Morris, Rev'd Marcus


The Rev’d. Marcus Morris served as a curate based at St. Paul’s Church, from June 1941 to July 1942 and lived at St. Paul’s Clergy House. He later founded the Eagle comic. His first curacy was in Liverpool, where he met Rita Foyle, a model, to whom he became engaged. However, the Liverpool Diocese took a dim view of curates marrying, so he looked for another posting. The Vicar of Great Yarmouth, Canon Aitkin, offered him a curacy, but when he met Rita in London, she told him she had fallen in love with someone else and Morris travelled to Great Yarmouth alone. In Great Yarmouth he founded a youth club, which soon had 80 members and he visited the wounded in the local war hospitals. The youth club met three times a week at St. Paul’s clergy house. It was said that Morris was the only curate who had any control over the youths.

Morris wrote an article on Christian hypocrisy for the Great Yarmouth Mercury, but the vicar of Great Yarmouth, Aitken forbid its publication as it was controversial. In his proposed article Morris questioned the difference that the Christian church had made to society in general. He wrote: how much difference does Christianity make in the way nations, governments, town councils and business firms behave? He continued: that most Christians confine their Christianity to their private lives and take great care that it does not interfere in their public lives.  

In 1941, he returned to take care of his father’s church in Liverpool, as he had been injured in an air raid. Here he fell in love with an actress, Jessica Dunning, and was married within a week without Aiken’s permission.  Morris returned to Yarmouth, but left to join the RAF as a chaplain in 1942 .

In 1945, he became the Vicar of St James' Church, Birkdale in Lancashire, where he published a Christian magazine based on humour and the arts, called The Anvil, which contained illustrations by Frank Hampson (an artist who later created Dan Dare). The magazine was circulated far beyond his parish, but it did not sell well and it placed Morris in considerable debt.

With Frank Hampson, Morris founded the Eagle comic in 1950. Children's comics such as The Rover, The Hotspur, Schoolgirls' Own, The Magnet and Adventure usually contained a mixture of adventure stories, presented as text rather than strip cartoons, and some British boys were buying American horror comics produced for the soldiers of the United States Army.  Morris was impressed by the high standard of artwork in the American magazines, but disgusted by their content, which he described as being deplorable, nastily over-violent and obscene and often with undue emphasis on the supernatural and the magical as a way of solving problems. He realised that a market existed for a children's comic which featured action stories in cartoon form, but which would also convey to children the standards and morals he advocated.

In 1951, Morris launched Girl, a girls' counterpart to the Eagle, followed by Robin in 1953 for younger children, and Swift in 1954 for an audience younger than Eagle and Girl readers, but older than Robin readers.  From 1954 to 1959 he was the editor of Hultons' Housewife Magazine. He left Hulton’s in 1959 after a takeover by Odham’s Press. Although the Eagle continued in various forms, there was a lowering of editorial standards, which led to plummeting sales, and it was eventually absorbed by its rival, the Lion, in 1969. The Eagle was relaunched in 1982 and ran for over 500 issues before being discontinued by its publisher in 1994. He was responsible for launching the British edition of the Cosmopolitan Magazine. Morris was awarded the OBE in 1983 and died in 1989 at the age of 73 years. He had been the honorary chaplain at St. Bride's Church in Fleet Street, London for 31 years.

Paul Davies

  Dan Dare

Eagle illustrator, Hampson (left) and Morris