In May 1950, at the age of seven, I was sent to a rather stuffy prep school on the Kent coast. Most of the other boys there knew better than to say ‘Coo’ to the headmaster, an overweening Old Rugbeian with the loudest voice in Thanet. I did not know better, and quite early on in my career had to write out 200 times, ‘I must not say “Coo, sir”.’ And where had I learned this vulgar exclamation? Probably from a comic. These, with one exception, were banned by the head, who would scrutinise our mail for contaminating matter like Hotspur and Wizard, two of my favourites. The exception was a glossy publication called Eagle, which first rolled off the press just three weeks before I was exiled to Kent.
Costing thruppence, which was twice the price of its rivals, Eagle was the brainchild of a dynamic young clergyman called Marcus Morris (1915–89), who became the most successful magazine publisher of his time. Appalled at the way British schoolboys lapped up lurid American horror comics, Morris concluded that what seduced