British Boys’ Comics and Annuals

During the 1950s and 1960s the most popular comic magazine for boys was the Eagle which was first published on 14th April 1950.

The Eagle was the creation of the Reverend Marcus Morris, the vicar of St James’ church, Southport, Lancashire, who conceived  it as a Christian antidote to what he saw as the bad influence of American comics during the post-war period.

His objective was to produce high quality, inspirational literature unlike any existing at the time, involving the work of teams of graphic artists, even creating mockups of spaceships to use as reference for Dan Dare.  The Eagle and its sister papers Girl, Swift and Robin were designed read by millions of boys and girls throughout the 1950s and 1960s.  I always thought that the best bit about the Eagle were the full colour cut-away drawings which explained how things were built or worked.  The Eagle ran until 26th April 1969, when it merged with another popular weekly comic, The Lion.

Lion was first published on the 23rd February 1952, and was a weekly boys’ adventure comic designed to compete with Eagle.   The first issue contained a mix of text stories and comic strips; its flagship story was Captain Condor – Space Ship Pilot, a science fiction adventure in the Dan Dare mould.  The premiere issue also contained the first adventure of Robot Archie (called The Jungle Robot in early stories) who would go on to become one of the title’s most popular characters.

By the 1960s Lion had settled into being one of the most popular British weekly titles of the time but times were changing, American DC comics were becoming popular and competing on the newsagents shelves with British comics and there were too many titles for the business to be sustainable so they started to merge or just simply disappear.

I liked Eagle and Lion and amongst others I remember the Hornet, Valiant, Wizard and Tiger, a sport and adventure picture story weekly, which featured predominantly sporting strips. Its most popular was Roy of the Rovers, a football based yarn recounting the life of Roy Race and the team he played for, Melchester Rovers. This strip proved so successful it was spun out of Tiger and into its own comic

I liked comics and would buy a couple a week least and then they could be shared and swapped so between us we got to read most of them.  I kept them in a brown cardboard box under the bed for a long time but eventually they were thrown away and it’s a pity about that because people are always buying and selling them these days on ebay.

My favourite comic was the Victor, which was published weekly and ran for 1657 issues from 25th January 1961 until it ceased publication on 21st November 1992.  It featured many stories that could be described as “Boy’s Own” adventures. In particular, each week the front cover carried a story of how a medal had been won by British or Commonwealth forces during the Great War or the Second World War.

My only real knowledge of the German language is what I learnt as a boy from the Victor but as these were stories about British heroes the comics were restricted to a handful of often repeated German phrases ‘Achtung’, ‘Luftwaffe’, “Hände Hoch!’ and my personal favourite ‘donnerwetter!’ that translates strictly as ‘thunder weather’.  I am not at all sure if that is a real German word and I can’t find it in the dictionary but  I suppose it was meant to be a curse and realistically it was a kids comic so I don’t suppose they could use anything more realistic or appropriate without getting a postbag full of complaints from angry parents.

6 responses to “British Boys’ Comics and Annuals

  1. Achtung is a great one. We were in a supermarket and some German guy had left his change or shopping or something. None of us spoke German (it was obviously here in Spain) so we all looked at each other puzzled.’Achtung!’ shouted Partner and the German guy stopped dead in his tracks. Surprised he didn’t click his heels and salute actually.

  2. I’m wondering (and hoping) that someone can give me some info – and hopefully an image, of a British UK boy character, from several decades ago. My late mother, Sheila Wingfield, who was originally a British Wren, during World War Two (she was from Redruth, Cornwall) — once she moved, with her two sisters, to Canada, after the close of WW11, her father stayed in England. When I was a child, her father used to send thick hardcovered British boys annuals to us, for Christmas, every year. Including Hurricane and (I think) Lightning Annuals. The boy character I am trying to remember was in a British U.K. Annual, but it was not in the Hurricane nor Lightning annuals. This boy – I think he was blond – had a jet pack or jet back pack, and he could fly with it. I don’t know which British annual he was in, but his stories were full colour comics stories in whatever British UK annuals these were in. Can anyone help with any info on this? If anyone has any info on this or a visual, please email me at chromium_foil@yahoo.ca Thanks! Phil

  3. This is a wonderful post and brings back a lot of memories. I had forgotten “Hornet”. I just wish I could help with the boy and his back pack, but it doesn’t ring any bells with me, I’m afraid.

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