Frank Hampson (1918-1985) was a British artist and creator mostly known for his masterpiece: “Dan Dare.” Together with Marcus Morris (1915-1989), he helped create the comic book Eagle and was instrumental in turning it into a successful publication.

Born in Manchester, England, and raised in Southport, Frank Hampson started making money for his sketches when he was only 13. His first paid job was from Meccano Magazine. After working at the Post Office for a few years, Hampson joined the Victoria College of Arts and Science in 1938. However, during World War I he dropped out of school in order to join the Royal Army Service Corps. During his service, he continued to do freelance work and also married Dorothy Jackson (1918-1985).

Around 1949 he met and started working with Marcus Morris, a vicar who was looking for an artist for his church magazine. Though the work was only part-time, together they created the strip “Lex Christian,” a precursor for “Dan Dare.” Wishing to expand his church magazine to a wider audience, Morris hired Hampson as a full-time artist and together they founded Eagle. The first issue was released 14 April 1950.

Frank Hampson used live models as the basis for his characters- something that helped the detailed panels that he illustrated seem almost life-like. He would often take pictures of his assistants, models, and even of himself, to capture specific expressions and facial structures. But his attention to detail was not spent on “Dan Dare” alone. While at Eagle, Hampson also worked on “The Great Adventurer,” “Tommy Walls,” and “Rob Conway.” As Eagle transitioned into a weekly publication, he began working with other artists such as Bruce Cornwell, Joan Porter, Greta Tomlinson, and Tommy Walls in order to meet deadlines.

In 1951, Hampson started to cut back on his stressful workload which was effecting his health, and focused more specifically on “Dan Dare.”Under his direction, “Dan Dare” thrived especially from 1955 until 1959 when management shifted at Eagle.After some tension with the new editor, Clifford Makins, Hampson passed his creation of “Dan Dare” over to Frank Bellamy. Hampson still remained at Eagle for another year and published “The Road of Courage.”

After he departed Eagle, he worked as an illustrator for Ladybird Books and even did some work at a local college. Though he continued to work on his own comics throughout the rest of his life, his work after Eagle went unpublished and unfinished. In 1975 at the Comics Convention in Luca, Italy, Frank Hampson was awarded the Prestigio Maestro award for his influence in comics. After a battle with cancer and a stroke, he died on 8 July 1985.

— Michael Baker

Further Reading

  • Crompton, Alastair. A Celebration of the Life and Art of Frank Hampson – Tomorrow Revisited. Yorkshire: PS Artbooks, 2010.
  • Morris, Sally, and Jan Hallwood. Living With Eagles. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 1998.