Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The IRON FISH

The Beano of my childhood always ran one or two adventure strips in its pages every week; General Jumbo, Danny on a Dolphin, The Q Bikes, Billy the Cat... and one of my favourites was The Iron Fish

It had begun as a prose story in 1949 titled Deep Sea Danny's Iron Fish, with illustrations by Jack Glass, but by the time I first saw it in 1964 it was a two page strip drawn by Albert Holroyd. Here's one of the early episodes from The Beano No.1126 (Feb,15th 1964)...

To be frank I found the characters of Danny and Penny Grey to be rather wet, if you'll pardon the pun. The big appeal of the strip for me was the wonderful design of The Iron Fish itself. It had such a distinctive look, and the 'eyes' of the craft seemed to give it an intense personality even though The Iron Fish was just a sophisticated submarine and not sentient in any way. (I liked the design so much that I remember making a little model of it out of Plasticine when I was five. I'm sure that if an Iron Fish toy had existed for Christmas 1965, myself and thousands of other kids would have gone bananas over it.) 

By 1966 The Iron Fish had a different artist; Sandy Calder. There was also a development in that Danny and Penny now had an Iron Fish each and the craft had the ability to fly. Here's an example from that series (The Beano No.1246, June 4th 1966)...

Below is an example from the next series (The Beano No.1282, Feb.12th 1967). By now, The Iron Fish design seems to have lost some of its striking appeal, particularly with the 'eyes' now drawn so small. It now looked less sinister and less dangerous than it had when Jack Glass and Albert Holroyd had drawn it, and perhaps that was the intention, but it was that original dark edge to the design that made it compelling, in my opinion. 

The Iron Fish faded from The Beano after that, but the strip was revived and revamped for D.C. Thomson's new adventure weekly Buddy in 1981. Danny Grey was now Danny Boyle and the strip went back to basics with a modern look. (I understand the scripts may have been updated ones from the old text stories.) This example is from Buddy No.61, April 10th 1982...


I still think The Iron Fish is a great little concept and a fantastic design, and in the right hands could work today as a strip, cartoon, or even a movie. No chance of that on the horizon unfortunately but maybe one day...

9 comments:

John Pitt said...

I haven't seen any of the Iron Fish strips for many a year. Am I right in remembering that there was also an adventure strip with a corkscrew-headed Iron tube that would burrow through the earth in one of the DC Th's?
Incidentally, Buddy was a good little Comic in its own right in the 80's!

Lew Stringer said...

You're probably thinking of The Black Sapper, that ran in The Beezer in the early sixties, and was revived in The Hotspur in the 1970s?

http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-blimey-christmas-selection.html

benpeter johnson said...

Ive read the iron fish and it was amazing. In fact, all of the Beano 'serious' stories were brilliant. Nowadays the early ones seem a bit 'what ho!' & imperialistic but then, The Beano has never been politically correct and good for it.

Brendini said...

The larger eyes definately make for a better design. I read Jaques Cousteau's The Undersea World at around the same time The Iron Fish became two. The dreams I had!

Lew Stringer said...

Benpeter, the type of adventure stories The Beano ran at that time were known as 'light adventure' (or at least that's how rivals IPC referred to that type). Therefore they usually steered clear of being too heavy and imperialistic, as opposed to strips in Victor, Warlord etc.

James Spiring said...

When The History of the Beano listed all of the stories published in the first 70 years of the comic, each story had a little code next to it - C, S, CA, or A. Comic, Prose Story, Comic Adventure, Adventure. Iron Fish counts as Adventure. The Dandy stuck with Comic Adventure stories a lot long than Beano did, BRassneck and Winker Watson are examples.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, within the context of The Beano itself The Iron Fish, General Jumbo, Billy the Cat etc would simply be classed as 'adventure'. However in comparison to material in Warlord, Crunch, Bullet, those Beano strips would be considered 'light adventure' because they lack the grittier, more violent aspects of strips such as Union Jack Jackson, The Walking Bombs etc.

benpeter johnson said...

I have a 'Beano book' from 1957. I love it but unfortunatly as I child i drew on some of the pages with red felt tip. There are some adventure stories in it which are very good but are quite hardcore by today's standards. Let me describe.
'The shipwrecked circus'
A highly frightening giant anaconda is shot several times before having it's head crushed between a rock and the spinning propelers of the nose of a plane!
'Big bazooka the ostrich'
A leopard is shot to death and the pelt is made into footballs.
'No peace for Peter Wilson'
A schoolboy is terrorised by a tiny black demon.
Finally, the charecter 'scrapper' is seen fighting an african boy. 'at least i cant black HIS eyes out!', he laughs!
Different times!
I'm not critisising it at all, I love the book. I'm just saying you couldent do it now unless you aimed the mag at older audiences.

paddykool said...

Yes ...the Iron Fish and Black Sapper were great fantastic concepts .Boys especially loved all that magic machinery .I wanted one of each of those machines. We didn't care how they worked ...we just wanted them. Think of the mayhem we could have wrecking through all that underground pipework with a burrowing machine and a flexible submarine ....no worries!!! No fuel !!! N running costs !!! Just magic!!

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