The latest issue of Spaceship Away, the magazine devoted to Dan Dare, Eagle and its many creators is out now, offering a great line up of strips and features behind a cover by the late Frank Bellamy.
Tim Booth continues his new adventures of Dan Dare with “Parsecular Tales” and “Mercury Revenant“in the issue, the former really hitting its stride, in my view in terms of the kind of “wow” factor that fans of the character expect.
There are some knockout visuals in this episode, particularly the incredible alien technology Dare and companions encounter; and the story, which sees Dan crossing into new dimensions, a popular theme with Tim in previous strips, is well handled and ends on a tantalising cliffhanger. I really think Tim has got both the pace and script bang on in this episode, a nice balance of exposition and wonder that perfectly emulates the original Dan Dare stories Spaceship Away‘s dedicated audience expect.
Where “Parsecular Tales” offers strange new worlds, “Mercury Revenant” is much more an action-oriented tale, with Dan in real trouble in a damaged spaceship. Of the two stories, I think the restrictions of emulating the original Eagle‘s episodic two-page format don’t really do Tim any favours: some of the panels are, as a result, quite “wordy” and action sequences cramped. That said, there’s drama aplenty and again, a chilling cliffhanger to round the four-page sequence off.
The Dan Dare material in the issue doesn’t stop there: not only do we get a gorgeous “New Eagle”-inspired double page poster from veteran artist Ian Kennedy (yet another stunning piece of art for Spaceship Away surely screaming out to be offered as posters and postcards), there’s an interview with this talented creator about his fondly-remembered work on the 1980s incarnation, most of which, sadly, has never been collected. It’s a fascinating insight into the work Ian put into the strip and his working method back then, conducted by our very own Jeremy Briggs and Philip Vaughn.
Greta Tomlinson, one of the original Dan Dare creative team, also shares her memories of working on the strip (and pulls no punches over her dismissal from the team!) and some of her life story in the issue, a creator who continues painting to this day, albeit in a style far from the comics work for which she is best known. Despite the circumstance of her departure from the pages of Eagle, she’s surprised and delighted by the continued interest in the work.
Also in the issue, Andrew Darlington tracks the original Eagle coverage of the real space race in its pages, documenting the many features and cutaways it generated across its original publication. While this might sound, on the face of it, quite a dry article, Andrew writes with in such and accomplished style it is far from dull (at least, to me!), offering tidbits of information on Dan Dare co-creator Frank Hampson and cutaway artist Leslie Ashley Wood‘s own views on space exploration, accompanied by a great choice of visuals from the comic.
The other strips in the issue are the start of a new Jet Morgan adventure, “Space Pirates”, by Charles Chilton, drawn by Ferdinando Tacomi and coloured by John Ridgway; and a further episode of the acton-filled Nick Hazard story “Planet of Doom”, scripted by Philip Harbottle, drawn by Ron Turner and superbly coloured for Spaceship Away by Martin Baines. Both complement the rest of the magazine nicely, although, if pushed, for my money I’d favour the action of Nick Hazard over Jet Morgan.
I’d still like to see more “recap” material for the continuing strips in the publication and personally, I still don’t think the title has ever managed to find its stride with its humour strips (the latest, “Davy Rocket, King of the Space Frontier” is wonderfully drawn, but not my cup of tea). But these are minor niggles – it’s a great issue overall.
An independently-published title with direct appeal to Eagle fans, the print run of Spaceship Away remains small and, in order to pay for art featured (including a back cover piece by Don Harley), the cover price of an individual issue means this glossy publication is not cheap. But once again publisher, editor and designer Desmond Shaw offers a fine mix of strips and features deserving wider attention and your support.
• Available to order online from the Spaceship Away web site, Issue 39 costs £8.95 (£11 Europe, £13 International) and subscriptions (£25.50 for three issues in the UK) and back issues are also available. You can also find Spaceship Away on Facebook here and a discussion group for the magazine on Facebook here