This series of articles by Jeremy Briggs covers the dummy comics that were created through the years as potential ‘modern’ versions of the original Eagle comic from the 1950s and 1960s, none of which ever made it to newsagents’ shelves. Lost Eagle and Lighting from the 1970s are here and the story moves into the 1980s with Terra Nova.
A third weekly comic concept for which some copies of the dummy do still exist was Terra Nova.
Conceived and edited by Gerald O’Donnell, who had previously worked as a writer for DC Thomson, the 32 page “Zero Edition” of Terra Nova is not dated itself but its interior articles give dates of future Boy’s Brigade events, war gaming events and a NASA space shuttle launch that are between May and October 1983, so early to mid-1983 seems to be a reasonable assumption for its publication date.
Unlike the two comics covered so far, this was an independent publication and so it did not have the financial security that a major publisher could provide.
The front cover of Terra Nova featured a futuristic strip called “Ocean Interpol“. This was originally created by Eagle editor Derek Lord as a police procedural for the Daily Express with the initial storylines being plotted by Lord, Dan Lloyd and Derek Dempster in late 1975 and the daily strip, with art by for Jinty and Tammy artist Bob Harvey, appeared in the paper for several months in early 1976.
Whilst all but forgotten now it did manage a mention in the House of Lords by the Express reading Earl of Kimberley on 15 June 1976. This original black and white version of “Ocean Interpol” was reprinted in two issues of the Norwegian comic magazine Agent X9 published by Semic/Nordisk Forlag in 1980.
However the Terra Nova version of “Ocean Interpol” was more futuristic, with an OI submersible hydrofoil capturing a sick whale which is then airlifted by helicarrier to an OI base to allow it to be cared for just before the hydrofoil is attacked by forces unknown. With three pages of art by Commando artist Keith Page, all appearing to have be produced in colour, only the cover was printed in colour while the internal second and third pages were printed in black and white.
Also inside the comic, Spaceship Away’s Eric MacKenzie was the artist on the short black and white humour strip “Long John Cyborg: Pirate Of The Future!”, while Geoff Harold was the artist on 2 pages of black and white “Private Investigator Ronald Square”. which began as a typical PI story and ended with the appearance of monsters.
Editor O’Donnell wrote and Michael Jupp, now best known as an illustrator of humorous jigsaws, illustrated three pages of “Hub Ub”, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek space opera about a sleeper ship run by robots, which like “Ocean Interpol” appeared to have been produced in colour but only one page of which was printed in colour.
The colour centre spread by Keith Page told the true story of the Boer War battle “The Defence Of Rorke’s Drift”, in a feature labelled “Time-Search”, while “Lavender Valley” was a three-page black and white modern day story of revenge set in inner city housing estates with art by Marvel UK Transformers’ artist Geoff Senior.
“Warriors Of The Rainbow”, with art by Garth’s Martin Asbury, was set in the old west with group of Apache children pitted against the might of the US Army whilst the dummy issue concluded with a tale of rebellion set on Earth in the far future entitled “The Empire Must Die” with art by Keith Luck, whose work had previously appeared in Denis Gifford’s Ally Sloper magazine. Both these last two strips were three pages long and again, while apparently created in colour, were printed as one page in colour and two in black and white.
In addition to these strips Terra Nova had features on the aforementioned Boy’s Brigade, war gaming and space shuttle as well as an Opinion page on fox-hunting, book and music reviews, factual pieces on astronomers, conservation, sport and two black and white pin-up type pages featuring Keith Page’s science fiction artwork of a Galaxy Patrolman and two alien robots that could be ordered as posters or T-shirts.
It was published by Eco Publishing (Alec UK Ltd) of Faversham, Kent, origination by The Colour Assembly Ltd, London, and printed by Riverside Press Ltd, Whitstable, Kent.
Like Lost Eagle and Lightning before it, nothing came of Terra Nova but some five years later its cover strip, “Ocean Interpol”, would rise from the depths yet again.
REPLACING EAGLE – READ THE SERIES
• Martin Asbury – martinasbury.com
• Michael Jupp – Interview on Jigsaw Junkies
• Keith Page – keithpageukcomicsartist.blogspot.co.uk
• Geoff Senior – geoffsenior.com
News, reviews, interviews and features for print and on-line: Spaceship Away (since October 2005), Bear Alley (since February 2007), downthetubes (since June 2007), and Eagle Times (since October 2008). Plus DC Thomson’s The Art Of Ian Kennedy, Titan’s Dan Dare and Johnny Red reprints, Ilex’s War Comics: A Graphic History and 500 Essential Graphic Novels, and Print Media’s The Iron Moon and Strip magazine.