Eagle Daze: Perhaps an Even Happier Warrior!

The Happy Warrior Cover

Being stuck out here in a hot and steamy Far Eastern environment (with the effects of the El Niño tropical atrocity to boot) and surrounded on virtually all sides (well, two actually) by rice fields, I had been twiddling my thumbs when it came to my notice that the famous Eagle strip, the Frank Bellamy / Clifford Makins’ showpiece entitled The Happy Warrior – The Life Story of Winston Churchill had been featured in the spring issue (2015) of Eagle Times.

This happened by way of a coincidence, for through the eagle-eyed endeavours of David Slinn (and please note that no pun is intended) – who as a fledgling illustrator had worked for several years on all four of the Reverend Marcus Morris’s ground-breaking magazines even before I had come onto the scene – something was brought to my notice that I really ought to have known about, when one considers that I had been employed on the said magazine Eagle et al for six years… all but a couple of months I should quickly add.

I shall tell this story by way of emails that had been flowing between David (who lives on the South Coast of England) and me (amongst the rice fields that are now gradually being replaced by a kaleidoscopic array of empty brandy, vodka and gin bottles)!

David Slinn to Roger Perry – Monday, 15th December 2014

There’s a current kerfuffle over the leather-bound copy of The Happy Warrior that was presented to Sir Winston Churchill. It’s coming up for auction at Sotheby’s this Wednesday with a guide price of £500 – £900. This is a solitary lot in Mary Soames’ rather vast Estate; and somewhat different to the circumstances of Denis Gifford’s treasure trove.

Dear Reader, I need to interject a note here. Due to a family crisis occurring over the New Year, David’s letter not only remained unanswered but his surprising news just hadn’t registered. So in February, he wrote again.

David Slinn to Roger Perry – Tuesday, 10th February 2015

On 15th December 2014, I remarked upon the leather-bound volume – The Happy Warrior – presented to Sir Winston Churchill that was to be auctioned at Sotheby’s as part of the Mary Soames estate. You might recall that the item had an expected guide price of £500 – £900 but, on the day itself, someone had coughed up an astonishing £3,750 for this, admittedly, unique artefact.

As you’re possibly aware, there were three of these specially bound copies – the other two having been presented to Frank Bellamy and Clifford Makins. It was known that Frank’s copy had been sold by his widow, Nancy, a while back – and that following the Sotheby’s sale, the whereabouts of the remaining volume has caused a little flutter of speculation.

In your first-hand account of the events that had taken place on Tuesday, 5th September 1961, you recalled that Clifford Makins avoided the major confrontation and quietly – although in some haste – had slipped away unnoticed. In his anxiety to escape the environs of Hulton House, his copy of The Happy Warrior had presumably remained in the bookcase of the inner-sanctum of the Editor-in-Chief’s office. Now – five decades on – this particular volume has emerged on eBay and the current possessor is looking for bids over and above £500… not that surprising in view of the unexpected valuation?

The seller turns out to be none other than Melanie, the daughter of Alf Wallace who is now in his ninety-first year. Along with his other acquisitions secured over time – original artwork? – he presumably had added Clifford’s memento to his accumulated haul. However, you’ll possibly be amused to learn, that up to this moment of writing, not a single bid has been registered.

 

The Happy Warrior - Frontispiece

 

Roger Perry to David Slinn – Tuesday, 17th February 2015

David, although you have spoken about these leather-bound volumes of The Happy Warrior, I’m not at all sure that I had ever heard of them before – at least, not prior to receiving your December email. Sadly, my thoughts at that time had been diverted elsewhere and your stunning news had not fully registered. I will have to say that if Wallace did take Clifford Makins’ copy, then I really cannot blame him. Presumably this unique treasure was lying there unwanted and unloved for all the time that Val Holding had been holed up in that office. And this artefact was also there when Wallace had not only taken over from Holding but it was still there after the move from the Hulton House Annex and over to 96 Long Acre . It really should have been returned to Clifford Makins who wrote the original script… but then, it would appear that Makins hadn’t been interested enough (or had enough balls) to call in so that he might retrieve it.

And what would have happened to it in 1969 when Eagle et al had been evicted from 96 Long Acre… someone else, I dare say, would have half-inched it… I know that I would have done had I known about it..

