A vintage comic strip by Philip Harbottle, adapting John Russell Fearn’s much admired SF novel Across the Ages, has finally been published – some sixty years after the now renowned author and publisher drew it.
Across the Ages, written by Fearn as by “Vargo Statten”, tells the epic story of Jeffrey Collins, who discovers the secret of longevity, and eventually becomes a ruthless dictator of Earth and the entire solar system. A tragic love story, it ranges across five thousand years, describing space travel and interplanetary wars, treachery and intrigue.
Upon reading a second hand copy of the novel as a teenager, Philip Harbottle was so gripped by the story that he was inspired to adapt it in a drawing book as a hand drawn, inked and coloured comic strip.
Initially, as Philip recounted in a recent episode of his marvellous videocast series, 1950s British Science Fiction, the adaptation was done purely for his own enjoyment. But as it neared completion it fired his ambition to become a professional strip cartoon artist, illustrating the best stories of John Russell Fearn.
Sadly, just before Philip completed his comic, in a format that today would be described as a graphic novel, Fearn died before seeing it and giving his permission for publication. Rather than become a comic artist, Philip chose a different career path, which included becoming a renowned writer and SF publisher.
His adaptation of Across the Ages, remained in limbo for 60 years, unseen and unpublished. Until now, to Philip’s obvious delight.
Produced by David Whitehead, Philip’s vintage comic strip has been published via Lulu in their A4 magazine format, allowing bigger page images. Running to 44 pages, and printed in full colour throughout, it’s available to buy here.
Philip Harbottle is a life-long science fiction fan, regarded as a world authority on the works of author John Russell Fearn, whose credits encompass writing “Garth” for the Daily Mirror, and the “Golden Amazon” for Spaceship Away (adapting Fearn’s stories). He’s also very kindly contributed a number of synopses of early “Garth” stories to downthetubes, which we are adding as time permits.
Back in the 1950s, he adapted some of the Radio Luxembourg Dan Dare radio shows into comics at a young age – the only record of some of these tales known to exist, since very few recordings survive.