The final issue of Space Ace Issue 12 – is available now, collecting four adventures of the space hero created by Ron Turner, the artist best known perhaps for his work on “The Daleks” for TV Century 21 – and the story of how he secured that commission is covered in a feature in this 48-page Special.
The good news for fans of Ron’s work is that while this is the last regular issue of Space Ace, the ground has been prepared for a new series devoted to Ron’s work. Collecting strips drawn written and drawn for the Tit-Bits SF Comics, this should launch in A5 format in October. Plus, publisher John Lawrence has also revealed he is working on a biography of Ron, an accomplished and some would argue pretty unique artist whose credits span many comics, magazines and more across five decades.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Space Ace Issue 12 is the focus of this review, an anthology that includes four stories, a feature on Ron’s work after his time on the character, including his work on TV Century 21, and a handy checklist of all the Space Ace stories he wrote and drew.
Space Ace is an independent publication that has been delivering a thoroughly enjoyable trip back to the 1950s and early 1960s since 2013. The stories have been consistently packed with action and space adventure, created at a time when demand for such tales was fierce, effectively taking the western genre into space. Straight as a die white hat heroes battle black hat villains – and frequently disgustingly ugly aliens, too – but when they are created by a great artist like Ron Turner, with his unique art and imagination, you are unlikely to forget them.
As I have said before, the Space Ace stories are not in any way complex, and for my money, the SF adventures of “Dan Dare” in Eagle of the time, and many a SF short story by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and others of the period are probably better stories for the most part, in terms of character development and characterisation. “Space Ace” and sidekick Bill never progress further character-wise than being derring-do heroes, taking on alien invaders, evil emperors and facing dangerous space phenomena.
But not expecting anything else, acknowledging the brief Ron was writing to, when you are being treated to stories offering great art and action, quite frankly, who cares?
Brought slap bang into the 21st-century with with great colouring by John Ridgway, whose hard work complements Ron’s terrific art with aplomb, in my opinion, the three stories in this issue see Space Ace pitted against an alien raceDetermined to destroy another in “Two Enemies”; facing a deadly space cloud in “The Barrier”; saving the population of an entire species in “Hollow World”; and the prospect of the complete destruction of the Earth and its allies in “The Arizona Crater”, the latter the final regular space a story that Ron produced back in 1961. It’s notable not only for its War of the Worlds movie-inspired invaders but a brief encounter with Dalek-like robots, too – and a Mekon-inspired hover sled-riding villain called Thanos!
I’m not going to pick holes in the stories any more than I have done in previous reviews of this title, although I do have to wonder why an alien race can create a machine capable of stealing an equally incredible piece of technology and yet not build that piece of technology themselves as happens in “Two Enemies”. With Ron’s capacity for creating stunning vistas, great looking spaceships, and, equally, bringing amazing concepts to the comics page – some of them ahead of their time, for example, a Dyson Sphere type planet in “Hollow World” – this magazine is just too much of a treat to over analyse.
As usual, if you’re a space action fan I thoroughly recommend ordering a copy. (If, incredibly, you are new to Space Ace then there are back issues available although they are in limited supply and some have sold out).
I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next with John Lawrence’s publications devoted to Ron’s work. He and John Ridgway have done a terrific job on this Space Ace series and should both be congratulated for all their hard work on this project.
One thing I should note is that while this series has re-publish many of the Space Ace adventures, at least those that John Lawrence feels are worthy of publication and don’t involve much repetition and slim storylines, there is one original publication that he does not have a copy of, published in 1963 by Atlas. The Boys Book of Space – published later than the more widely-known Book of Space Adventures – was produced in landscape format with a cover by Ron, but John does not have a copy, so it’s not known if the contents were reprint, fresh material or indeed anything else.
John says it was something he never asked Ron about, discovering it in an advert in another Atlas publication long after the artist had, sadly, passed away. Given the unusual format then rather than resize existing strips, it could contain all new stories.
If anyone has a copy, John Lawrence would love to hear from you!
• Ron Turner’s Space Ace Issue 12 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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