Category Archives: Film & TV

Eagle Comic (4)

In Eagle Comic, the sponsored stories and advertisers’ contributions were  always very interesting.  Walls Ice Cream had their ordinary run-of-the-mill  adverts:

But they also had “Tommy Walls- the Wonder Boy”. The first stirrings of product placement. The perfect planting of a brand name in young, impressionable minds. I think that lots of the young readers actually thought that this story was part of the comic itself. I know I did:

The first picture says “NEW JET LINER MAKES FIRST TEST TODAY”

The last one says “WHAT A WIZARD DESIGN” which is countered by “BUT LOOK

Clearly something has gone drastically wrong, but if you eat lots and lots and lots of Walls ice cream, you’ll be able to save the day:

It must take sacks and sacks of sugar consumed to have the strength to hold the wing and the fuselage of a jet airliner together as it flies to an airport and makes a normal landing. Where was Tommy Walls when the De Havilland Comet was crashing all over Europe?

Cadbury’s came a close second with their “Cadbury’s Corner Quiz”. Here’s the first question:And Question 2:And Question 3:

And the final question:

And, of course, there were the ordinary quarter page adverts. Television told our mothers not to forget the Rowntrees Fruit Gums. Only listen to this irritating tune if you have always wanted your brain reformatted :

As well as the commercial links between our mothers and Rowntrees Fruit Gums, ‘Eagle’ Comic also emphasised the point with a comic strip starring “Ronnie the Gumster” :

 

But what’s a “Gumster” ? Something you find in a Forrest? Like Forrest Gumster.

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Eagle Comic (3)

Last time we were trying very hard to get the Ovaltineys song out of our heads. I was trying to make the point that Dan Dare was not the only character in the comic:

Eagle had sporting personalities. I have even written myself about the first one ever to appear:

There was cricket coaching, and, thirty years before its time, and in a largely all white society, it was presented by a black man, Leary Constantine, a cricketer who achieved more in his life than most of  us do:

There were features about how to make models:

There were two written serials with solid text rather than just pictures. “Plot against the World” was the first ever to appear:

There was a half page about road safety. It was presented by Billy Steel, the famous Derby County footballer of the day:

During the 1950s lots and lots of children would be killed on the roads, because the drivers in England knew very little about how to drive safely and the children of England, accustomed to just a couple of cars a day going past, had very little road sense. Around 1963, a little boy in our class called Nigel Sparrow was killed by a car as he cycled along country lanes looking for bluebells for his mother. He was in hospital for two weeks or so before he passed away. We prayed for him every day in our school assembly but it was all in vain. He succumbed to his injuries and died. That was the first time I ever had any serious doubts about the religion I had been given. I think about Nigel regularly, poor little boy.

Billy Steel offered a lot of very good advice:

He offered advice a lot better than he played football for Derby County.

Years ago, I actually wrote about him, but only in the context of my Dad, Fred, who thought he was “a right twerp”:

“As regards football players, in the late 1940s, Fred was always less than impressed by Derby’s then record signing, a young man they bought as they attempted to stop their slow but inexorable slide out of the First Division. This was a handsome young forward called Billy Steel, whose dark tousled hair was, for Fred, his best, and probably only, positive feature. Fred was just unable to stomach how Steel would miss an easy chance to score a goal, and then merely laugh about it as if it were nothing important.”

Next time, the other features that made Eagle the best selling comic in English history:

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Eagle Comic (2)

Last time we looked at the appearance of a brand new comic called “Eagle”, which was an almost revolutionary step forward in the world of boys’ comics in England. The eponymous hero of the comic was space pilot Dan Dare, always combatting something or other, in this case Psycho-Rocket-Repair-Man :

Dan wasn’t the only person in the comic though. There was “Rob Conway” who seems to have been some kind of aviation detective:

Note the three aircraft, a Hawker Seahawk, an Avro Lancaster and possibly a Gloster Meteor.

