Yo ho ho!
So the Cap’n was rooting around in his sea chest, and found some time-faded charts he worked up nigh on a quarter-century back, when he was but a young snotty…
Yes, even as a young comics fan, I had a fondness for lists. In those days we didn’t have the convenience of the internet, or handy databases like ComicVine or Comics UK. No, back in 1990 it was all about trawling through the limited resources on the shelves of the local library, or the occasional reference book gifted you at Christmas by indulgent parents, or your own meagre collection built up from boot fairs and village fetes and jumble sales.
So bearing all this in mind, may I present to you, my written-in-three-different-colours summary of British comics 1908-1990!
Yes, it is lamentably patchy, and betrays an embarrassing bias towards a very narrow (in both time and style) tranche of boys’ and humour titles of DC Thomson (arrgh! Misspelled too!) and Fleetway – but it was all my own work. Well, largely culled from Denis Gifford‘s Encyclopedia Of Comic Characters, Happy Days and The International Book Of Comics, plus the George Perry/Alan Aldridge Penguin Book Of Comics… But I definitely remember putting in the hours to consolidate it all!
I also put together an index of artists… If you are unlucky enough, I shall commit that too to the electronic fires of the scanner some day soon.
Following on from my post on getting into Eagle, here’s a great little feature on the rebooted title’s genesis, taken from the pages of the first ‘new’ Eagle annual, coverdated 1983…
There are some great photos of the team responsible for the relaunch, including editors Barrie Tomlinson, Dave Hunt and Gil Page, plus behind-the-scenes IPC artists and designers like Jack Cunningham, Brian Wagland, John Jackson, Paul Blensburg and Pat Reynolds,.
Perhaps best of all are the try-out sheets for the revived ‘Dan Dare’, with great splash pages from John Gillatt (yes, I know I did later critique his ‘DD’ work) and Ron Smith, as well as sketches by eventual launch artist Gerry Embleton.
OPERATION EAGLE was the most secret project ever to be planned by the Boys’ Sport and Adventure Department of IPC Magazines. For months, Group Editor Barrie Tomlinson and David Hunt, the man destined to be Editor of the new magazine, worked on their plans for the re-launch of EAGLE, the most famous name in children’s comics.
The original EAGLE, first published in 1950, had gained a reputation of being a quality magazine that was ahead of its time. It had been a very special title to millions of boys… and today those boys were fathers themselves. They would demand that the new EAGLE was at least as good as its predecessor! The new EAGLE also had to be very special!
It was decided that the new EAGLE would be different would be for most of its stories to be presented in photographs, rather than drawings. Some thought that boys’ adventure stories would not successfully transfer to photographs… but it was tried… and it worked! World War Two stories, Westerns, school stories, science fiction… all were featured in the opening issues. There were some doubts from the older generation… but the new-style stories were voted a hit by the people they were meant for… the children of 1982!
As well as stories, the new EAGLE had to have high-quality feature material. ‘Cutaway’ drawings, Daley Thompson articles, interviews, Glamorous Teacher competitions… and many more. They were all planned during the secret sessions, along with lots of other features. When put together, they became the success story of 1982… the new EAGLE!
» ‘Operation Eagle’ (Eagle Annual 1983) (PDF from 300dpi CMYK TIFFs)
You would not believe the trials and tribulations I went through to find this. Having moved house twice in the last year I was frantically panicking that it must have accidentally been thrown out – but no! After tearing through boxes and piles and folders and more boxes of miscellaneous paperwork I found it. My treasured letter from no less a personage that the assistant EDITOR of EAGLE!
I was a serious-minded eleven year old, and whilst I don’t have a copy of my outgoing epistle, I suspect that it may have ran to many, many pages; a “long and interesting letter” indeed!
I recall trying to impress upon the Eagle team that whilst I was a big fan of John Gillatt’s work normally, his stint on ‘Dan Dare’ simply was not working. Blow me down if they didn’t write back to tell me they agreed with me!
4th March 1988
Thank you very much for your long and interesting letter concerning Eagle/Battle.
We do agree that the present artwork on Dan Dare leaves much to be desired. We thought that Cruz, the previous artists, might benefit from a spell away from Dan, but J. Gillatt has not settled down into getting a very good likeness. This was just an experiment that didn’t work.
We do have changes planned for Eagle/Battle in the future, so stay with us and see what you think of them. We do agree with your remarks concerning Robin Smith and Ortiz!
Thanks again for writing to us,
And stay with Eagle I did, right through the MASK, ‘RoadBlasters’, Wildcat and weekly-becomes-monthly years till the very last issue.
PS Checking up on the handy Comic Vine website, I see that Carlos Cruz completed his ‘Dan Dare’ run in issue #305 dated 23 January 1988; the next issue saw the merger of Eagle with stablemate Battle, and the start of John Gillatt’s stint on the Pilot of the Future. I must have sent my letter somewhere between then and the 5 March-dated issue, #311. My comments about José Ortiz (whose ‘Tower King’ had been a real highlight of the early days of Eagle MkII) and Robin Smith would have been wholly favourable, as I loved both ‘Survival’ and ‘Detective Zed’!
PPS If anyone can tell me who the kind-hearted soul who wrote me this reply is, I would be most grateful – it’s been more than 24 years of not quite being able to decipher that signature…