Friday, April 23, 2010

The Lion and The Eagle

The Lion and The Eagle
by Steve Winders

I performed this monologue after the Eagle Society’s Dinner on April 14th. It is inspired by Marriott Edgar’s poem ‘The Lion and Albert’ and should be read in a Lancashire accent! The ‘h’s at the beginning of words have been included for ease of reading but should be omitted when reading aloud!

There’s a genteel seaside town called Southport,
That’s noted for Eagle and Girl,
Two comics from the 1950s,
That were started by a vicar in Birkdale.
His name were Marcus Morris,
And he’d found he were losing his way,
He’d signed famous writers for his parish magazine,
Forgetting that he’d have to pay!

He’d seen lots of comics from America,
That came over after the War.
They were hardly suitable for children,
All full of horror and gore.
So he teamed up with artist Frank Hampson
Who drew with meticulous care.
They created a comic called Eagle
With a spaceman called Chaplain Dan Dare.

He took it round publishers in London,
And all of them showed him the door.
While they liked the idea of a spaceman,
A space vicar were a bit of a bore.
But one publisher name of Hulton,
Could see the potential in’t thing,
So he sent Marcus a telegram,
Saying “Interested. Give us a ring.”

Well they ditched the idea of the Chaplain,
And Dan Dare was Chief Pilot instead.
Frank rented a studio in Churchtown,
Which were really no more than a shed.
He recruited a team of young artists,
To help him to realise the dream,
They drew Dan Dare, the Life of St. Paul,
And a strip about Walls’ Ice Cream.

Eagle launched in April 1950,
Anniversary of day Titanic sank.
Nevertheless it were a roaring success,
And they laughed all the way to the bank.
But success it were mingled with terror,
Which shocked and left them open mouthed,
For they had to up sticks and leave Churchtown,
And go and live in Epsom down south!

With a wide range of stories and features,
Eagle were an excellent read.
They’d PC 49 and Rob Conway,
Chicko, Tommy Walls and Harris Tweed.
They’d a cowboy strip called Seth and Shorty,
Where the dialogue were particularly strange,
So Marcus signed writer Charles Chilton,
And replaced it with Riders o’t Range.

Dan Dare became a sensation,
His adventures were a real delight,
But Frank were such a perfectionist,
That his artists had to stay up all night.
After Eagle came Girl, Swift and Robin,
So they catered for every age,
But their publishing rivals got jealous
And some even started to rage.

Then came the Fleet Street takeovers,
And Odhams bought out Hulton Press.
Marcus began to get worried,
He thought it might end in a mess.
So Marcus decided to jump ship,
He could see the writing on’t wall,
Like at Belshazzar’s feast in’t Bible.
Well he were a vicar after all!

The Odhams takeover weren’t too bad,
And Eagle continued to grow,
But then Mirror Group bought out Odhams,
And this were a really big blow.
The Mirror Group thought they knew comics,
In fact they owned quite a few,
For they’d Lion and Tiger and Comet,
And Knockout and Playhour too.

They were led by Leonard Matthews,
Who based his management style,
On Napoleon, Stalin and t’Mekon,
So you can see he were particularly vile.
He said he’d produce Eagle much cheaper,
And to be truthful that’s just what he did,
But he lost 150,000 readers,
And that must have cost a few quid!

Frank didn’t take kindly to Leonard,
So he left without starting a fight.
While Eagle continued without him,
Its future didn’t look very bright.
The sixties brought Heros the Spartan,
Sergeant Bruce and the Iron Man.
Eagle took over Boys’ World and Swift,
Which brought in Blackbow the Cheyenne.

But despite all the free gifts and mergers,
Sales continued to decline,
And finally Eagle ended,
On May Day 1969.
‘Great news pals!’ stated the advert,
Which heralded Eagle’s demise.
‘Next week we’re joining with Lion.’
A shock, but not a surprise.

Frank thought that Dan Dare were forgotten,
But his fans could never forget.
He were invited to a convention in Italy,
And awarded with a special statuette.
The award were made by his peers,
Frank wondered what it were for,
They called him Prestigioso Maestro,
Best comic artist since War.

Back home fans clamoured for new work.
They were thrilled with his fresh found fame,
And they said that they hoped that Frank Hampson,
Would have further comics to his name.
At this Frank got proper angry,
And “Thank you all kindly,” said he.
“What spend all my life drawing comics,
To join up with Lion! Not me!”


So here we are sixty years later,
And Southport has changed quite a bit.
Not quite as genteel as it once was,
The pavements are covered in... rubbish.
But the worst thing about modern Southport,
Which sends some of us round the bend,
Is that folk now support Liverpool or Everton,
Instead of Southport and Preston North End!

(* My thanks to Steve for letting me post his fine tribute to the Eagle of old. If you want to see Steve reciting the poem, it is avialable on YouTube thanks to Chris (aka 'philcovers') who has posted a 4-part video of the 60th anniversary celebration held in Southport on 14 April by Eagle enthusiasts. Steve's poem leads off part 1 of the video. The other parts can be watched via the following links: part 2, part 3, part 4.)

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