There was PC 49, where ‘PC’ does not necessarily stand for “politically correct” :

And “Seth and Shorty – Cowboys”, wrangling away deep in the heart of Texas :

Seth’s grandson is probably better known to you as Dr Sheldon Cooper:

“The Great Adventurer” was a comic strip that predicted Middle East politics seventy years ahead of its time:

And there was even Captain Pugwash:

There were cutaway drawings of the latest technological marvels of the day:

And more science from Professor Brittain, now that radar wasn’t top secret any more:

“Discovering the Countryside” featured the hedgehog and an adder:

We learnt about aviation from reading “Heroes of the Clouds”:

There were the Ovaltineys, another paramilitary group I have previously written about:

They had their own little section, with a quiz about British town names:

And nobody gets out of here without a little sing-song. A song you cannot get out of your head. Go on, you know you want to:

Next time, safety, science fiction, serials, sport and Steel. And no, that last one isn’t a typo.

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“Eagle Comic” (1)

The first edition of ‘Eagle’ comic came out on April 14th 1950. It was the brainchild of Marcus Morris, a Lancashire vicar from Southport and it was illustrated by Frank Hampson who had previously worked on the vicar’s parish magazine. The Reverend Morris wanted a comic which told stories based on Christian ethics. Here’s the front cover, with the top half of the first ever Dan Dare story:

Dan Dare was the hero of this famous science fiction epic. It was perhaps a little like a cross between Flash Gordon and Star Trek. There was a villain as the equivalent of Ming the Merciless, and Dan belonged to the Interplanet Space Fleet who were a little like Captain Kirk’s United Federation of Planets. Here’s the second half of that historic first page:

I found it very difficult to create a clear illustration of the first edition where it is possible to read the text. The important thing, though, is the fact that a rocket is taking off, bound for outer space. In a 1930’s comic, it would have been a biplane, bound for Edinburgh.

The story continued in full colour on the back page. Here’s the bottom half of that very first second page, complete with jet propelled gyroscopic jeep:

What is important, though, is that the printing, both of the words and of the illustrations, would be unrecognisable by 1958. Mind you, the cost of the comic had gone up from the original threepence to four and a halfpence. Just look at the quality now:

Next time, we’ll look at some of the other characters to appear in that first edition of Eagle comic:

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The World of the Mysterious (5)

I said last time that I would take Cliff Barackman, James “Bobo” Fay, Ranae Holland and Matt Moneymaker back into history and legend, to see if I could find any creatures, perhaps based on Bigfoot, mentioned over the course of the last 5,000 years or so.  I spoke of Enkidu, and Moses’ Twelve Spies in the land of  Canaan. I also rejected Goliath, and I described Grendel who, although I thought he was possibly not as dangerous as he has been portrayed, I thought was not necessarily armless.

This time, I would like to touch upon the story of Jean Grin, a subject which I have explored before. It all took place in early 19th century France  in the wonderfully picturesque and unspoilt region of Lozère, which is here:

This time the situation is a little more complex in that Jean Grin was, supposedly, a historical figure who was active as recently as 1800. He lived in a mountain ravine, in a crude cottage of stone with what is now a collapsed roof, surrounded by pine trees and dry scrubland. Inside, against the very rock itself, there is the oven where he roasted children to eat. Outside are several piles of stones covered with soil, supposedly the burial places of his victims:

Jean Grin was living here because of his inability to get along with his neighbours. They called him an ogre, and considered him an ambiguous being, “mi-homme mi-bête”, half way between animal and man. Soon after his arrival in the ravine, he seemed increasingly to take on the attributes of a savage, brutal, wild person that no social norms could restrain:

Young shepherds and shepherdesses began to disappear in the surrounding region. At the time, in a neighbouring area, there had been severe problems with some kind of mystery animal, either a very large wolf or a canid of an unknown species. It had been termed the “Beast of Veyreau” or “La Bête de Veyreau” and I have already written about it:

Whatever the killer in Lozère was, it only attacked weak people or children. In just six months, from June-December 1799,  three victims were killed and eaten.

