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.
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!
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).
“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.
• 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
• Dan Dare books on Amazon UK (Affiliate Link)
Dan Dare © The Dan Dare Corporation