In Memoriam: Comic Artist and Painter, Greta Tomlinson (1927 – 2021)

A tribute by Steve Winders to an original member of Frank Hampson’s team, who worked on “Dan Dare” and other strips for the original EAGLE weekly…

Greta Tomlinson in 1950
Greta Tomlinson in 1950

Greta Edwards (nee Tomlinson) was born in Burnley Lancashire. She studied at Burnley Art School and the Slade School of Fine Art in Oxford and London, graduating in 1949. Seeking work, she applied for a job advertised in the Advertisers Journal, which proved to be working for Frank Hampson’s studio on EAGLE, which was then still in development. She recalled the studio in a newspaper interview:

“It was very basic, a flagstone floor and a tin roof; there was cold running water in the corner. It was freezing cold in the Winter and boiling hot in the Summer… I went for an interview and saw the bakehouse, saw Frank’s work on the board and just thought it was fantastic! Just wonderful! And I felt, I’ve just got to have this job.”

She was taken on and originally paid £4 10s a week. Initially based in an old lean-to bakehouse in Churchtown, Southport, Hampson’s small team produced “Dan Dare”, “Rob Conway”, “Tommy Walls” and “The Life of St. Paul” for the early issues of the forthcoming weekly. As a figure artist, Greta originally drew figures which Frank Hampson would then use to develop the characters, but as this was a long process, photo reference began to be used and in addition to her other work on the strips, Greta became the model for the principal female character, Professor Peabody.

Professor Peabody’s first appearance in the Eagle comic, as she joins Dan Dare’s team (Vol. 1 No 5 1950)
Professor Peabody’s first appearance in the Eagle comic, as she joins Dan Dare’s team (Vol. 1 No 5 1950)
Greta Tomlinson (second from left) poses for a scene from Dan Dare’s first Venus story
Greta Tomlinson (second from left) poses for a scene from Dan Dare’s first Venus story
The scene as it appeared in EAGLE
The scene as it appeared in EAGLE
Another photograph of Greta used as reference for the first Dan Dare “Venus” story. Via Andrew Skilleter
Another photograph of Greta used as reference for the first Dan Dare “Venus” story. Via Andrew Skilleter

As “Dan Dare” became a success the other strips were dropped or taken over by other artists and the team concentrated on the SF adventure strip. Greta worked closely with Harold Johns, Hampson’s chief assistant and in 1952, when Hampson became ill, she and Johns produced the art for the “Dan Dare” adventure “Marooned on Mercury”.

They also produced the art for several “Dan Dare” strips in EAGLE Annuals, notably “The Double Headed Eagle” which appeared in the third annual, published in 1953.

Dan Dare original cover artwork from The Eagle (1952) Vol 3: No 18 Layout and pencils by Frank Hampson, completed art by Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson.
Dan Dare original cover artwork from The Eagle (1952) Vol 3: No 18 Layout and pencils by Frank Hampson, completed art by Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson.
The cover of EAGLE Vol. 3 No. 37 cover dated 19th December 1952, art credited to Frank Hampson, Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson. A page from "Marooned on Mercury" in which Dan and Digby are saved by their Mecurian friend , Samson
The cover of EAGLE Vol. 3 No. 37 cover dated 19th December 1952, art credited to Frank Hampson, Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson. A page from “Marooned on Mercury” in which Dan and Digby are saved by their Mecurian friend , Samson
A page from “Operation Triceratops” from Eagle Annual 4, art by Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson
A page from “Operation Triceratops” from Eagle Annual 4, art by Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson

Unfortunately, in 1953, Greta and Harold Johns were sacked from Hampson’s team after taking on other work, despite having been given permission to do so by EAGLE’s editor Marcus Morris. Nevertheless, Greta had the fondest memories of Frank and her work on “Dan Dare”.

She moved on to work as a fashion artist and later worked for an advertising agency in London, producing storyboards for television commercials for products including Lucozade and Collier’s suits, before her marriage to Richard Edwards, who worked for BP. She moved to Iraq with him, where she continued to draw and paint. Their only child, Francesca was born in Baghdad. The family later spent time in Iran and Kuwait, where she also painted and exhibited her work. They returned to Britain in 1969 and settled in Haslemere, Surrey.