Physically, Jean Grin was by now dreadful to look at. He supposedly wore just animal skins and he could run extremely fast across the countryside and up and down slopes:In the dark, his eyes gleamed bright, shining red and you could see him coming from far away. Jean Grin too has been given the attributes of a Bigfoot. Memories from centuries ago have been added to his story. He had luminous red eyes.  He possessed prodigious speed both going up and coming down mountainsides. He had an appearance generally thought to be “mi-homme mi-bête”. In addition, photographs show that he lived in exactly the same kind of dry, rocky environment where Bigfoot lives nowadays in the Sierra Nevada of California:

It is my contention though, that the story of Jean Grin is obviously much, much older than a mere 200 years. Indeed, I think that quite a complex process has therefore come about here.

Firstly, the people had a dim memory from centuries previously of Bigfoot type creatures in the forest and in the mountains. Secondly, there was an eccentric and unpopular man called Jean Grin who lived in the area. He was big and ugly. Thirdly, an unknown animal,  the “Beast of Veyreau”, was attacking, killing and eating the young children who were left on their own to guard the flocks of sheep.

And what has happened is that these three elements, of Bigfoot, of gory deaths and of weird loners have all been melded together to give us the present legend. There are no Bigfoots in France nowadays, but in the centuries when the east of the country, in particular, was covered in extensive thick forest, I think there were, and recent enough for memories to linger on.

Next time, England’s Bigfoot.

 

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Eagle Comic foretells the Aeronautical Future

In 1962, Eagle Annual carried an article about the aircraft of the future.

I thought I would take just a quick look with you at what the aviation buffs of that distant time though we were going to see in 2017.  This was one of their suggestions:

Strangely reminiscent of a Convair Sea Dart for me. Did the writers know something that the readers didn’t know?

 

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Alternatively, was it the doppelgänger of the Saunders Roe SR53? The rocket powered interceptor of the 1950s that was so unlucky to have been scrapped. It would have been a brilliant aircraft. And why didn’t the Germans buy it?

Here’s one I photographed myself at RAF Cosford, I think:

Here’s another suggestion from Eagle:

Rather like the B-70 Valkyrie, n’est-ce pas?

This is more like a completely fresh thought, not based even subconsciously on anything the writers had ever seen:

Well, perhaps not. This is Fireball XL5 from the Gerry Anderson puppet series of the same name:

The likeliest aircraft to make the cut is this VTOL workhorse. It’s rather like the cultivated well mannered cousin of the Flying Bedstead:

The Flying Bedstead, of course, had no covering of any kind over the structure of the machine:

Although the Short SC1 did, and that took it a huge leap towards the Eagle VTOL aircraft of the future:

To me, it almost looks as if the writers of the Eagle article, perhaps subconsciously, included real aircraft, usually experimental types or prototypes, in their portfolio of supposedly imaginary aeroplanes of the future.

This was the real aircraft of the future when it made its appearance:

 

 

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The Gnomes of Wollaton Park

I am sure that it would surprise a great many people to be told that there have been fairies, gnomes and elves seen in Nottingham in quite recent times. The most famous incident was in the late September of 1979. This took place in Wollaton Park, which is the extensive grassland, studded with trees, which surrounds stately Wollaton Hall, home of the Hollywood blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises  :

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Wollaton Park is in the centre of Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:

wollo general

I do not know the exact place where the fairies and gnomes were seen, but I suspect that it was probably here. Again, look for the orange arrow:

possibly here

This location fits in quite well with details I have found, namely, “near the lake”, “swampy”, “near an exit from the park” and “near a fenced off nature reserve”. The most frequently quoted directions are “in a rather wet area down by the lake”. Here is the Lake. The orange arrow points to the place where doting parents take their children to feed the ducks and fight off the Canada Geese:

lake close up

The little elvish creatures were seen by a small group of children between eight and ten years of age who were playing in a swampy section of the park. The children were Angie and her brother Glen and her sister Julie. There was also Andrew and Rosie who were brother and sister, and Patrick. Here are just some of the sixty gnomes:

gnomes-376967

The children were playing just as dusk was falling, around half past eight. The light was deteriorating but it was still bright enough to see. The children’s attention was attracted by something that sounded like a bell. They saw a throng of around sixty little gnome like men coming out of an area of woodland and bushes which had been fenced off to prevent the general public from entering. The little men were riding in small bubble-like vehicles. These cars were completely silent but they were very quick and could jump and skip over anything in their way such as fallen trees or branches.
Down near the lake they seemed to be enjoying riding over the marshy swampy area, and a few of them chased the children towards the exit gate from the park, just in play, though, not aggressively.

