Hampson was born at 488 Audenshaw Road, Audenshaw, near to Manchester (now Tameside), and was educated at King George V School, a grammar school in Southport.
His brother Eric was killed in a naval action during the Second World War.
In 1949, in collaboration with Christian vicar Rev. Marcus Morris, he devised a new children’s magazine, the Eagle, which Morris took to the Hulton Press.
In April the following year, a revised version of the Eagle hit the bookstalls.
Its most popular strip was Hampson’s Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future.
Like Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff in the U.S., Hampson instigated a studio system where, from his home in Epsom, Surrey, as many as four artists might work on two pages of the strip at any one time. When Hulton Press was bought up in 1959, and the Eagle moved to a new publisher, Hampson’s studio system was disbanded due to its cost.
He drew The Road of Courage, a carefully researched and meticulously crafted telling of the life of Jesus, with the help of his longtime assistant, Joan Porter, which concluded at Easter 1961.
Hampson then began to devise seven other strip cartoon ideas, which he intended to offer to the Eagle. Partly through his own mismanagement (he told no-one what he was doing) Longacre Press accused him of breach of contract.
He was forced to resign, his new strips were impounded by the legal department, and he rarely drew for comics again.
The remainder of Hampson’s life was spent working as a freelance commercial artist for various publications.
Hampson was voted Prestigioso Maestro at an international convention of strip cartoon and animated film artists held at Lucca in Tuscany in 1975.
A jury of his peers gave him a Yellow Kid Award and declared him to be the best writer and artist of strip cartoons since the end of the Second World War.
In 1978 he graduated from the Open University
He celebrated by drawing a Dan Dare strip for the University’s internal magazine. The punch line of the script involved the University getting an application from Dare’s nemesis The Mekon.
In ailing health, Hampson died from a stroke and the lingering effects of throat cancer in July 1985, in Surrey, England.
EXCERPT FROM ‘SO LONG AGO – SO CLEAR‘ – Peter’s Biography
THE FUTURE BREAKS IN – THE EAGLEFriday, the fourteenth of April, 1950, when Peter was five years old, was one of the most important days in that young boy’s life.
That was the day that the first copy of the Eagle comic appeared, and was dropped, along with the Middlesex Chronicle, through the letter-box of fifty-five Pears Road, by the paper boy.
Undoubtedly Peter was a bit young for a comic like the Eagle, but his adoptive parents presumably thought it would be good for him, and would probably help Peter with his reading – or more precisely his lack of reading, because at that time Peter could read very little.In the 1950s the Eagle was a completely new kind of boy’s comic.
The Eagle was the brainchild of the Reverend John Marcus Morris.
Morris was a rather unconventional, Anglican minister, who had started a parish magazine called ‘The Anvil’.
Morris was unconventional in the sense that as a young man he took to canoeing down the Danube with a young friend in the nude; had a forty a day cigarette habit; and was rather over fond of alcohol. In addition, in later life, when he became successful, he regularly indulged in exaggeratedly long business lunches at the best London hotels, and despite being married with children, appeared to see nothing wrong in getting involved with a string of mistresses.
Before succumbing to such temptations, however, Morris developed high hopes for the Anvil, intending it to become a national magazine with the purpose of promoting Christian values in post-war Britain. Unfortunately for post-war Britain, but probably fortunately for a whole generation of boys, the magazine was a complete flop.
Undeterred, Morris turned his moralizing zeal to the question of children’s reading material.
At the time the news-stands were awash with what were generally known as ‘Horror Comics’.
These were essentially imports from the USA, which typically featured stories involving violence, brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gun play, physical agony, and gory and gruesome crime. Not surprisingly they were popular with many children, but were a considerable cause of concern to many adults.
Eventually a press campaign was mounted against these publications, and there was even an episode of Britain’s most popular BBC television ‘soap’, the ‘Grove Family’, which featured the families’ youngest child suffering nightmares after reading such a comic.
