That Day Dan Dare met wrestler “Big Daddy”: the new Eagle launch, 1982

Artists’ agent Tony Kelleher, wrestler Big Daddy and the Mekon

Artists’ agent Tony Kelleher, wrestler Big Daddy and the Mekon

From the launch of new Eagle in March 1982, here’s a great press photo of Dan Dare, played by artists’ agent Tony Kelleher from the Temple Art Agency, wrestler Big Daddy and the Mekon.

Shirley Crabtree Jr., who died in 1997, better known as Big Daddy, was an English professional wrestler with a record-breaking 64 inch chest. He worked for Joint Promotions and the British Wrestling Federation, initially cast as a villain, who teamed with Giant Haystacks. He later became a fan favourite, working until the 1990s.

The hand gun was supplied by James Tomlinson, son of future Eagle editor Barrie Tomlinson.

Over on his Boys Adventure Comics blog where this photograph just surfaced, downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf has suggested the Mekon sculpture might be one sculpted by fine artist Pip Warwick.

These sculptures also featured in the back of the Eaglecon 1980 brochure.

EagleCon Brochure - 1980EagleCon Brochure - 1980

The Mekon sculptures have been inherited by ceramicist Catherine Warwick, and her website is here. More details about them can be found on Peter Hampson’s tribute site to his father (here). As well as the images, Peter’s site includes notes on the extraordinary technical complexity of creating these sculptures (5000 man-hours; 113 inter-locking parts; £10,000 of [mid-1970s] development money).

“The Eagle launch took a lot of planning.,” former Eagle editor Barrie Tomlinson recalls. “I wanted a big launch…so who was bigger than Big Daddy! Tony Kelleher is holding Dan’s ray gun which I borrowed from my young son.

“It wasn’t easy getting a Dan Dare uniform! We made sure Tony had the right eyebrows!”

The press launch wasn’t the only promotional event for the new Eagle back in 1982, of course. At a time when British comics still had huge print runs and sales, the launch was backed by a TV ad campaign and plenty of cross promotion in other Fleetway comics.

The relaunched Eagle may not have been as successful as the original, but over 500 issues were published, but a change to a monthly anthology format was a portent of its cancellation in 1994, despite new Dan Dare stories written by Tom Tully, with art by David Pugh, alongside reprints of earlier work.

The first appearance of Doomlord, in the 1980s Eagle

The first appearance of Doomlord, in the 1980s Eagle

The 1980’s Eagle initially included plenty of photo strips, but despite his lores launch appearance “in the flesh” with Big Daddy, Dan Dare didn’t get the same treatment as Doomlord or Manix.

Quite a few of the models who played various characters appeared on television, either in dramas or adverts.

Sgt. Streetwise from Eagle - later spotted in EastEnders?

Sgt. Streetwise from Eagle – later spotted in EastEnders?

Sgt. Streetwise, for example, was a fashion model and actor, credited by some as appearing in EastEnders and featuring in mail order catalogues.

Mike Mungarvan, who played Howard Harvey, the reporter on Doomlord’s case appeared in various Doctor Who stories as a supporting artiste, most notably Colony in Space, The Face of Evil, Kinda (as one of the Kinda people) and Resurrection of the Daleks, as the soldier that gets it in the neck from a Kaled mutant.

Check out our item on the Eagle launch advertisement and its connection with Grange Hill

David Maloney reminisces about the first issue of the 1980s Eagle on Great News for all Readers

Starlogged Features the 1982 Eagle launch ads that ran in various Fleetway comics

More on Eagle Issue One over on Lew Stringer’s Blimey blog

The Dan Dare song by Loose Talk’s Dan Dare in all its glory

With thanks to Jeremy Briggs for identifying Tony Kelleher and Richard Sheaf for the photo shoot Image and EagleCon images

Eagle and Dan Dare copyright Dan Dare Corporation

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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