gnome vbnm

The little men were just half the size of the children, around two feet tall. They all had wrinkled faces, perhaps with a greenish tinge and long white beards, tipped with red. Sometimes they laughed in a strange way. On their little heads, they were wearing what the children described as caps like old-fashioned nightcaps. They were just like what Noddy used to wear, with a little bobble on the very end:

noddy

They had blue tops and yellow or green tights or pants. Despite the encroaching darkness, the children were able to see them all plainly. Patrick explained to the Headmaster: “I could see them in the dark. They all showed up.”:

Vintage gnome garden statuette.

The children watched them for about a quarter of an hour, as the men drove round in their little cars. Each of the fifteen cars carried two little men. They did not have steering wheels but some kind of circular device with a tiny handle to turn it. The little men also were climbing up into the surrounding trees, going into and emerging from, holes in the trunk or branches. All of the children felt that they had somehow surprised the little men, who usually would only have come out after night fell. Eventually, the children all ran away, because it was getting late. The little men had not been threatening or aggressive.
The adults who subsequently heard their stories thought that the little group of children were all telling lies, but the children were completely unwavering in their belief that they had seen what they said they had seen. Furthermore, they had seen the little men previously, during the six weeks of the long summer holiday from school. Some were at the lake, but others were at the Gnomes Anonymous, anti-Alcoholism Group:

beer garden gnome

The day after they returned to school, their Headmaster questioned them all separately and recorded their answers on a cassette tape recorder. The children all told, more or less, the same story. Their drawings too, were all very similar:

drawing

The Headmaster’s opinion was that the children were all telling the truth, although, as might be expected, there were minor differences of detail and emphasis between their different accounts. His overall final judgement was that “The children do sound truthful”. Here is the Headmaster on the School Photo taken that year. You can see why he believed the children:

garden-gnome-among-lilies-of-the-valley-no47-randall-nyhof

In actual fact, the Headmaster actually corresponded about the events with Marjorie T Johnson, the author of “Seeing Fairies”:

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He sent her the cassette tapes of the children he had recorded. His letter said:

“I think the tape reveals the wide measure of corroboration between the children, as well as the fluency with which they were able to describe the events. I remain sceptical as to the explanation of what they saw, but I am also convinced that the children were describing a real occurrence.”

When the children’s story about the Wollaton little people became public, a number of claims were made that they had been seen before in the boggy area around the lake. Marjorie Johnson, formerly Secretary of the Nottingham-based “Fairy Investigation Society”, confirmed that she had “received a number of previous reports of Little People frequenting this locality”. They included Mrs C George of Stapleford near Nottingham, who, in 1900, had seen both gnomes and fairies by the Wollaton Park Gates as she walked past on the pavement. Here is one of their little cars, abandoned temporarily by the roadside, and taken into the police pound:

Noddy-car_2618947b
Just before the children’s experience, Mrs Brown reported that she had been led telepathically around the Park, from one beauty spot to another, by a group of gnomes. At each stopping place they had magically provided her with a feather to find.
The famous writer on mysteries, and expert on fairy sightings, Janet Bord, added an interesting extra detail to the story:

“Over six years before the Wollaton fairies were reported in the media, I had corresponded with Marina Fry of Cornwall, who wrote to me giving details of her own fairy sighting when she was nearly four years old, around 1940. One night she and her older sisters, all sleeping in one bedroom, awoke to hear a buzzing noise (one sister said ‘music and bells’). Looking out of the window they saw a little man in a tiny blue and yellow car driving around in circles’. He was about 18 inches tall and had a white beard and a ‘blue pointed hat’…he just disappeared after a while.”

werty

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