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Friday, April 16, 2021

Comic Cuts — 16 April 2021

I've had a pleasingly lazy week, having taken a couple of days off around my birthday. I spent most of it sorting out books, trying to clear some shelf space and generally tidy up shelves that have just had books shoved on them to stop them piling up on the floor. The nice thing is that I stumbled across a small pile of old Combat Library stories that I'd thought lost.

I bought them years ago with little idea who was writing them — I picked them up simply because I was interested in the publisher, G.M. Smith / Micron, and I recognised one of the names (W. H. Fear) as someone who had written science fiction for John Spencer / Badger Books and westerns for Digit Books. Later, I spotted that two of the more prolific writers for Combat Library were from the same pen as one of the writers who was particularly prolific over at Digit Books.

Some while back I went through my Digit collection — far (far!) from complete — and pulled out a dozen books all by the same author. I've since figured out who the writer is (Macgregor Urquhart) and how to separate out the similar works of another prolific writer for the same company (T. C. P. Webb). I need a bigger pool of Digits to identify all of their work (did I mention my Digit collection is way incomplete), and more checks need to be made in Combat Library.

Eagle Times
enters its 34th year of production with their Spring issue, and it shows no sign of diminishing its interest in the original comic, which celebrated its 71st birthday on 14 April.

This issue leads off with an entertaining deconstruction of Charles Chilton's long-running 'Riders of the Range' story featuring Geronimo, which author David Britton shows is lacking in many areas, with little historical detail and a rather formulaic plot and outcome.

My favourite of all the articles is Ernest Reed's look back over 'The Phantom Fleet' storyline, comparing it to the original script treatment by Alan Stranks and some accompanying scientific research by Eric Eden. This is a delightful peek behind the curtains at how Frank Hampson's studio took a Dan Dare script and adapted and improved upon it. I can't wait for episode two next issue.

More curtain twitching can be found in two other features this issue. Jeremy Briggs' article on one of L. Ashwell Wood's cutaways also show the blueprints and floor plan for the National Radio Show studio, which broadcast from Earl's Court in September 1953, that Wood used to create a cutaway drawing for Eagle; and there are more sketches on show from the Hampson studio's Ideas Book, this time featuring the Autek, an "automated equinine" or "mechanical 'orse" (or, as the author notes, something that looks a little too much like a sit-on lawn mower).

There are three more big features this issue (the 48 pages feels packed!), with Steve Winders taking a look at 'The Golden Man', the last biography to feature on Eagle's back page, illustrated by Robert Ayton, in 1961, and David Britton seeing how the artwork of various Eagle artists was recently re-used for a series of humorous 'adult' Ladybird books. Britton is also responsible for the third and final part of 'The Story of a Train That Went nowhere', based on a 12-part outline for a proposed Eagle feature.

There is also the usual P.C.49 story, plus Adrian Perkins remembers Ready, Steady, Go!, and Jim Duckett serves up another Eagle tidbit in the 43rd episode of 'In and Out of Eagle'.

The quarterly magazine is the journal of the Eagle Society, with membership costing £29 in the UK, £40 (in sterling) overseas. You can send subscriptions to Bob Corn, Wellcroft Cottage, Wellcroft, Ivinghoe, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 9EF; subs can also be submitted via PayPal to Back issues are available for newcomers to the magazine and they have even issued binders to keep those issues nice and neat.


  1. As you note, W. H. Fear was a regular contributor of novels for Combat Library, but as far as I remember he never wrote scripts for Combat Picture Library, which launched in March 1959 just six months after Fleetway's ground-breaking War Picture Library in September 1958. On the other hand Fear did eventually produce scripts for D. C. Thomson's follow-the-leaders Commando picture series launched in July 1961. Digit writer T. C. P. Webb wrote at least the first draft of one Sexton Blake novel for Fleetway and many scripts for Micron's Western Adventure Library and Cowboy Adventure Library.

  2. All I remember about Digit Books is seeing the occasional SF title they published. Looking for one of the authors you mentioned I came across this site and wondered if you'd seen it:

  3. Yes, I've seen the website — it's run by Digit and Peff fan Ray Steptoe, but doesn't seem to be active any longer.