Latest Eagle Times explores Gerry Anderson links with Eagle, 1940s “graphic novels” from DC Thomson

The latest edition of Eagle Times, the magazine of the Eagle Society is out now, another cracking issue spotlighting Frank Bellamy’s “Montgomery of Alamein” strip for the title, and an item on the links between TV Century 21, regarded by many as the successor to Eagle in terms of its creative roll call.

Also in this issue, Steve Winders takes a closer look at Eagle’s first adaptation of Bible stories, “The Great Adventurer” about St. Paul, written by Chad Varah with art initially provided by Frank Hampson’s studio, followed by Norman Williams.

Steve delivers another great article on these tales, revealing just how much research went into striving for period accuracy from the creative team.

(As an aside, it remains to me a great shame that Titan Books, in my view, totally mishandled its approach to the marketing its initial collection of Eagle “Classic Bible Stories” back in 2010, inexplicably balking at my suggestions as range editor to target specialist religious book retailers – and, indeed, I felt, running from any notion of making the most of the potential series Christian church connections. Sadly, sales of its release of the first book in the series, collecting Frank Hampson’s critically-acclaimed and in many ways humanist “Road of Courage”, the life story of Jesus, and “Mark, The Youngest Disciple”, drawn by Giorgio Bellavitis, proved disappointing. As a result, a second collection, that would have included “The Shepherd King” (written by Clifford Makins and drawn by Frank Bellamy) and “The Great Adventurer” was abandoned).

DC Thomson’s Told in Pictures adaptations of classic novels

Another highlight of the issue is Jeremy Briggs’ excellent feature on DC Thomson‘s Told in Pictures adaptations of classic novels, collecting stories first published in the Dundee-based company’s The People’s Journal, drawn by Beano stalwart Dudley Watkins.

Released in the late 1940s, it could be argued the collections are an early take on what we’d now call “graphic novels”, the format albeit more text led than that readers would probably accept today.

“This is an article that was well over a year in the making,” says Jeremy, “as the Watkins’ books are rare and valuable, especially with anything like a reasonable condition dustjacket, and the information on them in the UK’s legal deposit libraries is both incomplete and somewhat contradictory.

“Writing for The Art Of Ian Kennedy book gave me access to DC Thomson’s archivist who was a great help even though DCT’s records on the books are also incomplete.

“Many collectors helped me out on this one as we tried to ensure that the information in the article was as definitive as possible.”

Jeremy, like many others, also wonders why such classics have not been reprinted, like much other material from the DC Thomson archives. A continuing mystery, given that recent, well-received attempts to resurrect classic DC Thomson characters and titles seem also to have been stymied – and some would argue, sabotaged – by forces unknown.

While the bulk of Eagle Times remains focused on the original Eagle, with features that also include an item on design work unearthed that created in the development of Dan Dare (“Frank Hampson’s Studio Notes”), and a look at how the “Indian Wars” were presented in “Riders of the Range”. But the growing non-Eagle related content, presented with a care and attention sadly lacking from some publications devoted to the history of British comics, which is much appreciated.

With its engaging mix of features and reviews, and fiction from Steve Winders, perhaps the only thing lacking from the magazine’s mix are interviews with comic creators. Perhaps the team are already considering adding such a strand, perhaps with surviving creators inspired by Eagle, but in the mean time, this issue of Eagle Times again delivers a great mix of material.

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