as in the story shown above, might well become President of the Interplanetary Zoo after he retired. The pictures of him are not dissimilar when this is borne in mind, even though one was drawn by Harold Johns and the other by Winslade. So how did a minor character from a Dan Dare story become a star in his own right? The answer lies with John Myers who also wrote Operation Triceratops. As we know, Frank Hampson called upon several various writers to help with the Dan Dare strip before Alan Stranks became the regular scriptwriter and this was the case with the annual stories. As Sir Nigel was such a minor character in Dan Dare he presumably saw no copyright problems in using the character’s name again. When Zip! began the Nigel Tawny strip, its publisher, Odhams did not own the rights for Eagle, only acquiring them the following year.   

Friday, 12 October 2018

EAGLE TIMES AUTUMN 2018 Vol. 31 No.3




The new EAGLE TIMES is out now and it is a strong, varied and interesting issue.

LOOK OUT FOR:

EAGLE's Extended Family by Jeremy Briggs
. The Seth and Shorty western strip by Joe Hoole
. Jeremy Briggs' review of A Concise Guide to EAGLE Plastic Kits by David Welsh
. Charles Chilton and the Indian Wars by David Britton
. The Dan Dare adventure The Big City Caper by Andrew Coffey
. Another Glimpse inside the workings of EAGLE by David Britton
. Space Fiction Movies by Will Grenham
. Alfred the Great by Steve Winders
. Another In and Out of the EAGLE by Jim Duckett
. A new Archie Willoughby story: The Case of the Vanishing Police Box by Steve Winders

Sunday, 7 October 2018

THE MAN WHO DREW DAN DARE


EXHIBITION REPORT BY DAVID BRITTON

A reception was held on Thursday evening 20th September at the Atkinson Art Gallery in Lord St. Southport, to launch three new exhibitions that all have a local relevance. The one of particular interest to our readers is dedicated to “The Man Who Drew Dan Dare”, an exhibition marking the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Frank Hampson and his life’s work. The evening was opened by Stephen Whittle, Principal Manager at the Atkinson, who gave a brief background to each of the exhibitions and introduced Peter Hampson as guest speaker for Frank Hampson’s exhibition. 

Peter then related the story behind Frank’s career commencing with his demobilisation from the Army and the attendance at Southport College of Art. On leaving the College he was initially involved in producing commercial work for advertising and did illustrations for “Anvil”, Marcus Morris’ local church magazine that was later taken up by the Anglican Church. When Marcus decided to embark on his mission to create a comic or magazine to compete effectively with the gratuitous, pulp comics that were flooding the country from America, setting a higher moral standard yet appealing to children with an exciting product, he collaborated with Frank and EAGLE was born.  Shortly after Jocelyn Thomas, Greta Tomlinson and Joan Porter joined them at the Bakehouse, 22, Botanic Road, Churchtown. The Bakehouse has been restored recently and has a plaque honouring those who worked there in the early days of EAGLE.  Joan remained Frank’s assistant right through to the end.

Peter talked about the move to Epsom, the development of the studio at Bayford Lodge and of the humour that accompanied the hard work and weekly deadlines. That was followed by the unhappy departure from Odham’s , The Road of Courage for EAGLE , working for Ladybird books, more commercial work, such as an advertising strip series for the National Coal Board and finally the North East Surrey College of Technology (NESCOT) where he taught and worked.

The exhibition is really very well laid out and has examples of Frank’s work from the very beginning, with some beautifully executed pencil sketches and work in pen and ink. It continues through the early work on Dan Dare, illustrated by pages from the start of The First Venus Story, later episodes, pencil roughs and ending with post-EAGLE illustration for Ladybird books, a period that Peter described as a very happy one after the trauma of the final years with Odham’s. One of the highlights is some original pages for “The Road of Courage”, which for many represents the pinnacle of Frank’s output. Peter also pointed out the fact that Frank loved to put lots of detail into the background of his frames. This is apparent throughout his work.

The recognition that Frank received in Lucca in 1975 - The Yellow Kid  and his award of the title 'Prestigio Maestro' - the Best Comic Book Artist Since the Second World War, were also on display. 

Overall, the evening was a great success, although attendance may have been curtailed by a disastrous night of bad weather, with high winds and very heavy rain, as the tail of Storm Bronagh passed Southport. We were graced however by the presence of Frank’s sister Margaret, currently 91 years of age and her daughter Tina and son-in-law Les, as well as Peter’s wife Sue.

The exhibition runs until 16th March 2019 and is a must for all EAGLE, Dan Dare and Frank Hampson fans.





