Eagle: 1950-2020

Eagle: 1950-2020

The ‘Eagle’ children’s comic was created here in Southport 70 years ago. With the help of David Britton of the Eagle Society we have created an exhibition to celebrate the anniversary. Featuring original artwork by numerous contributing artists as well as original memorabilia, the exhibition tells the story of ‘Eagle’ comic from 1950 to the present day.

Published by IPC Magazines 1977

In any discussion of ‘Eagle’ it’s generally Dan Dare that makes the headlines but there were many more features that gripped the imaginations of the nation’s 10-year old boys.

It’s a little-known fact that Captain Pugwash first set sail in Southport aboard the Black Pig, taking on his arch enemy Cut-Throat Jake, the pirate captain of the Flying Dustman. Captain Pugwash was a short-lived feature in the ‘Eagle’, lasting only 18 episodes before going on to a stellar career in his own BBC animation. His creator, John Ryan, replaced him with the bumbling special agent Harris Tweed, an Eagle favourite that ran for the next twelve years.

Captain Pugwash selling his story to Rev. Marcus Morris. Image courtesy The John Ryan Estate.

Several Eagle strips began life in other formats before becoming weekly features in the comic. PC 49 was a popular radio series as well as featuring in a film in 1948, before being adapted as a comic strip in the first ever copy of the ‘Eagle’. The archetypal British bobby became a mainstay of the Eagle for its first seven years.

Eagle publications from the 1950s

The comic’s editor, the Reverend Marcus Morris, who also financed the publication of ‘Eagle’, had a good ear for a popular adventure story. Like PC49 he commissioned another BBC radio series, the cowboy story Riders of the Range, as a comic strip for the ‘Eagle’. It was a natural step, therefore, to adapt the Eagle’s most successful story, Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future, for radio.

The Dan Dare Radio Show ran on Radio Luxembourg from 1951 to 1956. Like the Eagle itself, it had a range of merchandise and commercial tie-ins, with sponsorship from the Horlicks drinks company.  Both the comic and the radio show were translated into other languages and sold all around the world.

Foreign language versions of Eagle

The 1950s were certainly the heyday for the Eagle. When Hultons were bought out by rival publishers in 1959, Frank Hampson’s studio-based production system was closed down. The highly detailed and beautifully crafted Dan Dare stories were produced much more quickly and cheaply. Some very fine artists were employed but the high-quality production values that Hampson had insisted on were gone.

An Eagle front cover by Keith Watson. Watson worked on the Dan Dare strip as early as 1958. He was also revived the original Dan dare character for the new Eagle comic in in 1989

Eagle struggled on into the late 1960s but was merged with its main rival in 1969 and published as Lion and Eagle. A new Eagle comic was launched in 1982 and ran right through to 1994.

The Atkinson’s exhibition features a selection of later Eagle comics and artwork as well as some of the many tribute publications like the eagle Society’s Eagle Times and Spaceship Away.

Spaceship Away, 2010. The fanzine Spaceship Away features new stories Dan Dare in the style of Frank Hampson’s original creation.

Written by Stephen Whittle

Exhibition images

Eagle: 1950-2020
27 July – 5 September 2020
Mon- Sat, 11am-4pm, free entry.

You can also see a ‘Dan Dare’ display in our museum, Between Land & Sea.

Plan your visit here.

Posted on 28 July 2020 under Exhibition, General news

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