Sufferin' satellites, The Comic is dead: Where the 'Eagle' once dared, in its inimitable Boy's Own style, there is now a void filled only by TV spin-offs and bleak, post-apocalyptic imagery. John Windsor discovers an afterlife at auction

There is a price on the head of Dan Dare, the clean-living space-age hero of the Eagle, the best-selling boys' paper of the Fifties and Sixties. Once discarded as junk, pages of original artwork of the Dan Dare strip - especially those by its creator, Frank Hampson - are worth up to pounds 500 each to collectors. At Christie's South Kensington on 18 March (2pm), a cache of 18 pages of this artwork, including five by Mr Hampson, are reckoned to fetch pounds 350- pounds 400 each.

Christie's hopes to hold the first Eagle-dedicated artwork sale later this year, and is sending free catalogues of next month's sale to all 171 members of the Eagle Society, some living in Canada, Australia and Europe.

Six years ago a collector visiting the Eagle archive in Southwark, London, was offered for nothing as many of the paper's famous centre-spread cut-aways of trains, boats and planes (now worth pounds 100- pounds 200 each) as he wanted. That was after of Robert Maxwell's takeover of the Eagle's then publisher, IPC. Gil Page, the managing editor of its latest publisher, Fleetway Editions, said: 'We now hold a surpisingly small amount of Eagle artwork. Most seems to have been taken in the Sixties, during the merger.'

All Dan Dare originals - which, a 1972 legal ruling implies, belong to the artists - appear to have gone 'out the back door' before 1975 when Mr Hampson, in poor health and forbidden to draw the character he created because of copyright restrictions, received a letter from IPC telling him that no Dan Dare artwork 'boards' remained in its possession.

Money and prestige eluded Mr Hampson. A driven man, he would fall asleep at the drawing board. He drew Dan Dare for nine years, then had a row with new management. Later he said: 'Dare has been, for me, a long and bitter personal tragedy.'

The current vogue for Eagle originals is riding on a small boom in auction prices for the original cover illustrations of lurid Fifties pulp books. Bonhams pioneered the genre with a sale of 149 Corgi covers in 1990, and offered 199 Pan covers the following year. Last July, Christie's South Kensington pitched in with its first such sale in which the cover for Too Many Lovers, estimated at pounds 200- pounds 300, fetched pounds 1,210.

Soho Street Girl, another cover's title, may sound a far cry from the Dare strip's prim but attractive Professor Jocelyn Peabody and the paper's other characters, all conceived under the spiritual guidance of the Eagle's founding editor, the Rev Marcus Morris. However, Jane Hay of Christie's South Kensington reckons that the the reason for the popularity of both is nostalgia for the traditional roles of the sexes: men were men and women were women.

She points out that, previously, 'comic' illustration had no clearly defined market: it was not at home in literature sales, nor comfortable rubbing shoulders with established artists, such as Arthur Rackham and E H Shepard in sales of children's book illustrations. But in brighter markets it has done better: two pages of Dare artwork made pounds 260 each when exposed to the razzamatazz of a pop memorabilia sale in 1990.

In the past three years, whole archives of book-cover illustrations have been tipped into auction or sold privately by publishers in need of cash, provoking a storm of protest from artists claiming ownership. The sale of Eagle artwork is unlikely to create such a row. Most of the early artists, too timid to take their artwork home with them, are dead. As for Fleetway, Mr Page says there is 'no chance whatever' that the few pages it still holds will be sold.

Nor is Fleetway likely to prosecute vendors. Mr Page has assured Mr Hampson's widow, Dorothy, that while Fleetway retained copyright, the artist owned the artwork, so she had good title to it. Frank, who died in 1985, aged 66, lived in fear that IPC would knock on his door and ask for it back.

As a result, auction rooms are likely to fill up with Eagle artwork 'lost' while its publishers, the original Hulton, Odhams and IPC, were gobbled up by takeovers. The Eagle archive was shunted from Southwark to Deptford, and most recently was split between Birmingham and Tavistock Place, London, home of Fleetway Editions, now owned by Egmont, a Dutch multinational.

Somewhere, tucked away by collectors, are 300 Dan Dare artwork boards, lost from IPC's vaults in Southwark, that found their way into the hands of a dealer in comics and ephemera in Crystal Palace, the late Norman Shaw. From about 1976, Mr Shaw was selling them for pounds 20 each to collectors, including Alan Vince of Chatham, Kent, Britain's foremost Eagle aficionado.

Mr Vince still has about 50 Dan Dare boards. One is Mr Hampson's first instalment of 'Marooned on Mercury' from June 1952, not long after the Eagle's launch in 1950. He found it abandoned at IPC, Southwark, while researching a Dan Dare tribute to appear in the new Eagle, relaunched in 1982. Nearby, trampled underfoot, was a frame from the same board showing a bomber flown by the Treens, Dan Dare's inter-galactic enemies. Many of the two-page weekly episodes were condensed for re-runs in the late Sixties, and artboards were cannibalised for Eagle annuals.

