Eagle was a British comic book founded by publisher Marcus Morris (1915-1989), an Oxford graduate and reverend. Eagle was initially conceived as an independent Christian journal named The Anvil, but never quite rose to the success that the financially-struggling Morris wanted. Aided by illustrator Frank Hampson (1918-1985), Morris experimented with emulating the American style of comics with a more moral-based focus. The result was the creation of a character named Lex Christian, a fighting parson who battled the evils of life. After meeting with several publishers and pitching his idea, Morris finally found a home for his journal with Hulton Press in 1949, where it was retitled as Eagle based on a suggestion by Frank Hampson’s wife. The first issue of Eagle debuted on 14 April 1950, and was a financial success, selling nine-hundred-thousand copies. It became quite popular with children, parents, and educators due to the interesting stories and positive message.In addition to comics, the publication also included news, letters, and a sports page.
For the debut issue, Hampson created the widely successful character: Dan Dare, the pilot of the future. “Dan Dare” became a huge success, inspiring games, puzzles, and devoted fans.Though Eagle ran many other stories including: “Riders of the Range,” “Luck of the Legion,” “Storm Nelson,” and “Harris Tweed,” “Dan Dare” stood out among them. After Frank Hampson left Eagle,“Dan Dare” was taken over by other artists such as Harold Johns, Frank Bellamy, and Keith Watson.
As the publication became more successful, the Eagle staff expanded. Morris stayed involved with the day-to-day activities as editor. He was an advocate for a promotional idea called “Hunt the Eagle” in which an almost five-foot constructed eagle was placed on top of a car and driven around. The staff member inside would hand out tokens for free issues of Eagle, and provided much publicity for the publication. After Hulton Press was bought out by Odhams Press in 1959, Morris departed Eagle, but occasionally contributed articles. Despite all of the initial success, Eagle eventually experienced a drop in readership and was bought out by Lion, a competing comic book in 1969.
Eagle was revived in 1982 due to the success of a new “Dan Dare” comic that had been published in 2000 AD, starting in 1977. The new Eagle (this time published by Fleetway) did not retain the morals of its predecessor and instead focused on increased action and violence. In 1989 Keith Watson again illustrated “Dan Dare,” in an attempt to return the changing character to his original roots. Yet, even though the new version of “Dan Dare” was initially successful, the change from weekly to a monthly release caused a drop in sales and the publisher could not recover, Eagle’s second incarnation ended in 1994.
— Michael Baker