DAN DARE – Pilot of the Future (Disembark here for EAGLE comics 1982-1985)

Eagle Cover 10 July 1982. Art confirmed by @IanKennedyArt1 as done by Ian Kennedy.

This post will take a look at a short period in the history of British comic book Eagle and one of its most famous characters Dan Dare. Eagle was founded by the Reverend Marcus Morris and was first published in 1950 to 1969. The character Dan Dare was created by Frank Hampson and made regular appearances until 1969 when Eagle, struggling by then, was merged with Lion comics, thus bringing an end to the sky heroics of ‘Pilot of the Future’ Dan Dare.

But fast forward to 1982… and a secret project team at IPC Magazines led by Barrie Tomlinson, David Hunt and Gil Page was putting together the final touches of its plans for the relaunch of Eagle and its greatest hero Dan Dare! The new format had already been decided: a shift from traditional art stories to photo-stories – a format that had proved itself a hit with pop magazines like JACKIE.

Daring to dabble

Dan Dare was to escape the new photo-story format and remain rendered as he had always been – in quality lines and ink drawn by quality artists. Not that Dan escaped change entirely! The original 1950s Dan as created by Frank Hampson was completely removed from the relaunched storyline and replaced with Dan’s Great-Great Grandson who took on the name ‘Dan Dare’ and his mantle ‘Pilot of the Future’, with adventures now being set 200 years into the future of the original storyline.

Below: Operation Eagle. From the 1983 Eagle Annual

Just some of the steps taken in relaunching a comic and one of its legends.


Not plain sailing

What began as an exciting relaunch for Eagle in 1982 quickly gave way to choppy waters. Dan Dare lost its lead artist Gerry Embleton just four months into the relaunch. The following year in 1983 the title made the transition from the photo-stories back to traditional comic art. This was followed by the change to a new size format and cheaper newsprint – and all against the background of the 1980s British printer’s strikes when Eagle saw the mergers of fellow IPC comics Scream! which integrated into Eagle in 1984, and then Tiger which merged with Eagle in 1985. 

The creative team for the Dan Dare strips during this topsy-turvy ’82 – ’85 period included the writers Pat Mills and John Wagner, with intial artwork coming from Gerry Embelton and Oliver Frey (Frey also did the work on the ’84 and ’85 Annuals). Then came the prolific art of Ian Kennedy (announced as the new artist in the July 31 issue, 1982), and finally the art of Carlos Cruz from the period 1984/5. Writer and artist credits are seldom printed in many of the later issues I own, so if I’ve missed or miscredited anyone let me know in the comments.

Final flight

Although I’m only covering the period ’82 – ’85, it’s worth concluding the history of that relaunch to say that Eagle, and all of its fellow IPC comic titles, was eventually purchased by the publisher Robert Maxwell in 1987. Five-hundred issues of this later Eagle were published until dwindling sales forced a change from weekly release to monthly. Later issues contained reprints – although new Dan Dare stories did appear written by Tom Tully and drawn by David Pugh. Eagle flew on for a while longer up to 1994 when it, and its famous pilot Dan Dare, once again disappeared from the sky.

Onto the images then. 1982 – 1985. And what a treat! TVTA is pleased to present a stellar selection of artwork and covers related to this exciting relaunch period for Eagle and Dan Dare!

Enjoy.

Dan Dare and the Return of the Mekon by Wagner / Mills /Embleton. Eagle 10 July 1982.

Dan Dare and the Return of the Mekon by Wagner / Mills/ Frey. Eagle 17 July 1982.

Dan Dare and the Return of the Mekon by Mills / Wagner / Kennedy. Eagle 31 July 1982.

Page mixing traditional comic art with model photography. Mills / Kennedy / models by J. Baum. Eagle 28 May 1983.


Cover artwork 1982 – 1985


Title mergers

Eagle and Scream!, 1984

Eagle and Scream! 9 Feb 151 1985.

The stories ‘Monster’ and ‘The Thirteenth Floor’ from SCREAM! merger announcements with Eagle. 25 Aug 1984.

