Wednesday, April 23, 2014

1969: Final flight of the EAGLE

Final issue of EAGLE, April 1969.
Exactly 45 years ago today, the most famous adventure comic in Britain ended its 19 year run. The final issue of Eagle bowed out on Wednesday April 23rd 1969 (cover dated April 26th) with Vol.20 No.17.

When the publishing giant IPC took control of the Odhams and Fleetway comics they ruthlessly cut through the poorer selling titles. The period from late 1968 to early 1969 saw the end of Fantastic, Pow!, Jag, and Eagle, and Smash! was revamped beyond recognition. (IPC had their own ideas for adventure comics, as the following years would prove... but few had longevity.)

Eagle had been on the decline for years, and ended in a poorer state than its high quality beginnings. Yet even its final edition still contained good artwork. Let's take a look...

I'm sure the cover above must have raised a wry smile with older readers. "The  modern paper for the modern boy" led with a 1950s Dan Dare reprint! Having treated Dare's creator Frank Hampson disgracefully (see Alistair Crompton's book Tomorrow Revisited for the full story) and replaced him on the strip years earlier, the publishers had then added more insult by replacing the new artists with reprints of Hampson's work (without paying him of course).

The first strip inside the issue was The Waxer. A creepy serial about living waxworks, it was illustrated by Reg Bunn, famed for his work on The Spider for Lion


The wheelchair-bound crimebuster Lightning Stormm was clearly inspired by TV's Ironside. Art by Barrie Mitchell.

By 1969 Western strips were nowhere near as popular than in their 1950s heyday, and this was the final bow for Blackbow the Cheyanne. Art by Frank Humphries.

Ancient gladiators vs Nazis! Only in comics...

The Circus Wanderers had been given the full colour centrespread for some reason. A somewhat silly strip of circus performers becoming footballers, it never made the leap to the merged comic.

What's that? Merged comic? Yes, the next page explained it all, with a typical "Great News, Pals!" announcement. Eagle was merging with Lion! Ironic, considering they were originally by rival publishers, and that Lion was the younger upstart, initially a poor imitation of Eagle

Over the page, The Day the World Forgot, with art by Tom Kerr, may have been a reprint from somewhere. 

Wild of the West was certainly a reprint. (Perhaps from Top Spot?) I think the art was by Ted Kearon but I'm unsure.

Finally, The Iron Man's last adventure. Yes, Eagle had its own Iron Man superhero, although this version was a robot and bore no similarity to Marvel's character. The strip had originated in Boy's World in 1963 before moving over to Eagle. Art by Martin Salvador.


The following week, readers were greeted with Lion and Eagle, with poorer paper quality and less colour than they were used to. Admittedly the title was revived with much publicity in 1982 and ran for several years, but the true original Eagle ended in 1969. 


Mono version of the cover by Geoff Campion.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spaceship Away 32


A new issue of Spaceship Away has recently been published and contains a good mixture of material. Firstly it boasts a cover, centrespread, and back cover newly drawn by veteran Dan Dare artist Don Harley, reproducing memorable scenes from the original Eagle weekly. It's pleasing to know that Don is still drawing and can produce such excellent pieces of work. 

Inside, the 40 page issue kicks off with episode 13 of Parsecular Tales, a brand new classic style Dan Dare strip written and drawn by Tim Booth. As always, the first page is designed in a nice homage to the 1950s Eagle, - fourpence ha'penny price and all. The six page story has impressively detailed artwork but I felt it needed a resumé caption at the start to clue readers in on the story so far. Spaceship Away is only published three times a year and it's asking a lot for readers to remember the plot of a serial at such infrequency. I've missed a few issues and I found myself struggling to understand all the whys and wherefores of the story.

The same applies sadly to Shadow Over Britain, a reprint of a 1950s serial from (I think) Express Weekly. It's episode ten, but no resumé, so again a big drawback. Considering the price of each issue is £8.50 it would take the sting off a bit just to help new readers along. 

I would also question the use of Comic Sans as a lettering font. Notorious in the comics industry for being a poor font. There are many far better comic lettering fonts available. 

OK, that's the downside of the comic. There are many positives which easily outweigh those negatives. It was great to see an early Ron Embleton science fiction strip from the 1950s. (Original source not given.) Newly coloured by Martin Baines (and lettered with a better font that Comic Sans) it's a cracking 8 page story with a great twist. 


There are also three well researched articles in the issue. The first looks at the 2000AD version of Dan Dare from the 1970s, which is often unfairly dismissed by Dare purists. The strip had a lot going for it, particularly the strong artwork by Massimo Belardinelli and Dave Gibbons, so it's good to see it being given its due.

There's also an article on the later years of the Garth comic strip and the various attempts to revive it over the years. (It's currently being reprinted in the Daily Mirror, but will new stories ever appear?)

