Bob Batholomew, circa 1949, in his red Singer Le Mans sports car. Photo via Bear Alley.

In Memoriam: Eagle editor Bob Bartholomew

Bob Batholomew, circa 1949, in his red Singer Le Mans sports car. Photo via Bear Alley.
Bob Batholomew, circa 1949, in his red Singer Le Mans sports car. Photo courtesy Steve Holland at Bear Alley.

Bob Bartholomew, who died on 9th October at the age of ninety, became editor of Eagle in late 1962 and remained in charge until its demise in April 1969. He took over at a time of crisis, following Eagle’s dramatic fall in sales after a disastrous revamp in March 1962, after the takeover by the Mirror Group. He quickly made positive changes, one of the first being the introduction of the famous Heros the Spartan strip, drawn by Frank Bellamy. He also returned Dan Dare to the front cover and developed many informative features in an effort to restore the paper’s character. In this regard he was partly successful, but unfortunately he was unable to restore Eagle’s popularity, against a new generation of rival papers. One of these was Eagle’s companion, Boys’ World, which Bob was also called upon to edit, after problems arose prior to its launch.

Bob was born in London and educated at Gordon School in Eltham, near his home. Leaving school at fourteen, he worked on the Amalgamated Press’ Children’s Newspaper as a messenger boy, but was given opportunities to write short news items. He also continued his education in his own time, taking a Mechanical Engineering Course at South East London Technical School. With the advent of war, he studied Maths and French in order to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot. He subsequently served as a navigator in Liberators, protecting the Atlantic Convoys from U-Boats.

He returned to the Amalgamated Press after the War, working on both The Children’s Encyclopaedia and The Children’s Newspaper, where his contributions included the sports pages, front pages, interviews and eventually the weekly leader. His work on these educational publications prepared him well for his editorship of Eagle.

 After Eagle was merged with Lion, Bob stayed with the publishers, now called  IPC Magazines and worked on other juvenile publications, notably World of Wonder and World of Knowledge, which he edited. He left IPC in 1981, following the merger of World of Knowledge with Look and Learn. Subsequently he wrote a lot of material for Disney Magazine, finally retiring in 1992. He also produced crosswords for The Times.

Bob was always happy to talk about his work on Eagle. My first contact with him was in 1974, when I wrote to IPC to thank them for producing the Dan Dare Annual for that year and asking whether there would there be any more. Bob had evidently edited it and wrote back saying how fond he was of Dan and Digby, but sadly there were no plans for another. I wrote to him on several occasions after his retirement for information about characters from the 1960s Eagle, for my articles for Eagle Times and he always did his best to help. He was also interviewed at some length for Eagle Times, by David Gould and Roger Coombes.

You can read Steve Holland’s full tribute to Bob Bartholomew on Bear Alley

Our earlier tribute, which includes comments from comics writer David Motton

Bob was given the impossible task of trying to restore Eagle to its former glory. While he could not succeed in this he nevertheless produced a quality weekly with some memorable strips. There is no doubt that the 1960s Eagle would have been a lot worse without him.

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Steve Winders

Born in Preston, Steve Winders has been a lifelong fan of Dan Dare and Eagle and of Doctor Who since its first episode. He has written many articles about the 1960s Eagle, the various incarnations of Dan Dare and the fictional exploits of the Harris Tweed Appreciation Society for Eagle Times and its predecessors and regularly reviews new works about British comics for Down The Tubes and Steve Holland’s Bear Alley blog. He has also written articles about another interest, Robin Hood, for the online Adventures of Robin Hood Appreciation Society Magazine. Other interests include the American West, which was inspired by the famous Eagle strip, Riders of the Range, Astronomy and soccer. He is a supporter of Preston North End. He has taught for over 40 years, in Lancashire, Mid Glamorgan and Plymouth. He is married and has three children.

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