Article First Published 20th May 2007
Last Updated: 21st July 2023
Updated: Section on the Dan Dare Zenith uncomissioned TV pilot
The downthetubes introduction to Dan Dare, by Ian Wheeler, with additional information and links complied by John Freeman with thanks to Jeremy Briggs and Richard Sheaf
Long before Doctor Who took off in his TARDIS, British school children thrilled to the adventures of another space hero, Colonel Dan Dare, in the pages of Eagle, the Rolls Royce of British comics which graced news-stands throughout the land from 1950 to 1969. The comic was the brainchild of the Reverend Marcus Morris, a clergyman who disliked the violence he had seen in American comics and who created Eagle to entertain and educate the nation’s children, specifically boys.
Eagle featured a mix of features and both text and comic strip stories, but Dan Dare was to prove to be by far the most durable character to emerge from the publication.
The “Dan Dare” strip was created by artist Frank Hampson, who for many remains its definitive artist, but received little financial reward for his efforts, which caused him considerable upset throughout his life. Other artists to work on Dare included Don Harley, Keith Watson and Frank Bellamy. The latter would later become well-known for his work on TV Century 21 and his Doctor Who illustrations in the Radio Times, and radically re-designed many of the Dan Dare characters and hardware during his tenure on the strip.
Appearing in Eagle from Issue One, Dan Dare was a space pilot of the future who had the valour and British-ness of a 1940s Spitfire pilot. Set in the 1990s, the long-running storylines of the strip saw Dan and his Interplanet Space Fleet colleagues visit faraway planets such as Venus and encounter numerous alien baddies, most notably the evil green Mekon and his people, the Treens.
Dan was aided in his adventures by a group of close friends and allies which included his faithful batman, the Wigan-born Albert Fitzwilliam Digby, and Sir Hubert Guest, Controller of Space Fleet. Whilst Eagle was aimed unashamedly at boys, there was a strong female character present in the form of Professor Jocelyn Peabody, whose quick thinking and intelligence would help Dan get out of danger on many an occasion.
Many Eagle fans feel that the comic went into decline in the 1960s and the “Dan Dare” strip was downgraded as the years went on, disappearing from the front cover, no longer being printed in colour and (from 1967) suffered the final insult of appearing only as reprints of earlier stories.
Eagle bowed out in 1969, when it was merged with Lion.
Dan Dare Revived for 2000AD
In the 1970s, after a proposed new Eagle title failed to get off the ground with Dan in charge of “Eagle Force”, a radically different version of Dan Dare appeared in the science fiction comic, 2000AD. This version of the character has arguably polarised fan opinion more than any other incarnation of Dan Dare but it is not without its supporters. Featuring scripts by Pat Mills and, initially, radically different artwork by Massimo Belardinelli, (replaced later by Dave Gibbons), the story featured a Dan who had awoken from suspended animation to once again fight evil in the universe. It was a bold attempt, but failed to hit the mark and was, perhaps mercifully, blasted out of existence.
Dan Dare: The New Eagle Years
IPC Magazines launched a new version of Eagle in 1982, combining traditional artwork stories with a new type of strip told in photographs, like the romantic adventures appearing in girls magazines of the time. “Doomlord” was the most popular story in the new format, whilst a new version of Dan Dare, the great great grandson of the original space hero, dominated the traditional artwork stories.
Drawn by Gerry Embleton, brother of Ron Embleton, also a comics legend, the new Dare was slated by traditionalists but loved by the audience it was intended for – the school children of 1982. The story went from strength to strength when Scottish artist Ian Kennedy took over the reins, but sadly went into decline in the late 1980s as a succession of replacement artists somehow failed to nail the essence of the character.
In desperation, the producers of Eagle brought back the original Dan Dare, drawn by one of the strip’s original artists, Keith Watson. The revival was a success and other artists such as David Pugh made a noble attempt to run with the baton before the New Eagle finally folded in the mid-1990s.
Sadly, the series has not yet been collected, although Hibernia Comics did feature one short story in one of their collections, in a one shot Eagle Adventure Special.
Revolver: “Dare” by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes
Prior to the cessation of Eagle, a highly-stylised version of the character, entitled simple Dare, appeared in the comic magazine Revolver. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Rian Hughes, the story was a satire of 1980s British politics and, whilst short-lived, developed a loyal following amongst comic fans who still rate it highly today.
Dan Dare in “The Planet on Sunday”
There were attempts to get a new version of Dan Dare off the ground in 1996 when artist and Jeff Hawke newspaper strip creator Sydney Jordan provided a new Dare story called Remembrance for the newly published The Planet on Sunday newspaper but the publication sadly lasted only one issue.
Virgin Comics: The Dan Dare Limited Series
Now defunct, Virgin Comics also published a Dan Dare limited series for the US market. Written by Garth Ennis with art by Gary Erskine, the story centres on an older Dan Dare, once a hero who had brokered peace with alien races, pushed the frontiers of space, and saved the planet from total annihilation… repeatedly. But now, his Space Fleet has disbanded, the United Nations has crumbled, his friends scattered to the solar winds. Britain is once again the world power, but Dare, disillusioned and disappointed in his once-precious home country, has quietly retired.
But there’s troubling mustering in Deep Space. The H.M.S Achilles is picking up strange signals when, suddenly, an enormous fleet of hostile ships ambushes the destroyer. As the crew struggles to stay alive, they realize with horror that the hostiles have brought a weapon of unimaginable power. Dan Dare, pilot of the future, has been called out of retirement…
Dan Dare in Spaceship Away
New adventures featuring the classic incarnation feature in Spaceship Away, a professionally-published fanzine founded by Eagle fan Rod Barzilay and now edited by Des Shaw, which features new Dan Dare strips and artwork by, amongst others, original Eagle and Dan Dare artist Don Harley.