Eventually Parliament acted, and such publications were banned by law, but not before the
Rev Morris had started work on his new style of comic, which was intended to undo any damage to young minds for which the dreaded ‘horror comics’ may have been responsible.
As a failed independent magazine publisher it was obvious that Morris needed professional help if he was to make a success of his new boy’s comic, and eventually, with the genius of Frank Hampson, the Eagle was published by the Hulton Press.
Now Dan Dare preoccupied our Peter right up until 1959
Dan Dare, the space hero of the ‘Eagle’ comic, continued to preoccupy and fascinate Peter, and for the Christmas of 1954 he had managed to nag Jane and John into buying him a ‘Space Station Communications Centre’, which was one of the most elaborate and expensive of the Dan Dare spin-offs that were then flooding the toy shops. .
In many ways, although the Dan Dare serial was set in the then distant future, – the year 2000 – Dan Dare was very much a child of its times.
Peter’s Dan Dare Planet GunThe central character, of course, who had been invented by Frank Hampson, the comic’s artistic director, was Colonel Dan McGregor Dare.
Originally Colonel Dare was to have been a ‘space padre’, in deference to the Rev Morris.It soon became clear, even before the first publication, that this was not only an impractical character to be the mainstay of the comic, but it was also highly unlikely that boys, to whom the comic was aimed, would be able to identify with such an improbable character.Colonel Dare, now minus the ‘dog-collar’, was supposedly born in Manchester in 1967, and he attended Rossal School, eventually becoming School Captain, (as our Peter did), and later went to Trinity College Cambridge.His hobbies were listed as cricket, fencing, riding, painting and model making.In the 1950s, of course, any boy or man worth his salt was expected to have a number of worthwhile and improving hobbies.
His side-kick was a very different individual. Albert Fitzwilliam Digby was short and fat, unlike the tall, athletic Dan.Digby was Dan’s ‘bat-man’.He was born in Wigan in 1960, and had been brought up by his aunt Anastasia.Unlike the other characters, Digby was married with four children, Frances, Albert, Mary and Anna.He was only described as having two hobbies; football and sleeping, but then Digby was a stereo-typical working-class northerner.
Dan’s boss was Sir Hubert Guest, (modelled, in appearance, on Frank Hampson’s father, ‘Pop’), and was the ‘upper class’ commander of the Space Fleet, who was supposedly born in 1943.
Grey haired and distinguished, with a neatly clipped RAF style moustache, Sir Hubert was undoubtedly Dan’s father figure.
There was only one female in the Dan Dare series, and that was Professor Jocelyn Peabody, (who was based on Greta Tomlinson – one of Hampson’s artists). Miss Peabody was young, slim and very attractive, as well as being very intellectual – well she was a professor and a qualified space pilot !Strangely, none of the men, Dan, Hank – an American, Pierre – a Frenchman, or Lex O’Mally – an Irish naval commander, took the slightest romantic interest in her, and always treated her a just ‘one of the boys’.
And speaking of boys, there was one boy in the team – Christopher Philip Spry.
Christopher Spry was born in Middlesex, but no date was ever given. In the stories he appears to be about thirteen or fourteen.
Christopher; always known as ‘Flamer’, first appeared in the ‘Eagle’ on 28th May, 1954, when our Peter was about eight years old.
Of course, Hampson was quite clever in introducing a character into the stories who was relatively close to the readers’ own age, & with whom the reader could easily identify.
‘Flamer’ himself was based on Hampson’s son, Peter – another coincidence of names which take us back to Barrie’s eponymous hero – (editor’s note – this is a reference to Peter Pan).
Just as Hampson thought of himself as Dare, and thought of his father ‘Pops’ as Sir Hubert, so Peter Hampson became the inspiration and literally the model – in the sense of artist’s model – for ‘Flamer’ Spry.
