Greta draws on her memories of Dan Dare

Greta Edwards
Greta Edwards
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A Burnley-born artist who created characters for one of the most famous comic books of all time has reflected on her remarkable career.

Mrs Greta Edwards, brought up in a house overlooking Scott Park, made her name on the seminal children’s magazine “Eagle” on which she worked as a figure artist drawing the likes of cult space hero Dan Dare.

Greta, who studied at the Burnley Art School, was the only child of chemist James Tomlinson who had a pharmacy in Oxford Road. The prodigious youngster won a place to study art at Oxford University’s Slade School of Fine Art, and in her own words, “went from the sublime to the ridiculous” when she answered an advert for a cartoon artist on the new magazine, then based in Southport.

Now, 65 years on, 88-year-old Greta has spoken to the Burnley Express about her remarkable life and career.

“I had just finished at the Slade School in Oxford and was finding it difficult to find work as a life artist.

“I then spotted a job advert in the Advertisers Journal for a strip cartoon artist. It was like going from the sublime to the ridiculous, but I had no idea at the time how successful “Eagle” would become.

“The magazine was set up in 1950 by the Rev. Marcus Morris from Southport who envisioned a comic for young people with Christian values.

“England at the time was importing an enormous amount of American comics, which the Rev. Morris felt were too violent.

“He wanted a more wholesome figure for children to look up to - hence, Dan Dare was born.”

Indeed, Greta herself “gave birth” to an “Eagle” character in the form of Professor Jocelyn Peabody, who she created and based on herself.

“Working on “Eagle” was tremendously hard work but great fun. We literally worked day and night sometimes - I heard many a dawn chorus from the birds. We would take photographs of each other and then draw from that. I was Professor Peabody.

“Sometimes, though, Frank Hampson, who devised the Dan Dare character and was a genius, would arrive in the office in the morning and tell us to start all over again. Frank had witnessed the German V2 rockets during the war, which inspired the design for Dan Dare’s spaceship.”

Greta moved on from the Eagle after four years and later moved to Iraq with her husband Richard Edwards who worked for BP.

It was in the capital Baghdad where she gave birth to their only child Francesca before the family moved to Iran and then Kuwait.

They returned to England in 1969, settling in Haslemere, Surrey, where she still lives, and paints, today.

“Living in the Middle East was a huge culture shock. Iraq and Iran were very basic at the time but I enjoyed it enormously. Kuwait was a lot better too.

“I still paint and exhibit today, mainly using acrylic and collage. I will never forget my time working on the “Eagle”, and there is still a huge interest in it today.

“I am often sent original copies of the comic for me to sign with my maiden name of Greta Tomlinson. I am still amazed that so many people are interested in it.”

The Atkinson Museum in Southport is currently hosting an “Eagle” exhibition to mark its 65th year.