A History of Dan Dare
In 1950 a new adventure comic hit the shelves of Britains newsagents. it's
clerical editor, the Rev. Marcus Morris had designed it to have a high moral
stance, to counteract the influence of the American horror comics which had
at that time taken a large share of the British comic market. The comic
reveled in unprecedented production standards, printed on twenty large pages,
eight of those in full colour. On pages one and two, in full colour
photogravure was the flagship strip, "Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future". The
comic was the Eagle and Dan Dare had arrived!
Dan Dare was the brainchild of Frank Hampson, originaly concieved as a
dog-collared chaplain of the future but the idea was swiftly revised when it
became apparent that this sort of story was unlikely to prove popular with the
boys that the strip was aimed at. Dan Dare became instead the fearless pilot
of the future, a character closely modelled on the architypal British war hero.
He did not drink or swear, he only fired in self defence and always told the
Frank Hampson continued to script the story as well as acting as princpal
artist until 1960 when he moved to the back page strip based on the life of
Christ. The story continued, though, a number of different artists being
resposible for Dan Dare over the next ten years. When, in 1969, Eagle comic
was absorbed into Lion, Dan Dare was to struggle on for a while, but only in
reprints. It seemed that Dan Dare was finally dead.
During the '70s, new Dan Dare stories were forthcoming though. Eagle Annuals
continued to be published up to the annual for 1975, each of these contained
a Dan Dare strip. The Lion Annuals for 1971 and 1972 each contained a text
story. It was in 1977 however that a new chapter began in the Dan Dare story.
1977 saw the launch of a new comic, a fast paced comic whose strips owed much
to holywood action films. The comic was 2000AD, and it featured a brand new
Dan Dare strip, but this Dan, drawn by Dave Gibbons was a far cry from the
Dan of Eagle. Teamed up with a bunch of gun toting heavies, Dan became a far
rougher, tougher type of hero. This transformation was explained in the 1979
Dan Dare Annual, Dan Dare had been in a near fatal space explosion and put into
suspended animation until such time that medicine had advanced to the stage
where his life could be saved. The Dan Dare that emerged from this, after
over a hundred years, was much changed, both in appearance and character.
The Dan Dare strip was to run in 2000AD until 1979, but this character starred
in a number of comics published in the 80's by Canadian publisher Quality
Comics. There were to be no new stories in the UK until 1982.
In 1982, after a gap of over a decade, Eagle Comic was back in the shops.
The new Eagle, like it's predecessor, was a new departure in comic books.
Printed on glossy paper and including much in full colour, the new Eagle
heavily featured interviews and articles, including a sports column written by
Daley Thompson, the olympic decathlete, and letters answered by comedian
Lenny Henry. The most unusual feature of the comic, though, was the inclusion
of a number of photo-strips, the first time they had been used in a boys comic
. Pride of place was given to the Dan Dare strip. Drawn initially by Gerry
Embleton, who was quickly succeded by Ian Kennedy and initially authoured by
Pat Mills and John Wagner, the new Dan Dare was the great, great, grandson of
the original. Although set 200 years after the original Dare's adventures
care was taken to echo the original strip, with the uniforms and structure
of space fleet looking familiar to readers of the original comic. This Dan
Dare was certainly nearer the original than his 2000AD counterpart. Sadly
this Dan was not to last in his original form. In a 1987 story he met his death
in a fight with the alien Dargath, promptly ressurected by the mysterious
Mytherons, he became Dan Dare, Space Marshall, with a mission to cruise the
galaxy blowing up aliens with his Peacemaker!
The Eighties also saw the publication of a Dan Dare strip in the politically
aware, drug inspired comic, 'Revolver'. Grant Morrisons interpretation of
the original Dare has him coming out of retirement in a highly politicised
story which pits Dan and Digby against the Thatcherite government of Earth.
Needless to say, Revolver was a rather short lived comic.
By 1989 the Dan Dare strip in Eagle Comic had spiralled to its nadir with the Marshall and
his companion Velvet O'Neal wearing bizarre leotard type outfits and facing
increasingly mind numbing adventures. Eagle's solution to this problem was
simple, bring back the original Dan Dare. The 26th of August 1989 saw the
return of the original hero, in a new story, illustrated by one of the artists
from the 60's, Keith Watson. Although this story was true to the original,
certainly visually, it was short, only six weeks in length, and was followed
by more short serials featuring the original Dan. It was in these stories
that radical changes were made. Dan gained a "Ram Gun" and his uniform began
to borrow heavily from punk style, before long Dan Dare had once more
degenerated into "blast the alien" fare. In the early 90's Eagle again waned,
Eagle weekly became Eagle monthly and eventually consisted almost entirely of
reprints. The final copy of Eagle was printed for Christmas 1993, circulation
having dropped from a peak of 750,000 to 20,000.
There is now fresh activity on the Dan Dare front, Nicholas Hill is writing an
unofficial adventure Project Pluto.
A new official adventure began in June 1996, in a UK Sunday paper called 'The Planet on Sunday',
it was illustrated by Sidney Jordan, who is known for creating the Jeff Hawke strip in the Daily Express. Unfortunately this strip, like the newspaper that it was published in only lasted for one issue.
Last update 13th May 1996
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times since 6th May 1996
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© Andrew Paul '96