Eagle Volume 20 (1969)


Eagle 20 - 3

Eagle‘s last, and shortest volume consisted of only 17 issues before its cancellation by merger with Lion, this latter much to my chagrin as I was getting both papers, and was not granted dispensation to replace Eagle with anything else. The cancellation was known a long way in advance, as demonstrated by the sudden shortening of Rogue Planet, starting only a couple of issues into the new Volume.
Blackbow’s stories were also radically truncated. A new feature, drawn by Tom Kerr, started in no. 5, The Day The World Forgot. If it seemed unfamiliar, that was because it was the first of a half dozen features created in preparation for the merger, so that none of Eagle‘s own characters save Dan Dare would survive to appear in the merged title.
It was followed in no. 6 by Speed Mann, a troubleshooter, which also saw the last instalment of Quarrel. Wild of the West, boxer, debuted in no. 8. Yet all of this was being done without removing any of the regular strips, just yet: a case of quantity but not quality. But the exodus couldn’t be postponed any longer. Mickey Merlin ended in no. 10, to be replaced a week later by Lightning Strikes Back. The Mark Mystery reprints were curtailed by a caption jump to the original end of the series in the same issue.
It looked like Speed Mann wasn’t even good enough for Lion as his story lasted a measly six issues before making way for The Gladiators. The Hornblower reprints sailed away in no. 13 and The Waxer, most ghastly of all the new creations, started in no. 14. The last Blackbow story began in the same issue, but Frank Humphris had left early, to beat the rush. The next issue featured the last Cut-Out, Ashwell-Wood coming through as he had done for nearly twenty years.
The Guinea Pig got out in the penultimate issue, and that meant that Eagle‘s final issue, Volume 20 no. 17, cover-date 26 April 1969, the 993rd issue of all, saw the end of the truncated Rogue Planet, but also the ends of Blackbow the Cheyenne and The Iron Man. The Circus Wanderers bit the dust, taking Wild in the West and The Day Time Forgot with them.
And that was the end of it all. You may think that I’ve given unfairly short shrift to this last volume but that’s not the case. Even Blackbow’s last few stories were inadequate and as for all the rest, there was literally nothing to write home about. The story of Eagle‘s last four months is one of a once-superb comic being strangled to death by mediocrity, the final exercise of power by a Manager who resented the comic’s very existence as the refutation of everything his own career in comics had been, and finally diminishing it to the point where it could no longer survive.
The last months were just dragging the humiliation out until no-one could deny that Eagle was unsavable. I was right not to collect further copies after my pre-set endpoint, and I should perhaps have stuck to my guns and stayed away, because satisfying this particular curiosity has indeed been painful. I’m sorry for the 13½ year old boy who had to endure that. It hastened the moment when he gave up comics altogether, though we now know that that didn’t last all that long. It was only a decade to the Dragon’s Dream republication of The Man from Nowhere…

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