The relaunched Eagle comic of the early 1980s was an unusual beast as it took one of the popular elements of popular girls titles such as ‘Jackie’, the photo strips, and incorporated it into most of their stories such as Doomlord and Sgt Streetwise. There were very few that were illustrated, one being the flagship title, ‘Dan Dare’. Another one of the early illustrated titles in this relaunch was ‘The Tower King’, and it was beautifully rendered by the Spanish artist Jose Oritz. Oritz also worked on the brilliant ‘House of Daemon’ strip for Eagle, which I plan to do an article on in the future.
‘The Tower King’ was a bleak post-apocalyptic tale set in London that had enough originality to make it interesting and raises it above the atypical ‘after the bomb’ type scenarios that post apocalyptic fiction tends to rely on.
The premise was that a malfunctioning solar satellite affects Earth and as a result the production of electricity ceases. Britain, and specifically London, is in the midst of a terrible winter, and with its infrastructure decimated, descends into chaos. The story focuses on a man, Mick Tempest, an ex-soldier who quickly emerges as a leader, organising his neighbourhood into a functioning community.
As the story progresses other characters, such as Lord Spencer, a self-styled Warlord, and the Tube Rats, a vicious breed of underground dwellers, are introduced. Mick Tempest comes into conflict with both Spencer and the Tube Rats, the latter battle pictured here;
As you can see from the scans of the comic included in this article, the artwork really lifts the story, with its inspiration taken from the modern and middle ages with its chain mail and swords mixing with overcoats, and the overall look of the characters acting as a sharp contrast to the modern buildings, such as electrical sub-stations and the London Underground.
Toward the end of the series run (it was in issues 1 to 24 of Eagle) Tempest, now in league with Lord Spencer, encounters a cult worshipping electricity inside a sub-station, and this is where the final scenes are played out. Here is the final episode of the series, from Eagle issue 24;
The story was a brave one for Eagle, as it was not an obvious choice – a dystopian future London descended into anarchy and squalor by the loss of electricity, topped off with middle ages styling? Try selling that to the young boys of Britain nowadays. I think it was both compelling and brilliantly illustrated and it is a shame that it has never been reprinted (as far as I know). The fact it ran for 24 issues (at 3 pages per issue) makes it little over 2 standard American comic book issues, but managed to pack in so much in that relatively short duration makes it all the more remarkable.
There is not a lot out there on Alan Hebden. Information is scarce. The following information on the writer of ‘The Tower King’ is taken from here;
“All I know about Alan (Hebden) is that he was the son of Eric Hebden, who was a regular writer for comics like Commando, Battle Picture Library and Lion in the 1960s and Battle Picture Weekly in the 1970s. Alan Hebden was quite a prolific contributor to the latter, probably best known for “Major Eazy” and “El Mestizo”, both drawn by Carlos Ezquerra; he also wrote “Crazy Keller”, drawn by Eric Bradbury, “Fighting Mann” and “Clash of the Guards”, both drawn by Cam Kennedy. Credits outside of Battle include “The Angry Planet” with art by Massimo Belardinelli for Tornado; he also contributed to 2000AD including the long-running series “Meltdown Man” (also with Belardinelli). The last credit I have for him is a Future Shock” in 2000AD issue 551 (5 December 1987) after which he seems to have vanished.
He wrote for 2000AD, Eagle and Tornado, and he wrote ‘Angry Planet’ for the latter;
“Angry Planet (for Tornado comic) written by Alan Hebden with art by Massimo Belardinelli was set in the late 21st Century on a Mars that had been made habitable by humans. The story told of the struggle of the first generation of genetic ‘martians’ to free themselves from exploitation by Earth.”
taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado_(comic)
Does anyone have any more information on Alan Hebden? It seems such a pity that he just seems to have disappeared. Still, even if he didn’t write anything after 1987, the likes of ‘Meltdown Man’, and especially ‘The Tower King’ are a great legacy. I could see the latter being made into a great British movie, especially as they are releasing the likes of Doomsday this year. As I said earlier, I plan to cover another great Eagle strip, ‘House of Daemon’, soon.