Roads Not Taken: Dan Dare in STRIP Magazine
In 2014, Bosnia-based Print Media did some work on a new Dan Dare comic, based on a re-working of the original series by John Freeman but with an all-new character dynamic and set in the late 21st Century. Joe Pimentel and John Ridgway provided art for an eight page comic and Gian Danton worked on some longform plots.
Although the project foundered, some of John’s development work was incorporated into the background for the Dan Dare Audio Adventures released by B7 Media, announced in 2015 by B7 Media. The initial series, launched in late 2016 starring Ed Stoppard, comprises six episodes. (More information below).
Dan Dare: Titan Comics
In 2016, Titan Comics announced it was working on a new Dan Dare comic, which was published in 2017, edited by David Leach. In Dan Dare: He Who Dares, Dan Dare returns in an all new adventure, written by Peter Milligan with art by Alberto Foche, in which he faces a sinister new foe sent by a deadly ancient evil that threatens not only all life in the solar system, but the very galaxy itself…
As of 2020, there are no plans to continue the series.
Dan Dare Abroad
Dan Dare has had excursions beyond the UK.
• In Argentina, Dan’s strips featured in El Tony, published byEditorial Columba, along with many Fleetway strips from 1959 onwards. More details here on DanDare.info).
The Haynes Publishing Company Limited also published both Dan Dare and other Eagle material in the weekly El Mundo de La Aventura in the 1960s. (More details here on DanDare.info).
• In Australia, “Australia’s New National Boys’ Magazine” the Eagle was published by Advertiser Newspaper Limited of Adelaide from 21st May 1953 (Volume One No. 1) to 27th January 1955 (Volume Two No.37), a total of 86 issues. Australian readers could also join “The Australian Eagle Club” and receive membership cards and Eagle badges, at least some made in Australia. More details here on DanDare.info
• Plavi Vjesnik, the Croatian version of the Eagle, (nicknamed Plavac by its readers), launched October 1954 in Croatia and ran right up to 1973 (a total of 979 issues). These were basically reprints of the Eagle comic, featuring Den Deri, Pilot Buducnosti. Various revivals of the comic have been attempted: Plavi Zabavnik (1992, six issues only); Plavi Vjesnik (1999, two issues only – numbered 980-981); and Plavi Vjesnik (2001, five issues only – numbered 982-986).
Dan Dare has occasionally been published in other magazines and publications in ex-Yugoslavia, including a title published by the company Decje novine in 1977. Some episodes of Dan Dare were also published in Panorama, the most popular and longest living comic strip magazine in ex Yugoslavia later renamed Stripoteka, alongside some other excellent British SF comics and other international strips. It ran for over 900 issues, ceasing publication in the 1990s when the area was devastated by war.
• In Finland, Dan Dare was part of the bi-weekly comic book magazine Nastasarjat in 1964 (a title originally simply known as Nasta on its debut in the 1950s), running from Issue One to Issue 21 and in one special preview published in 1963. He also appeared in the monthly Peitsi magazine (literally Lance), a kind of “soft” military magazine for the families of armed forces personnel or World War Two veterans, between 1962 and 1965. More details here on DanDare.info and there is a Nastasarjat cover gallery here
• Dan Dare also had a French incarnation – Dan Dair, detailed here on downthetubes – a digest size monthly comic containing three stories: Hampson’s “Dan Dare”, “Storm Nelson” by Richard Jennings and Edward Trice, and “Kinowa”, an Italian Western strip drawn by Andrea Lavezzolo. DanDare.info also has details of French collections of the character.
• There were no Eagle characters printed in Germany until 2000, when Salleck Publications printed Dan Dare – Raumschiffpilot, a magnificient attempt to duplicate the UK Hawk Books’ series. More details here on DanDare.info
• The first appearance of Dan Dare in Italy, and indeed the first foreign language edition anywhere, ran from the 10th January to 16th March 1954 in a short lived comic called Disco Volante (Flying Saucer). The longest running Dan Dare strip appeared in a weekly comic called Il Giorno dei Ragazzi (The Day of the Children) from March 1957 to December 1968 – a total of 549 editions. There was plenty of Eagle-related merchandise on offer in Italy, too. DanDare.info has more information on Dan’s Italian excursions down the decades.
• It was the famed southern Indian media house Dalton Publications who brought Dare to India – more on that here from King Viswa.
• From 22nd October 1955 to 24th September 1966 you could thrill to the adventures of Dan Durf, Dirk Vis, Kommandant Diederik de Gast, and Professor Meeuwes (Dan, Digby, Sir Hubert and Peabody) in the pages of Arend (which means Eagle in Dutch) in the Netherlands. More details here on DanDare.info
• In Norway, Hauk was published by Se-bladene A/S in Stavanger, Norway. They started with an eight-page giveaway preview in 1955 and then issued four more regular issues that year. 30 issues of the title were published in 1956 and 28 in 1957. More details here on DanDare.info
• The first appearance of Dan Dare in Portugal was on 6th April 1955 in issue No. 25 of a 28 page comic called Titã, published by Fomento de Publicacoes, based in Lisbon. This comic, which featured other British strips started on Tuesday 12th October 1954 and ran to issue 42 (10th August 1955). There is more in this comic here on the Malomil site, in Portuguese.
Four years later, on 19 March 1959, the Dan Dare adventure “O Reino dos Autómatos” (“Reign of the Robots”) started to appear in issue 14 onwards of O Falcão (Hawk), published by Grupo de Publicações Periódicas. O Falcão continued up to issue 82 (7th August 1960) and also included reprints of strips suchas “Johnnie Wingco”, “Jeff Arnold” and “Wulf the Briton”.
Later, Foguetao was fashioned on and named after the short-lived British comic Rocket – but it carried strips from Eagle, including Dan Dare – making it a ‘Portuguese Eagle’. More details here on DanDare.info | Click here to see the complete covers of the series
• An all-new take on the character in Spain, Diego Valor, based more on the Radio Luxembourg incarnation of the character. More details here, and on Dan’s other Spanish outings, on DanDare.info
• Sweden‘s version of the Eagle was called Falken, which started on 25th January 1955 (see left), and ran for just 18 weeks. More details here on DanDare.info
• In Turkey, The Roket comic was first released on 9th February 1956 as a reprint vehicle for various European strips, including “Feza Kahramanlari” (Dan Dare). Children’s World magazine also reprinted Dan in 1961, and it seems Hasal Publications released another magazine featuring the space hero in 1981, called Super Dan, that lasted a total of 34 issues.More details here on DanDare.info
• In the United States, Eagle didn’t get any form of reprint but both Virgin Comics and Titan Comics Dan Dare titles were sold in comic shops (as were Titan Books Dan Dare collections). A set of stamps, variants of sets merchandised in the UK and Australia, were also circulated.
Famous Dan Dare Fans
Actors: Colin Baker (the Sixth ‘Doctor Who’), John Cleese (writer, actor and tall person), Ronnie Corbett (actor and comedian – he wore his Eagle badge on The Two Ronnies) Michael Crawford (actor), Dawn French (comdeienne, actor), Ross Kemp (actor), Lenny Henry (comedian and actor), Terry Jones (actor and director), Michael Palin (Actor),
Artists: Chris Achilleos (artist), Gerald Scarfe (artist and cartoonist – in an interview in the Guardian Scarfe recalled: “At 16, I won a drawing competition in the Eagle. David Hockney was runner-up.”)
Celebrities: Aldo Zilli (celebrity chef)
Entrepeneurs: Richard Branson (founder of Virgin: “Dan Dare is a heroic, thoughtful and fiercely independent character; I was an avid reader of his epic journeys.”), James Dyson (well-known vacuum cleaner salesman: “As a child, I pored over Eagle magazine cut-aways that delved into the workings of everything from Bloodhound missiles to offshore oil rigs.”)
Politicians: Ken Livingstone (first Mayor of London)
Radio and TV Personalities: Paul Gambaccini (radio DJ), Des Lynam (sports presenter),Paul Ross (journalist, radio presenter), Jonathan Ross (DJ, chat show host and general comics fan), Peter Sissons (news reader)
TV and Film Producers: Gavin Scott, (creator of Sci Fi Channel’s The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne and the movie Small Soldiers and adapter of The Mists of Avalon and The Borrowers)
The Dan Dare Corporation
The Dan Dare Corporation Limited owns the global media rights to the Eagle comic and the comic strip “Dan Dare”. The company also owns the rights to several other comic strips published in The Eagle, e.g. “Ghost Squad”, “Computer Warrior”, “Doomlord”, “Manix”, “Storm Force” and “Ultimate Warrior”.
The book rights for Dan Dare are handled by Gordon Wise at Curtis Brown Group Ltd and merchandising products by Copyrights Group Limited, a Chorion company.
• See our 2009 News Story: “Chorion Secures Rights to Dan Dare“
Dan Dare in Other Media – Audio, Film and TV
Dan Dare’s Audio Adventures
Spaceship Away! Dan Dare on Radio Luxembourg
The popularity of Dan Dare and a radio series from Radio Luxembourg also appeared, running for five years from 1951, five times a week and was sponsored by Horlicks.
We have more details on this production here, including details of surviving episodes and music.
Noel Johnson played Dan (who died in 1999), Digby was played by John Sharpe, Professor Peabody by Anne Cullen.
Rumours persist that a large number of the Luxembourg episodes exist in private hands, but only two are in the public domain.
The Spanish Dan Dare, Diego Valor
The Spanish Dan Dare, Diego Valor, appears to have enjoyed much greater popularity on the radio than as a comic strip. The success of the radio show was consequently projected to other media including comics, but the radio version came first.
• The web site AntiqueHistory.net has an English language version of the origins of this Spanish version of Dan Dare, which you can read here
BBC Radio 4: Voyage to Venus
Dramatised by: Nick McCarty | Music: Wilfredo Acosta | Director:
First Broadcast: 19th April to 10th May 1990
Named Cast: Mick Ford (Dan Dare), Terence Alexander (Sir Hubert), Donald Gee (Digby), Zelah Clarke (Professor Peabody), Margaret Courtenay (Aunt Anastasia, Part 2), Shirley Dixon (Mrs Digby, Part 2), David Goudge (Sondar, Parts 2 – 4), Ben Onwukwe (Volstar, Part 3), John Moffatt (Kalon, Part 3) Richard Pearce (The Mekon, Parts 2 – 4), William Roberts (Hank) and William Roberts (Pierre)
From 19th April to 10th May 1990, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a four-part adaptation of Voyage to Venus, based on the original Dan Dare story from Eagle. Actor Mick Ford played Dan Dare and Terence Alexander, best known to TV audiences for his appearances in Bergerac, played Sir Hubert Guest.