The question I am prompted to ask is this. The Happy Warrior was, I believe, reproduced on Eagle’s centre spread – presumably on pages 12 and 13 of each issue. Were these pages just taken from each issue concerned and if so, how were the backing pages of 11 and 14 covered up… or weren’t they? Perhaps the whole of each issue had been bound up, and the reader then had to search through the whole magazine to come across the relevant pages in order that the reading of the story could continue. Or were the relevant spreads somehow printed onto thicker paper to help bulk up the book? In passing, you have brought up the subject of Alf Wallace – I am surprised as I had been under the impression that he’d gone to that Great Big Publishing House in the sky a good long time ago.

David Slinn to Roger Perry – Thursday, 19th February 2015

While the three red leather-bound presentation volumes were themselves, unique – due to a couple of misapprehensions, the difficulties you envisaged hampering the collation of the published weekly episodes, never occurred.

  1. Frank Bellamy’s The Happy Warrior originally appeared on Eagle’s back-page;
  2. Having previously, in 1955, successfully reprinted the real-life feature, drawn by Norman Williams, The Baden Powell Story; Winston Churchill’s life story – attracting a somewhat wider readership’s attention and approval – presented an even better commercial proposition to the Hulton Press management.

The 48 episodes provided convenient signatures of the colour pages [although this meant Frank’s impressive final full-page portrait wasn’t included], with a further 8 black & white pages of editorial and photographs. Presumably, during preparation stages at Bemrose – I’d imagine, while the customary colour proofing was in operation? – a limited print run was completed on specially selected stock. So, you’ll see, although the presentation volumes were certainly bespoke in terms of finish and binding, the necessary colour-separations, rotary-printing cylinders, production overheads, etc. would have formed part of the scheduled publication of the title under the Eagle Books imprint – thus absorbing the costs involved.

You’ll understand the print technicalities rather better than me, but trust that’s a practical explanation. It’s possibly open to error alas having never examined an actual copy of the book itself at the time. This edition of The Happy Warrior formed part of a promotional window display as 161-166 Fleet Street – in hindsight, it would have been worth all of the six shilling cover price just to chat with the attractive female in Hulton House reception – this having been before the ground floor was sub-let as a Golden Egg outlet. While sharing your natural acceptance that Alf Wallace was just the lucky recipient of the abandoned tome – regardless of Clifford Makins’ unfortunate hurried departure – it’s rather significant that amongst the incoming editorial staff nobody had enough knowledge of Eagle’s past history to realize what it was… and ensure this personal memento had got back to him.

 

The Happy Warrior - Strip Pages

Roger Perry to David Slinn – Tuesday, 24th February 2015

Apropos the leather-bound, The Happy Warrior, presentation copies: while working at Century 21 and again at “Hamlyn Books”, on top of everything else that I was doing, every now and again, repro-house proofs would come in whereby I would have to cast an eye over them to see that everything was in their right places and to make any corrections that might be necessary. These proofs were supplied on much thicker, sturdier paper. I would imagine that Bemrose would have had their own production departments that checked these repro proofs before committing the films to the enormously expensive rotogravure cylinders.

As I say, these proofs were usually produced on good quality and substantially heavier proofing paper – and usually, something in the order of twenty sets would be run off so that the various departments involved could check all that was going on. Although the work was destined to be printed by rotogravure, it would be logical – and by far cheaper at this proofing stage – to produce the colour proofs on the web-offset machinery.

It occurs to me now that three (if not more) could well have been placed on one side in readiness for making into this red leather-bound volumes you have spoken about… and although these proofs would normally have been printed on just one side of the sheet only, if Bemrose had been forewarned of what the ultimate goal was and had planned ahead accordingly, then it wouldn’t have been impossible to organise it so that at the proofing stage, these pages would run consecutively with those few copies needed being printed back to back..

Roger Perry to David Slinn – Monday, 13th July 2015

David, perhaps you are beginning to realise that I am not one for browsing the internet However, it did come to my notice that a certain article has been spoken of in the spring issue of Eagle Times – this now having been three months ago.

You and I discussed this earlier this year when you informed me that the third (and missing) bound copy was being offered for sale by a descendant of Alf Wallace.

