Anyone interested in the history of the Publishing industry or illustration should track down some old comics. I am not a comic aficionado by nature, however these old 1950’s Eagle comics have truly fascinated me; the paper and print has a quality quite unlike anything that you see on the shelves today, in your hand it has the feel of a battered Private Eye (albeit age most likely has a hand in this) but with the print quality of a photographic tome. The ink is embedded so thickly in the paper you can practically feel the zinc rubbing off in your hands and considering the relatively crude printing techniques, the graphics are razor sharp.
However, what is undoubtedly most fascinating about these comics is the insight they provide into 1950s social perspective and understanding. Art is the voice of expression and these comics reveal the reaction of a population, in a decade dominated by the Cold War, Communist Soviets and the international Space Race.
These ‘Dan Dare’ comics present to modern audiences, what was can only be described as the raging hysteria that surrounded that first intrepid journey into space. Set in the future (the 1990s…) Dare and his band of followers routinely prevent the world from imploding into chaos and tyranny, wrenching it from the evil clutches of the treacherous Mekon (a bulbous headed alien who routinely threatens the existence of earth.) However, despite this ‘modern’ content, the whole set up reeks with the identity of the 1950s – there may as well be a floating caption above all Dan Dare villains’ disclaiming their Russian Nationality. Some could argue (i’m not choosing to) that these comics intone ‘propaganda lite’ messages, heralding national allegiance and patriotism in the face of the Cold War and Communism… I personally think its merely the time-honoured tradition of writing about what you know and using topical interest as ready made content.
Regardless, whether embedded with political intent or not (obviously not) these comics provide a great insight into the general emotional state of 1950s Britain, whilst simultaneously chronicling the history of our publishing industry.
All hail the once supposed humble comic.