Doomlord had proven popular with readers and returned with ‘Doomlord II’ in issue 21 (published 18 Aug 1982) with an impressive full colour page showing his home planet of Nox. Here we meet the dread council of Nox, a set of cowled figures standing around in what appears to be a greenhouse. The first series of Doomlord had ended on what we might be forgiven for thinking had been a fairly final note, with the deaths of both Doomlord and reporter Howard Harvey who had been pursuing him. Now we learn Doomlord’s name – Servitor Zyn – and we meet his replacement, Servitor Vek, an inexperienced Doomlord, assigned to find out what happened to Zyn, and if necessary, to complete his mission. It is still the same mask and rather bling outfit, however.
Where the first series had been from the rather earnest POV of Harvey, this one stars Vek as its hero, this allows greater access to Grant and Wagner’s trademark brand of the blackest of black humour and brings Doomlord to its final form. Ultimately, Vek decides that Zyn’s sentence of death on humankind was misjudged, and he works to save humanity from itself. This involves some slightly dull plotlines with him blackmailing business men into giving money to environmentalists, but has a nice finish in a nuclear missile bunker.
‘Doomlord II’ also introduced Mrs Souster, Vek’s genuinely loveable landlady, and her two young sons. Posing as ‘commercial traveller Eric Plumrose’, Doomlord becomes her lodger, and remains so for much of the rest of the series. For convenience, he hypnotises the family so that they always see him as Plumrose, even when he’s in his own guise. Whenever he leaves the house, he usually has a dialogue with Mrs Souster along the following lines:
Mrs Souster:”Busy day ahead Mr Plumrose?”
Doomlord:”Indeed! I am going to save the world!”
Mrs Souster:”Well, don’t overdo it! See you tonight!”
In an ideal world, Doomlord would have married Mrs Souster, but that was not what Alan Grant was about to write. It would have been a bit silly, too.
Issue 24 introduced another photostrip from Wagner and Grant (between them, they seemed to be writing about half of every issue) called Manix. Manix is a robot, developed by British Intelligence to be the perfect spy. Played by a normal actor, occasional artwork ‘cutaways’ show us his insides. The problem for us, is that Manix remains utterly unsympathetic, as he has no emotions, no conscience and no sense of morality. In the first two-part story, his evil boss Colonel Cameron (he wears an eye patch, so he must be evil) orders Manix to murder his own creator – which he does without compunction. This is followed by a six-part story ‘The Defector’ (unusually for Eagle, most Manix stories have titles) in which Manix poses as a circus performer in order to get a defecting agent out of East Germany. While there, he is befriended by a really rather attractive girl who works for the circus (and for British Intelligence). In a slightly shocking development, she spots his superhuman strength and abilities and forces him to confess that he is a robot – and so he kills her. His programming has told him to kill anyone who realises his secret. In fact, pretty much everyone dies in this story, including the defector, who Cameron orders Manix to kill once his incriminating documents are safely back in Cameron’s hands.
After a 9-issue gap, mostly filled by Collector tales, Manix returns in issue 41 with ‘Project Waldo’. These later episodes are credited to ‘Keith Law’, although this is just a pseudonym for Alan Grant – perhaps to disguise just how much of the comic he and Wagner are writing. The story illustrates one of the problems with Photostrips, as they clearly couldn’t get the original Manix actor back, so the plot contrives to have his face changed so that he can infiltrate an American team trying to build their own spy-robot. Cameron doesn’t want any competition, so Manix’s job is to prevent their project from succeeding, which he achieves using the usual high levels of murder and violence. Starting in issue 47 (and played by yet another actor), Manix’s loyalties are really put to the test when Cameron orders him to murder the head of British Intelligence so he can take his place – which given Manix’s record up to this point, produces a genuinely tense situation.