Now there were some strange similarities between Flamer Spry, our Peter and the other Peter – (that is Peter Pan), – but we will need to supply some background information for those readers who are not familiar with the Dan Dare stories, in order to make these similarities clearer. ‘Flamer’ firs t appears in the Eagle in a story called ‘Lost in Space’, when he accidentally launches a spaceship containing himself, another, slightly older boy called Steve Valiant, (both are cadets at the Astral College) , and an old mechanic called ‘Groupie’..The trio are captured by the Mekon, (Dan’s arch-enemy), but eventually all turns out well, as it inevitably must.
What is strange is that, although Sir Hubert Guest is distraught at the thought of the two cadets being ‘lost in space’, no mention is made of any actions to contact the boys’ parents or relatives.
As already stated, everything turns out fine in the end, and in subsequent stories Steve Valiant disappears from the scene.
. In ‘The Man from Nowhere’, Flamer appears in the opening scenes, wherehe is atte nding a gala reception at the Venusian Embassy in London, along with Steve Valiant, Dan, Digby and Sir Hubert. He then disappears, during the initial flap, when an alien spaceship suddenly appears in earth orbit.After the spaceship crashes into the Pacific, Flamer, on the insistence of Commander Lex O’Mally, accompanies Dan and Digby on an underwater rescue mission in the Tuscarora Deep. He then disappears from the story again while the alien survivors, the Crypts led by Lero, who have come to Earth seeking help in their fight against the Phants, are rescued. The story then continues as the ‘Terra Nova’ trilogy, which is the point where Frank Hampson, and Flamer leave the Dan Dare saga.
Now granting that Flamer Spry is just an imaginary character in a boys’ comic, there are still aspects about this young man that impinge on Peter’s story.
Firstly, like Peter, Flamer’s origins are completely unknown.He is given no date of birth, unlike all the other characters, and all we know is that Flamer was born in Middlesex, which strangely enough is where Peter lived.
Equally, we do not know if Flamer had any brothers or sisters, or even who his parents were.
Was he an orphan, like Peter ? – certainly there were no parents worried and grieving when Flamer is captured by the evil Mekon, or any parents to raise any objections when Sir Hubert decided to allow the boy to go off on a long and dangerous missions out into the unknown, – or parents to consult when Dan decided to take the boy on a holiday to Venus.
Names are strange things, and are often involved in inexplicable co-incidences. Flamer’s first name was Christopher, and as we shall see there was, later on, a very important person called Christopher in Peter’s life. But also Flamer was based on Peter Hampson, Frank Hampson’s young son, and so he shared a name with our Peter, and, looking further back, with Peter Pan.
And like Peter Pan, Flamer never grew up. When Flamer first appeared in the Eagle, in ‘Prisoners of Space’, he was about thirteen or fourteen, and that was in 1954.In 1960, at the end of ‘Terra Nova’, when he should have been twenty, he was still thirteen or fourteen !
And of course, Flamer is still a teenager now – and always will be -still fourteen,and following his hero, Dan, through the endless reaches of outer space to the glittering stars, – so Pan lives on in yet another boy – and another story !.
MARCUS MORRIS’ ACCOUNT OF THE CREATION OF THE EAGLE COMICEagle was the result of a glider accident and of my own strong interest in the problem of communicating with the general public.
I had long felt that parish magazines (the parson’ s main written method of presenting himself to his followers) were dreary and ineffective.My appointment as vicar of St James’s, Birkdale, Lancashire gave me my first chance to do something about it.I gradually converted a four-page leaflet into a magazine called The Anvil, in which ‘issues’ could be ‘hammered out’. I had always been interested in journalism and had a great desire to ‘edit’ something. At Oxford I had read philosophy, ancient history and theology, not immediately identifiable with journalism, and Anvil liberated those pent-up editorial urges. I didn’t see why a magazine aimed at conveying an intelligent view of Christianity should not try to be as professional as any other magazine.I based Anvil roughly on Lilliput, the pocket magazine created by that brilliant editor Stefan Lorant who also started Picture Post, and I managed to get some useful contributors ranging from C. S. Lewis, C. E. M. Joad to Harold Macmillan.