Rounding out the issue is a great feature on Norman Light's comic strip work of the 1950s. This is very welcome, as independent comics from this era are sometimes overlooked by comic enthusiasts. 


In addition there are photo features on the Dan Dare Rocket Gun and a superb Phant model. 

As mentioned earlier Spaceship Away is not cheap, but remember that the more limited a print run is, the higher the unit cost is to produce each issue. Also, the printing standards are top notch, with a laminated cover and full colour glossy interior stock. Although a fan publication, it actually looks better quality than many High Street magazines. 

Spaceship Away is not available in newsagents. To order your copy, visit the official website here: http://spaceshipaway.org.uk/
  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Have an Eggs-cellent Easter!


No time to research old comics for an Easter theme this weekend I'm afraid but here's a few links to blog posts I did a few years ago, all of which contain lots of Easter strips from the pages of Smash!, Pow!, Radio Fun and more! A trip down memory lane for regular readers of Blimey! and a treat for those of you who are new to this blog. Happy Easter!

http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/easter-comics-of-past.html?showComment=1270499838812

http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/ha-ha-happy-easter-readers.html

http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/easter-funday.html


Saturday, April 19, 2014

The TOXIC ANNUAL is coming!


After 12 years of continuous publication, Toxic magazine finally gets its own annual this summer! Toxic Annual 2015 is scheduled for publication on July 31st 2014, with 72 pages for a R.R.P. of £7.99. 

I've known about this for a while but I kept quiet until the publishers Egmont made it public. Now that the book is advertised on Amazon, I guess it's ok to mention it. I've written/drawn a brand new 4 page Team Toxic strip for the book, with the Team encountering two of their regular bad guys plus a giant snot monster! 

It's unusual for a modern comic/mag to take so long to have an annual spin off book, but I would imagine the healthy sales of the magazine over the last few years have encouraged Egmont to try it. Toxic has been around since 2002, so it's become a recognised title in its own right now. 

By the way, although the logo on the cover above looks unusually pale, it'll most likely be enhanced on the actual book with a fifth ink such as dayglo green, like on the regular magazine.

Here are the details of the book from the publisher's info:


The Toxic Annual 2015 is a celebration of all the biggest and best boys brands. From Skylanders to Lego, Minions to Mario and FIFA to Nerf amongst others, it brings together great stories, activities, posters, facts and fun in one action-packed annual. As with the highly popular Toxic Magazine, the Toxic Annual features all the top news and info about gaming, films, TV shows and toys together with additional fun and engaging content to really get boys reading and laughing.
All in all, the Toxic Annual 2015 is a jam-packed end-of-year compendium of all the coolest brands. It's filled with jokes, stories, and all the top things to know, all delivered with the humorous attitude which makes Toxic so popular!
Hardcover: 72 pages
Publisher: Egmont (31 July 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1405272112
ISBN-13: 978-1405272117
Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 2.1 cm
You can pre-order a copy from Amazon.


Friday, April 18, 2014

This week in 1969: TIGER AND JAG


It's been a while since I featured Tiger on this blog so here's a quick look at the issue that was on sale from 19th to 25th April 1969. This was the 4th combined issue of Tiger and Jag, with IPC having taken over the Fleetway comics and trimming back the weaker selling titles. The Roy of the Rovers cover is by Yvonne Hutton, whose linework still looks fresh and modern even today. Tragically, Yvonne died in a car accident in the early 1990s. 

The following Skid Solo story is drawn by John Vernon. It's a significant episode because it introduces 'Sparrow' Smith, who became a regular supporting character. (Click on all pages to see them much larger.)



The Nosey half-pager at the end of the Skid Solo story was drawn by Alf Saporito, who a year later became the regular cover artist on Gus Gorilla for Cor!! 

Since its merger with Jag, Tiger had inherited that comic's web offset printing process which was a higher standard of printing, and allowed artists to paint their colour pages instead of relying on the flat colour overlays that the newsprint comics used. Just look at the quality of this full colour Football Family Robinson centrespread by Joe Colquhoun...


Tiger later became an all-sports comic, but in 1969 it still featured a variety of subjects. One such strip was Saber, King of the Jungle, illustrated by the excellent Denis McLoughlin...


Here's a few snippets of some of the other strips in Tiger and Jag that week, starting with Typhoon Tracy drawn by Graham Allen using a less cartoony style than that which he'd used on The Nervs for Smash!

Custer by David Sque...

Black Patch the Wonder Horse by Sandy James...

...and the long-running Johnny Cougar by John Gillatt.

Finally, to add to the flavour of the year 1969, here's a few of the adverts that appeared in that issue, including one of the legendary "Great News, Pals!" announcements for two comics joining forces...




By the way, - you can see more classic ads from other comics in previous posts on this blog. Here's a few links:









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