Back in the 1960s, the success of James Bond in print and on the big screen spawned or inspired many similar heroes – and heroines – on TV and comics. One of them was the hugely-popular British series Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan, who would go on to star in the cult show The Prisoner. One of the show’s comic spin-offs is less well known than others… but does all the original art still exist?
Retitled Secret Agent in the United States and Destination Danger and John Drake in other non-UK markets, Danger Man was first broadcast between 1960 and 1962, and again between 1964 and 1968. The series, created by Ralph Smart, with Bond’s creator Ian Fleming involved in the show’s early development, and was bankrolled by Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment.
Starring Patrick McGoohan as gritty, globe-trotting secret agent John Drake, the show’s small screen success spawned a variety of tie-merchandise, including annuals in the UK, a number of novels, and comics in the US, France and Spain.
Little known to some fans, however, is the series brief appearance in the British adventure comic, Lion, running for just 13 weeks, from the issues cover dated 11th June to 3rd September 1966, the strip appearing directly after Lion merged with another weekly adventure comic, Champion,to become Lion & Champion.
The writer of the strip is, at present, unknown, but the stunning art throughout is the work of Jesus Blasco, who’s perhaps best known in the UK for his work on “The Steel Claw” for Valiant, a character who started out as a psychotic villain with the power of invisibility who would later become a Danger Man-secret agent, although his adventures were often more fantastical. (The strip would explain the change from villain to anti-hero by revealing the laboratory accident that gave him his invisibility powers had driven Louis Crandall temporarily insane).
Before licensing characters took hold of the British comics industry in the 1980s, most British comics publishers preferred to create their own heroes, heroines and villains inspired by the latest crazes or successful characters in films or on the TV of the day. That’s not to say there weren’t licensed comic strips, as seen in Lady Penelope, TV Comic and TV Century 21, and Odham’s Power Comics line, for example. But in the 1960s, it was relatively rare for a licensed strip to feature in “own brand” titles such as Lion. (Off the top of my head, the only other one I can think of is “The Day of the Triffids” in Girl, drawn by Leo Davy.
The short-lived “Danger Man” is therefore something of a curiosity, perhaps an effort to boost the merger of Lion with Champion, but it would be interesting to know how the strip came about – and how much original art survives.
Seven of the 13 instalments were reprinted as “Matt Mason – Secret Agent” in the Bumper Story Book for Boys 1975, a moustache added to McGoohan’s face in an attempt to mask his likeness.
A collection of the strip was also on the cards back in 1986, masterminded by editor and publisher Dez Skinn, who recalls getting the Quality Periodicals team on with resizing stats of huge 15×20″ twice-up originals into a US comics format, with two Lion pages cut up into into three smaller US ones, to be part of Quality’s second (non-2000AD) wave of colour comic launches.
“Sadly, we never got beyond our first wave,” he relates on his official site, “so the end product exists only as a mock-up dummy in an old filing cabinet.”
I’m grateful to collector Allan Burne for permission to share images of pages he owns and others offered for sale in 2010. Let’s hope this item might prompt information on others that may have survived, which we understand are out there, as a collection still sounds a great idea to us, perhaps from Rebellion, now owners of Lion, or a company like Network, as part of a future Blu-Ray and DVD release.
It could, perhaps, include the “Danger Man” strip for the 1967 Ranger Book drawn by Ernest Ratcliff.
• Do you own any “Danger Man” pages from Lion? If you do, or have information, do let us know!
• Danger Man is available on Blu-Ray and DVD (Amazon Affiliate Link)
• Unofficial Danger Man web site – danger-man.co.uk
• Danger Man on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
With thanks to Shaquille Le Vesconte for information on the Lion‘s merger with Champion and 1975 reprint; and Phil Rushton for the information about the 1967 Ranger Book