Richard Pearce, a well-known voice actor who played the The Mekon in the series, has starred opposite Sir John Gielgud in Tales My Father Taught Me and in a variety of radio parts including the last castrato in Angel of Rome, Decline and Fall, Moonfleet, and more. In 1992 and 1993, he appeared in the BBC Radio adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin, playing the eponymous hero, and played Jeremy Fitzoliver, one of the doctor’s companions, in two specially commissioned Doctor Who audio stories, The Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space.
The series was directed by Glyn Dearman, a highly respected radio producer, who was originally a child actor. Aged about ten, he played Jennings in the radio version of the Anthony Buckeridge school stories. He was also in films, including Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, and Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol (1951).
In addition to Dan Dare, his many credits (listed here), include adaptations of other SF, including Arthur C. Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust (1981), HG Wells’ The First Men in the Moon (1981) and Bob Shaw’s Who Goes There? (1991).
“Remember The Mekon, Digby, Sir Hubert, Prof. Peabody, Hank, Pierre, Sondar and Volstar? Here they all are, jetting off on a thrilling journey that would be told for decades to come,” the promotional copy reads.
“This first story, Voyage to Venus, sets the scene. Having arrived on Venus in the spaceship Ranger, Dan and Digby set out to find new resources to feed a starving Earth, but they are suddenly captured and taken to Mekonta, the capital of the Northern Hemisphere of Venus, and home of the Treens, the humourless scientific automations who rule the northern half of the mystery planet.
“There, we meet the evil Mekon, leader of the Treens, and Sondar, who would become one of the “good” Treens. A deadly battle commences with Dan Dare and his crew eventually escaping back to Earth. But he is determined to return to Venus….To be continued!”
Well, the audio adventures have continued… but not as a BBC production…
Sadly, this adaptation hasn’t been officially released by the BBC or any other publisher.
Part One: Disaster
First broadcast: Thursday 19th April 1990, 11.00pm on BBC Radio 4 FM
Forty years after he first appeared in the comic Eagle, Dan Dare hits the airwaves and embarks on a mission to Venus to save the world.
Other Cast: Sean Barrett, Paul Downing, Christopher Good, John Moffatt, Ben Onwukwe, Dale Rapley, Charles Simpson and Simon Treves
Part Two: Divided We Fall
First broadcast: Thursday 26th April 1990, 11.00pm on BBC Radio 4 FM
The Venus expedition has started disastrously. Dan and Digby have been captured by the Treens.
Other Cast: Vincent Brimble, Paul Downing, Stephen Garlick, Dale Rapley and Danny Schiller
On Venus, Dan has fallen to his apparent death; the others of his crew are prisoners of the Treens.
Part Three: The Mekon
First broadcast: Thursday 3rd May 1990, 11.00pm on BBC Radio 4 FM
Other Cast: Vincent Brimble, Christopher Good, Brian Miller, Dale Rapley,
Danny Schiller, Charles Simpson,Simon Treves
Part Four: Battle Stations
First broadcast: Thursday 10th May 1990, 11.00pm on BBC Radio 4 FM
The Treens are preparing to attack the gentle Therons.
Other Cast: Unknown: Vincent Brimble, Tara Dominick, Andrew Downer, Elizabeth Mansfield, Dale Rapley, Danny Schiller
Dan Dare: Voyage to Venus: Pilot of the Future (Orion Audiobook)
Released in 2008, an Orion Audiobook comprised the first part of Dan’s “Voyage to Venus story”, and is still available. Adapted almost word for word from Frank Hampson’s original text, it was performed by four actors who played all the parts. These were Rupert Degas, Kate O’Sullivan, Christian Rodska and Tom Goodman Hill, who played Dan.
The audio covered the story up to Dan’s escape from Mekonta, but, sadly, there was never a Part Two to finish the story.
• Check out Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future – Voyage to Venus here on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
Dan Dare: The Audio Adventures
Inspired by the original Eagle comic strips, B7 Media’s dramatic new audio version of Dan Dare launched in 2016.
The Cast for the first six episodes are:
Ed Stoppard – The Pianist, Joy Division, Brideshead Revisited and Youth – has been cast as the intrepid ‘pilot of the future’ Colonel Dan Dare. He’s joined by Geoff McGivern as Digby (McGivern is best known to science fiction fans as the original Ford Prefect in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and Heida Reed as Professor Jocelyn Peabody.
Raad Rawi, known for roles in Spy (2015), The Devil’s Double (2011) and Traitor (2008) features as Dan Dare’s arch nemesis, the Mekon, an alien leader plagued by Dare’s loyal ally and Treen resistance fighter, Sondar, voiced by Bijan Daneshmand.
Completing the regular cast as Space Fleet boss Sir Hubert Guest is Michael Cochrane, a familiar face, and voice, who has appeared in many popular television dramas, and most recently can be heard in Dan Dare guest star Nicholas Briggs’ acclaimed audio reboot of The Prisoner starring Mark Elstob.
B7 Media’s Dan Dare Audio Adventures offers a distinctly 21st century take on the space adventure hero first brought to life in Eagle comic in the 1950s. Other guest actors in this first season include Jake Maskall (EastEnders, The Royals), Hugh Fraser (Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Sharpe), Nicholas Briggs(Doctor Who, Torchwood), Noof McEwan (Vera, Leave to Remain), Jonathan Rhodes (M.I. High, Beacon 77, Deadpan Valentine), Kelly Burke (The Blind Man) and Dean Harris (The Fourth Arm, Howards’ Way,Bad Boyes).
