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Welcome to the web home of THE EAGLE SOCIETY.

THE EAGLE SOCIETY is dedicated to the memory of EAGLE - Britain's National Picture Strip Weekly - the leading Boy's magazine of the 1950s and 1960s. We publish a quarterly journal - the Eagle Times.

This weblog has been created to provide an additional, more immediate, forum for news and commentary about the society and EAGLE-related issues. Want to know more? See First Post and Eagle - How it began.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Dan Dare - man of iron?

So, does Dan Dare do the ironing - or does he have more pressing engagements?

I was amused by this graphic of Dan Dare while attending the press preview of the 'Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi-tech Britain' Exhibition (which is open at the Science Museum in South Kensington until November, 2009).

For its time, the 'Dan Dare' strip was forward looking, socially as well as technologically, anticipating the further emancipation of women: Jocelyn Peabody never fitted the classic "dumb female" stereotype of hero fiction - she was a scientist, a space pilot too, definitely not there just to scream and be rescued. I'm not sure I ever expected to see Dan with an iron in his hand, though, unless it was for playing golf - on the moon or elsewhere!

But what of the exhibition? Well, I can assure you that it's well worth a visit. That applies not only to fans of the original Eagle and their contemporaries, but to anyone who wants to know more about the development of technology in Britain between 1945 and 1970, and the impact on home life of design and innovation in those "Eagle times".

There are three sections. The first, as you enter, focusses on 'Dan Dare', and tells in brief how Eagle and Dan Dare came into being, how the 'Dan Dare' strip was produced, and some of the merchandise that was available to children of the 1950s.

Highlights of this section include artist Frank Hampson's 'Dan Dare' murals, which were originally commissioned by the museum in the 1970s, and two cabinets, one of which includes some examples of original 'Dan Dare' artwork plus one of Frank Hampson's "ideas books" used when he was planning the alien technology that would appear (in 1956) in the 'Dan Dare' strip 'Rogue Planet'.

The other cabinet displays other the 'Dan Dare'-related memorabilia: the 'Dan Dare': Stamp Album, Card Game, Radio Station, Construction game, etc. To anyone who attended the major Eagle exhibitions in Southport in 1990 and 2000 (Eagle's 40th and 50th anniversaries), this aspect of the display might appear more modest, but this exhibition is not just about 'Dan Dare'. 'Dan Dare' is used as a symbol of the times, a model for the optimism of Britain, its faith in technology in the post-war years, and a lead-in to the rest of the exhibition.

The "signature exhibit", providing a bridge to the technology, through another Eagle link, is a Bristol Bloodhound air defence missile, a pillar of UK's defence against the Soviet threat between 1958 and 1964. Reminding us that Eagle was not just a comic, a reproduction of Leslie Ashwell Wood's cutaway drawing of the Bloodhound (from Eagle Vol 10 No 5) is also on display.

Having set the theme, the second part of the exhibition is 'Building a New Britain' and covers everything from the creation of the National Health Service to the investments of government in nuclear power and the atom bomb.
The third part looks at the reinvention of the home, the merging importance of design and the impact on everyday life with the arrival of previously unheard of consumer goods. Arguably, more use of Eagle imagery might have been used in these sections. For example, the section featuring the Dounreay nuclear research station might have, but did not, include L. Ashwell Wood's cutaway (from Eagle, 18th October, 1957). Several other examples, occur to me, where Eagle imagery could have been exploited. Seeing a section of the upper fuselage of the De Haviland Comet 1 aircraft that crashed in 1954, I was reminded that the Comet had featured as 'The First Four-Jet Airliner in the World' in Eagle's 4th issue. The Festival of Britain coverage could have used Lawrence Dunn's cutaway of the Dome of Discovery, or L. Ashwell Wood's cutaway of the (3-D) Telecinema. The WE177 air launched nuclear bomb, which entered service in 1966, never featured in Eagle, however, as it was on the top secret list!

While you're there, take a look elsewhere in the museum. On the ground floor in the permanent exhibition you'll find four more original 'Dan Dare' artboards. Nearby, you'll find a V2 rocket, like those which,
as he watched them rise into the sky over the Scheldt Estuary in the closing stages of World War II, inspired Frank Hampson (though in Antwerp, at the receiving end) to dream of space travel.

Links

Science Museum:
BBC News videos:
  • Dan Dare creator's son: "Peter Hampson, son of the Eagle comic strip character's creator Frank, says Dan inspired a generation. The character Flamer was based on Peter."
  • Dan Dare 'inspired innovation': "The Science Museum's Ben Russell and John Liffen on technology that reflects the ideals of the comic hero created by Frank Hampson."
British Satellite News video:
Guardian picture gallery:
Other related articles:
Eagle Times earlier post: Dan Dare & the Birth of Hi-tech Britain

Monday, 28 April 2008

Dan Dare spaceship models to go on sale

David Britton has announced that he is "planning to sell most of the spaceships that were made by Martin Bower for Alan Vince". The models were made in the 1980s, and previously formed part of the Eagle Exhibitions display, which toured UK in the early 2000s.

