Regular printed issue numbers didn’t come to Eagle until number 127, but before that, the first triple digit issue made a big splash on 18 February 1984, with a huge ‘100’ emblazoned on the cover. With issues coming out every week, this was less than 2 years since the title’s launch, but a good excuse for a party all the same. Two new strips debuted inside, both of which shows signs of having been created in a hurry. I hope that was the case, anyway.
First up was The Brothers, in which twins Peter and Bob Trent are involved in a car crash which kills their parents, and throws Bob into some freaky radioactive chemicals that turn him into a brutish, violent monster. Now Peter, newly orphaned, has to find a way in which he and his ugly, mentally deficient brother can stay together. Like The Hand, also drawn by Vanyo, The Brothers could be considered one of Eagle’s horror strips. It also fits pretty neatly into the sub-genre of PleaseGodLetItStop as an idea worthy of maybe 6 or 7 episodes gets stretched out to 30 via some increasingly unlikely developments. You’ll be pleased to hear that there’s a happy ending, however.
The other new beginner was the thrillingly titled News Team, about, er, a news team. This team of 4 journalists get more involved in their news stories than seems strictly professional. For instance, in the first story, a president of some vaguely eastern country is kidnapped by terrorists shortly after the news team have interviewed him, so they take their camera and – yes – chase down the terrorists all the way back to their base. Later stories require them to report on erupting volcanoes while standing on them and, ultimately, with the ideas-tank running dry, getting a ride on the space shuttle. Early episodes are illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Jose Ortiz, but he comes off the strip quite soon (perhaps required for art duties on Scream, the new horror title IPC were launching) and two fill-in artists, Bermejo and P Gascoine do surprisingly convincing imitations of his style. The News Team themselves are clearly barmy, as are most of their adventures.
After a brief burst of life provided by the art format, Manix was also running out of steam by this point. ‘In Enemy Hands’ sees him captured by S.M.O.G., who re-programme him to do their evil deeds. British Intelligence respond by building another Manix, who eventually defeats the original Manix. However, not that long afterwards, this Manix is dropped into a volcano, and so we get a 3rd (5th? 6th?) Manix turn up, to carry on doing whatever it is he does. Writer Alan Grant seems to have given up at this point, but after a fairly substantial gap, Manix returns in issue 124, now being written by Scott Goodall. Goodall tries his best, but perhaps didn’t quite ‘get’ what Manix is about, as his first story, ‘The Oracle Quest’, introduces the crushingly cute ‘mini-Manix’, who is basically an Action Man that can kill you. Fortunately, the little dude gets killed off, and Manix is as pleased as the rest of us.
Meanwhile, Doomlord is going from strength to strength. Now he can teleport, Vek can get into outer space, allowing him to go up and rescue some astronauts trapped on the ever-popular space shuttle. (The real thing first launched on 12 April 1981, and like all little boys at the time, I was obsessed with it. I decided my favourite shuttle was the Challenger. That didn’t turn out well.) To save them, he decides to teleport to where the Death Lords have hidden their spaceship, on the dark side of the moon. Unfortunately, the ship is booby-trapped, and Vek is taken back to Nox to face trial at the hands of the Dread Council. As such, this is probably the first Doomlord story that definitely could not have been done photographically. Heinz’s serviceable artwork gives us a good view of Nox for the first time, where a surprisingly persuasive Vek gets the Dread Council to rescind sentence of death on both humanity and himself. What they do instead is strip him of his bling robes (leaving him in a rather cool-looking vest, skull-motif shirt, trousers and boots) and exile him to Earth permanently. And so he takes up residence here, somewhere between Superman and Doctor Who, but with with rather greyer morals than either.
Shortly after this, Doomlord gets his own TV show, complete with a superbly caricatured producer who calls him “doomy-baby”. This entirely satirical section sees Vek getting various corrupt officials and public figures up on his show and confronting them on a lie-detector about all the vile things they’ve done. (Where he gets his information from is anybody’s guess). His main human nemesis at this point is “top government minister” Douglas Reeve, who wants to close the show down, but doesn’t quite dare directly oppose someone capable of murdering an entire town when he gets annoyed. After a one-issue gap (116 – the gap is filled by a one-off story, Happy Families. Clearly intended for the Amstor Computer, which is still going strong at this point, the story is instead introduced by Doomlord’s floating head, despite apparently having nothing to do with him) we launch into ‘The Gemini Plaque’, in which Doomlord and Reeve have to work together to fight off an invasion of alien bugs, intended to kill off humanity in preparation for another race of creatures to take over. Really, you just can’t go wrong.
Issue 116 also sees the introduction of new story Bloodfang, by John Wagner and artist Jim Baikie (probably best know for his work on Skizz with Alan Moore in 2000AD). Both Wagner and Pat Mills seem to love good dinosaur story, and this is no exception, as for 12 episodes we follow a young T-Rex, Bloodfang, and his incredibly savage introduction to life. Most dinosaur comic strips involve time travelling humans, but not this one, which feels more like a David Attenborough-style nature documentary, but with extra flesh-ripping. As with The Fists of Danny Pyke, Wagner is clearly enjoying himself.
Speaking of Danny, having won the world championship, he takes a three-issue break from 123 to 125, with the gap filled by A Bullet for the Marathon Man – a 3-part story by Grant (and almost certainly, Wagner), a rather taut little piece about an LAPD detective who runs the marathon in the 1984 Olympics in an attempt to draw the fire of an assassin who has sworn to murder the American competitor somewhere on the 26-mile course. Danny returns in issue 126 to defend his title, and carries on for another 33 episodes, although some of the life has gone out of the story, now that the main character has achieved his dreams.
Dan Dare starts a new story in issue 117, ‘Renagol’, with art by Carlos Cruz, who is actually quite good match for Ian Kennedy’s style. The story sees the Earth invaded by aliens who can burrow up from under the ground and are led by an enormous brain called Renagol. Towards the end of The Return of the Mekon, Pat Mills had actually had the Mekon mention in passing that he’d dropped the entirety of Britain to the bottom of the sea, possibly as a big continuity-busting F.U. to future writers – but that isn’t acknowledged, here. Robo-One returns instead, and again mostly saves the day on Dare’s behalf. Dan has the final act, in which he blackmails the aliens into leaving, by threatening the life of their leader, Renagol, rather ungallantly failing to mention that he has already killed Renagol by tripping up and falling through his life support system.
One suspects that Frank Hampson would not approve.
As issue 128 approached, both The Brothers and News Team were swiftly put out of our misery, and the decks were lightly cleared for more changes to come.
And our story index to conclude:
pt 5: 100-127 DAN DARE, PILOT OF THE FUTURE untitled (“Renagol”), 14 episodes, issues 117-130 (June to Sep. 1984) Story by uncredited, art by Carlos Cruz NEWS TEAM News Team, 28 episodes, issues 100-127, (Feb. to Aug. 1984) Story by Alan Hebden, art by Jose Ortiz (1-7), Bermejo (8-9,12-15,20-28), P Gascoine (10-11,16-19) THE AMSTOR COMPUTER 684: The Miracle!, issue 100, (Feb. 1984) Story by uncredited, art by Ortiz 246: “I'm Coming Home...”, issue 101, (Feb. 1984) Story by A Stone, art by Redondo 23030: The Alien Pet, issue 102, (Mar. 1984) Story by C Potter, art by John Cooper 211170: The Forward's Back!, issue 103, (Mar. 1984) Story by Barrie Tomlinson, art by Eric Bradbury 960518: Fall from Fortune!, issue 104, (Mar. 1984) Story by K Armstrong, art by J Stokes 19700: A Breath of Fresh Air, issue 105, (Mar. 1984) Story by A Stone, art by Mike Dorey 107: The Perfect Specimen, issue 106, (Mar. 1984) Story by A Stone, art by Mike Dorey 29111: Starbeast, issue 107, (Apr. 1984) Story by J Trevelyan, art by Cam Kennedy 79257: The Phantom Pilot, issue 108, (Apr. 1984) Story by K Armstrong, art by J Stokes 66783: The Thief and the Computer, issue 109, (Apr. 1984) Story by A Stone, art by John Cooper 43498: A Taste of Terror, issue 110, (Apr. 1984) Story by N Allen, art by J Stokes 800503: Uncle Ben, issue 111, (May 1984) Story by A Stone, art by Zeccara 56: The Most Powerful Force in the Universe, issue 112, (May 1984) Story by A Stone, art by Carlos Cruz 1: In Search of Life..., issue 113, (May 1984) Story by A Stone, art by Boix 999: No Hiding Place, issue 114, (May 1984) Story by B Burrell, art by J Vernon 11112: Kidnapper, issue 115, (June 1984) Story by B Burrell, art by J Vernon 400: The One That Got Away!, issue 116, (June 1984) Story by J Trevelyan, art by Carlos Cruz 1970: Snow Beast, issue 117, (June 1984) Story by B Burrell, art by John Cooper 73: Superstition, issue 118, (June 1984) Story by Chris Lowder, art by Redondo 842631: Going for Gold, issue 119, (June 1984) Story by I Mennell, art by J Vernon 1999: Galactic Guise, issue 120, (July 1984) Story by C Potter, art by J Stokes 22056: The Future that Never Was!, issue 121, (July 1984) Story by J Trevelyan, art by Boix 578: Tomorrow's World!, issue 122, (July 1984) Story by Fred Baker, art by Ron Turner 2574: Rubbish!, issue 123, (July 1984) Story by uncredited, art by J Vernon? (uncredited) 12345: untitled, issue 124, (Aug. 1984) Story by J Trevelyan, art by Ron Turner 879642: Pentathlon Soldier, issue 125, (Aug. 1984) Story by uncredited, art by Mike Dorey 1971: Dead or Alive, issue 126, (Aug. 1984) Story by I Mennell, art by Cam Kennedy 115600: Locked Away!, issue 127, (Aug. 1984) Story by C Potter, art by Ian Kennedy THE BROTHERS The Brothers, 30 episodes, issues 100-128, (Feb. to Sep. 1984) Story by Scott Goodall, art by Vanyo (2 eps in issue 127) MANIX In Enemy Hands, 9 episodes, issues 100-108 (Feb. to Apr. 1984) Story by Keith Law (Alan Grant), art by Carmona Operation Rats' Nest, 7 episodes, issues 109-115 (Apr. to Jun. 1984) Story by Keith Law (Alan Grant), art by Carmona The Oracle Quest, 6 episodes, issues 124-129 (Aug. to Sep. 1984) Story by Scott Goodall, art by Carmona SGT. STREETWISE untitled (“Q Cars”), 4 episodes, issues 103-106, (Mar. 1984) Story by Gerry Finlay-Day, art by J Vernon DOOMLORD untitled (The Space Shuttle), 7 episodes, issues 107-113 (Apr. to May 1984) Story by Alan Grant, art by Heinzl The Gemini Plague, 13 episodes, issues 114-115, 117-127 (May to Aug. 1984) Story by Alan Grant, art by Heinzl BLOODFANG Bloodfang, 12 episodes, issues 116-127 (June to Aug. 1984) Story by F M Candor (John Wagner), art by Jim Baikie HAPPY FAMILIES Happy Families, issue 116 (June 1984) Story by A Stone, art by John Cooper A BULLET FOR THE MARATHON MAN! A Bullet for the Marathon Man!, 3 episodes, issues 123-125 (July to Aug. 1984) Story by Alan Grant, art by Gual A FISHY STORY! A Fishy Story!, issue 124 (Aug. 1984) Story by A Stone, art by J Vernon THE FISTS OF DANNY PYKE untitled (“World Champion”), 33 episodes, issues 126-158 (Aug. 1984 to Mar. 1985) Story by D Spence (John Wagner), art by John Burns