Inspired by the original Eagle comic strips, the all-new Dan Dare audio adventures are being directed by Andrew Mark Sewell (The Martian Chronicles, Blake’s 7) and produced by Simon Moorhead (Luna, Mirrormask). Former Doctor Who Magazine and Marvel Comics editor, John Freeman, is attached as consultant to the series.
The stories so far have been collected on two CD releases
Dan Dare: The Audio Adventures Volume One
• Available here from amazon.co.uk (using this link helps support downthetubes, thank you)
Three audio adventures based on the Eagle comic strip “Dan Dare” created by Rev. Marcus Morris, adapted and drawn by Frank Hampson.
Episode 1 – Voyage to Venus by Richard Kurti and Bev Doyle
Brilliant test pilot, Dan Dare, is chosen to fly the Anastasia – a new experimental spacecraft – on its maiden voyage to Venus. This isn’t exploration – it is to make first contact with a mysterious civilisation that has sent technological secrets as a goodwill gesture. However, what Dan, Digby and Professor Peabody find on Venus isn’t goodwill, but a terrifyingly intelligent, cold-hearted ruler, the Mekon. A creature destined to become Dan Dare’s nemesis – and Earth’s greatest threat…
Episode 2 – The Red Moon Mystery by James Swallow
Unable to return to Earth, Dan Dare and the crew of the Anastasia head to the desolate planet Mars, where Dan’s estranged Uncle Ivor is part of a research team working on a top-secret archaeological dig; but when they find the base wrecked and the scientists missing, Dare, Digby and Professor Peabody soon discover that the Red Planet is not nearly as dead as everyone thought and that Ivor’s expedition has woken an army of deadly insect-creatures that threaten to swarm and engulf the Earth. ..Dare must stop the aliens, but can he really resort to genocide in order to save the human race?
Episode 3 – Marooned on Mercury by Marc Platt
When a distress call summons the crew of the Anastasia to the burning wilderness of Mercury, they are reunited with their old ally, Sondar. He tells them of the beleaguered Mercurians who are held in thrall to a cruel new taskmaster – the Mekon! The exiled Mekon is rallying his forces, plotting a desperate revenge against his former home world of Venus and his hated enemy, Colonel Dan Dare!
Contains a fourth disc of extras.
Dan Dare: The Audio Adventures Volume Two
• Available here from amazon.co.uk (using this link helps support downthetubes, thank you)
Episode 4: Reign of the Robots
Dan Dare and his crew return to Earth. Landing in London, they find the city deserted – or that’s how it seems at first. But soon Dare faces an army of robots who have conquered the planet and placed the humans in slave camps. The robots are too powerful and numerous to be resisted, and their invasion is complete. With limited resources, Dare, Digby and Peabody face their greatest challenge yet – to liberate planet Earth.
Episode 5: Operation Saturn
As work begins to rebuild Earth after the devastation of the robot invasion, Dare and his friends in Space Fleet remain vigilant, certain it is only a matter of time before the Mekon launches a fresh attack. When the wreck of the Nautilus – an experimental ship lost a decade before – appears in orbit of the moon, Dare, Digby and Peabody are sent to investigate. They find the ship and its crew were destroyed by alien weapons. All clues lead them to Saturn’s moons. With Earth still vulnerable, our heroes must journey to an unknown world.
Episode 6: Prisoners of Space
After a sequence of nonstop adventures, Dare, Digby and Peabody find themselves in a limbo of paranoid calm. Whilst there’s been no sign of the Mekon anywhere in the solar system, Dare is certain Earth hasn’t seen the last of the evil alien. Mysterious spaceship disappearances near Venus, an academy student accidentally launching a prototype spacecraft, and a floating prison cell in space reveal themselves as parts of the Mekon’s latest plan to defeat his archenemy, Dan Dare, once and for all.
Dan Dare: 21st Century Spaceman
Science journalist Richard Hollingham explores whether the reality of space exploration is catching up with the Dan Dare universe. Featuring interviews with the cast, director and lead writer about reinventing Dare for the 21st century. Richard meets a real rocket scientist who owes his career to the pilot of the future.
NOTE: Dan Dare features some mild swearing and content which may not be suitable for younger listeners.
Dan Dare – The Film?
There has been more than one attempt to bring Dan Dare to the big screen, the earliest believed to be by Phenomenal Film Productions from Paul A. de Savary, alongside Malcolm Aw, who owned the TV and film rights to the Dan Dare character in the 1970s, and continued to do so into the 1980s.
As we reported here, artwork for the project had been created and a Space:1999 producer was also apparently involved in the project. Some of the art for the project was the work of Les Edwards, including a design for the Mekon, who noted that the movie “actually looked as if it might go ahead,” unlike other, later attempts. But it was not to be.
“Eventually. of course, there was no film. A shame, as I would have liked to see this guy on screen. However, when one of the producers told me that they were going to use an actor in makeup to play the Mekon I knew the project was doomed.”
The planned Phenomenal Film Productions project impacted both Dan Dare’s look in 2000AD, and on New Eagle and its Dan Dare strip. Pat Mills had already begun work on a new look Dan Dare for 2000AD written by Ken (“Hookjaw”) Armstrong, with samples drawn by an Argentine artist, he recalled in 2010, but reworked the strip, after hearing more about the De Savary version when he met Paul in 1976.
Former Fleetway editor David Hunt recalls how the planned film and TV projects also affected Dan Dare in the 1980s incarnation of Eagle.
“Not so much the artwork, of course, but most definitely with regard to the storyline,” he says.
“The fact that our Dan Dare was the great, great, great grandson (was it three times removed?) of Hulton’s Dan Dare was contrived rather than meant. In 1982 the De Savary Group owned the TV and film rights to the Dan Dare character.
In 2010, following earlier rumours that something was in the works, Variety, Dark Horizons and other web sites reported that Warner Bros. Pictures had closed the deal for its film version of Dan Dare starring Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans).
The new film was reportedly have been based on the Garth Ennis-Gary Erskine mini-series published by Virgin, rather than the original and much-loved original 1950s series from Eagle. But as with previous attempts, this movie project also seems to have been lost in development hell.
Dan Dare on TV
It was perhaps inevitable that a character as popular as Dan would make it on to television screens. There was an aborted attempt at a Dan Dare series by ATV in the 1980s, and later by Zenith in the 1990s, but a CGI series, produced first by Netter Digital then by Foundation Imaging, appeared in 2002.
Poor scheduling in the UK was one of many possible factors which resulted in only one series being made. Dan Dare traditionalists were again critical of this new version, but the series featured deliciously retro designs and for my money at least was a fun programme which preserved at least some elements of the original Dan Dare character.
Dan Dare on TV The first serious attempt to get Dan Dare on television was made by ATV, one of the old ITV companies, in the early 1980s.
According to a press release at the time, the series would have been produced by American Leon Clifton (who had produced Evel Knievel’s show at Wembley when the motorcyclist had famously attempted to jump 13 buses) and written by Phil Redmond, now well-known for creating Brookside and Grange Hill. Actor James Fox was in line to play Dan Dare, although New Avengers star Gareth Hunt was apparently also in the running. Likely Lads actor Rodney Bewes had apparently been lined up to play Digby.
Sadly, the project collapsed due to lack of finance but special effects wizard Martin J Bower who was to have worked on the series later commented that it would have been ‘ an unmitigated disaster’!
There are some interesting reference sites: click here for a DownTheTubes feature adapted from the Eagle Flies Again fanzine on this proposed show
• Model maker Martin J. Bower has put some of his model designs on his fascinating web site. Bowers was a regular contributor of model photographs to various comics in the past; he’s one of the most highly prolific model makers and designers to the film, TV, advertising and publishing industry. From 1969 to the present day, he has so far produced almost 800 professional works.
Dan Dare fan David Britton tells me the models featured were made by Martin Bower in the early 1980’s for Alan Vince, a long-time fan and friend of Frank Hampson. “I acquired them from Alan, eight years ago and they have been shown in a “Spacefleet Headquarters” display cabinet at the Eagle Exhibitions.
“The next time and probably the last, will be at the Museum of Science and Industry Manchester from the end of September 2003 to mid January 2004. The Dan Dare exhibition will be partner to the Mission to Mars exhibition and we will incorporate the British Space programme 1955 to 1971.”
• Wakefield Carter has compiled a fascinating guide to this aborted series which includes contributions from Brian Bolland and others on this site: www.2000ad.nu/spacefleet/atv/
A second attempt to get Dan Dare on to TV screens was made in the 1990s by Zenith, the company behind Inspector Morse.
Robert Bathurst was lined up to play Dare and a short pilot directed by John Henderson of Spitting Image fame, co-starring Geoffrey Hughes as Digby and Michael Medwin as Sir Hubert Guest was made in 1994. The visual effects were created by Ray Thornton of Foundation Imaging, who also worked on the US TV series, Babylon 5.
Sadly, the project was not taken any further. Coronation Street and Heartbeat star Hughes was much dismayed. Writing to comics archivist Ian Wheeler, he told him “As a fan of the original Eagle, I was very excited about the Dan Dare project. Zenith made a ten minute promo with myself as Digby. Although there was great enthusiasm from all the English people involved, a lot of the money was coming from America, and they had never heard of Dan Dare. I think that is what sunk it.” It’s also possible that the incoming animated series, produced by the Dan Dare Corporation, may have also contributed to stifling this version.
Parts of the pilot were broadcast in an ITV documentary Future Perfect. A copy of the pilot surfaced on Youtube in 2020, but in 2023, respected animation director, designer, compositor and storyboard artist Ravi Swami, who worked on the project back in 1994, uploaded a digital copy from the VHS dub of the “pilot episode”, a retelling the opening of “Voyage to Venus”, the first Dan Dare Eagle comic story, to his Vimeo channel.
He also kindly wrote an article about the making of the pilot, and his role in it, for downthetubes, which you can read here.
Dan Dare: The Mobil Oil Ads
Dan Dare has only made it to “live action” thanks to a 1987 advertising campaign created by Lowe Howard-Spink Marschalk for Mobil Oil products, shown on British television, featuring Dan Dare (played by Niven Boyd) and Digby (played by Jimmy Yule). The Mekon made a guest appearance in the third, all affectionate parodies played for laughs, with Dan portrayed as being rather gung-ho and dim-witted while Digby was portrayed as being the brains behind the team.
The ads were, Dan Dare in “Rocket to Nowhere”, advertising Mobil synthetic oil; “Passage to Delmik”, advertising Mobil unleaded petrol; and “Mekon Ahoy”, advertising Mobil cleaner diesel.
Keith Watson worked on the campaign thanks to author Alistair Crompton, who was then working at another ad agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach.