I also got seriously into debt; the spirit was willing but the sales were weak. There was no money to promote the magazine, and though it spread from being a parish magazine to become a town, then a county, and finally a national magazine, it still lost money.My patient and loyal, if slightly incredulous, parishioners gave me lmmensely generous and practical as well as financial support, contributing I funds and running bazaars to raise money. But I sank deeper into debt, though not into despair.Anvil had attracted attention and was described by one critic as ‘a Christian magazine alongside the best secular publications’. And apart from the eminent contributors I had a special windfall: I discovered at the local art school a young artist, Frank Hampson, who became chief illustrator and cartoonist and designed the covers.It was about this time that, with the help of a journalist, Norman Price, I wrote an article for the Sunday Dispatch. It was headed ‘Comics that bring Horror into the Nursery’, caused quite a stir and earned me twenty guineas. Anvil’s debts were then about three thousand pounds.But at least it was a start.
The phenomenal rise and rule of the comic in America, plus a study of the papers and publications that children were reading in this country, seemed to point an obvious moral-and hence came the idea of Eagle.Many American comics were most skilfully and vividly drawn, but often their content was deplorable, nastily over-violent and obscene, often with undue emphasis on the supernatural and magical as a way of solving problems.But it was clear to me that the strip cartoon was capable of development in a way not yet seen in England except in one or two of the daily and Sunday newspapers and that it was a new and important medium of communication, with its own laws and limitations.
Here, surely, was a form which could be used to convey to the child the right kind of standards, values and attitudes, combined with the necessary amount of excitement and adventure. And so to the problems of Anvil I added those of Eagle. There may have been fears for my sanity; certainly there were prophecies of doom.
Before starting on Eagle I had the idea of an exemplary character, Lex Christian, whose exploits were to be told exclusively in strip-cartoon form.Hampson was most enthusiastic about this project.I thought we might sell the idea to a Sunday newspaper and very soon we had the interest of the editor of the Sunday Empire News, Terence Horsley. But not for long: he was tragically killed in a gliding accident.
This proved to be a turning point. I still recall a late-night visit to Hampson’s house when I told him that we should pack up the idea of doing a single strip for any paper, and that we should be bold and resolute and concentrate our energies on producing an entirely new, original children’s paper of our own. He agreed immediately.
This decision increased my hopes and determination to succeed. And naturally, it increased the debts too. I found it absolutely essential to ensure some regular salary for Hampson and so I paid him £10 a week – later to go up to £14.There was a growing sense of urgency and it became clear that an addition to the team was imperative. Harold Johns was another gifted artist who came from the same art school as Hampson, and he went on to the pay roll.
Before long I was paying out in total more than I was earning myself. Apart from the regular staff, there were contributors to be taken into account.In the Anvil/Eagle period, they included a vicar who was editing the Blackburn Diocesan Magazine for the Bishop of Blackburn. This was Chad Varah, who was to found the Samaritans. And there was Walkden Fisher, a designer for a local toy firm who did the first ‘exploded’ drawings for Eagle’s centre spread; Spencer Croft, who appeared as the scientist, ‘Professor Brittain’, and another promising young art student from Liverpool called Norman Thelwell.
Eagle, like Dan Dare, its star attraction, was not born overnight. We were hard at it from the beginning of 1949 to April 1950.The title ‘Eagle’ did not emerge for a considerable time. Then Lex Christian, who began life as a tough, fighting parson in the slums of the East End of London, became airborne, a flying padre, the Parson of the Fighting Seventh. Dan Dare was on the way.And throughout this time I tramped Fleet Street with the Eagle dummy tucked underneath my arm.I became a regular on the Sunday midnight train from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston after taking three services, a baptism or two, maybe a wedding, and dealing with the general affairs of the parish. All the time I was trying to sell Eagle, back at Birkdale the work pressed on, days and nights of trial and error, chopping and changing in the search for perfection.