Dorothy Hampson is said to be bitter about the way her husband's artwork has been abused. In the Fifties, the Eagle yielded profits of up to pounds 1m a year, including merchandising licence payments, while the artists, denied copyright, were paid fixed salaries.

This cut and thrust of the publishing world - the company takeovers, intolerable hours, sackings, personality clashes - are grist to the mill of every Eagle buff. It is a true-life soap, almost as exciting as Dan Dare's battles with the evil Mekon.

Mr Hampson, an authoritarian figure, built up a studio of young artists - including Don Harley, Eric Eden and the youngster Keith Watson - in the hope of producing animated films. It was an inflated notion in view of his lack of copyright. The Eagle's original publisher, Hulton, having set up the studio in Epsom, Surrey, indulged Mr Hampson's old- fashiond team concept.

Mr Hampson demanded the utmost loyalty. His artists had to pose for photographs to copy into the artwork. Drawing would not begin until mid-week, then a scramble for the Friday deadline would ensue. He once ordered Greta Tomlinson, the model for Professor Peabody, to redraw the wake of a water-skier four times; he accepted her fifth version, but covered it with a speech balloon. Those he suspected of freelancing were sacked.

The blow from which Mr Hampson never recovered came in 1958 when Odhams took over Hulton, dismantled his studio, and opened its own talks about the scheme he had cherished: a Dan Dare film. Stripped of his authority, Mr Hampson resigned. The film has yet to be made.

Frank Bellamy, his successor, did not need a team of artists, preliminary photography or elaborate studio mock-ups. He could draw 'straight into the frame', producing 'good clean artwork' instead of Mr Hampson's cut-and-paste. Some collectors prefer his work.

Mr Hampson's career was crowned in 1975 after 15 years of obscurity. In poor health, he was lured to Lucca, Italy, where he was voted best post-war comic illustrator in the world by the International Exhibition of Comics and Animated Films. On the same trip, he was stunned at being presented with 50 boards of his artwork which had been syndicated in Italy. IPC eventually paid him two sums, pounds 199 and pounds 30.

Even his own life story has had a faulty circulation. Alastair Crompton's book about him, The Man Who Drew Tomorrow (Who Dares Publishing, 1985), was incompetently promoted and is now sought after by collectors.

'Eagle Monthly' is available from bookstalls ( pounds 1). The annual pounds 15.50 subscription to the Eagle Society (24 Standfield Road, Duston, Northampton NN5 6EZ) includes four issues of 'Eagle Times'.

Ross Burden pictured in 2002
scienceHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Sell it with flowers: competition is 'intense' for homes with outside spaces

Gardens add a tenth to the value of your home

A London estate agent yesterday put a price on having a garden. David Pollock of Greene & Co reckons it can increase a property's value by a tenth.

Spectators at the Isle of Wight music festival watch the World Cup on the big screen. Betting promotions were a feature of the tournament
Lenders have been accused of persuading vulnerable people to borrow expensive credit

Payday loan firms accused of bombarding vulnerable people with nuisance phone calls

Payday loan firms have been accused of bombarding financially vulnerable people with nuisance phone calls, after a debt charity reported that a third of its clients were plagued by the messages.

The foundation proposed that the Government sets up a scheme to help people avoid losing their homes

Mortgages: 'Homeowners could trade down to shared ownership to defuse rate rise timebomb'

A plan to defuse a “mortgage debt timebomb” when interest rates rise is published today amid warnings that 2.3m households could struggle with their repayments.

Current accounts are too costly and confusing, says CMA as it announces investigation into Britain's biggest banks

Competition regulator to investigate market where it's hard for customers to make comparisons and the big banks' charges can be set too high
All the signs have been pointing up for buy-to-let, but there are clouds on the horizon

Buy-to-let: is it a boom or a bubble fit to burst?

People borrowing to be landlords could face the same restrictions as homebuyers, with MPs voicing fears that property speculation may be overheating the market

Moment of truth for payday lenders: Watchdog plans to curb cost of short-term loans

The chief of the City watchdog, Martin Wheatley, spoke exclusively to The Independent's Simon Read about its attempts to control the worst excesses of unscrupulous high-cost credit companies

Consumers given power to choose a green deal

How would you like to be able to choose how your electricity is made and even where it come from? It may sound futuristic and fanciful but the independent supplier Co-operative Energy has made it a reality this week.

'Scrap the trap': calls for change grow as banks are told to play fair with loyal savers

City regulator says existing customers suffer worst rates

Motor insurers divided on proposals for whiplash ban

MPs want medical evidence for claims. Will this bring higher premiums?

British Gas repays £1m for mis-sold deals

British Gas was yesterday forced to pay back £1m to its customers after mis-selling them energy deals.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

    Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

    .NET Software Developer (.NET, C#, ASP.NET, front-end)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

    C# Web developer (C#,MVC,ASP.NET,SQL)

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: C# Web d...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried