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