When Eagle was revived in the 1980s, it initially featured a number of fumetti-style photo strips, and “Doomlord” was the most popular of them all. Almost 40 years on, it’s still fondly remembered – but who played the characters who featured in the strip – and where might you find Doomlord’s mask today, if at all?
This feature was first published back in April 2020, when online discussion “Doomlord” appeared to reveal the source of the popular character’s mask might have been Donald Post (14th March 1902 – 17th November 1979), dubbed by many as “The Godfather of Halloween”, who created and sold some of the first latex masks, but it turned out that is not the case.
The article has since grown, with more secrets of Doomlord uncovered thanks to a number of his dedicated fans…
For those unfamiliar, when Eagle relaunched in 1982, it arrived crammed with photo strips (fumetti), similar to the format of popular girl’s titles of the day such as Jackie, Characters were played by both professional actors such as Mike White, who played Doomlord and his human alter ego, Eric Plumrose (not to be confused with the American actor of the same name), and Mike Mungarvan (Doomlord’s nemesis, journalist Howard Harvey); alongside occasional cameos from Fleetway staff, including Group Editor Barrie Tomlinson, Starlord editor Kelvin Gosnell and 2000AD art editor Doug Church. They all, for example, feature on the cover of Eagle Issue Two, under threat from Doomlord himself.
(Barrie himself confirmed he, Doug and Kevin are lurking on the cover facing the might of Doomlord, whose strip was created and written by Alan Grant and John Wagner. “I’m wearing what was my favourite coat at the time!” Barrie revealed a while back, on Twitter).
“Doomlord”, one of Eagle’s longest lasting and most popular strips, was a science fiction saga that began with an alien judging humanity’s right to exist, and failing in his attempt to execute humanity. A replacement Doomlord ruled in favour of Earth and eventually became its protector, fathering a son.
The strip ran from the weekly comic’s very first issue, cover dated 27th March 1982, until Issue 395, cover dated 14th October 1989. Reprints of previous “Doomlord” stories continued until the issue cover dated 7th April 1990.
Who appeared in the Eagle photo stories has become quite a detective story for fans of the comic, particularly the “Doomlord” strip. But where did Fleetway get Doomlord’s mask, costume and deadly ring – and who built Doomlord’s spaceship, which also features in the story?
John Wagner has previously mentioned the actors involved were hired from the Ugly Agency, established in 1969 and still operating, and Richard Pearce at Hibernia Comics (publishers of many a fine publication about British comics, and strip collections, too) has tracked down some of the photographers who worked on the strips, so we’re expecting some interesting stories and revelations about the creation of the Eagle strips, when his ongoing investigations conclude.
However, for now, when it comes to Doomlord’s mask, we can reveal that there are slightly conflicting stories about its origin. Judge Dredd and Doomlord co-creator John Wagner distinctly remembers going to the West End with Eagle editor David Hunt to buy the mask, but his recollection is not entirely in conflict with the memories of designer Sue Moore, who remembers buying it from a shop near Seven Dials on behalf of the publisher.
Sue, perhaps best known for her work with fellow designer Stephen Mansfield on Doctor Who during the Sylvester McCoy era, quickly put paid to the “Don Post” mask report.
“It was just a generic cheap mask I bought in the West End,” she told documentary director and producer Kevin Davies (who, as an aside, researched heavily for an aborted TV documentary about Eagle and Dan Dare back in 1996).
“I have no idea what its lineage is [but] it was a manufactured mask. Nobody made it especially… I just sold them what I had. I had a meeting with the magazine and they liked what they saw.”
“I remember it was made of a very plasticised rubber,” Kevin recalls, “and inside it smelled sickly sweet.”
Thanks to Eagle fan Isidro Campos, we can now reveal the mask was made by the French brand Cesar and was produced from 1979 to 1984, whose masks were distributed by, among others, the Masquerade Novelty Company.
The distinctive collar appears to be a hire, and possibly a creation originally designed for the episode Space: 1999 episode Devil’s Planet, presumably hired. The costume design on that episode (and others) was the work of Emma Porteous, who also worked on costumes on the 1995 Judge Dredd film (alongside Gianni Versace, credited with the Dredd armour design), Clash of the Titans (1981) and some Bond films.