As if Wagner and Grant weren’t busy enough already, issue 25 saw them writing a new artwork strip The House of Daemon, drawn by Ortiz, fresh from The Tower King duties. In this story, Elliott Aldrich and his astonishingly sexy wife Cassandra move into their dream house, which he’s had built on the edge of a cliff. Nothing can go wrong there, surely? Well, unfortunately for them, the house is already haunted by ‘Daemon’ – a ghost who, in a nice twist, is ultimately revealed to be from the far future, projecting his evil back in time. Daemon’s powers seem virtually unlimited, so he is able to turn the house into a fantasy hell from which his victims cannot escape. Running for 23 episodes, this ranks as one of the best stories Eagle ever did.
Also on the artwork front, this is the period in which Pat Mills and Ian Kennedy really begin to make the Dan Dare strip their own. After 33 issues, with the Mekon still very much undefeated, the initial ‘Return of the Mekon’ storyline came to an end (Mills would receive sole writing credit from now on). It was followed by ‘Return of the Mekon: The Dare Report’, in which the initial mystery of Dare’s grave from 1950 was finally solved. This story was heavily touted in the issues beforehand, but may not have interested Mills much, as it’s over in 5 episodes. It explains that the Frank Hampson original Dare was from World War Two. After the war, he became a test pilot and while breaking the sound barrier in 1950, was thrown into the far future of the 1990s. He then never mentioned it again. It all sounds pretty unlikely, but presumably this was to explain to 1980s comics readers why a pilot from their future spoke like a character from The Dambusters. Looking at it now, it all seems a bit unnecessary, and definitely contradicts events from the original strip. The final episode-and-a-half brought the story up-to-date with panels from the original run of Frank Hampson stories alongside some explanatory captions. This probably satisfied the dads of Eagle readers more than it did the teenage boys of the 1980s, but had a virtue of giving Kennedy a week off, I suppose.
By issue 39, the ‘Return of the Mekon’ part of the story title had been dropped, but the endless saga continued in ‘Fireflight’, in which Dare and his supporting cast escaped from the Mekon’s base in an experimental Treen fighter. Running to another 16 episodes, it would be fair to say that this takes them quite some time.
Other returning strips during this period included Joe Soap for a brief run, which sadly proved to be its last. Also back (from issue 27) was Sgt. Streetwise, who scripted by the imaginative Gerry Finlay-Day, was beginning to orbit the outer reaches of what you might expect an undercover copper to get up to. In one story, some crooks have taken an air stewardess hostage at an airport, and are hanging out with her in a light aircraft, demanding fuel for their escape. To get the jump on them, Wise dons some scuba gear and hides inside the fuel tanker. Good job they’re not smokers. Wise isn’t a complete idiot, though, because he’s taken the precaution of sabotaging a police marksman’s gun so he can’t interfere. Phew.
Wise gets a well-earned holiday, so from issue 38 he’s ‘Off to Sunny Spain’ for a fun, three-part interlude. While there, he tangles with some mafia-types and a Spanish lady who keeps flirting with him. We might be more convinced that he’s actually in the Costa del Sol if he didn’t keep his trousers on while sitting on the beach, mind.
Brand new from issue 28 is The Invisible Boy, in which Tim Talbot has an accident in his dad’s lab (like you do) and discovers the secret of invisibility! Scott Goodall’s story runs up against the immediate problem of what possible uses a teenage boy could have for invisibility, apart from spying on girls and petty thievery. Given that, like most Eagle heroes, Tim is unimpeachably moral, neither of these options are open to him, so the stories immediately have to work really hard to find things for him to do. These include spying on the rival football team to check what nefarious plans they have (turns out it’s sabotage and kidnapping – those guys really want to win!), helping a French boy smuggle himself into the country so he can find his dad (like all French dads, he is a racing driver) and even discovering that Tim’s dad’s dowdy new housekeeper is actually a glamorous cat burglar!, who is just posing as a housekeeper because… because… no, you got me.
The final new addition for this period, is Jake’s Platoon, which runs for 17 episodes from issue 41. Jake Jackson is a lowly NCO, who ends up in charge of his platoon when all of his officers are killed during the Normandy landings in 1944. For a photostrip, setting a story during World War II is an ambitious step, although Jake’s Platoon has a fairly good go at it. The problem is largely solved by setting many of the episodes in some anonymous fields, while Jake and his mates take on some stock-photo tanks. Jake’s NCO status follows the general IPC policy of keeping all their heroes resolutely working class. Apart from Doomlord, or course. That guy’s a lord.