The picture on the left is a model of the Mars Space Station that featured (in its original drawn form!) in the 'Dan Dare' adventure 'The Red Moon Mystery' (Eagle, 1951).

For anyone who doesn't know, the models' creator Martin Bower is a professional model maker, who has worked on many science fiction films, TV shows and publications, and "is one of the most prolific model makers and designers to the film, TV, advertising and publishing industry". Since 1969, he has produced over 1000 professional works. The models that David is selling were privately commissioned by Alan Vince, and further pictures and information on their creation can be seen on the Dan Dare page of Martin Bower's site.

For sale are:
  • First Venus Ship
  • Rescue Ship “St Christopher”
  • Treen Fighter
  • Treen Telezero
  • Gogol’s Transporter
  • Space Station Mars and the shuttle “Delaware”
  • Treen Blaster Pistol
David can be contacted directly at info@davidgbritton.com , or they will be listed on eBay from 2nd May, 2008.

Please do not contact Eagle Times regarding this sale, though comments, as always, are welcome.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

50th Anniversary of Dan Dare (April 2000)

Back in the year 2000, the Eagle Society marked the occasion of Eagle's and Dan Dare's 50th Anniversary by commissioning a bronze bust of Dan Dare, and which was unveiled in Southport on 15th April that year. Members of the Society (principally David Britton, Ron French and Nicholas Hill) also collaborated in the setting up of an exhibition which ran at the Atkinson Art Gallery in Southport, from 15th April - 1st July, 2000. The story of 'The Dan Dare Bust - from conception to completion' was told by David Britton in Eagle Times Volume 13, No 2, Summer 2000 (coincidentally this was Eagle Times' 50th issue). The text of the article, with pictures of the event, can be read on Nicholas Hill's website.

Arnie Wilson has reminded us that in that 50th anniversary year he wrote a feature for the Financial Times about his personal relationship with Dan Dare. He says "I don't think it was ever picked up by Eagle Times, though it appeared in the FT with a brilliant Dan and Dig pastiche drawing".

If you would like to read Arnie's article it is on his website. Unfortunately the pastiche to which Arnie refers isn't there, but if anyone has a copy, we'd love to see it.

Another link to 'Dan Dare at 50' on the web: BBC News - 10th April, 2000.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Eagle Artists - Terry Maloney (1917 - 2008)

Francis Joseph Terence Maloney was born in Mortlake, Surrey, on 20th April, 1917, the son of a Fleet Street printer. He attended the Richmond School of Art, and as a student joined the Communist Party. At the age of 20, he volunteered for the International Brigades, fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. In August, 1938, he survived a shrapnel wound to the chest at the battle of Ebro, returning to England later that year. During the Second World War he served in the Royal Corps of Signals, after D-Day seeing action in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He had married Dorothy Toms in 1943. After the war, in 1946, Maloney worked as a commercial artist, helping to design posters for London Underground and becoming art editor of Spain Today, which was produced to publicise Franco's repression of the Spanish people.

Maloney had a growing interest in astronomy and the possibilities of space travel. After setting up a 10-foot long telescope, with a ten inch mirror, in his garden in Kew, Surrey, he spent many hours observing the night sky. He joined the British Astronomical Association, and subsequently was made a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. In early 1950, Maloney was recruited by Marcus Morris to work on the (yet to be launched) Eagle magazine, and for a short time he joined Frank Hampson's 'Dan Dare' studio in Southport. Later, he drew a number of colour and black and white illustrations for an article on rocketry and space travel for Dan Dare's Space Book (Hulton Press, 1953). He produced a number of book covers for paperback science fiction novels before, from the mid-1950s, concentrating on becoming a writer/illustrator and book editor.

Maloney's first self-written-and-illustrated title was Other Worlds in Space, a children's guide to the planets. Coincidentally it was launched the same month as Sputnik 1, in October, 1957. His other titles included The Sky is Our Window, and A Dictionary of Astronomy. He edited for various publishers before retiring in 1981, when he moved with his wife to West Knighton, near Dorchester, where he died on 16th March, 2008, aged 90.

The illustration above is from the article 'The Life Story of a Rocket' and shows a captured V2 being lifted into position for a test firing at the U.S. Experimental Rocket Station at White Sands, New Mexico. (From Dan Dare's Space Book, Hulton Press, 1953)

Links:

Eagle Society Weekend and Dinner, 2008

Please note that bookings for this year's previously advertised Eagle Society's Weekend and Annual Dinner at Edinburgh are now closed.