Emma has fond memories of Devil’s Planet, a story that featured a band of glamorous female villains, as she told TV Zone magazine in 1993, noted here on the Catacombs Reference Library.
‘They wanted something striking, as all the ladies were prison warders and extremely sexy as well. We came up with these red leotards and made gold leather shoulder pieces and the helmets, and the bits for the boots. It was just this plastic leather we had found, and we padded underneath and machine stitched through it so it made ridges and formed all these different shapes. It brought it out like quilting.
“Martin [Landau] was captured by these women and we made his costume based on theirs, with the same sort of feel with the gold leather bits on it. He looked excellent in that. Having done the designs, all the women had to be chosen with superb figures, and we even got a feature in the Daily Mirror saying that these women were going to be the sexiest on television.”
The designer denies any suggestion that she was under pressure to make the ladies glamorous to boost ratings and sales.
“They left it very much to me. All that sort of thing was very Seventies – the high boots and the tight clothes. It was influenced by the fashion of the times.”
Isidro Campos has also now identified Doomlord’s distinctive costume as the one worn by Peter Ustinov in the film The Thief of Baghdad, playing the Caliph, designed by John Bloomfield. Did this costume perhaps find its way into a costumier’s such as West End-based Angels, whose London premises are close to Seven Dials?
We still don’t know the origins of Doomlord’s “Death Ray Ring”, but it wasn’t via Sue Moore – although she did once make a red jewelled forehead piece for a Tharg the Mighty mask, for 2000AD.
Thanks to another Eagle fan, Peter Adamson, we were reminded that one of the spaceships that featured in the strips was the work of artist Julian Baum, who also created model shots for a “Dan Dare” story in 1983. There’s an extensive feature and interview with him in the 1985 Eagle Annual, including some rather nice colour shots of his models. The Doomlord ship is amongst them.
Today, Julian runs Take 27 Ltd, a visual effects company that was established in 2002 – and in July 2021, we published an interview with the talented designer and illustrator, conducted by Isidro Campos.
While the Eagle photo strips are fondly remembered, they proved more expensive to produce than traditional comic art and, over time, disappeared from the weekly comic. Fleetway abandoned its attempt at publishing science fiction horror in fumetti form, in favour of commissioning Heinzl (in 1983 – 1984) followed by Eric Bradbury (1984 – 1989).
(“Heinzl” was a pen name for Alberto Giolitti/Studio Giolitti, identified by Angelo Todaro, although with the caveat that the background work likely wasn’t. Other strips of the period by “Heinzl” included “Monster“, which debuted in Scream, now collected by Rebellion, but Todaro has told Richard Pearce he thought the figure work in that looked like someone working in Giolitti’s style. “I think the working setup of the studio had artists working to ‘ghost’ Giolitti or ink his pencils, or to complete backgrounds for him,” Richard notes. “I believe Belardinelli worked in that role for a while.”
Doomlord’s enduring popularity with many British comic fans prompted Green Lantern and Wonder Woman artist Liam Sharp to create this stunning cover for an Eagle Flies Again special edition a few years ago.
The legend lives on!
• If anyone had a role in the Eagle photo strips, please do leave a comment below – please note, all initial comments made by someone new to this site are initially reviewed before publishing but are generally published automatically thereafter.
• Over on the Eagle Readers Facebook Group, Richard Pearce, Steve Winders, Shaqui Le Vesconte and others are attempting to identify the actors and Fleetway staff who featured in the photos strips, and identify locations, too. Do join in!
• Hibernia published a collection, Doomlord: The Deathlords of Nox in 2006, reprinting stories from Eagle published in issues cover dated 24th September 1983 – 3rd March 1984. Written by Alan Grant and John Wagner, illustrated by Heinzl, the 72-page collection includes an introduction by Alan Grant. Copies are still available on Comicsy
Special thanks to Peter Adamson, Isidro Campos, Kevin Davies, Sue Moore and Richard Pearce for their help with this item
Doomlord was created by Alan Grant and John Wagner, who have asserted their rights | EAGLE © Dan Dare Corporation
This item was last updated on Tuesday 27th July 2021, adding links to our interview with FX designer Julian Baum