Publisher: John Lawrence
Originally published by Atlas Publishing & Distributing Co. Ltd
The Magazine: Four more vintage stories from the pages of Lone Star Magazine and Lone Star Annual featuring Space Ace, lovingly restored and coloured by John Ridgway.
The stories included are “The Slave Runners”, published in Lone Star Magazine, May 1957; “The Molten Menace” (Lone Star Annual #6 1960); “Terror on Titan” (Lone Star Annual #5 1959); and “Guided Missile” (Lone Star Magazine, February 1958)
The Review: Leave your brain at the door and simply sit back and enjoy these preposterous but wonderfully told pulp SF comic stories from the 1950s/60s, all featuring what today are unlikely humanoid-shaped aliens (the bulky ‘Jupitan’ pirates springing immediately to mind).
What makes these stories shine is not the fast-paced, often shorthand scripts (some action sequences glossed over with a handy descriptive text box to link scenes); it’s Ron Turner’s distinctive and still fresh-looking art. While he would go on to draw many memorable comic strips (his most memorable surely being his run on ‘The Daleks’ one pager strips in TV 21), it’s clear Ron thoroughly enjoyed drawing Space Ace, which his former agent and now publisher John Lawrence confirms was a labour of love for him, despite a low page rate.
Originally published in black and white Ron’s artwork is enhanced in these new editions by colouring from John Ridgway. While some purists have argued Ron’s art should be left as originally published, I’m firmly convinced that John’s work enhances the stories and his careful, dedicated work is an added bonus for these new collections.
The stories themselves, published in the 1950s, are bonkers of course, but you have to remember that they were published in the 1950s, reflecting the science and SF of the time. As with Dan Dare in Eagle, it was fondly hoped that alien life might well be sitting waiting for us to find it on Venus, Jupiter or Mars – and that alien life would, aside from skin tones, look almost human. Ron’s corrupt Jupitan pirates, featured in “Slave Runners” are a fine example of how the science of exobiology has moved on since 1957 – these days, Jupitans have been imagined as some kind of amoebous gas bag creatures inhabiting the gas planet’s upper reaches – but don’t let such matters prevent enjoyment of this space opera tale. (And who’s to say that we won’t look back at today’s science and understanding of the solar system 20 years from now and deride it once more…)
Alien biology niggles aside, my favourite story of this collection – “Terror on Titan” – might be set on a Saturnian moon with an oxygen-rich atmosphere we know is impossible, but it offers a clever take on just how dangerous any power might be given the opportunity to instantaneously teleport any opponent or their weaponry – something rarely considered in SF universe that feature the technology, such as Star Trek.
Not all the Space Ace stories are set within our solar system of course, enabling Ron to play fast and loose with his fictional universe – as he does with aplomb in “The Molten Menace”, was Space Ace finds himself up against a devious alien President while trying to prevent a planet-wide disaster. The story offers a delightfully vile villain, some great space scenes, underwater action and a cracking finale in just 10 pages.
“Guided Missile”, which rounds off this issue, is a moody space story, as Ace and co-pilot Bill engage in a dramatic race against time to stop the destruction of a space liner – only for themselves to be plunged into danger in the process. Tuner’s gift for creating stunning space vehicles is to the fore on this story, complemented by John Ridgway’s skilled colouring.
While Ron Turner wasn’t the first artist to work on Space Ace, this latest volume of stories, with stunning space scenes, quirky characters and square-jawed action heroes simply confirms he made the character his own during his time on the strip. I’m already looking forward to the next volume – which may include features on the artist himself. That’s an idea suggested in a lively letters column included in this issue and I, for one, welcome.
• Copies of Space Ace Volume Two are available priced £8.95 (UK) and GBP14 (Overseas) including post & packing. Payment via PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Also on downthetubes: Our review of Space Ace Volume One | Volume Two | Volume Three | Volume Four | Volume Five | A “Sneak Peek” of Space Ace Volume Six | Review of Space Ace Volume Seven | Volume Eight | Volume Nine | Volume 10 | Volume 11 | Volume 12 | Ron Turner’s Beyond
All images © The Ron Turner Estate
• If you’re a fan of Ron Turner’s work then you may be interested in a collection of all six of Ron’s Tit-Bits SF Library comics, which have recently been re-published in one 400-page volume. Issue One was first published way back in 1953.
Copies can be obtained for £16.50 plus £3.50 P+P from Bryon Whitworth, 2 Glen Cottages, Glen Farm, Red Lion Street, Earby, Barnoldswick, Lancashire BB18 6RH. Payment accepted by cheque (payable to Bryon) or PapPal to user218763ATaol.com (replace AT with @). Non UK orders, please contact Bryon for costs