Monday, 17 September 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 7

WITH JIM DUCKETT





You don’t tend to bump into people called Horatio every day, but no less than three Horatios featured in their own strips in Eagle. First was John Ryan’s Captain Horatio Pugwash, who appeared from the first issue until the nineteenth in 1950. The next was the real life Horatio Nelson, who was featured in the back page serial The Great Sailor in 1956-57 and finally there was C.S. Forester’s fictional naval hero, Horatio Hornblower, whose adventures were adapted for Eagle in 1962-63. Of course all these Horatios are linked by the sea and all captained ships at some time in their lives. Nelson was one of Britain’s greatest heroes of the Napoleonic wars and Eagle included no less than three fictional strips set during this period. Only the wild west and contemporary times were featured more. First was Jack O’Lantern, about a young boy in the later years of the conflict, which ran in Eagle from 1955-60. Then came the already mentioned Hornblower stories and finally in 1964, Johnny Frog, about another young boy, this time set around the time of the Battle of Trafalgar. Both Jack O’Lantern and Johnny Frog were written by George Beardmore. 

Pugwash, created by John Ryan appeared in semi-animated cartoons made by Ryan himself for the BBC and became a television and literary success. He is soon to appear in a live action feature film starring Nick Frost as the popular pirate.  


Staying with the sea, Eagle forged strong links with the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Eagle, including featuring her as a cutaway drawing. H.M.S. Eagle was launched in 1946 and was the fifteenth Royal Navy ship to bear the name. Commissioned in 1951 she saw war service during the Suez Crisis of 1956. After service all over the world, she had an extensive refit in 1959 and another in 1966, finally being withdrawn from service in 1972. She was subsequently moored in the River Tamar, where she was held in reserve until 1976, although she was stripped for essential parts needed by H.M.S. Ark Royal. She was finally scrapped in 1978. I was lucky enough to see the ship’s brass name plate on a visit to the Royal Naval Dockyard Museum at Devonport a few years ago and one of her anchors can be seen at the entrance to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton.

FRANK HAMPSON EXHIBITION

A major exhibition of Frank Hampson's work began this weekend at the Atkinson Arts Centre in Southport. The official opening is on Thursday September 20th and the exhibition will run until March 2019. Original Dan Dare artwork is on display as well as models and film of Frank's studio. Original art from his Ladybird books and his Road of Courage strip is also displayed.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 6

WITH JIM DUCKETT


It’s a sobering thought but the first recorded Dan Dare adventure was set at least thirty years ago! This was Moon Run in the EAGLE Annual for 1961, which includes Dan’s first meeting with Digby and consequently must take place before the Mars 1988 story which was featured in the 1952 Annual where Dan and Digby already know each other. Born in 1967, Dan would now be fifty one, although having spent the best part of a decade in suspended animation, travelling to and from Cryptos, he would now effectively be about forty. With his return in 2012 and the Mekon’s invasion of Earth defeated, by 2016 the Pescod threat would probably be over too and by now Dan and friends may well be involved in the Terra Nova adventure, meaning we’ve reached the end of the Frank Hampson era in real time! At least Frank Bellamy, Don Harley, Eric Eden, Keith Watson and David Motton’s work should keep us going for a few more years, but none of us will be around in 2177 when Dan is revived with a new face for his 2000 A.D. adventures!

Most sobering of all though is the fact that in our version of reality, the possibility of a colony on Mars as depicted in Mars 1988 is still many years away. We have yet to land a man on the planet. But to end on a happier note, at least we aren’t likely to be invaded by robots controlled by intelligent reptiles from Venus any time soon, either.         

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 5

WITH JIM DUCKETT 


When EAGLE began, radio was still king and two of its most popular strips originated as BBC radio series. PC 49 began in 1947 and 112 half hour adventures of the London policeman, played by Brian Reece, were made before the programme ended in 1953. PC 49’s adventures began in the first issue of EAGLE and ran until 1957. The radio adventures of Riders of the Range, featuring Paul Carpenter as Jeff Arnold, began in 1949 and six serials were broadcast between 1949 and 1953, with the EAGLE version beginning in December 1950 and running till March 1962. Unlike strip versions of later television series in other comics, which were invariably notably inferior to their originals, the EAGLE versions of both these radio series compared most favourably, probably because they were written by their creators and illustrated by excellent artists in John Worsley and Frank Humphris, who made the strips their own. Their success is evidenced by the fact that both outlasted their radio counterparts by several years.

Of the characters who were specially created for EAGLE, Dan Dare featured in a hugely successful series of radio serials on Radio Luxembourg between 1951 and 1955, where he was played by Noel Johnson, who had originated the popular Dick Barton character in 1947, for BBC radio. The BBC produced their own four part Dan Dare serial in 1990 to mark EAGLE'S fortieth anniversary, which featured Mick Brown as Dan and Donald Gee as Digby. In 1954, EAGLE began its own promotional programme on Radio Luxembourg, called Spread Your Wings and this featured a six part Luck of the Legion serial, narrated by Norman Shelley as an old legionnaire. Sergeant Luck also appeared on the commercial Springbok Radio in South Africa in 1979 in his own series, written by his creator Geoffrey Bond, twenty years after the strip ended in EAGLE.  

