Art and Stories by Ron Turner
Colour by John Ridgway
Published by John Lawrence
The Book: The latest Space Ace magazine features two 12-page stories from the 1957 Lone Star Annual published in 1957: “Space Ace and the Black Pirate” and “Space Ace and the Tyrant of Trathane“, plus “Space Ace and the Tower of Tongaylar” from Lone Star Volume 5 Number 3 , published in 1959.
This is the penultimate issue of Space Ace, but fear not – Ron Turner’s Tit-Bits SF Comics is now in the works, re-publishing Ron’s contributions to the scarce 1953-54 title published by Pearson, which ran for just six issues, coloured by John Ridgway.
(As you can see from the black and white page here, from Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comics #4 – “Captain Diamond and The Space Pirates” – John’s got his work cut out for him!)
Because of the original digest format of Tit-Bits SF Comics, this new series will have a different, smaller format to Space Ace.
This new publication is, John Lawrence emphasises, dependent on support from Ron Turner fans, so if you’ve enjoyed Space Ace, then get in touch with the publisher about how to buy this new project.
The first issue will feature “Diamonds of Death”, a story that has only ever appeared in France.
The Review: Space Ace Volume 10 offers the usual mix of space piracy and evil dictators on the rampage, offering fast-paced thrills and terrific vistas of alien worlds. As usual, there’s also plenty of Ron Turner’s fantastic machines to savour, stylishly coloured by John Ridgway.
Once again, I’m left with the feeling that both Gerry Andersons and Derek Meddings must have been familiar with Ron’s work, and it influenced the design of some of the vehicles created for TV shows such as Thunderbirds a decade later. I’ve no proof of that, of course, but the tunnelling machine employed in “Tyrant of Trathane” is just one example of my pet theory!
Overall, the stories are fun, even if both “Tyrant of Trathane” and the opening story, “The Black Pirate” both open with the similar setting of a near-dead space pilot found slumped at the controls of his craft thanks to either pirates or malevolent aliens.
It would also be nice to think that had Space Ace continued, we might have seen characters like the irascible miner “Digger” Dimes again, but throughout this series of terrific reprints it seems Ron Turner was content to simply create new characters and aliens for almost every story, even if that did mean a bit of stereotyping along the way – pirate leader “Killer” Kelly even has an eye patch!
I did enjoy the shorter story “Tower of Tongaylar“, in which Ace and Bill detect a message from Kaylar, the rightful ruler of Ralkor, a planet it turns out that has taken over by the ruthless Kelvax. Cue a prison break-out, and Ace and Bill help Kaylar back to power, all in just seven pages.
There’s no question, of course, that Kaylar is not being totally honest about the situation, and no twist that might reveal he’s actually a usurper. There simply isn’t the space to tell a story anything that involved, but the stunning tech on display in the action scenes more than makes up for this scant storyline.
The issue rounds off with the best story of the issues saved for last (for me, any way), even if “Tyrant of Trathane” is again on familiar ground as Ace and company help stop a tyrant in his tracks, literally, as he tunnels his way underground to strike his enemies, armed with a huge burrowing bomb. Once again, a mixture of subterfuge and fisticuffs sees Ace and Bill save the day.
Which of course, does make me wonder, despite the stunning visuals of Space Ace, even in its original black and white format, if the repetition of story themes might have been a contributing factor to the cancellation of the character’s adventures. There’s no question that Ron’s art of the series is as ever, fantastic, and indeed, inspirational – but the themes are, by Volume 11 becoming just a little samey. Not that this will put off fans of Ron’s amazing work, of course.
One has to wonder what Ron would have done with the series had he been given more editorial freedom.
There’s also a fascinating feature in Volume 11 – a behind the scenes look at Ron’s work creating the now scarce pop-up book published by Birn Bros in 1954 – Into Space with Ace Brave!. Inspired by a similar Dan Dare title, Ron apparently took to the project with glee and the images featured here are terrific.
Ron Turner fans should as ever be delighted by this series . The stories have always been very much a 1950s SF adventure romp and Volume 11 offers more of the same, with great art and extraordinary restoration and colour from John Ridgway. A treat, as ever!
• Ron Turner’s Space Ace Issue 10 costs is £8.95 UK, £12.50 for Europe and £14.50 for international orders. Copies may be obtained via PayPal (please use friends and family option) at: email@example.com. Otherwise cheques (UK funds only) payable to: John Lawrence, to 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU5 4RB
• Also on downthetubes: Our review of Space Ace Volume One | Volume Two | Volume Three | Volume Four | Volume Five | A “Sneak Peek” of Space Ace Volume Six | Review of Space Ace Volume Seven | Volume Eight | Volume Nine | Volume 10 | Volume 11 | Volume 12 | Ron Turner’s Beyond
All images © The Ron Turner Estate