After the recent discovery of a forgotten Dan Dare stage play that ran in London’s Half Moon Theatre in 1972, covered in Spaceship Away issue 42 and here on downthetubes , comes the realisation that there was another play featuring a different character from the original Eagle comic.
The comic strip ‘Luck Of The Legion’ began in colour in the bottom half of the centrespread of Eagle in 1952 and ran to 1961. The series, which featured British Sergeant “Tough” Luck of the French Foreign Legion, was written by Geoffrey Bond and illustrated by Martin Aitchison. The strip didn’t just prove popular in the comic, it featured in the Eagle annuals, made appearances in the ABC Film Review magazine Children’s Section, and was also spun off into six novels also written by Bond. However was also another ‘Luck of The Legion’ spin-off in the early 1950s that has all but been forgotten about – a script for a short play also written by Bond.
The editorial of Eagle Volume 4 No 30, dated 30 October 1953, which is signed by the comic’s creator and editor Marcus Morris, describes how (allegedly) Morris would be looking for a play to put on in school or for family in the run-up to Christmas when he was 11 or 12, which would have been 1926-1927. When he mentioned this to Geoffrey Bond, Bond had decided to write a ‘Luck Of The Legion’ playlet entitled Selem Raschid’s Return. The script featured the strip’s three main characters, Sergeant Luck, Corporal Trenet and Legionnaire Bimberg plus, the villain of the piece, Selem Raschid.
Readers were told that they could obtain a copy of the playlet by sending off a sixpence postal order and a large stamped addressed envelope to Eagle Reader Services which was in Liverpool rather than at the editorial address in London. Interestingly they were also advised that, as the script had been produced as cheaply as possible, Eagle were making no profit on it.
Whilst nothing could have come of this given that only a small percentage of the readership would actually have sent off for the script, and that there was no guarantee that any of them would go on to actually stage the playlet, there is another reference to it in a later issue. In Eagle Volume 5 No 7 dated 12 February 1954, reader Michael Nunn of Pudsey had his letter printed saying that he and his friends had performed the play at their Sunday School on New Year’s Eve 1953 which, given that Marcus Morris was an ordained Anglican minister, seems very appropriate.
The obvious source of further information on Selem Raschid’s Return is the Eagle Society’s Eagle Times, now in its 30th year of publication and by far the United Kingdom’s longest running comics fanzine, and fortunately it has covered it.
The entire script was reprinted in ET Volume 9 Issue 3 dated Autumn 1996 from a copy given to the society by Geoffrey Bond himself, which just goes to show how rare original copies of it must be even amongst the most dedicated Eagle fans. It was given an airing at that year’s Eagle Society Dinner event when there was a reading of it which featured, amongst others, downthetubes and Boys Adventure Comics blog’s own Richard Sheaf.
Searches for the original script of the 1972 Dan Dare: A Space Adventure with the author, the theatre, and even the Royal Holloway University of London, who hold the theatre’s archives from that period, have proved fruitless, so it is therefore good to know that, even if it is in a twenty year old member’s-only fanzine, the 1953 Eagle comic playlet script for Luck Of The Legion: Selem Raschid’s Return has not been lost to the passing of time.
You can read both ‘Luck Of The Legion’ appearances in the ABC Film Review magazine on the Boys Adventure Comics blog.
Eagle Times is published four times a year and is available via membership of the Eagle Society. Details of society membership are available on the Eagle Times blog.
With thanks to Ray Carnes and Richard Sheaf