In Review: Spaceship Away 43

Spaceship Away 43 - Cover

The latest issue of Spaceship Away, the glossy zine inspired by the adventures of Dan Dare in Eagle, is available now, wrapped in a Christmas cover by Don Harley. (What a shame this and other Christmas-inspired Dare art isn’t available as seasonal cards!)

Tim Booth’s “Dan Dare: Shakedown Cruise” continues, spanning eight pages of the 40 page magazine. Also featured are “Operation Pintos” (we still don’t know where this first appeared, which is frustrating), another episode of “The Golden Amazon” written by Philip Harbottle, drawn by Ron Turner and coloured by Martin Baines, and the one-page humour strip “Davy Rocket” (again uncredited). The back page features some Dan Dare art by Andy Price.

Spaceship Away 43 - Dan Dare: Shakedown Cruise
Dan Dare: Shakedown Cruise by Tim Booth
Spaceship Away 43 - Operation Pintos
Operation Pintos – creators and original publication unknown

Spaceship Away 43 - The Golden Amazon

To be honest, this issue is a bit of a mixed bag. The lack of recaps on some continuing strips, on a title published infrequently, is just one editorial tweak this publication sorely needs – even if on the contents page. (Thankfully, Tim Booth provides one on his “Dan Dare” story).

Despite the enthusiasm and dedication of the team involved, while I appreciate the magazine is aimed at fans of the original Dan Dare and Eagle I’m at a complete loss to understand the purpose of some of the features that continue in this issue, particularly articles such as “The History of Early Rockets“, now into its third (and hopefully last) chapter. There is nothing in “Space News” that can’t be gleaned elsewhere in a more timely fashion and the layout of this and other articles is a disappointment.

Spaceship Away 43 - Space News

That said, one article is stand out. Andrew Darlington‘s superb article, “Worlds of Modern Wonder“, is far more deserving of the space it has in the magazine. It’s a terrific article on the weekly magazine, published in the 1930s and 40s (presumably killed off, finally, by paper wartime rationing) whose contributors included SF author John Wyndham (writing as John Benyon, one of many aliases) and John Russell Fearn, and which later featured “Flash Gordon” as a back page feature.

In fact, I have to wonder, given the huge amount of visuals in the article, quite why this hasn’t been spread over more issues, because some of the art in Modern Wonder is truly stunning and no doubt inspired many of the artists who would later work on Eagle. (Perhaps some of the images wouldn’t stand up to reproduction at larger size?)

Modern Wonder - Art Sample
Art from the 1930s magazine Modern Wonder – one of the images featured in Andrew Darlington’s article

There’s also a short interview by our own Jeremy Briggs with Titan Comics Dan Dare editor David Leach, who reveals the company plans for their revived classic Dan Dare collections, as well as talking about the new four-issue mini series by Peter Milligan and Alberto Foche.

I really like the format of Spaceship Away, one emulated by the more focused Space Ace magazine published by John Lawrence. The cover price ensures the artists and writers involved in the strips are paid for their work, working on a magazine with a low circulation whose print costs will be higher per unit. I think it’s a business model others would do well to look at as a way to bring classic comic strip material to new audiences. But with this latest issue I’m afraid I came away rather non-plussed and wondering that if Spaceship Away doesn’t up its game, how long it might hold on to the subscribers it has – and how long, indeed, it may last.

Regular readers of downthetubes will know that I am very rarely in any way disparaging about a title received for review which I then review. I suppose it’s because I was brought up to believe that if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing, which doesn’t make me a great critic.

I hope the publishers of Spaceship Away will see this review as constructive criticism about the magazine, as intended.

• Spaceship Away is available to buy on subscription at spaceshipaway.org.uk

• If you’re curious about Modern Wonder, there’s some more art here on Jot101 and another item here on Phil Beard’s “Notes on the Arts and Visual Culture” blog

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a “freelance comics operative”, currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY.

John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor.

He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY.

Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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