Yet another change to the Eagle layout! When Keith started working again for Eagle, he and Dan Dare were relegated to the inside pages, and in black and white. At the same time, hosts of regular features were swept away as the professionals of Fleet Street moved in. There was a rapid turn over of editors at the same time.
But when David Bartholomew took over, he realised that there might still be some mileage left in Dan Dare. Now he was promoted back to the front page during Operation Time Trap, with a further one & a half pages insode in b&w. This was a lot of work for Keith, even tho he had help, and at times it shows. Then the Mekon was brought back in "Wandering World". And Keith had his own way of sneaking back characters, as a close examination of the start of "Big City Caper" shows. He still had his stilted script writer, David Motton, to contend with, however.
But Bartholomew must have decided to do Dan Dare 'as it used to be'. Hence 'All Treens Must Die'. Two full color pages now, tho one was one the front and the other on the back. And an attempt at a real old fashioned story.
It was during this story that I gave up reading Eagle. I had just turned 16, and my tastes were changing. The comic was changing too, and not for the better. It was perhaps a good time to bow out, before the real rot set in.
But the story opens with the trial of the Mekon. Not that it was to be a long trial, as very early on he escapes, and is smuggled away from earth. Keith's artwork for this story is superb, and there are umpteen visual and story references to times past.
Here is an Earth satellite, very much in the Hampson mould, where people trans ship for passage to Venus. Needless to say the Mekon is esconced on board.
Then Dan is summoned to 10 Downing Street. And this gyrocar will be familiar to anyone who has read the opening of 'Operation Saturn'.
And Anastasia has been brought out of retirement [last seen at the end of Trip to Trouble]. But BOAC is no longer with us! [For younger readers, BOAC was a predecessor of BA, state owned, the British Overseas Aircraft Company. And is its registration - WKID - supposed to say WICKED?]
Now the Mekon has disappeared, the next obvious place to look is Mekonta. It's also the first view of Mekonta we've had since Reign of the Robots six years earlier. But listen to the plodding dialogue!
And this is a superb view of Anastasia as she flies over the Flame Belt, looking for clues as to the whereabouts of the Mekon.
And the Mekon attacks Mekonta. Now the meaning of the title of the story is revealed - it is the Mekon who wants to kill all Treens - he fears they have been contaminated by democratic ideas from Earth, and he wishes to replace them with newly bred superTreens. This is a spectacular picture, but not quite, to me, convincing.
And this shows all too clearly how Keith's work deteriorated under pressure. His inability to draw a convincing Dan remains, to me, his biggest fault.
And this is an extraordinary picture! The rationale behind it is that one of the Last Three [remember the end of the Ship That Lived?] is reading all of Dan's memories. And there is a prize of a fornight in Wigan for he who spots the most references!
But altho Keith might have had his problems drawing Dan, he could do a pretty good Mekon!
And this frame is an almost exact copy of one from the Venus story, when Dan is washed underneath the Flame Belt while paralysed ......
Sadly, the story peters out soon after this. Therons come and investigate, there is a squabble between the Mekon and the Last Three, the Mekon is buried under a rock fall ... the story collapses like an England cricket team touring the West Indies.
But Motton and Bartholomew must have thought Eagle readers had very short memories - the very next issue had another Mekon story!
9th December 1997.