Monday, 10 September 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 4


WITH JIM DUCKETT



Eagle turns up in some unexpected places. In Simon Bartram’s children’s picture story book Man on The Moon, first published in 2002, set partly on the Moon and partly on an Earth highly reminiscent of the 1950s, the hero ‘Bob’, who travels daily to the Moon to show visitors round is shown with a copy of Eagle on his bed as he sleeps at the end of a busy day. The book proved a great success, winning the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2004 and inspiring two picture book sequels and a series of story books about the character for older children.
  

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 3

WITH JIM DUCKETT

The first character created for EAGLE to feature in a television series was Anthony Buckeridge's Rex Milligan, who appeared in a series of six plays on BBC television in 1956, repeated in 1957. Buckeridge's more famous creation Jennings also appeared on television, but the character was not created for EAGLE. In 1957, John Ryan's Captain Pugwash, who ironically had not proved popular in the weekly, first appeared on BBC television, with the most recent new series being produced in 1998 and a live action film now being planned!


Another television series that emerged from EAGLE was Peter Ling's popular school text serials about The Three 'J' s, which were made by the ITV company Associated Rediffusion in 1958, when Peter was Head of Children's Serials. Two serials were broadcast in fortnightly episodes. They were Trouble at Northbrook, which lasted five episodes and Northbrook Holiday, which ran for six. Unfortunately neither of these serials survive.

Many readers will recall seeing Dan Dare in a CGI series on Channel Five in 2002. Originally produced by Netter Digital, who went bankrupt during production, the series was completed by Foundation Imaging. There were several unsuccessful attempts to produce a live action Dan Dare series, but Dan and Digby, played by Niven Boyd and Jimmy Yule were featured in several TV advertisements for Mobil Oil in 1987.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE 2

WITH JIM DUCKETT


   
       
The first three adventures from B7 Media's Dan Dare audio productions are to be broadcast on B.B.C. Radio Four Extra next month. The series stars Ed Stoppard as Dan, Geoff McGivern as Digby and Heida Reed as Professor Peabody. This will be the third version of Dan's adventures to feature on radio. Between 1951 and 1955, Radio Luxembourg broadcast Dan Dare serials in fifteen minute episodes, five nights every week. Noel Johnson, who had played Dick Barton in the B.B.C.'s popular adventure serials, played Dan and John Sharp played Digby. In 1990, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Dan and EAGLE, the B.B.C. produced a four part serial which dramatised Dan's first adventure from EAGLE. This serial starred Mick Brown as Dan and Donald Gee as Digby.    

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

IN AND OUT OF THE EAGLE (1)

WITH JIM DUCKETT 
  
Eagle Times features a regular column called In and Out of the EAGLE and we are going to feature some of these to give a flavour of the magazine's content. 

Basil Dawson’s original EAGLE novel Dan Dare on Mars is well remembered by fans, but in 1977 the New English Library published a paperback adaptation of part of Frank Hampson’s first Venus story. The book was written by Angus P. Allan, a prolific comic strip writer, who contributed to TV Century 21 and became the principal writer for Look In, another comic based on television characters. He never contributed to EAGLE, but his father was Carney Allan, who wrote the wartime adventure strip Mann of Battle, which ran in EAGLE from 1962 - 64. The novel ends with Dan’s rescue of his friends from Mekonta and the Dapon’s sacrifice in destroying the Mekon’s Telezero ships, leaving out the Treens’ visit to Earth and the eventual defeat of the Mekon. Several frames from the original strip were used to illustrate the book, but reprinted in black and white.

1977 was a good year for Dan and EAGLE, for there was also Marcus Morris’ The Best of EAGLE, which reprinted extracts from many strips and features from the first decade of the weekly. Dan himself was revived for 2000A.D. comic, although in a much altered form, which did not please many of his old fans. The reason for this renewed interest was Frank Hampson’s Yellow Kid Award presented to him at an international convention of strip cartoon and animated film artists in Lucca, Italy, just two years earlier, when he was voted the best writer and artist of strip cartoons since the war by a jury of his peers. This awakened interest in him and in Dan Dare by the British press.


