In 1956 News of the World publications launched Rocket, a new 16 page tabloid weekly as a companion to their TV Comic and Express Weekly titles. Dubbed 'The First Space-Age Weekly' its contents were mostly science-fiction and fact. It proudly proclaimed it was 'Edited by Douglas Bader', and perhaps the famous airman had some input but he wasn't the actual day to day editor. From its format it was obviously intended to be a rival to Hulton's Eagle, but Rocket spluttered and crashed after just 32 weeks.
What went wrong? Rocket certainly looked eye-catching enough with its dynamic logo, as can be seen from the cover to No.10 above. The contents were of a good quality, but perhaps Britain just wasn't ready for a comic solely based around science-fiction in 1956.
More likely the readers simply saw it for what it was; an inferior knock-off of Eagle. Why buy second-best? The cover strip was Captain Falcon, a Dan Dare type which although expertly drawn by Basil Blackaller wasn't quite in the same league as the pages produced by Frank Hampson's studio.
Rocket's budget was evidently lower than Eagle's too. Despite its slick printing and half of its pages in full colour, Rocket contained quite a few reprints from overseas. I'm not sure if Escape from Earth was one of them but I don't recognize the artwork and it certainly reads like an awkward translation...
On page four, John Storm was a reprint of the Dutch comic strip Piloot Storm, with nice solid artwork by Henk Sprenger. (You can read more about the strip at the well researched International Hero site here: http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/p/pilootstorm.htm)
Across the centre pages of Rocket were two more reprints, this time from American Sunday newspapers. Flash Gordon by Mac Raboy, and Johnny Hazard by the often underrated Frank Robbins. Another US reprint, Brick Bradford appeared elsewhere in the comic.
The only humour strip in the comic was the half-page Space for Laughter. (Perhaps Rocket might have been more successful of they'd found more space for humour.) Again, I don't recognize the artwork but the upside-down signature in the final panel is 'Kim'.
Rocket contained a few text stories and features. Here's one predicting Farming on the Moon! Ah, how optimistic Britain was 60 years ago...
On the back cover was an excellently illustrated strip. The Seabed Citadel was apparently written and drawn by Ley Kenyon the famous diver and artist. (You can read more about him at this excellent blog:
After just 32 weeks, Rocket was cancelled, merging into Express Weekly. Several years later Express (now titled TV Express) merged into TV Comic. Yet that wasn't the end of Rocket! If you have copies of Polystyle's 1971 spin-off from TV Comic, Countdown, take a look at the indicia. From issue 7 onwards (3rd April 1971) the official name of the comic suddenly became Countdown and Rocket even though Rocket wasn't named on the cover.
Perhaps Polystyle just wanted to hang onto that name to prevent rivals from using it? Or perhaps, as Steve Holland ventures in his book Countdown to TV Action, that they wanted to hold onto it in case they ever relaunched the title? They certainly held on tight. Even when Countdown changed its title to TV Action in 1972 the indicia still included Rocket...
Rocket was an interesting addition to comics of the 1950s, even though it wasn't as spectacular as might have been hoped.