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Southport College celebrates Dan Dare 60th anniversary
Dan Dare
Dan Dare was created by art student Frank Hampson

The 60th anniversary of the creation of comic strip star Dan Dare is being marked by Southport College.

Created by college student Frank Hampson, Dan Dare was published weekly in Eagle and became a post war icon.

"Hampson was the creator, he designed the character and came up with the stories," explains Southport College's Cath Halfpenny.

The College is hosting a display of Dan Dare memorabilia and are searching for memories of the character's birth.

Eagle was a comic strip magazine launched in 1950 by Birkdale vicar Reverend Marcus Morris.

Morris was ordained in 1959 at Liverpool Cathedral and shortly afterwards took up the position as vicar of St James church in Birkdale.

He began his publishing career with a local parish magazine called The Anvil, through this he met artist Frank Hampson and later Liverpool art student Norman Thelwell.

Production approach

Hampson led the production of the Dan Dare stories and took an organised approach to each issue, "He had a team of artists that worked with him to help him produce the comic strips," Cath Halfpenny told BBC Radio Merseyside.

College celebrates Dan Dare links

"He had a production line approach to it, he did the basic storylines and did most of the basic drawing and then the rest of the team did a lot of the painting and colouring in.

"His drawings of spacecraft actually resemble a lot of the space shuttles that we've seen since then, and this was originally drawn about 11 years before man made it in to space in reality."

The creation of Eagle grew out of The Anvil and with it a cartoon strip character called Lex Christian, who would eventually morph in to Dan Dare.

A dummy copy of Eagle was hawked round numerous London publishers by Morris, "I became a regular on the Sunday midnight train from Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston after taking three services a baptism or two, maybe a wedding and dealing with the general affairs of the parish," he later wrote.

Dan Dare
Dan Dare as he was recreated in 2001 for an animated series

"All the time I was trying to sell Eagle, back at Birkdale the work pressed on, days and nights of trial and error, chopping and changing in the search for perfection."

After being shown the door at many publishers Morris found success at Hulton Press, who took on Eagle and moved Morris along with Hampson and several other artists to London.

The first issue of Eagle, published on 14 April, 1950 was a success selling out a phenomenal 900,000 copies.

The magazine was printed back in the North West by Eric Bemrose of Aintree, such was the colour and number of pages needed for almost one million copies Bemrose had to improvise creating a new plant and machinery.

"Hampson was involved until 1959," Cath Halfpenny said.

"Then the original publisher was sold and bought by another publisher who changed the production values. Hampson actually left at that point as he didn't want to comprise the art because they were asking him to produce it more cheaply."

Eagle closed in 1969, though Morris would contend that it had effectively died prior to that, "It's most successful life was even shorter from 1950 to about 1962," he wrote.

The memorabilia display opens at Southport College on Wednesday, 14 April, 2010, the 60th anniversary of publication of the first edition of Eagle.

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