Part Two of your exciting Eagle story index!
DAN DARE, PILOT OF THE FUTURE Return of the Mekon: The Dare Report, 5 episodes, issues 34-38 (Nov. to Dec. 1982) Story by Pat Mills, art by Ian Kennedy (eps 1-4), Frank Hampson (eps 4-5) Return of the Mekon: Fireflight, 16 episodes, issues 39-54 (Dec. 1982 to Apr. 1983) Story by Pat Mills, art by Ian Kennedy DOOMLORD Doomlord II, 20 episodes, issues 21-40 (Aug. to Dec. 1982) Story by Alan Grant (& John Wagner), photography by Gary Compton THE COLLECTOR It's Only a Game!, issue 23 (Aug. 1982) Story by Malcolm Shaw, photography by Dave Watts, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) Knight versus King, issue 32 (Oct. 1982) Story by Ian Mennell, photography by Henry Arden, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) The Incredible Shrinking Sam, issue 33 (Nov. 1982) Story and photography uncredited, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) Journey Beyond the Grave, issue 34 (Nov. 1982) Story by Ian Rimmer, photography by John Powell, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) You'll Never Walk Alone, issue 35 (Nov. 1982) Story by Malcolm Shaw, photography by Henry Arden, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) The Avenging Arrow, issue 36 (Nov. 1982) Story by Fred Baker, photography by Anna Hogson, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) Death Ride!, issue 37 (Dec. 1982) Story by Simon Geller, photography by Mike Prior, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) A Model Soldier, issue 38 (Dec. 1982) Story by Ian Mennell, photography by Carin Simon, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) The Pen of Doom, issue 39 (Dec. 1982) Story by Ian Mennell, photography by Dave Watts, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) All in a Good Claus..., issue 40 (Dec. 1982) Story by Roy Preston, photography by Gary Compton, art by Pat Wright (uncredited) The Looking Glass Helper..., issue 48 (Feb. 1983) Story by Gerry Finlay-Day, photography by Dave Watts, art by uncredited MANIX Manix, 2 episodes, issues 24-25 (Sep. 1982) Story by Alan Grant and John Wagner, photography by Sven Arnstein The Defector!, 6 episodes, issues 26-31 (Sep. to Oct. 1982) Story by Alan Grant and John Wagner, photography by Mike Prior Project Waldo, 6 episodes, issues 41-46 (Jan. to Feb. 1983) Story by Keith Law (Alan Grant), photography by Sven Arnstein Rogue Robot, 6 episodes, issues 47-52 (Feb. to Mar. 1983) Story by Keith Law (Alan Grant), photography by Sven Arnstein THE HOUSE OF DAEMON The House of Daemon, 23 episodes, issues 25-47, (Sep. 1982 to Feb. 1983) Story by Alan Grant & John Wagner, art by Ortiz SGT. STREETWISE untitled, 11 episodes, issues 27-37, (Sep. to Dec. 1982) Story by Gerry Finlay-Day, photography by Dave Watts Off to Sunny Spain, 3 episodes, issues 38-40, (Dec. 1982) Story by Gerry Finlay-Day, photography by Dave Watts The Villains & Auntie Vi..., 3 episodes, issues 41-43, (Jan. 1983) Story by Gerry Finlay-Day, photography by Dave Watts untitled (“Crime Garage”), 3 episodes, issues 46-48, (Feb. 1983) Story by Gerry Finlay-Day, photography by Dave Watts THE INVISIBLE BOY untitled, 18 episodes, issues 28-40, 44-48, (Oct. 1982 to Feb. 1983) Story by Scott Goodall, photography by John Powell JOE SOAP The Brat, 5 episodes, issues 41-45, (Jan. 1983) Story by Alan Grant (and John Wagner), photography by Gary Compton JAKE'S PLATOON Jake's Platoon, 17 episodes, issues 41-57, (Jan. to Apr. 1983) Story by Gerry Finlay-Day, photography by Carin Simon