Thursday, 22 December 2016

Back with the Eagle in the 1950s

Now if you were born sometime between the early 1940s and the mid ‘50s, the chances are you were a fan of the Eagle comic.

It is a topic I keep coming back to and the reason is that back then it amounted to the best of British comics.

Its appeal crossed class lines as well gender and if my father was anything to go by attracted an older generation as well.

It came out each week and like other comics of the period had its own Christmas annual which was supplemented by books on some of the other leading characters.

But for me the Eagle Annual which first appeared in December 1950 was a must under the tree and it kept me going through the year, because here as well as comic strips were extended stories articles on sport , history science  and nature.

In between there were practical information on how to make a Kite-released parachute, sending secret messages using invisible ink and making your own printing set.

Never being particularly practical most of these DIY projects rated little more than a second glance.

For me it was the sections dealing with history and the stories which drew me in.

And of the stories it was Dan Dare Pilot of the Future who always was my first choice.

At this point I have to say this is no nostalgic trip. Instead is an exploration of how a popular comic managed at the same to introduce a whole pile of educational information which never led you to think you were back at school.

Nor were the books or comics aimed at the middle class, for there was enough here for any lad like me whose highest aspirations seemed to be a secondary modern school and a future mapped out in one of any one of a number of practical occupations.

The activities were all rooted in things any nine year could do and the stories were  in a world I understood.

And when they were based in space the Wild West or North Africa they were believable.

What is more the science of the future was our everyday life just a little different.

So Dan Dare’s spaceship used dial and buttons and levers, the command structure of Space Fleet including the uniforms which  mimicked the armed forces and of course many of the expressions used were rooted in the language of the 1950s.

None of which should surprise us but allowed every nine year old to feel that this imaginary world was not so far off from their own everyday life.

Of course the Eagle was ruthless in its use of its name which was marketed for all sorts of types and products, but again there is nothing new there.

So that said I shall this evening retreat into that world of the Eagle Annual leaving the cares of the 21st century behind.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Eagle,

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