“I heard from some mates they were doing the DD work, and needed an artist to help with the poster (and, I believe, some other work, but I can’t tell you what),” he recalls. “I immediately told them about Keith Watson, who I explained worked on the original strip.
“I got a delightful note from Keith about a couple of months after the job, saying thanks for putting his name forward. I believe they paid him rather well.”
Dan Dare: The Animated Series
Episodes: 26 x 22 mins (first 6 with effects by NetterDigital, 20 by Foundation Imaging, now Neo F/X. (FI are credited for all episodes – they ‘tidied up’ the first 6). All the stories are two-parters, so there are 13 stories in total.
The Dan Dare Corporation produced the CGI series in Los Angeles in 2002. The series was distributed to over 130 countries worldwide including Channel 5, Nickelodeon, Channel 7 and TFI and many more. Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s song ‘Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future’ featured as the opening title Theme Song and guest stars included Robbie Coltrane, Charles Dance and Tim Curry.
The series was bought by Channel 5 in the UK and also screened in South America on Fox. Six episodes of Dan Dare – Pilot Of The Future were released on DVD in 2005.
In March 2003, einsiders.com claimed Columbia TriStar and Dan Dare Corporation were developing a feature based on this animated TV series.
Dan Dare finally made it onto TV in the twenty-first century the form of a slick CGI series made by the Dan Dare Corporation. Some traditionalists were horrified when Carry On Star actor Julian Holloway was hired to voice Digby as a Cockney rather than a Northerner, but although the show was not a success in the UK it still has plenty of followers internationally, particularly in Spanish language countries of South America.
The first two episodes introduced the characters (via a brief version of the first Venus story) and dealt with the creation of Space Fleet and how Dan became a colonel.
Of interest to fans is the Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future Series Bible (Word file), an item not intended as promotional material, but a guide created by fan Andrew Paul to the characters and universe involved in the TV series.
This file offers an insight into the origin of the series, and it should be noted that some things were changed during the two years of production. However, this is still a great insight into how the project started.
Concept design on the series came from Blacksheep Productions, a group of conceptual designers who have collaborated together since their school days at Art Center College of Design in the early 1990s. Once a misfit crew of artists and storytellers with a shared vision and artistic influences, Blacksheep Productions has become an independent team of professionals with over 20 years combined experience designing quality artwork for the television, film and game Industry.
As well as design work on Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future, with Dave Max publishing a gallery of his work here on Deviant Art, some of their collaborations includes work on Babylon 5, Voltron and LEGO’s Bionicle animated features, taking them to various studios, including Warner Brothers TV Animation, Electronic Arts Games, Foundation Imaging, as well as their very own Studio 432.
Effects artist Rowsby wrote an interesting page about the production of the show, but it isn’t on his current site, so you’ll have to make do with this version (without images) on the Internet Archive.
Peter Profetto‘s Dan Dare page on his Digital Treats site had by far the most stunning spacecraft visuals from the show but again, this is now only available, in an incomplete form, through the Internet Archive.
Digital artist Chris Manbe also posted some clips from the show on his web site, but the site is again only partly archived. He was part of the Foundation Imaging team that worked on the series, having taken the show on board from the defunct Netter Digital.
Larry Schultz similarly posted some images on his Splinegod site (archived here).
Dan Ritchie was another Dan Dare animator: he created various Lightwave renders for the show, as did Richard Khoo, but his site is no longer live.
Jose A. Perez. worked on the show as a modeller and texture painter. (Perez has also worked on Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Cut and Enterprise). This is another ‘dead’ site, but some of his model work is on the archive of his site from 2003.
Roger Borelli was the Supervisng Character Artist on the show who went on to work for Digital Domain where he worked on several commercials. He’s now working for Disney TV Animation modelling Characters, props, and sets.
Bob Forward was the highly-regarded producer on the show and mentions it on his site. He’s a writer, producer and story editor whose credits also include Beast Wars and SkyJammers. His credits include freelance writer on shows such as X-Men: Evolution and Stargate SG-1 animated show.
Dan Dare Merchandise
Dan Dare’s success in Eagle lead to many items of merchandise being produced and several spin-offs down the years. Here’s five cracking items we highlighted separately, including the much sought-after Crescent Toys Dan Dare figures and the Dan Dare Planet Gun.
In 2013, British publisher Haynes followed up its successful fictional guides to the workings of Thunderbirds and Wallace & Gromit with a Dan Dare Spacefleet Operations Manual, written by Rod Barzilay with illustrations by Graham Bleathman.
This innovative Haynes Manual takes a detailed look inside the spaceships, space stations and various other craft that played such a huge part in bringing the excitement of space travel to the Dan Dare stories featured in Eagle.
Dan Dare Spoofs
• The most fondly-remembered Dan Dare ‘spoof’ is probably “Danny Dare”, sub-titled “He’s Dan Dare’s Number One Fan”, which featured in WHAM! comic in the 1960s, initially drawn by Leo Baxendale with inserts of ‘real’ Dan Dare drawn by Bruce Cornwall and Don Harley amongst others. It has never been reprinted. An article by Jeremy Briggs on the strip features on Steve Holland’s excellent Bear Alley site.
• The satirical magazine Private Eye ran a parody of Dan Dare called “Dan Dire”, lampooning Labour leader Neil Kinnock, in the 1980s and The Times would later run a strip by political cartoonist Peter Brookes called ‘Dan Blair; Pilot for the Foreseeable Future’ which took the mickey out of Prime Minister Tony Blair.
