A LIFE IN COMICS: Eagle Mk II
I don’t care what the ‘proper’ nostalgists say, or what the orthodoxy dictates – I loved Eagle Mark II.
With glossy paper, photo stories and a higher feature-to-strip ratio than its contemporaries, the new Eagle launched in 1982 did not have much in common with its 1950s forebear, despite the rebooted ‘Dan Dare’.
Nevertheless, Eagle was the first comic which really whet my appetite, with a mix of action, sport, fantasy and humour. Sure, some of the photo strips were rather shonky, given the limited budgets (‘Saddle Tramp’, for instance, never convincingly conveyed the Wild West), and the pages of sports star profiles and cutaway drawings did sometimes feel like a cop-out, but it was the mix that kept me interested.
My Mum got me issue number 2 (with a cover mounted free gift – a plastic golden eagle!), as a one-off treat back in 1982 (‘The Tower King’ instantly etched itself on my memory), but I was only five years old at the time, so it wasn’t really until 1985 that I really got into it.
Back in those days periodicals – and this is something I intuit, rather than know for sure, so please excuse my assumption if it is wrong – were sold to most newsagents on a firm-sale rather than sale-or-return basis. That meant that unlike today, unsold newspapers, magazines and comics didn’t get bundled up and sent back to the distributor if nobody bought them – the seller paid for them regardless. To mitigate their losses, that meant newsagents often had months-old comics gathering dust on some back shelf somewhere begging for buyers, often with the cover price slashed. And what young comic lover with a few pennies of pocket money burning a hole can resist a bargain?
So it was that whilst on ‘holiday’ at my grandparents’ in Acton, my eight year old self bagged a fine run of a dozen or so copies of Eagle in their local newsagent – you know the score: a messy pile of unsolds nestling between out-of-date Jackies and forgotten People’s Friends, covers streaked with spirit marker announcing a 50% price cut. The mother lode!
It was around the time of Eagle‘s incorporation of Tiger. By then the glossy paper and photo strips were but a distant memory – instead it was the ragged-edged cheap inky newsprint that IPC was so fond of dumping on us.
But this was the time of Ian Kennedy passing the ‘Dan Dare’ art baton to Carlos Cruz; the time of the awesome Vek versus Zyn ‘Doomlord’ storyline; plus the very beginning of ‘Computer Warrior’ (née ‘Ultimate Warrior’); and a strong roster of conquered strips from both Tiger and Scream, including ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ and ‘Billy’s Boots’, filled the rest of the pages. Heady times…
It was a great two weeks at Nanny and Grandad’s. I remember it being quite sunny, but still I stayed in a lot of the time to plough through this treasure trove – Servitors of Nox battling it out on the London Underground! Dan Dare desperately fighting against time against a backdrop of armed, anthropomorphic zoo animals! Yet more ancient football boot-related woes for Billy Dane!
Yes, I was hooked.
From that moment on, I was an Eagle fan through and through. I quested through every newsagent, jumble sale, boot fair and village fete I came across for more such stashes, adding earlier issues to my collection all the time. I persuaded my Dad to modify my Saturday order to include Eagle alongside my Beano and Whoopee!! (in place of Look-In, I suspect). And so until its eventual closure on the cusp of 1994, I stuck with it.
Thanks, Eagle writers, artists, letterers and editors, thanks for shaping my world!