At one stage I had been in touch with Hulton Press (publishers of Picture Post and Lilliput) and a young man from that firm suggested that I should go to see John Myers, then Publicity Manager for J. Arthur Rank. Myers passed me on to Montague Haydon, director of the children’s publications at Amalgamated Press (now IPC). Haydon’s reaction was perhaps predictable.I had a feeling that he thought I was an impostor, even a mild kind of lunatic. Amalgamated Press did not want Eagle. But they got it in the end, about eleven years later.
Sir Neville Pearson of Newnes was next. I rang him from a phone box (my London office in those days). He asked me round and saw me with one of his chief executives. They were very courteous and expressed considerable interest. But in the end they said that Eagle was ‘not an economic proposition’.I had a brief, fruitless meeting with Boardman’s, American publishers of books and comics and then- for the life of me I can’t think why – secured the interest of the editor of the Sporting Record. His name was Mike Wardell, he wore a black eye patch and he was a great Fleet Street character. But in the end he couldn’t help me. I began climbing higher.
I saw John Walter, General Manager of The Times, and Lord Camrose, proprietor of the Daily Telegraph. Beautiful manners again, but two more blanks.I never did see Lord Kemsley of the Sunday Times. I saw his very polite and handsome personal assistant, whose name was Denis Hamilton. He thought I was asking for a donation to some charity and pointed out that ‘his lordship has many calls upon his purse’.Then back home in Birkdale, in the autumn of 1949, I had a telegram: ‘Definitely interested do not approach any other publisher’.
It was Hulton Press, publishers of Lilliput and Picture Post, who finally took on Eagle and brought me and my family to London.Hampson came too, together with fellow artists Harold Johns, Eric Eden, Bruce Cornwell and Joan Porter.Also crucial in the development of Eagle was the eminent typographer, Ruari McLean, who became a close friend and worked intensively with me on the design and layout. The title ‘Eagle’ came in the end from Frank Hampson ‘s wife, and the lettering for it from Berthold Wolpe of Faber& Faber.The model for the Eagle symbol was the top of a large brass inkwell I bought at the White Elephant stall at the vicarage garden party.At that time in England the number of skilful strip-cartoon artists was limited, and the best of them were already in work. Eventually some of them came to work for Eagle (and later its sister papers) but meanwhile I had to find new ‘untried’ artists to do the job I wanted.
I am sure that the success of Eagle (a sell-out of 900,000 copies of its first issue) was due to the insistance on quality.Where Eagle was concerned, the quality of the paper, printing, artwork and writing set a new standard. There were bright colours, well-drawn pictures and exciting stories.Technically, the Eagle strips marked an advance on the standards of that time (standards that had stood still for years) when most strips were not true strips but merely pictures with captions underneath. We tried to tell the stories mainly through the dramatic sequence of the pictures, with the help of balloons not too many issuing from the characters’ mouths and heads.
Eagle was to win the support of parents, schoolmasters, educationalists and clergy.Dr James Hemming, the well-known educationalist, writer and broadcaster, writes: ‘I came in on Eagle originally because Johnny Metcalfe of Colman, Prentis & Varley rang me up to know if I was interested in the project.I was drawn in to taking the original dummy around to show the teacher and head teacher organisations. We met first around then. The launch complete, you asked me to stay linked as your consultant. So there we, very pleasantly, were.As for those early days, there was the sheer miracle of Eagle appearing regularly as, for mlonths, perforce, we had no time in hand.Then there was the solid identification and teamwork that somehow got the work done week by week.I seem to recall that the dummy got lost on one occasion at least . . . And it always interested me the way the characters of Eagle were really alive for the readers.One one occasion, a boy asked me if Digby (in Dan Dare) would be willing to sign autographs. And there was that curious man who turned up and said he had an invention for Dan Dare to use.’
Chad Varah became one of the first and best scriptwriters for Eagle and a tower of strength in other activities associated with the paper.It was in November 1949 that Hulton Press accepted.
