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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Merchandise of the "New" Eagle

(* Please give a big Bear Alley welcome to Richard Sheaf who has been a long-time supporter with comments on and off the page but makes his feature debut here with a piece all about the merchandise associated with the new Eagle of the 1980s...)

New Eagle Merchandise

Going to a toy fair anywhere in the country you are quite likely to come across a variety of items of merchandise associated with (mainly) Dan Dare and Riders of the Range, all produced in the heyday of the original Eagle. A readership of nearly a million in the '50s ensured a large ready made mass market. A market of quite a lot less than that meant that the '80s new Eagle produced very little merchandise. Some was produced though and this is a look at what you could hope to collect. 'Collect' is a rather loose term here as the production runs on a number of these items must surely have been very low so a complete collection seems virtually impossible.

The earliest item appears in issue 3 as an 'Eagle wrist-copter', this was produced in association with Peter Pan toys, who would run a number of competitions in the new Eagle, but this was the only item that we definitely know was produced specifically in conjunction with new Eagle. The copter packaging proudly states "Limited edition of 400 exclusive to Eagle readers!". A "fantastic whip cord launcher" would have ensured hours of fun with this item. A great item that is hard to track down today, especially in the original packaging.

The most easily available item of new Eagle merchandise is probably the single 'Dan Dare' by Loose Talk. This rather unusual attack on the charts didn’t seem to trouble Top of the Pops despite several weeks of plugging in new Eagle (17/07/82 - 07/08/82), in fact giving the single away seemed to be the order of the day. The record was produced on Jet records (# 7025) and was produced as a regular single and as a promotional copy. Ray (guitar), Steve (bass), Alfredo (drums) & Amanda (vocals) also did a signing in Birmingham at a comics store so it is even possible to obtain signed copies of the record. The cover art by an unidentified artist is still probably the best thing about this item.

The slightly relentless Eagle marketing carried on in August (28/08/82) with the opportunity to acquire an 'Eagle Project Thrust' t-shirt to help support one of Richard Noble's attempts on the land speed record. As the ad said "What a shirt, and what a price - just £2.95". With a great big Eagle logo on the (small!) t-shirt this is a great item to acquire.

November (06/11/82) saw the 'Eagle Fiz Gig' launched for road safety reasons "This Winter - get lit up with the FIZ GIG - in a design to exclusive to EAGLE readers" said the blurb. Essentially a small battery powered light for attaching to your blazer to avoid being mown down by juggernauts on the way home from school. Available in red, yellow, blue and white.

Issue 100 (18/02/84) saw the next opportunity for low production run Eagle goodies to be marketed. One hundred special Eagle t-shirts were produced along with one hundred Eagle pens. The t-shirts look great, the pens less so. The t-shirt design is a (red and white coloured) copy of the front of Eagle #100, itself a collage featuring Dan Dare, Doomlord, One Eyed Jack and the Mekon. A great item.

A word briefly about Superdad, from 06/04/85 the Superdad prize was upgraded from as much FabergĂ© aftershave as you could drink to the slightly classier and more collectable engraved glass goblet (later changed to a silver plated tankard), a Superdad t-shirt and the original drawing. You’d been getting the drawing for a while but the rest was new. Glamorous Teacher was still heavy on the flowers & chocolate side of things, but there also there was the original drawing. Cheesy Superdad/Glamorous Teacher caricatures must be harder to identify on ebay than tankards and t-shirts so these count as pretty obscure items.

Issue #192 (23/11/85) saw the Fiz Gig re-advertised. Quite why there was a break of three years between adverts isn’t immediately obvious. I suspect that Fiz Gigs aren’t any easier to come by as a result of being advertised twice.

From the ridiculous to the sublime then as we move onto some of the most high quality new Eagle merchandise produced. Yes, I’m talking about the Dan Dare jogging suit. First advertised in issue #239 (18/10/86) this fine item was available in grey, pink (!) or blue and featured a Dan Dare design by Carlos Cruz. The ad was repeated in #241, #243 and #245. The ad alternated with the one for the Mekon jogging suit, also available in grey, pink or blue, this fine item of apparel was advertised in issue #240, #242 and #244. The finest offering can be found in issue #243 where in addition to the DD jogging suit ad there was also an ad for pyjamas, dressing gown, t-shirt and a sweatshirt all featuring "an exclusive DD design". I rate this slightly easier to obtain than some of the items above.

The last items to be advertised in the new Eagle were a couple of slightly different t-shirts, both of which feature the new Eagle logo on. The first t-shirt has a classic DD head on a large square blue background with the words 'Dan Dare' above the head and 'Pilot of the Future' beneath the chin. This features a large Eagle logo on the back of the t-shirt with the ascending 'Eagle' on it. One hundred of these were available as the prize in a competition in autumn '89 and were subsequently available (09/12/89) to buy for £4.99. All of this was to tie in with Keith Watson making his return to illustrating DD.

The second t-shirt features the same classic DD head in the centre of the t-shirt with the words "Dan Dare Pilot of the Future" above the head and "1950-1990 40th anniversary" underneath the head. The new Eagle logo with the descending 'Eagle' is on the left hand sleeve (indicating that it was produced after 28/04/90). I think I got my one of these at the Eagle exhibition in Southport in 1990 and it may not have been available through Eagle at all.

When the 40th anniversary of the original Eagle occurred in 1990 (and the original Dan Dare was back in new Eagle being drawn by Keith Watson) there were a number of boys clothing items produced to coincide with the hoop-la surrounding the event. Some of these featured the new Eagle logo (so are included here for completeness only), these included a pair of boxer shorts, a pair of pants and a jumper

Less than twenty different items in total then. The amount and range of items is much less than that of Fleetway stablemate 2000AD. The contrast between the number of items associated with each title’s iconic, leading characters, DD and Judge Dredd, is even more surprising. Dan seems to have been curiously under-merchandised by new Eagle in a way that his '50s predecessor would have found hard to understand.

3 comments:

Frank said...

I vaguely remember hearing the Dan Dare single on Radio 1 once or twice. I think it was on Mike Reid's show. Bit too poppy for me, think I prefer Pink Floyd's homage in Astronomy Domine.

stx said...

Dan Dare in the single cover seems to have been replaced by James May.

Ken Shinn said...

I always rather liked the Loose Talk single. Felt a lot like the Rezillos to me, while the B-side went for more of a Suzi Quatro vibe.

And let's not forget Elton John's cod-reggae homage, even if he did prefer the Mekon...