Spaceship Away 44 Promo

In Review: Spaceship Away 44

Spaceship Away 44 -Cover

The first issue of Spaceship Away for 2018 has been out for a few weeks now but this is the first chance I’ve had to give it a plug.

Wrapped in a smashing new piece of Dan Dare related art by Graham Bleathman (which also features as the magazine’s centrespread), the issue continues Tim Booth‘s long-running Dan Dare story “Shakedown Cruise” and is accompanied by a continuing “Golden Amazon” story from artist Ron Turner (written by Philip Harbottle, coloured by Martin Baines) , and more “Operation Pintos” by Gordon Coombs and Harry Winslade.

I’m delighted to see “Operation Pintos” now includes artist’s credits, and that Beano artist Leslie Stannage (best known for his work on “Calamity James, The World’s Unluckiest Boy”) gets a credit for the one page “Dani Dare” humour strip. I’m not alone in previously noting a lack of credits on some strips for this long-running magazine, and it’s great to see editor Des Shaw has taken the concerns on board and given credit where credit’s due.

Spaceship Away 44 - Shakedown Cruise Sample Art

The issue offers the usual mix of strips and features, leading with Tim Booth’s “Shakedown Cruise”, which follows the same presentation format as the original “Dan Dare” Eagle stories.

Spaceship Away 44 - Shakedown Cruise Sample Art

My feeling is that this format both nicely echoes the inspiration for the strip but with quite large lettering that might work well at the 1950s comic’s larger size, but at times it doesn’t really give Tim’s “action panels” room to breathe. The story itself is an intriguing one and Tim has done much to expand the original Dan Dare universe.

Spaceship Away 44 - Operation Pintos

Part three of the “Operation Pintos” story finds the adventurers still trying to teach a technology-dependent alien race to be self sufficient in the face of the failure of their machines, a story that could be seen to echo modern fears. While I still don’t know the source of this represented strip, the art is by Harry Winslade, whose credits in comics began in 1950, providing illustrations for Eagle, but over his career he also worked on, among other titles, Diana, Express Weekly (drawing “Danger Man”, for example), Girl (drawing “Judy and Pat”), Hornet, Mickey Mouse Weekly and Zip.

Spaceship Away 44 - Golden Amazon

John Russell Fearn’s “The Golden Amazon” saga continues with part three of “Twilight World”, coloured by Martin Baines. It’s not my favourite Ron Turner work and I do feel that the re-presented “Space Ace” strips in Space Ace magazine have aged better than this story.

Spaceship Away 44 - Dani Dare

The final strip of the issue is a newly commissioned “Dani Dare” Leslie Stannage, which is great fun and a welcome addition.

Spaceship Away 44 - Dan Dare's Other Jocelyn

Features include a detailed guide to the Merit Dan Dare film strips by Roy Spence, and Andrew Darlington looks at the life of one of the original Dan Dare studio artists, Jocelyn Thomas in “Dan Dare’s Other Jocelyn”. Fellow Dan Dare contributors Greta Tomlinson and Joan Porter both recall working with her.

I still think the design of the features could do with more work, with greater emphasis on visuals. Utilising cut outs, adding box outs and perhaps reducing the point size of the body text would give these pages a bit more spark to them. Obviously, there’s limited space for these items, but if that meant less features but stronger page design, that wouldn’t hurt this enjoyable title.

Spaceship Away 44 - Space News

There’s also more “Space News”, which for me is interesting but as with the Jeff Hawke magazine, I’m not entirely convinced such coverage fits well in an “occasional” magazine like Spaceship Away, even if it is in keeping with the kind of material you might have found in Eagle or similar titles such as Boy’s World or the 1970s comic Countdown.

My feeling is that all the “news” is a little out of date by the time you can read it in this title, a problem besetting many specialist print magazines competing with the immediacy of the internet in terms of delivering up to date news. More interesting perhaps, might be interviews with the many inventors, scientists and artists inspired by Eagle and Dan Dare, some of whom spoke at the “Yesterday’s Tomorrow” event Interplanetary Society a few years ago.

Overall, this is a solid issue of Spaceship Away, and the nips and tucks made to the editorial since my previous review (and online comments made by others) are all welcome. While I’d welcome another strip over “Space News”, it continues to be an enjoyable homage to Eagle and Dan Dare.

• Spaceship Away is available to buy on subscription at spaceshipaway.org.uk

Read Steve Holland’s biography of illustrator and comic artist Harry Winslade here on Bear Alley

 

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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