Tayside legacy of groundbreaking sci-fi comic strip which even predicted the year of the moon landings

Chrys Muirhead with the books.
Chrys Muirhead with the books.

It is regarded by its fans as one of the most important sci-fi comics ever published.

Written by Willie Patterson from Perth and created by Dundonian Sydney Jordan, Jeff Hawke was published from 1955 to 1974 and even predicted the day of the moon landings to within a fortnight – 10 years before it happened.

Hawke regularly came face to face with creatures from other worlds.

They were friends in teenage years after Jordan moved to Perth from Dundee and both went to Miles Aeronautical Technical School in Reading.

Willie Patterson

The daily comic strip saw the Flash Gordon-like hero encounter extraordinary characters from other worlds.

Memorable storylines included Hawke being pursued from his moon base to the National Portrait Gallery in London by the spirit of the Mona Lisa; the human race being rescued from the ambitions of an alien estate agent; and a take on man’s first steps into space where the competition was beaten by an Englishman who landed on the moon in a Mini­ Cooper!

The classic sci-fi books have been donated to libraries in Tayside and Fife by Patterson’s daughter Chrys Muirhead.

Willie Patterson’s daughter Chrys Muirhead.

“The Jeff Hawke science fiction stories are an important legacy for my family and many others globally who have kept the tales alive by reading and sharing them,” she said.

“I feel very proud to be my father’s oldest daughter and to have lived long enough to appreciate what he did and what it cost him to create these stories.

“I remember my dad writing Jeff Hawke scripts on his electric typewriter in our flat in Perth in the 1960s, usually through the night, so as not to disturb us.

“My father was a gentleman, principled, autocratic at times, yet not a disciplinarian, who cared about others, and this shines through I think in his writing of Jeff Hawke’s adventures which are described as a ‘benchmark in intelligent, adult-oriented storytelling’.”

The books.

In 1954, Jordan decided to pitch an idea for a comic strip character named Orion to the Daily Express.

It was taken up but only after the character was renamed Jeff Hawke and given the position of a Royal Air Force Pilot.

Two years later, Patterson joined his childhood friend as the writer.

They made Jeff Hawke the first science fiction comic strip for adults.

Often in the plots there was a connection between extraterrestrial entities, archaeological mysteries and even supernatural creatures.

In the strip H1760, published on November 21 1959, there is a stone that commemorates the first human landing on the moon, noting that it happened on August 4 1969.

Of course, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step onto the lunar surface on July 21 1969 which was just two weeks before the comic predicted.

It was also the year Patterson’s contract to write Jeff Hawke would come to an end and Jordan took back responsibility for stories and drawings.

Patterson never worked again or came back to Perth after his contract was terminated in 1969.

The last Jeff Hawke strip was published on April 18 1974.

Jordan tried to revamp the character in a similar strip called Lance McLane in the Daily Record from 1976 to 1988.

Patterson died aged 57 in London in 1986.

The Patterson-Jordan period is considered the “true” Jeff Hawke by most fans.

Jeff Hawke remains hugely popular in Italy and Scandinavian countries.

“Willie was a man who saw beyond the skies to the stars,” said Jordan in his eulogy following his friend’s death.