Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare. Image courtesy The Atkinson

Frank Hampson Centenary Exhibition opens at The Atkinson, Southport – Launch Report

David Britton of the Eagle Society reports on new exhibition of Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson’s work at The Atkinson, Southport…

A reception was held on Thursday evening 20th September at The Atkinson in Southport, to launch three new exhibitions that all have a local relevance. The one of particular interest to our readers is dedicated to “The Man Who Drew Dan Dare”, an exhibition marking the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Frank Hampson and his life’s work.

The evening was opened by Stephen Whittle, Principal Manager at the Atkinson, who gave a brief background to each of the exhibitions and introduced Frank’s son, Peter Hampson, as guest speaker for Frank’s exhibition.

Peter Hampson, Stephen Whittle and David Britton at the launch of “Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare” at the Atkinson, Southport. Image courtesy The Atkinson
Peter Hampson, Stephen Whittle and David Britton at the launch of “Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare” at the Atkinson, Southport. Image courtesy The Atkinson
Peter Hampson and Stephen Whittle at the launch of “Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare” at the Atkinson, Southport. Image courtesy The Atkinson
Peter Hampson and Stephen Whittle at the launch of “Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare” at the Atkinson, Southport. Image courtesy The Atkinson
Peter Hampson. Photo: David Britton
Peter Hampson. Photo: David Britton

Peter then related the story behind Frank’s career, commencing with his demobilisation from the Army and the attendance at Southport College of Art. On leaving the College, he was initially involved in producing commercial work for advertising and did illustrations for Anvil, vicar Marcus Morris’ local church magazine that was later taken up by the Anglican Church.

When Marcus decided to embark on his mission to create a comic or magazine to compete effectively with the gratuitous, pulp comics that were flooding the country from America, setting  a higher moral standard yet appealing to children with an exciting product, he collaborated with Frank and EAGLE was born.

Peter Hampson at the launch of “Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare” at the Atkinson, Southport. Image courtesy The Atkinson
Peter Hampson at the launch of “Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare” at the Atkinson, Southport. Image courtesy The Atkinson

Shortly after Jocelyn Thomas, Greta Tomlinson and Joan Porter joined them at the Bakehouse, 22, Botanic Road, Churchtown. The Bakehouse has been restored recently and has a plaque honouring those who worked there in the early days of EAGLE. Joan remained Frank’s assistant right through to the end.

Peter talked about the move south to Epsom, the development of the studio at Bayford Lodge and of the humour that accompanied the hard work and weekly deadlines. That was followed by the unhappy departure from Odham’s , “The Road of Courage” for EAGLE , working for Ladybird Books, more commercial work, such as an advertising strip series for the National Coal Board and finally the North East Surrey College of Technology (NESCOT) where he taught and worked.

Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare. Image courtesy The Atkinson
Image courtesy The Atkinson
An early “dummy” for Eagle. Image courtesy The Atkinson
An early “dummy” for Eagle. Image courtesy The Atkinson

The exhibition is really very well laid out and has examples of Frank’s work from the very beginning, with some beautifully executed pencil sketches and work in pen and ink. It continues through the early work on “Dan Dare”, illustrated by pages from the start of the first Venus story, later episodes, pencil roughs and ending with post-EAGLE illustration for Ladybird books, a period that Peter described as a very happy one after the trauma of the final years with Oldham’s.

Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare
Image courtesy The Atkinson
Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare
Image courtesy The Atkinson

One of the highlights is some original pages for “The Road of Courage”, which for many represents the pinnacle of Frank’s output.

Peter also pointed out the fact that Frank loved to put lots of detail into the background of his frames. This is apparent throughout his work.

The recognition that Frank received in Lucca in 1975, The Golden Kid and his being awarded the title ‘Prestigioso Maestro’ –The Best Comic Book Artist Since The Second World War, were also on display.

Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare

Overall, the evening was a great success, although attendance may have been curtailed by a disastrous night of bad weather, with high winds and very heavy rain, as the tail of Storm Bronagh passed Southport. We were graced however by the presence of Frank’s sister Margaret, currently 91 years of age, and her daughter Tina and son-in-law Les, as well as Peter’s wife, Sue.

The exhibition runs until 16th March 2019 and is a must for all EAGLE, Dan Dare and Frank Hampson fans.

David Britton

Photo: Tim Quinn

• Frank Hampson – The Man Who Drew Dan Dare Saturday 15th September 2018 – Saturday 16th March 2019 – For more about the exhibition visit The Atkinson web site

• The Atkinson is at Lord Street, Southport PR8 1DB. The Museum and galleries are open Monday – Saturday 10.00am – 4.00pm, Sunday CLOSED | Check all opening times here | Web: www.theatkinson.co.uk | Find The Atkinson on Facebook: TheAtkinson | Follow The Atkinson on Twitter @AtkinsonThe | Watch The Atkinson video channel on Youtube: AtkinsonThe

• Read Dan Whitehead’s 2016 review of the permanent Frank Hampson exhibition at The Atkinson

• There’s more about the original creation of the Dan Dare bust by John Fowler here on DanDare.org and the fiftieth anniversary art here on the official Frank Hampson web site, which also has a feature on the birth of Dan Dare and Eagle here

• The Old Bakehouse in Botanic Road, Churchtown, Southport – the original studio used by Frank Hampson and his team to produce the 1950’s Dan Dare strips – is not open to the public but has been recently restored

Michael Burrows has a feature on this exhibition here on Project Sword Toys

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. Annual subscription (which includes copies of Eagle Times) is £29 (UK), £40 (overseas).

Subscriptions to Bob Corn, Wellcroft Cottage, Ivinghoe, Leighton Buzzard, Befordshire, LU7

• The Eagle Times is online at eagle-times.blogspot.co.uk, which 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

Dan Dare copyright Dan Dare Corporation

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