Originating from Southport, Lancashire, the EAGLE comic first issued in April 1950 made a huge and immediate impact on any boy growing up in the UK in the 1950's.
In austere post war Britain, where most childrens publications were rather dull and mundane, and in black and white, the Eagle comic blazed onto the scene in vivid and bright colours, and leading the way on the front cover was its main character DAN DARE, Pilot of the Future.
This great story strip enabled young readers to let their imagination run wild travelling through countless galaxies, no longer merely earth bound, and with the recent advent of the Jet /Rocket engine and the possible reality of Space flight in the near future, the Eagle comic soon gripped the nation as the No.1 selling children's comic.
Over 1 million copies per week were being sold, a lot for 1950, and their publishers, Hulton Press, soon realised that licensed merchandising would be much in demand.
So in 1950 the first of several hundred Dan Dare related toys/puzzles/games appeared in toy shops and proved to be a huge and immediate success.
The toy manufacturing industry in England at this time was still buoyant, with hundreds of manufacturers up and down the country, and many soon latched onto the Dan Dare and Eagle phenomenon. Hulton Press seemed more than willing to grant liceneses to toy producers so a flood of merchandise soon appeared in UK toy shops throughout the land in the early 1950's.
The product range was vast, anything from Ray Guns, Plastic figures, Playsuits, Belts, Braces, Clothing, Toothpowder, Masks, Construction sets, Puzzles, Shooting Games, Pedal Cars etc.
Even the food industry were involved, Dan Dare Drinks, Sweets etc became available. It really was the first pre television mecrhandise tie in explosion for children!
Many well known makers were involved, all of which were UK based, Merit, Palitoy, Lone Star, Waddingtons etc. plus hundreds of smaller, less well known companies.
Soon merchandising for other Eagle characters became available, and due to its huge success, other related comics from Hulton Press were released for girls and younger readers, Girl, Swift & Robin.
Very often the artwork on the front of the boxes was the best bit about the toy! Stunning and graffic artwork on the lid often led to disappointment once the box was opened........the contents were at times, to say the least basic!
The popularity of Dan Dare and the Eagle comic lasted, in reality to the end of the 1950's, with its popularity peaking at around 1955/56. Towards the end of the 1950's Children's TV programmes such as those created by Gerry Anderson soon started to appear, and these would dominate the UK children toy market for the next decade, along with many other US TV favourites of the 1960's.
Although the Eagle comic ran until 1969, by the end of the 1950's it had past its best, and found it hard to compete with the new TV related interest/comics/merchandise.
The Eagle comic and its related merchandise were only ever sold within the UK, so few overseas collectors have ever seen the Eagle comic or heard of Dan Dare, but much of its merchandise produced, in particular the Ray Guns are sought after on a global scale.
Many of the items made are now considered aclassic' 1950's Sci Fi toys, often because of the superb box lid artwork, and I am sure will be appreciated by collectors for decades to come.
For examples of the some of the best Dan Dare and other 1950's Sci Fi toys made, please read the excellent book aBLAST OFF' by Mark Young, published by Dark Horse Books.