15 August 2013
The comic strip Dan Dare, as featured in the pages of Eagle comic was hugely popular in the Fifties and Sixties. Do you remember the comic and the series of stamps readers were encouraged to collect? By Ed Fletcher ...
Dan Dare appeared each Friday in Eagle comic and his exploits captivated almost every boy in Britain between the age of five and fifteen. Spellbound, we held our breaths as Dan and his Earthling companions, including his side-kick Albert Digby, battled the evil green-skinned and egg-headed Mekon, who ruled Venus and plotted to conquer Earth.
Rocket science and interplanetary communications were in their infancy in the post-WWII decades and it seemed perfectly reasonable to our young imaginations that postal services complete with paper, envelopes and – yes, even stamps – should function on extra-terrestrial worlds. To satisfy the desire for ever closer involvement with our hero, the Eagle’s publishers, Hulton Press, fed us regularly on a diet of special circulation-boosting gifts including space stationery, space ballpoint pens and even space stamps.
In 1953, when Eagle’s circulation was at its height and scarcely a boy in the land lacked a stamp collection, an astute sales executive at Lever Brothers, manufacturers of Lifebuoy Soap, hit upon a cunning marketing plan that relied heavily on the pester factor for which children were (and still are) renowned. Lever paid a royalty to Hulton Press for the use of Dan Dare’s name. Shortly afterwards advertisements began to appear in The Eagle (and elsewhere) worded:
You all know about heroic Dan Dare and his exciting exploits. And now here’s your chance to add to your Dan Dare collection. 32 wonderful stamps showing Space Flights, Space Stations, Dan Dare And His Friends, Animals Of Other Planets, and more, will be issued in 8 sets of 4 stamps. And, what’s more, with your first set you get a folder, absolutely free, to stick your stamps in. Just send in the coupon with one LIFEBUOY SOAP wrapper and three 2½d stamps to cover postage…
Mums throughout Britain, long accustomed to the aversion of boys to soap and water, readily agreed to switch to Lifebuoy if it meant cleaner hands and faces for their offspring. When mothers and sons opened newly bought Lifebuoy bars they found examples of the stamps inside the wrapper. Soon boys were washing and lathering three and more times a day to get through the soap and open another wrapped bar. Both Lever and Hulton were delighted by a successful sales campaign!
Eagle comic image: Dan Dare Corporation