David Slinn to Roger Perry – Tuesday, 14th July 2015

The item you refer to – from the contents listing of Eagle Times (Volume 28 No 1) – isn’t directly connected with these presentation volumes. Although (for reasons we’ve previously covered), not having actually seen the article, it’s almost certainly concerned with the reprinted versionpreviously published in the USA – accompanied by an academic commentary on this treatment of Churchill’s life and an introduction covering Eagle’s own story. The latter, word has it, suffers from a lack of knowledge and understanding of both the magazine’s development and content – a deficiency that sadly has its roots in a situation I’m not absolutely sure you’ll be totally au fait with?

However, Roger, what is maybe pertinent at the moment: is the extraordinary coincidence that the leather-bound presentation copy of The Happy Warrior that Clifford Makins abandoned in the midst of his flight from Hulton House, on Tuesday, 5th September 1961, is in fact due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s this very day. As far as it can be ascertained, it’s being sold presumably on behalf of the still surviving Alf Wallace by his daughter, Melanie – though, these details are relevant to the previous (but, strangely unsuccessful) attempt to sell it on eBay. Anyway, I trust that helps set your mind at rest for the moment – though, it does provide the opportunity to make a subtle reference to this link between the two incidents?

The Happy Warrior - Strip PagesDavid Slinn to Roger Perry – Thursday, 16th July 2015

On the Sotheby’s auction itself, I’ve managed to locate yesterday’s results. Lot 34: Churchill letter to Robert Boothby; (Est 5,000 – 7,000) – £6,250. Lot 35: Churchill – ‘Thoughts and Adventures’, First Edition, inscribed to Robert Boothby (2 vol); (Est 2,000 –3,000) – £2,000. Lot 36: Clifford Makins –‘The Happy Warrior’; (Est 1,500 – 2,000) – Not Sold. Lot 39: Darwin – ‘The Descent of Man’ 1871; (Est 20,000 – 30,000) – £112,500. Bearing in mind that, assuming no-one had ever written in either copy, you’d have thought a collector somewhere would have seized the opportunity not to have to shell-out £3,750 for what is still a unique artefact.

Roger Perry to David Slinn – Thursday, 16th July 2015

Hi David – just a real quickie… I’m burning the mid-night-plus oil tonight… it’s 1:24 a.m. and my manic desire to work through the night is not due to any insomnia or feverish excitement on my part, but more so that we are due to have a power outage tomorrow morning starting at 7:00 and I hope with some luck that I can sleep through most of it. No cooling electric fans and all that jazz.

The results at Sotheby’s were surprising. There was, I presume, no chance of a picture.

David Slinn to Roger Perry – Thursday, 16th July 2015

A nicely timed response. In the hope you’re still awake and working… here’s a glimpse of the volume itself and the Frank Bellamy strip you’ve, presumably, never seen.

Roger Perry to David Slinn – Thursday, 16th July 2015

David, although repeating what I had said in my email of February 24th, these pages must have been extracted from the specially run-off proofing sheets. Now that I have seen detailed pages of these unique artefacts, I now believe that a second page of the Churchill story was proofed up at the same time. The clue being that there is no heading that would normally been at the head of each page, no running strap-line above the artwork that would not only show the magazine’s name but also the date of publication (which under normal circumstances would have been there). There is no folio (page number) as such underneath the art, and instead, inside the panels of yellow, the relevant page number has been inserted to replace the “To Be Continued” strap-line. Although there was some extra work put into producing these unique artefacts, with careful planning, it could have been kept to a minimum and quite simple.

 

The Happy Warrior - Comparison Spread

David Slinn to Roger Perry – Thursday, 16th July 2015

What’s particularly significant about the fact that we’re discussing this now, is that it would almost certainly have been Michael Gibson who had been responsible for the editorial production of both the retail book and these three leather-bound presentation copies. Rather neatly, completing another circle.

Roger Perry – The Philippines

David Slinn – Southern England

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• You can read Roger Perry’s full biography here on Bear Alley

 

Our thanks to David Slinn for providing imagery and information in the creation of this feature



Categories: British Comics - Collections, Comic Genres, Comics By Country, Creating Comics, Features

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