Category Archives: Literature

Eagle Comic (5)

On the front cover, Eagle featured Dan Dare, the lantern jawed squeaky clean hero:

He could easily dominate the whole front page:

He was always helped, and occasionally hindered, by Digby, his rather podgy sidekick:

Presumably, he was named after an extremely obscure aircraft called the Digby, which was the name given to the Douglas B-18 Bolo in Canadian Air Force service. You can see this lost aircraft in action in the Powell and Pressburger film “49th Parallel” made in 1941 with Leslie Howard and Laurence Olivier. It’s a thriller well worth keeping an eye out for, and a film which portrays perfectly the repulsive attitudes of the Nazis:

Here’s another picture of Digby:

And, yes, he is using an electric hairdryer as a weapon:

I shouldn’t poke fun, though. Some of the science was years ahead of its time. Who else had heard of nuclear fusion in 1950?:

Dan Dare and Digby had their nemesis in the extraterrestrial figure of “The Mekon”:

Dan, Digby and the Mekon caused a revolution in the unchanging comic world of Weary Willie and Tired Tim. Issue N0 2 of Eagle came out on April 21st and the comic was on its way. Here’s the top half of that second issue:

And the bottom half of the same page:

Sometimes the price of the comic was rather strange. This issue cost 4½ old pence which even in the days of a pound made up of 240 pence was an unusual price. I can’t get enough of that eagle personally:

On the other hand, there was a 4½d  stamp at the time. Here’s a special one for National Nature Week:

The Eagle went from strength to strength, with its brightly coloured, vigorous art work…

It always had futuristic machines…

Here’s that orange caption:

There are occasional monsters…

And the Dan Dare stories always had lots of alien species. Was it this type of picture that inspired the bars and cafes of “Star Wars” ?

Why, they even had girls from time to time…

 

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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 (8)

During my researches about the Wodewose and the Green Man, one thing which has struck me is that to some extent there is a split between the two in terms of location. Indeed, it would be interesting to carry out a little research and to try and  establish the validity of this theory. More interesting still would be to try and see if there is a reason for it:

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From what I have found on the Internet, therefore, I would posit that the Wodewose is linked more frequently to churches in areas with abundant water, areas where there are lots of rivers to follow. The places I have mentioned in my previous post are Boston in Lincolnshire and the counties of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. All three of these regions in medieval times were full of marshes, and were areas subject to continual flooding. Indeed, much of the land area, in Lincolnshire and especially in Cambridgeshire, was permanently covered by shallow water and would be subject to extensive drainage schemes in later centuries.

Here are the marshes of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire. They were called “fens” and on this old map, virtually all of the land inside the dotted, or perhaps dashed, line, would have been a good place to take your wellingtons. Indeed, after the Norman Conquest in 1066, the Saxon freedom fighter, Hereward the Wake, held out in the fens against the overwhelming forces of the Norman invaders from at least 1067-1071. He is known to have used all of the areas enclosed on this map, particularly the Cambridgeshire section around Ely :

Here are the rivers of Suffolk in the only map I could find. There is perhaps not as much marshland but the county is riven by estuaries which seem to penetrate deep into the dry land. The blue lines of the rivers are only those of reasonable size. The streams and brooks are not featured:

Given the modern Bigfoot’s predilection for rivers, lakes and swamps, I think the Wodewose would have enjoyed living here. Because of the landscape, he may actually have been seen more frequently as he paddled through shallow marshes, perhaps in pursuit of his prey. For this reason the locals considered him to be a living, breathing creature somewhat like themselves but different. He was not seen as supernatural or godlike:

The Green Man, however, is mainly linked to churches in areas which were drier and more heavily forested. In places such as these, the Wodewose would have been seen even less frequently than in the marshes. For this reason, his once-in-a-green-moon appearances began to take on something of the supernatural. He became the godlike “guardian of the forest”.

And at the time, this was a rôle which needed to be filled because it was around this period that people were beginning to clear the forest much more extensively for agriculture and for fuel. Between 1066 and 1230, around a third of the woodland in England had been cleared for growing crops and the grazing of domestic animals. And once you’ve cut down a thousand year old oak tree, you have a good wait on your hands for it to be replaced. Here’s Nottinghamshire’s “Major Oak” which “missed the cut”, literally:

With marshes, no special guardian was needed to look after them. England was not short of rain! Indeed, it would take the people of the Fens area until 1630 to get started on draining the land and making it more suitable for agriculture. Even then, it took a Dutchman, the famous Cornelius Vermuyden, to do it:

For that simple reason, the Wodewose would remain a physical entity, rather than a supernatural one. He was little different from the beavers, the ospreys, the cranes and the Large Copper butterflies that were soon forgotten only twenty years after they had disappeared.

 

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The World of the Mysterious (7)

Last time we looked at the Wodewose. Here he is:For me, the strange figure of the Wodewose is based on a Bigfoot type creature that may still have been alive and well in the vast forests of Western Europe in the early Middle Ages. At this time, the forests in England, for example, were enormous and covered between a third and a half of the country. And even when the Wodewose was gone for ever, then there were still people who had heard their grandfather’s tales about him and who could recreate him in their own world.

He was certainly famous enough to feature in documents written on old parchment . This one dates from 1325. He is on all fours because he has to fit in between the text in Latin and the bottom of the page:

A similar ‘margin picture’ dates from the 1300s. Notice the mother and her child with another young woman (bottom left) and what is either a fight or a very keenly contested game of golf (bottom right):

In this old drawing, the Wodewose looks as if he has lost his club and is struggling to find it (not a golf club, or a country club, but the other kind):

These two individuals are from a series which show the Wodewose’s well known desire for women, yet another feature he has in common with Bigfoot. Picture 1 shows his gentle method of courtship:

The second shows his next step which could well be summarised as “RUN!!!!” If you read about Bigfoot a lot, you will be familiar with his ability to pick up hogs and other farm animals and run off with them. But beautiful ladies are even more impressive:

This Italian lady, though, is well versed in the tricks of both Italian men and Italian Wodewoses. Forewarned is forearmed:

Is the Wodewose carrying a golf club in that last picture?

Bigfoots and Wodewoses hate dogs too:

It is my belief that the Wodewose may well be the direct ancestor of the now much more famous “Green Man” which is a very familiar figure to anybody who visits medieval Western European churches. The Green Man is believed to be the deity who brings back the greenery every year in spring, hence the leaves pouring out of his body. This one is in Norwich Cathedral:

This one comes from Lincoln Cathedral:

The Green Man does also have an aspect as a kind of guardian of the forest, and the trees and the plants therein. And that, of course, is a rôle ascribed to Bigfoot by many different Native American peoples. This Green Man is taken from Poitiers Cathedral in west-central France:

The Green Man very often seems to occur in areas which have originally been heavily forested. The best Green Men I have ever seen occur in the Chapter House in Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. At the time it was built, it would have been in Sherwood Forest:

Next time, the explanation.

One final point is that in these blog posts about Bigfoot, I have tried very hard to use only images which are available to be used. With some images that is not the case because otherwise there was nothing else available. I am 100% willing to take them down if this causes a problem for anybody, although I suppose there is the flattering aspect that they were the best I could find!

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