• A less political send-up of the Dare character appeared in the form of “Dan Barton” by writer John Freeman and artist Andrew Chiu in the Eagle Flies Again comics fanzine from 2003 to 2006, which has been published online on the digital comics platform, Tapastic.
The Dan Dare “Space City Pomona” Theme Park
Plans to build a Dan Dare-inspired theme park on Pomona Island, Manchester, came to naught, but the project attracted the attention of BBC Newsround, Paul Welsh reporting on the plans in 1992, the news item available to view here on YouTube.
The “Space City” featured in the clip was the work of Fingertip Fabrications, the image here sourced via the Internet Archive, and the image first appears in 2001.
The news report opens at Pomona Island, then a derelict wasteland, today a proposed location for regeneration from developers Peel L&P who submitted huge plans to transform the area into thousands of homes, shops, offices, leisure facilities and green spaces over the next few years in 2021, with work due to be completed by 2037. As of September 2022, the plans to redevelop the 26-acre swathe of land were in limbo, until Peel L&P and Trafford Council reached an accord on the level of affordable housing to be provided on a separate project.
Reporter Paul Welsh is quickly whisked off in a flurry of effects to to talk to Gilpin Lister about the proposed park, its fortunes possibly tied to the proposed Dan Dare feature film of the time, which never materialised.
Lister indicates that there were plans to offer training courses to students as part of the project, to identify scientists of the future.
Over on the Dan Dare group on Facebook, in 2023, Derek Wilson shared details of a press report, dated 10th December 1992 that suggested preliminary construction work could start early next year on the massive £70 million ‘space city’ theme park.
“Developer ‘Space City’ has applied to Trafford Borough Council for outline planning permission for the scheme and the council is said to favour the project,” the report notes. “This means that construction work could start on the main building contract before the end of 1993.
“Due to open in 1996 the park, situated on the borders of Salford, Trafford Park and Manchester city centre, is scheduled to attract more than a million visitors in its first year. The theme park will be based on the Eagle comic character Dan Dare and will be split into four planets – Red Moon, Atlantis, Mekonta and Interplanetary Space Headquarters – linked by a monorail. Facilities will be built on the lines of Disneyland and include a roller coaster and other rides, a 3-D cinema and a swimming pool.”
The report was accompanied by a press photograph, intriguingly crediting Fleetway for the artwork, then publishers of Eagle comic – although the title’s editor at the time, Barrie Tomlinson, told downthetubes he doesn’t recall the plans.
Dan Dare Artwork
London’s Science Museum displays several original Dan Dare boards on display in an area entitled `Defiant Modernism 1930-1968′. The boards, from 1951 and 1953, are part of those purchased by the Museum at the 1993 Christie’s auction house sale. Entry to the Museum is free.Dan Dare Fan Sites
Fan: The Dan Dare Story
Detailed history of the character with a huge amount of information – over 100 pages. The site also features information on Eagle comic.
Webmaster: Nicholas Hill
Fan: Dan Dare Net
This website is intended to provide an introduction to Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future in what the author hopes is an enjoyable and informative manner. The site includes a complete history of the character, images, plus a comprehensive list of related web links. There’s also a range of fully interactive “fun stuff” (games, puzzles and toys, some with a Dan Dare theme, some without.
Having run out of server space over at www.dan-dare.net, this ‘sister’ site is a “brief introduction to Dan Dare” site, with the .net site being the full-monty “interactive Dan Dare” site. There are some major image scans that aren’t on the web anywhere else, plus some more fun and games along the lines of those at the .net site.
The owner of this site, a tribute to the work of Frank Hampson, is posting illustrations from various sources so there is much new-to-the-web material to see.
Fan: The Spanish Dan Dare
The Spanish Dan Dare, Diego Valor, appears to have enjoyed much greater popularity on the radio than as a comic strip. The success of the radio show was consequently projected to other media including comics. And, of course, the radio version came first.
Fan: Dan Dare Info
The Eagle Comic was reprinted around the world, in many formats and many languages, yet information concerning this phenomenon has never been assembled in one place before. This site offers a look at these reprints by country and try to define the print runs and years of publication, and any other oddities that turn up, such as the “Great US Stamp Mystery”.
Dan Dare Re-Imagined
In 2013, DownTheTubes ran a competition to re-imagine Dan Dare for the 21st Century and all the entries are posted here on Flickr
ComicScene also ran a competition updating Dan Dare in 2020, with contributions from Charlie Gillespie and others.
Ministry of Space
Created by Warren Ellis and Chris Weston, there are plenty of Dan Dare references in this SF tale set in a universe where Britain wins the space race.
This is the story of how we could have gone to space. Maybe how we should have gone to space. This is the story of the Ministry of Space: the black budget that financed the move into space. The deaths of the test pilots taken from the surviving Spitfire flyers of the Battle of Britain. And in 2000, the end of the Golden Age, as America and Russia begin moving into space. The secret revealed, and the destruction of a man who sacrificed himself for the Ministry of Space.
The collection, available here, includes a sketchbook section by Chris Weston and an all-new appendix by Warren Ellis revealing the facts behind the fiction.
The script for the first issue is available from Warren Ellis’s official web site and makes a few Dan Dare references for the styling (Rich Text Format document)
• Dan Dare collections and related books on AmazonUK (downthetubes Affiliate Link)
• Read our checklist of Dan Dare comic stories published to date, compiled by John Freeman, Jeremy Briggs, Richard Sheaf and Steve Winders (Google Doc, further information always welcome)
Dan Dare © Dan Dare Corporation