Hibernia Comics has announced the third book in its Fleetway Files series – a stunning, highly regarded Captain Condor story, “The Push Button Planet”, written by Frank S. Pepper and drawn by Brian Lewis.
Tentatively scheduled for release this autumn, the story sees Captain Condor begin a survey of an unexplored planet, only to be shot down by a mysterious ship. Soon, they find themselves caught up in a war between two electronic brains, waged by machines they control…
The story first appeared in the weekly adventure comic, Lion in the issue cover dated 30th December 196, running for 25 weeks through to the issue cover dated 16th June 1962. It was reprinted in 1969, but this presentation cut parts 16 and 22 almost completely, merging them with other episodes, and has never been republished in the UK since.
Lion was the weekly adventure comic launched by Amalgamated Press in response to the success of the ground-breaking Eagle and Captain Condor was its cover star from the very first issue. Commissioned at the direction of Lion editor Reg Eves, under orders from senior management, Captain Condor, aided by trusty assistant Quartermaster Burke, was the creation of stalwart writer Frank S. Pepper, who had been selling stories to various boys story papers since the 1930s.
“Reg Eves had no interest in Science Fiction, had never run any in any of his papers, and had never read any”, Pepper told one interviewer, quoted by Andrew Darlington in an article for the Australian fanzine Mentor, back in 1994. “But I understand that he was under orders from the ‘front office’ to put a Space Hero on the cover as a competitor to Dan Dare.
“‘Do what you like Frank’, he said, ‘I don’t know anything about it’.”
“Captain Condor” certainly doesn’t enjoy the same kind of resonance as other space heroes among British comic fans, and the number of artists assigned to draw Captain Condor later in his run (including the brilliant Brian Lewis and Geoff Campion) certainly didn’t help give the character any kind of unified look. (In 1994, in his article for Mentor, Andrew Darlington rightly described Captain Condor as a character “in search of an artist”). But his longevity as a character in British comics, near equal to Dan Dare in his original run, has ensured his continued popularity with older SF adventure comic fans.
Brian Lewis, who only drew three “Captain Condor” stories for Lion, is one of British comics most-loved and most versatile artists, who began his career as a magazine illustrator but whose work featured in a huge number of comics including Countdown, Look-In, 2000AD, House of Hammer and many more.
He was an extremely capable creator who drew in many different styles to suit the titles he worked on.
Andrew Darlington notes Lewis intensified his work with mechanical tints, developed in his work for various titles titles, in “Push Button Planet”, delivering a series of “screen” effects to obtain shadings to give depth and dimension. “For once the story quality is perfectly balanced by the art,” he noted in Mentor. “Lewis’ imagination and skill fairly equal to the convolutions of the plot, and the ‘The Push Button Planet’ remains one of the finest examples of the SF picture strip ever produced.”
“Brian Lewis was an extraordinary artist, who is perhaps not as well known as he should be,” says Hibernia publisher David McDonald. “We hope to rectify that a little with this collection.”
Let’s hope this “revival” of Captain Condor proves a sales success, and paves the way for collections of Brian’s other stories, “The Slave-Hunters from Outer Space“, which has never been reprinted in the UK, and “The Unseen Invaders“, which was subsequently reprinted, in an edited format, in the 1968 Lion Summer Special.
• Captain Condor tagged items on Amazon.co.uk (Affiliate Link)
Captain Condor, Lion © Rebellion Publishing Ltd.