Please note in the picture above I have added the title wording and an image of Spring-Heeled Jack from the second series. Background image by Carrion and the Spring-Heeled Jack image by Dave Gibbons of the second series.
Note - the first two series were called Spring-Heeled Jackson, but the stories in the Hotspur annuals were called Spring-Heeled Jack. I've opted to call the page and the character Spring-Heeled Jack.
A strip from The Hornet and The Hotspur comics.
My thanks to Vic Whittle and the British Library Newspaper department, for providing scans of the Jack stories not in my collection.
See The Hornet issues - first series 616 - 627; second series The New Hotspur comic 941 - 955 (29th Oct. 1977 to 04th Feb. 1978).
Spring-Heeled Jack also appeared in the Hotspur annuals 1985, (no story in the 1986 annual), 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, plus other years. (Information still to be added).
Note - there was also a complete one issue story in the Hotspur about Jack Manson, in a title with the same name, but a different character. This story can be found below.
Writer:- The Hornet editorial team. Artist:- first series Carrion; second series - Dave Gibbons; Hotspur annual 1985 artist Gibbons?; Hotspur annuals 1989 to 1992 - Terry Patrick?. My thanks to Chris Barnett for identifying Gibbons's Hotspur artwork.
Main cast:- John Jackson (Spring-Heeled Jack); P.C. Jim Brown; Sergeant Drew.
Time period:- Victorian London, late 19th Century.
By day mild mannered, stammering John Jackson is a clerk at the Ravell Road Police station, in the East End of Victorian London. But when danger calls and the police are faced with a mystery or brutal crime, Jackson dons his suit to become the costumed vigilante Spring-Heeled Jack. (Jackson though does not operate out of a lair or secret hideout, he has to make do with his attic office at the Ravell Road Police Station). Friend to the innocent, but a stout opponent of criminals. Criminals are scared of Spring-Heeled Jack, due to the fictional/folklore legend of Spring-Heeled Jack who was seen as a devil, which people believed at the time to be real. (He got his name from the long jumps he was able to make). Jackson made use of this fear, when fighting crime. Much as Bruce Wayne used the image of a bat to scare criminals as the Batman. See below for more information about the urban legend.
Jackson as a clerk suffers along with his friend P.C. Brown, the cross-tempered, verbal assaults of Sergeant Drew, who is forever threatening to ruin Brown's career. Drew is also careful to take any credit from senior officers for any good work done by Brown.
Spring-Heeled Jack's abilities
The images above show some of Jack's equipment. The first image (also the first Jack costume), left above is from the Hornet issue 616 and the remaining two are both from the Hotspur issue 947. The latter two images show the second and for me the best version of Jack's costume.
The stories in the first series tend to be baffling mysteries, (well thought out by the writer and not entirely impossible), which Brown is assigned to solve. Jackson is always on hand to assist his friend out. The second series (in the Hotspur comic) follows Jackson as he battles a criminal mastermind known only as the Hood, described by Jack as, 'educated, clever and merciless,' in a game of cat and mouse.
Jack's adventures also appeared in the Hotspur annuals. The 1985 annual portrays Jack in the uniform as seen in the second series above. In future annuals his costume changes. Gone are the claws and helmet, to be replaced by a dark, one piece bodysuit and an eye mask. To view Jack's third costume, please see the one of the Hotspur Annual stories below.
The series does not reveal Jackson's motives for fighting crime as a costumed vigilante. There is no mention made that it might be because of a personal family loss due to criminals. Maybe he attempted to join the police force, but was rejected. As a result perhaps Jackson decided to fight crime in his own way. He's certainly very determined to teach criminals that crime does not pay and he isn't adverse to scaring them as much as he possibly can. No reference is made either of where he obtained his equipment or indeed who trained him. Possibly he trained himself, maybe he had a circus background.
All of the artists do a good job in portraying a moody, foggy and atmospheric Victorian London.
Spring-Heeled Jack - the urban legend.
The above image of Spring-Heeled Jack is from an illustration circa 1890.
Spring-Heeled Jack first came to prominence in England in the late 1830's. Sightings were mainly in London, but he also appeared to have had time to travel to the Midlands and Scotland. Stories about him also began to appear in several works of fiction.
'Spring-heeled Jack was described by people who claimed to have seen him as having a terrifying and frightful appearance, with diabolical physiognomy, clawed hands, and eyes that "resembled red balls of fire". One report claimed that, beneath a black cloak, he wore a helmet and a tight-fitting white garment like an oilskin. Many stories also mention a "Devil-like" aspect. Others said he was tall and thin, with the appearance of a gentleman. Several reports mention that he could breathe out blue and white flames and that he wore sharp metallic claws at his fingertips.' (Wikipedia).
There was also reports that a Spring-Heeled Jack character was responsible for attacking Jane Alsop in her house in London. She with the help of her sisters fought off the attack of Jack, who, 'presented a most hideous and frightful appearance, and vomited forth a quantity of blue and white flame from his mouth, and his eyes resembled red balls of fire.' (Roud, Steve.- London Lore.- Random House, 2008.- p.149). No one was ever caught for this crime, nor for any of the other crimes Jack was supposed to have committed. The case was reported in The Times of London. The world's greatest fictional detective Sherlock Holmes said, 'when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.' And the truth in this case as in so many other urban myths is due to inventive human beings.
The following adventures of Spring-Heeled Jack are from the following issues in the Hornet, 619, 620, 621 and 626 and from the Hotspur issues 941, 947 & 955. Jack's adventures from the 1985 and 1988 Hotspur annuals. Lastly, we have two complete stories of the second Spring-heeled Jack from the Hotspur issues 346 and 445.