AN EAGLE DIARY
Eagle and I moved into their premises in Shoe Lane, EC4. I think they must have had some faith in me as an editor but, initially, not as a clergyman – after one of my early visits they rushed to check my credentials in Crockford’s Clerical Directory. I have always been told that it was Tom Hopkinson, Editor of Picture Post, who was called down by management, shown the dummy and asked his opinion. Apparently he replied: ‘You should publish this and take on whoever brought it here.’ My first office in Shoe Lane was not very grand in fact it was a kind of anteroom to the office of the chairman, Edward (later Sir Edward) Hulton. It was rather a comic situation. He did his best to take no notice of me on his way in and out. He could hardly have been unaware of my existence, but I had the feeling that he might be uncertain of my identity and none too sure of what I was doing there. In the end, I suppose, someone told him.
Right up to the publication of the first issue on 14 April 1950, the situation was chaotic. I was head cook and bottle-washer.
Before publication there was barely a trickle of staff but a huge and constant flood of writers and artists and agents with a great variety of materialsome good, some promising and some quite useless; in fact, the typical chaotic prelude to all new publications. There were many stages to negotiate before the germ of an idea attained its final form on the page. The frequent conferences with the scriptwriter before a final version was agreed were succeeded by even more lengthy (and more complicated) sessions with the artist who was often required to submit many ‘rough’ visuals before the finished artwork. This in turn required the work of a lettering artist to fill in the balloons, and the typesetting of any text matter (brief explanations, continuities, etc.) to make the strip-cartoon story fully comprehensive. Even material set entirely in type (fiction, non-fiction, the Editor’s letter and news of various activities) almost always required illustration by way of drawings and photographs, in all shapes and sizes. Always the visual impact was vital in order to project a look of liveliness and enticement on every page. And naturally the pages did not fall haphazardly into place. The most careful attention had to be paid to the overall design and layout of each issue.
It was those artists and writers, examples of whose work appear in The Best of Eagle, who gave Eagle its distinctive style and stamp.
Best of all perhaps is the artist who is also the writer, and if not, is never a slave to the writer: he is always thinking visually, and it is here that Frank Hampson was supreme. Hampson, like his creation Dan Dare, was the corner-stone of Eagle. He shared my vision and had prodigious inventiveness and energy. In the beginning he drew Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future; the Great Adventurer (the story of St Paul); and Tommy Walls, our ice-cream advertising strip.In the end he drew The Road of Courage (a life of Christ).In between he was involved in working for the numerolls annuals and books that came out of Eagle, and lending his name and ability to many of the toys and games produced by our merchandising department. He was a great stylist and a very demanding one.The eventual success of Eagle led to the acquisition of a fairly big staff. But we were a bit thin on the ground in the beginning and I was glad to appoint Rosemary Garland (editorial) and Michael Gibson (art department).A few years later, as the organisation grew, Rosemary Garland became Assistant Editor of Robin and Michael Gibson became responsible for books and annuals. In addition we had to appoint full-time assistants for lettering and the many illustrations and diagrams that could be done only in the office.
Jack Daniel and then Frank Humphris drew Riders of the Range, based on another highly successful radio serial, this time by Charles Chilton, who is still a leading writer and producer with the BBC. One of the most successful early stunts was to send Charles Chilton to Tombstone, Arizona where he was made sheriff and where he met real cowboys and filed his impressions for Eagle readers. Martin Aitchison drew the exotic Luck of the Legion (a home-grown product) with script by Geoffrey Bond.