Sunday, 15 July 2018

Eagle Times Vol 31 No 2


Summer 2018 Contents
  • 'Charles Chilton & the Indian Wars' - The 1st part of an in-depth series dealing with Native Americans and how they were interpreted in Riders of the Range.
  • ‘Thoughts on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’ – Thoughts on the life of the famous author and his only story to appear in the Eagle, The Lost World.
  • ‘Newly Discovered Dan Dare Reference Material’ – A couple of examples of newly discovered Dan Dare concept sketches.
  • ‘The Eagle Society Annual Gathering 2018’ – A fun and in-depth report of the dinner.  All the talks and activities are covered with plenty of photographs.  This year it was held at the Hilton in Leicester.
  • ‘Dundee: Venue for the Eagle Society Dinner 2019’ – This article gives us a flavour of what the city will be able to offer the Eagle Society during their visit next year.  It mentions a number of the major attractions that will be available.
  • ‘Connaught Racing Cars: 1948 to 1957’ – An article on the Connaught company and how the Connaught B-Type centre spread fuelled a passion in the author for their cars.
  • 'In and Out of the Eagle' - more instalments in the series that presents Eagle-related snippets
  • 'Space Fiction Movies in Eagle's Times' part 5 - continuing a look at films about space exploration and alien visitations to the earth, the bread-and-butter of the Eagle's Dan Dare adventures between 1950 and 1969. This part covers 1963-65 and includes (among others) Ikarie XB-1, The Day Mars Invaded Earth, First Men in the Moon, Unearthly Stranger and Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster.
  • ‘The Case of the Educated Archie – Part 2’ - an Adventure of Archie Berkeley-Willoughby of Scotland Yard. A new story inspired by the character created by Alan Stranks for his radio show P.C.49
  • ‘Whatever Happened to My Ten Percent’ – The text from one of the most anticipated fun talks of this years Eagle Society dinner.  It wonderfully covers various topics including King Richard III being found in Leicester, is humankind actually regressing and many more.


Saturday, 31 March 2018

Eagle Times Vol 31 No 1

Spring 2018 Contents
  • 'H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines from the Novel to the Strip That Never Was' - The story of the book and its various adaptations as motion pictures and comics, including the three pages of artwork produced for Eagle by Frank Bellamy, for a strip destined not to be published'
  • Eagle Centre Spreads' - featuring vehicles that were also produced as Dinky Toys. In this issue: The Hillman Minx, drawn by Leslie Ashwell Wood (Eagle 8th Dec, 1950) and the Austin Healey 100, drawn by Hubert Redmill (Eagle, 8th Jan, 1954).
    • 'The Lost Opportunities of Those Early Dan Dare Stories' - on the incidental "hooks" and loose-ends in Frank Hampson's 'Dare Dare' strip, and where they might have led
    • 'The Bidding War for the 1963 Dan Dare Annual' - recollections of a school for-charity auction which tested the friendship of two schoolboys as, in 1964, they bid as rivals for the previous year's Dan Dare Annual
    • 'U.S.A. Post Marks - Eagle Connection' - a couple of naming coincidences collected as postal covers: Kingfisher OK and Peabody MA
    • 'In and Out of the Eagle' - more instalments in the series that presents Eagle-related snippets
    • 'Flint of the Flying Squad' - on another series of police stories by P.C.49 author Alan Stranks, which also began as a BBC radio series and then went to comic strip, in this case in the Daily Express
    • 'George Davies and His Eagle Connections' - on the 'Flint of the Flying Squad' artist and his connections with Eagle contributors Alan Stranks, Jack Daniel and Guy Morgan
    • 'Invasion: Earth' - a review of a six-part mini-series co-produced in 1998 by the BBC and the SciFi Channel, which "captured the feel of classic British SF". 
    • 'How Does it Compare to other Concept Cities?' -  On the Venusian city of Mekonta, which was first drawn by Frank Hampson for Eagle 21st July 1950, and other concept cities, both real and imaginary.
    • The Case of the Educated Archie - an Adventure of Archie Berkeley-Willoughby of Scotland Yard. A new story inspired by the character created by Alan Stranks for his radio show P.C.49
    • 'Gerald Palmer, 1935-2017' - On the former Eagle artist Gerald Palmer, who died in August 2017, and is remembered by former Eagle readers for his work on 'Dan Dare' as well as his cutaway drawings.    
    • 'Space Fiction Movies in Eagle's Times' part 5 - continuing a look at films about space exploration and alien visitations to the earth, the bread-and-butter of the Eagle's Dan Dare adventures between 1950 and 1969. This part covers 1960-62 and includes (among others) Assignment Outer Space, Battle of the Worlds, The Day of the Triffids and Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms)
    • 'He Who Dares. Titan's new min-series - a pilot for the future?' - a review of the four part Dan Dare comic series from Titan comics, published monthly from Oct 2017 - Jan 2018, and which is to be published in "graphic novel" form in April, 2018