Dan Dare Fan Fiction – from the 1950s!

Philip Harbottle, in 1955

Philip Harbottle, in 1955

Inspired by the “Dan Dare” comic in Eagle and listening to the space hero’s adventures on Radio Luxembourg, Philip Harbottle not only created comic strips documenting the Dan Dare Radio Adventures, some featured in our Episode Guide – he created his own stories in the 1950s, too, pre-dating much other fan fiction based on the character by several decades.

We first featured some of Philip’s Radio Luxembourg-inspired strips last year, after uncovering a rare audio recording of one episode from the “Revolt on Mars” serial first broadcast in 1953. Two earlier rediscovered recordings, from “Ice Men of Venus“, confirmed Philip had indeed accurately documented the serials through his comic strips – or at least as accurately as he could, given the often poor reception for the pirate radio station in the UK.

We’ve included some examples of Philip’s strips as part of our Dan Dare Radio Adventures Episode Guide – the only record of many of the over 760 episodes that now exists.

We of course should note that Philip’s earliest strips were drawn when he was only 12, and he was working at high speed in order to get the stories down on paper, as he listened to  the instalments each night. “Visually, and lettering-wise, they are not as good as my later 1954 and 1955 strips,” he freely admits, “but they do represent the only surviving record”.

This, of course is exactly why we feature them!

Philip, whose comic art attracted a news item in the Junior Mirror in June 1955, is today well known as both a writer, with credits that include the “Garth” newspaper strip, and literary agent. He began drawing several of his own original Dan Dare comic strip stories in 1952-53, aged eleven, before he heard the Luxembourg serials. His first was titled “The Day The Moon Turned Blue“, drawn in December 1953.

The opening page of Dan Dare in "The Day The Moon Turned Blue", written and drawn by Philip Harbottle in December 1953 - perhaps one of the earliest surviving pieces of Dan Dare fiction

The opening page of Dan Dare in “The Day The Moon Turned Blue”, written and drawn by Philip Harbottle in December 1953 – perhaps one of the earliest surviving pieces of Dan Dare fiction

While adapting the Radio Luxembourg serials, he also created a couple more original Dan Dare (and non-Dan Dare) strips in 1955, in between visually documenting the Dan Dare Radio Adventures.

“When I couldn’t get decent radio reception, I had to abandon some stories, and wrote and drew my own stories instead. And after I’d finally realised Luxembourg had terminated Dan Dare, I actually created a final 20-page Dan Dare strip story of my own, in January – February 1957, which I called ‘Operation Neptune’. In this, I anticipated Spaceship Away by more than 50 years!

A page from Philip Harbottle's Original Dan Dare story, 'Operation Neptune'

A page from Philip Harbottle’s Original Dan Dare story, ‘Operation Neptune’

This wasn’t the end of Philip’s comic strip creations, however. Between 1957 and 1962 he adapted a full-length John Russell Fearn SF novel, Across the Ages, and several long Fearn pulp novelettes, striving to improve his artwork with each one – gradually switching from crayons to fully-painted (water and poster paint).

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle's adaptation of the SF story "Across the Ages" a novel by John Russell Fearn first published in 1952 under the name Vargo Statten. This art was created in 1960

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle’s adaptation of the SF story “Across the Ages” a novel by John Russell Fearn first published in 1952 under the name Vargo Statten. This art was created in 1960

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle's adaptation of the SF story "Across the Ages" a novel by John Russell Fearn first published in 1952 under the name Vargo Statten. This art was created in 1961

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle’s adaptation of the SF story “Across the Ages” a novel by John Russell Fearn first published in 1952 under the name Vargo Statten. This art was created in 1961

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle's adaptation of the story "Outlaw of Saturn" a novelette by John Russell Fearn first published in 1939 under the name John Cotton

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle’s adaptation of the story “Outlaw of Saturn” a novelette by John Russell Fearn first published in 1939 under the name John Cotton

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle's adaptation of the story "Prisoner of Time" a novelette by John Russell Fearn first published in 1942 under the name Polton Cross, which was expanded into the 1952 novel, The Time Bridge

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle’s adaptation of the story “Prisoner of Time” a novelette by John Russell Fearn first published in 1942 under the name Polton Cross, which was expanded into the 1952 novel, The Time Bridge

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle's adaptation of "Twilight Planet" a short by John Russell Fearn first published in 1946 under the name Polton Cross and first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories

Art from a page of Philip Harbottle’s adaptation of “Twilight Planet” a short by John Russell Fearn first published in 1946 under the name Polton Cross and first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories

“Then, alas, I discovered pubs and girls, and also joined a tennis club and so no longer had time for drawing any more comic strips,” Philip admits today. “Until, that is, I linked up with Ron Turner in 1984.

“This was a wonderful experience — I could write the strips, but I didn’t have to draw them (although I did describe the scenes to go into each panel). This work is currently running in Spaceship Away.”

We’re delighted to present these examples of Philip’s early work here. In addition to many other projects, he is currently working on expanding our guide to the Daily Mirror newspaper strip, Garth, adding story synopses to the strip checklist we have presented here on downthetubes.

Spaceship Away is online at spaceshipaway.org

The Dan Dare Radio Adventures: An Introduction

The Dan Dare Radio Adventures: Episode Guide – including comic strips by Philip Harbottle and the opportunity to listen to a rare recording, presented with the kind permission of the Dan Dare Corporation

ISDFB: Chronological Bibliography: John Russell Fearn

Dan Dare books on Amazon UK (Affiliate Link)

Dan Dare © The Dan Dare Corporation

 

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, SF Comics

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1 reply

  1. Extremely good for a 12-year-old! (I was half his age in 1953, and loved my Dan Dare in the Eagle!)

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