In the humourous vein three artists were outstanding. One was known long before Eagle and is still going strong. He is David Langdon, who created Professor Puff and his dog Wuff. Then John Ryan, the art master from Harrow who invented Captain Pugwash and Harris Tweed, Extra Special Agent. And finally, Norman Thelwell, who first created Chicko before he found his true comic niche with girls and ponies that refuse fences. There were of course many more artists who contributed to Eagle, but I cannot mention them all; and those who contributed primarily to the other papers of the group (Girl, Robin and Swift) have, of course, no place in this anthology.As for the Eagle writers, their work, though invaluable, was of necessity overshadowed by the artists. This includes even Chad Varah, who was with me from the first and who brought his considerable powers of mind and invention to write not only the scripts for our Bible stories but also to take on the scripting of Dan Dare at a moment’s notice. In a traditional form, the writing of school stories, Peter Ling deserves notice.And there was that distinguished journalist of his day (he is still distinguished) Macdonald Hastings, whose series Eagle Special Investigator may still be read as first-class documentaries of the period. Apart from the Editor’s letter I wrote a great deal myself, in that fiddling, improving and revising way that most editors have. But again, like most editors, the bulk of my writing consisted of answering questions and making demands of management, accountants, printers etc. The letters from our readers were so numerous that after a few weeks’ publication we were obliged to hire a staff to cope with the flood.The Eagle Club was another instant success, with applications from 60,000 readers after our first two issues. Two noble ladies were in charge of this department: Mrs Stark and Miss Mincher.
Hulton Press had achieved considerable success with Picture Post, Lilliput, Housewife and Farmer’s Weekly. When they took on Eagle the firm spared no expense to make it a winner from the start. Gradually, while we amended, altered, revised and got together the first issue, the pattern emerged and launching plans were formulated. Copies were to be mailed direct, with a covering letter, to several hundred thousand people concerned with children and youth work – teachers, clergy, educationalists, club leaders, doctors and so on. The reaction was encouraging to a degree we had not dared to hope for. The other important plan for the launch was the ‘Hunt the Eagle’ schedule.Huge golden eagles, 4ft l0in. high, 4ft 6in. from beak to tail, with a wing span of 4ft, were mounted on cars and driven round towns and villages up and down the country. Loudspeakers were fitted to the cars and Hulton Press representatives handed out 3d tokens that could be exchanged at a newsagent for a free copy of Eagle. Another hugely successful idea.There were other, wilder, notions, ranging from the Editor’s descent by parachute into Hyde Park, and the release of 200,000 Eagle balloons throughout the country. These were abandoned, but a great amount of advertising space was booked in the national dailies and weeklies.
The two miracles that attended the first issue of Eagle were: getting the material to the printer in the first place; and his printing it the second.The printing of Eagle is a story in itself a supreme example of craftsmanship and engineering skill overcoming apparently insuperable difficulties.The late Eric Bemrose of Eric Bemrose Limited of Aintree, faced with the problem of printing one million copies of Eagle for its first issue, designed, built and worked a new ten-unit photogravure rotary machine. With flair and improvisation he created the plant in twelve weeks from start to finish and trained a team to work it. On publication day there were long queues outside the newsagents. Eagle was a success and a sell-out, almost one million copies.
We had tried to start a paper which would be the natural choice of the child, but, at the same time, would have the enthusiastic approval of the parent and the teacher; in this we succeeded. It was a great moment at the end of the first day when the telegrams from our reps came pouring in with the good news. Eagle was off to a roaring start with Dan Dare, ‘Cosmic Knight Errant’-a phrase of Maurice Richardson’s – ‘racing to the rescue of Rocket Ship No. 1 trapped by the silicon mass on the fringe of the Flame Lands’. And waiting in the wings of an unknown, hostile universe was the Mekon.
Eagle had a fairly short life, from 1950 to 1970, by which time it had been merged with Lion. Rut its most successful life was even shorter, from 1950 to about 1962. In 1960 Hulton Press was taken over by Odhams and renamed Longacre Press. Soon after that I left to join the National Magazine Company.I was succeeded by my deputy, Clifford Makins.The following year Odhams was taken over by the Daily Mirror Group (now IPC ) and then Makins left. Eagle died slowly and, it seemed to me, painfully, and so my choice of The Best of Eagle is confined to the years 1950 to 1962.
Those were exciting times hard work but fun.
click below for the full text (with lavish illustrations) of the
of the biography of Peter Crawford - a meditation on childhood.
'Peter - the early years'
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