Harris Tweed, Extra Special Agent
Cartoon strip from 1950s and early 60s
In 1950, John Ryan was commissioned by the Reverend Marcus Morris, editor of the new Eagle magazine to create a new humorous strip: Harris Tweed, Extra Special Agent. This replaced Captain Pugwash which was considered too juvenile. The inspiration for Tweed was a send-up of Ryan’s wife Priscilla’s notion of an ‘ideal man’, blended with various bone-headed officers Ryan had met in the army.
A pompous, vain and foolish sleuth, Tweed has the competent Boy looking after him. Just as Tom the Cabin-boy saves Captain Pugwash, Boy constantly extracts Tweed from sticky situations. As Boy says, ‘he always gets into trouble if I’m not there!’
The Harris Tweed weekly strip began as a full page, black and white drawing in issue 16 of Eagle on 28 July 1950. In the first, ‘The Case of the Stolen Papers’, Tweed dreams that MI5 have ordered him to recover some secret papers.
An epic chase takes place – superbly and dramatically drawn by Ryan in dense black ink – with Tweed heroically chasing the thieves by road, sea and air. Finally he tracks them to their mountain lair where he fells the whole gang with a mighty punch. He dreams he is knighted, and then – he’s awoken with a jolt by Boy to find the police at his door: they’ve called round about that wireless licence he hasn’t got! This is a typical scenario of over-confidence and desire for glory followed by downfall, with all explained in the last couple of frames.
The series ended in half-page glorious colour in 1962, having lasted twelve years ie. over 600 cartoon strips. None of the original artworks have come to light.
On display in the exhibition: 6 printed strips including image above.