Keith Watson

Kieth Watson The take over of Hulton Press in 1960, and the changes in management and editors that ensued, gave Eagle a blow it never really recovered from. The changes were no more obvious than in Dan Dare - Frank Hampson had resigned, an uneasy partnership with Bellamy and Harley followed, then Don Harley and Bruce Cornwell took over for a time, with scripts provided by Eric Eden. But, for me, this was dull and mundane stuff, and far too bland. The strip had lost its magic, and this became noticeable - so much so that on March 10th 1962, Dan Dare was relegated to the inside - and in black and white. No longer was it the 'lead' strip. Indeed, the front page had no story - initially, it figured 3 or 4 frames from stories inside, then it went to paintings of racing cars. And Keith Watson was now drawing the strip. He had started working for the studio team under Frank Hampson since 1958, when he had submitted a spoof front page, almost as a joke, and was employed on the strength of it. He had started work at the end of Reign of the Robots, and gradually had been given more and more to do - until the big bust-up.
This is from Terra Nova, and whilst not signed by Keith, is very much his style :

Keith Watson The next picture is from 16th August '62, the start of Operation Fireball (the rather sexy teacher was modelled on Keith's wife, Beverley). Don Harley strived for the big effect but failed - here KW is more successful but on a smaller scale. The stories were very short - now perhaps 10-12 episodes, even if over two pages.

Keith Watson Keith Watson
In these two pictures we see what I call the 'iconised' Dan - it never seems to be a portrait of a real person, which is a pity.

Keith Watson Keith Watson



But here are two examples of KW's excellent figure work [and the return of the original space suit design!] :

Then Dan is brought back to the front page - but in an odd format : the first, front page in colour, usually dominated by one large frame, then a page and a half of b&w. These front spectaculars didn't always suit KW - at least not every week. Artwork from this period can be seen in All Treen Must Die.

This format lasted for about another year, before reverting to two colour pages. Then it was moved to the centre. And for Keith's last dying gasp, one colour page inside.

But did I say dying gasp? Eagle was revived some years after its demise, and DD was brought back, and in various guises. And in August 1989 KW started a new DD story - untitled - that was intended to be the 'old' DD. Inevitably, it is a Mekon story, but Keith fits in little odd touches from the 50s - bizarre 30 years later. The story was 3 A4 sides per issue, and ran for 6 issues. It does have some 80s touches - the Mekon wants to pollute Earth with its old radioactive waste which is being shipped up to the Moon, where it is to be rendered harmless.