After painting in oils for many years, she changed to water colours, later experimenting with adding inks and pastel to the water colours, before moving on to acrylics and collage, while using oils for smaller paintings and portraits. The Atkinson Arts Centre in Southport has several of her works in its collection. There are also private collections of her work in Australia, America, Italy, Kuwait and Mallorca.

I met Greta on several occasions, as she attended many events relating to “Dan Dare” and EAGLE. I first met her briefly when she was a guest at Eaglecon ’80 in London – the first event organised by fans to celebrate EAGLE. A decade later in 1990, she attended the official opening of the Dan Dare Exhibition which was held in the Atkinson Arts Centre in Southport, when I was able to chat to her at some length and found her approachable and eager to talk about the early days of “Dan Dare”. Also in 1990, she unveiled a plaque on the wall of the Old Bakehouse in Churchtown, where it all began.

Greta in 1990, at the unveiling of the Commemorative Plaque at the Old Bakehouse in Churchtown. Photo by Mike Burrows, used here with his kind permission
Greta in 1990, at the unveiling of the Commemorative Plaque at the Old Bakehouse in Churchtown. Photo by Mike Burrows, used here with his kind permission
A 40th anniversary EAGLE souvenir brochure, signed by Greta Tomlinson. Via Richard Sheaf
A 40th anniversary EAGLE souvenir brochure, signed by Greta Tomlinson. Via Richard Sheaf

I met her again at Southport in 2000, when she attended the unveiling of a Dan Dare bust at the entrance to the Cambridge Arcade on Lord Street and also the EAGLE Society Gathering which was held that weekend. Once again, she was most happy to talk to fans.

The Dan Dare sculpture unveiling in Southport in 2000. From the left: The Deputy Mayor of Sefton Council, Robert Brennan, Don Harley, Kate, Peter Hampson, Sally, Margaret Jackson (Frank Hampson’s sister) Jan, Greta Edwards (nee Tomlinson), Chad Varah and Derek Lord. Photo courtesy David Britton
The Dan Dare sculpture unveiling in Southport in 2000. From the left: The Deputy Mayor of Sefton Council, Robert Brennan, Don Harley, Kate, Peter Hampson, Sally, Margaret Jackson (Frank Hampson’s sister) Jan, Greta Edwards (nee Tomlinson), Chad Varah and Derek Lord. Photo courtesy David Britton

Finally, I met her again two years later at a special event held at Bristol’s City Museum and Art Gallery’s Dan Dare Exhibition, which she attended with Don Harley and we spoke at some length about her work on “Dan Dare” and her own artistic techniques. That same year, with two other former “Dan Dare” artists, Don Harley and Keith Watson, she showed EAGLE Society members around Bayford Lodge in Epsom, where the “Dan Dare” team were based after leaving Churchtown.

Greta Edwards. Photo: British Interplanetary Society
Greta at the ”Yesterday’s Tomorrows” event at the British Interplanetary Society in 2015. Photo: British Interplanetary Society

Greta was also happy to answer questions and contribute memories of working in Frank Hampson’s studio to articles for EAGLE Times, television programmes and to several books, including Tomorrow Revisited by Alastair Crompton, Living With Eagles by Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood and Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future – A Biography by Daniel Tatarsky.

Her fondness for her time on the early EAGLE is apparent from her appearance in a 1990 television programme Future Perfect, when she was shown revisiting the Old Bakehouse. After recalling happy memories of her time working there with Frank and the rest of the team, she was suddenly overcome with emotion at the experience and asked the director to cut.

She will be greatly missed by her family, friends and her many fans.

Steve Winders

Greta Edwards (nee Tomlinson), born 1927, died 4th September 2021. Our sympathies to Greta’s family at this time

“A remarkable person with an indomitable spirit” – artist Andrew Skilleter pays tribute to “Dan Dare” artist Greta Edwards (nee Tomlinson)

Greta Tomlinson’s official web site remains online at www.gretatomlinson.co.uk

Other articles mentioning Greta Tomlinson on downthetubes

The Lost Characters of Frank Hampson: Photo Referencing

With thanks to the EAGLE Society for informing us of Greta’s passing

Dan Dare and EAGLE copyright Dan Dare Corporation

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.



Categories: Art and Illustration, British Comics, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Obituaries, Other Worlds

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