Eagle and Tiger, 1985

Eagle and Tiger. 14 Sept 1985 182.


Eagle Annual 1983


Dan Dare print advert. Eagle. 1983.


TVTA Fun Bonus!

While going through the dozens of Eagle issues I own from this period, I managed to put togther the four-part double-page series ‘Doomlord’s Alien Datafile Poster’

Pheww!! What a monster when all put togther…

Doomlord’s Alien Datafile. Four-part double-page poster collection in Eagle comic, 1985.

And lastly…

A Mekon and Treen target simulator to use with the free potato gun as given away in the September 24 issue of EAGLE, 1983, ‘Mash Up The Mekon’

Space Fleet Target Simulator. Eagle 24 Sept 1983.


That’s all folks. Thank you for flying into the future with us 🙂


Resources: 1983 Eagle Annual, Fleetway. Various Eagle comics, IPC, 1982 – 1985. Wikipedia entries for Eagle and Dan Dare. Images copyright belong to the current owners of Eagle and Dan Dare and are used here for information purposes. Image scans made by TVTA from personal comic collection.

Further reading: excellent Dan Dare article from Down The Tubes

17 thoughts on “DAN DARE – Pilot of the Future (Disembark here for EAGLE comics 1982-1985)

  1. Smashing. As you know, I recently suggested it was time the 1980s Dan Dare was collected. I previously edited some of the collections and I’ve been told Titan Comics management have expressed a desire to reprint all the stories published professionally, so at some point. With the publication of “The Evil One” later this month (24th September), that leaves just 11 Dan Dare stories from the original Eagle to reprint – perhaps three or four collections. So, long term, we are hopefully on course to see the 1980s Eagle in print in perhaps three years time, at the current rate of publication. That may seem like an age, but we’ve waited this long…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi John, that’s good news. It was your post on the possible reprinting of the later Eagle issuse that finally helped move me to scan my back issues – something I’d been meaning to do for a long while but kept putting off due to the amount of work involved. So thanks, and thanks too for the links in your newest DD post – fingers crossed it keeps moving in the right direction!
      To me, one thing that has become cemented now after scanning dozens of pages from 1980s Eagle is just how outstanding an artist Ian Kennedy is! Some of those covers of his are just breathtaking.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: 1980s “Dan Dare” Reprints – A Quick Update – downthetubes.net

  3. I used to love this back when I was 8… Maybe all these years later my memory is wrong- but wasn’t there a story line where Dan has to steal the ‘Firefly’ ? Sounds a bit Eastwood, I know but this has been a memory I have had for years and can’t find anything online

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think you are correct. There was certainly an 80s Dan Dare story that involved a ship called Firefly. I don’t recall the detail of the plot although Firefly might have been the experimental ship Dan and friends stole and flew from London to the Grand Canyon base. My own collection is long gone, but you have triggered a memory!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Brilliant it triggered a memory! My aim is to digitally archive as many vintage comic covers and advertising as I can within my means – a drop in the ocean when you consider the wealth of material published.
        I read some Dan Dare when younger, and am really impressed by the quality of it while picking it back up as an adult.

        Like

  4. Thank you for this page. I used to read the 80s Eagle avidly, despite the difficulties in obtaining copies that we experienced from time to time in Tasmania. A couple of time I wrote to the London publishers and was able to obtain back copies that had never made it to Australia. The 31 July 1982 edition is one I have never seen before, so while my own collection is a long lost memory, it was great to be able to fill in that gap in Dan Dare’s story at last. Ian Kennedy’s fantastic art was a highlight of my early teens. Great to see a ‘new’ part of his work after all this time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are most welcome! That’s so cool you managed to obtain back copies by writing to the publishers. Back then I think a lot more customer care was involved. It’s a bit like Kenner toys who had a fantastic reputation for responding to customers with spare parts and replacements for their toys.
      Yes, Ian Kennedy’s art is something to behold! Great he’s still working and has people promoting his art. Thanks for stopping by and commenting 🙂

      Like

Reply to this blog post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.