On 14 April 1950 a new British Comic landed in newsagents across Britain that contained in full colour, illustrations of Space Ships of Alien life forms and took readers to other worlds, all beautifully illustrated by the artist Frank Hampson. It was called Eagle.
Hampson’s creation of Colonel Dan Dare gripped imaginations and turned thousands of children into becoming future Spaceman, later known as Astronauts. Dan Dare was based upon those great RAF Pilots of World War Two and was shown as being heroic in every sense of the word.
Each week, there was another thrilling episode to take readers into the unknown, land of the Moon and even more distant planets like Mars and Venus.
Dan Dare was called the Pilot of the Future. His crew were the equivalent of today’s NASA: the Interplanetary Space Fleet made sure each flight was meticulously researched. Like the crew of Apollo 11, with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin, Dan Dare had Albert Digby, Sir Hubert Guest and Professor Jocelyn Peabody just to mention a few.
In the Eagle it was not all about future fantasy, but a comic strip which took into account the latest known to science and engineering with the middle pages containing some wonderful cut-away drawings to show everyone how things worked. It was this brilliant work of Frank Hampson and his team at Eagle that did change the world for millions of its readers and made it the best selling comic ever in the UK.
The U.S catches on
10 years after the Eagle had been launched in the UK in America, new readers and TV audiences were being thrilled by the equivalent of Colonel Dan Dare with the new Space adventurer Captain James Kirk of the Enterprise and his crew including the science officer Spock.
Some of the voyages featured in Star Trek have clear similarities with the adventures of Dan Dare, not missed by Gene Roddenberry and his team.
But Dan Dare and his adventures in Space and meeting other life forms was also the inspiration for those in Hollywood. The monster that comes out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien has parallels with the Mekon and his Treens from the planet Venus. Ridley Scott remains a fan of the Eagle and Dan Dare. In his Alien films, Space Ships and Interplanetary travel are common sights.
Today the Business leader Sir Richard Branson, an enthusiast of Dan Dare and the Eagle, continues his quest to send people into Space, as he pushes both himself and his resources to reach the stars. Sir Elton John also was an enthusiast of Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future.
In the Eagle can also be found a craft in deep space, similar to what George Lucas used in his Star Wars films. Frank Hampson’s comic inspired other visionary’s to follow, to boldly go where no-one has gone before. In the Eagle there was a machine called a “Telesender” which could transport and people from one location to another.
The Eagle has landed
Frank Hampson was probably one of the most distinguished and gifted artists of his time to bring Other Worlds and Aliens to every day young people in Britain, inspiring children to wish to become Spacemen. One has just to see the countless letters of praise that arrived each week at Eagle HQ, from those young fans.
The late Professor Stephen Hawking when asked the question about Dan Dare replied “Why am I in the study of Cosmology” Other famous people like Prince Charles, Michel Palin have and will no doubt always remain fans of Dan Dare and his exploits.
Apollo Lunar Module Eagle landed on the Moon on 20 July 1969; the publication of Eagle comic landed 19 years earlier, on 14 April 1950.
Featured image credit: Bronze bust of Dan Dare, situated on the corner of Lord Street and Cambridge Arcade in Southport. Peter Hodge / Commons.