With Dan Dare enjoying huge success in Eagle, it’s no surprise that the British news stand was awash with space heroes in the 1950s. Some are better known than others.
Swift Morgan, published by Boardman and visualised by Denis McLoughlin had already been running long before Frank Hampson’s hero debuted of course, as had Garth in the Daily Mirror. But in the 1950s, space adventure fans could also enjoy characters such as “Captain Condor” in Lion, Ron Jobson’s Captain “Space” Kingley, “Space Ace” from artist and writer Ron Turner, and, of course, Space Commander Kerry.
Wait – a second, Space Commander who? Given the character enjoyed what appears to be just a six-issue run from publisher L. Miller & Son (even though the numbering of his comic suggests otherwise), it’s no wonder you might never have heard of him. Which might be a shame, as Space Commander Kerry is the work of prolific artist and writer Mick Anglo and Gower Studios team, Anglo of course perhaps best known as the creator of Marvelman.
Starring square-jawed Space Commander Steve Kerry of the Interplanetary Special Service, the title apparently ran for just six issues numbered #50 – #55, dated August 1953 to January 1954. The comic was a companion to L. Miller’s perhaps more successful Space Commando Comics, where some of Kerry’s adventures also appeared between September 1953 and May 1954, promoted in the Space Commander Kerry letters page, although the focus of that title was Sparky Malone, Space Commodore of the famous Special Assignments Group (Space Commando).
The comic was the work of Mick Anglo’s team at Gower Studios in London. Along with Mick, his staff of artists included Ron Embleton, Don Lawrence (who broke into comics through Anglo), Denis Gifford (who is credited on a back up strip, “Jet Black”, which features in #55), George Stokes and Bob Monkhouse.
In his book, Space Aces!: Comic Book Heroes of the Forties and Fifties, Denis Gifford noted that editor and writer Mick, a veteran of the Special Boat Service during World War Two, enjoyed creating futuristic forces. He used one editorial page to explain the ISS suits worn by Kerry and companions, Rick Shaw and Tubby Low, in detail, from Ultra Violet Radar Goggles and Contra-Gravity Automatic Flying Belt, down to the various uses for the Volta Hand-gun.
Despite those stand out names, looking through the issue I have (#55), the art on the book is by no means as accomplished as “Dan Dare”, “Captain Condor” or “Space Ace”, but the stories do have a breathless energy to them, with all the trappings of SF of the time – Flash Gordon-styled rocket ships, jet packs, fist fights and evil aliens and pirates preying on human explorers.
Space Commander Kerry was, the publishers assured its readers, a hit with fans, with readers transferring their allegiances from wanting a career as a cowboy to spaceman.
(Perhaps then 15-year-old Emmanuel Ransford Adjepong, who attended the Catholic Primary School in Koforodua, Ghana, engaged in some secret African space programme? Now there’s a story…)
Tex Ritter, the famous cowboy star of stage, screen and radio also wrote to L. Miller to say he had “thoroughly enjoyed” the copies of Space Commando Comics the publisher had sent him, presumably along with copies of their western comic in which he starred, and was “a keen Kerry fan.”
Despite the enthusiasm of readers and celebrities of the day, Kerry’s standalone adventures proved short-lived, although there’s no hint the comic had run its course in #55.
Perhaps, with the impending demands of work on Marvelman and Young Marvelman which launched in early in 1954, and the continuing work required on Space Commando Comics, there were simply no spare hands to continue the character, and, of course, sales figures might finally have decided the book’s fate.
• There’s a profile of the character and others created by Mick Anglo and team in Space Aces!: Comic Book Heroes of the Forties and Fifties by Denis Gifford, published in 1992, alongside Space Aces! A Book of 30 Postcards (Amazon Affiliate links)
• As far as we’re aware, Space Commander Kerry is in the public domain. Two issues of the title feature on the Public Domain comics web site comicbookplus.com
• Wikipedia: Mick Anglo |
• Albion British Comics Database: L. Miller & Son
With thanks to Peter Hansen