Hibernia Comics announces space hero “Captain Condor” collection, featuring art by Brian Lewis

Hibernia Comics has announced the third book in its Fleetway Files series – a stunning, highly regarded Captain Condor story, “The Push Button Planet”, written by Frank S. Pepper and drawn by Brian Lewis.

The opening episode of the Captain Condor story "The Push Button Planet", first published in Lion, cover dated 30th December 1961
The opening episode of the Captain Condor story “The Push Button Planet”, first published in Lion, cover dated 30th December 1961

Tentatively scheduled for release this autumn, the story sees Captain Condor begin a survey of an unexplored planet, only to be shot down by a mysterious ship. Soon, they find themselves caught up in a war between two electronic brains, waged by machines they control…

The story first appeared in the weekly adventure comic, Lion in the issue cover dated 30th December 196, running for 25 weeks through to the issue cover dated 16th June 1962. It was reprinted in 1969, but this presentation cut parts 16 and 22 almost completely, merging them with other episodes, and has never been republished in the UK since.

Lion was the weekly adventure comic launched by Amalgamated Press in response to the success of the ground-breaking Eagle and Captain Condor was its cover star from the very first issue. Commissioned at the direction of Lion editor Reg Eves, under orders from senior management, Captain Condor, aided by trusty assistant Quartermaster Burke, was the creation of stalwart writer Frank S. Pepper, who had been selling stories to various boys story papers since the 1930s.

“Reg Eves had no interest in Science Fiction, had never run any in any of his papers, and had never read any”, Pepper told one interviewer, quoted by Andrew Darlington in an article for the Australian fanzine Mentor, back in 1994. “But I understand that he was under orders from the ‘front office’ to put a Space Hero on the cover as a competitor to Dan Dare.

“‘Do what you like Frank’, he said, ‘I don’t know anything about it’.”

An episode of the Captain Condor story "The Push Button Planet", form Lion, cover dated 13th January 1962
An episode of the Captain Condor story “The Push Button Planet”, form Lion, cover dated 13th January 1962

“Captain Condor” certainly doesn’t enjoy the same kind of resonance as other space heroes among British comic fans, and the number of artists assigned to draw Captain Condor later in his run (including the brilliant Brian Lewis and Geoff Campion) certainly didn’t help give the character any kind of unified look. (In 1994, in his article for Mentor, Andrew Darlington rightly described Captain Condor as a character “in search of an artist”). But his longevity as a character in British comics, near equal to Dan Dare in his original run, has ensured his continued popularity with older SF adventure comic fans.

Brian Lewis, who only drew three “Captain Condor” stories for Lion, is one of British comics most-loved and most versatile artists, who began his career as a magazine illustrator but whose work featured in a huge number of comics including CountdownLook-In2000ADHouse of Hammer and many more.

He was an extremely capable creator who drew in many different styles to suit the titles he worked on.

The opening page of the Captain Condor episode published in Lion, cover dated 3rd March 1962. With thanks to Mal Earl
The opening page of the Captain Condor episode published in Lion, cover dated 3rd March 1962. With thanks to Mal Earl

Andrew Darlington notes Lewis intensified his work with mechanical tints, developed in his work for various titles titles, in “Push Button Planet”, delivering a series of “screen” effects to obtain shadings to give depth and dimension. “For once the story quality is perfectly balanced by the art,” he noted in Mentor. “Lewis’ imagination and skill fairly equal to the convolutions of the plot, and the ‘The Push Button Planet’ remains one of the finest examples of the SF picture strip ever produced.”

“Brian Lewis was an extraordinary artist, who is perhaps not as well known as he should be,” says Hibernia publisher David McDonald. “We hope to rectify that a little with this collection.”

Let’s hope this “revival” of Captain Condor proves a sales success, and paves the way for collections of Brian’s other stories, “The Slave-Hunters from Outer Space“, which has never been reprinted in the UK, and “The Unseen Invaders“, which was subsequently reprinted, in an edited format, in the 1968 Lion Summer Special.

Limited copies of the Fleetway Files Volume Two: The Indestructible Man are still available here

Web Links

Read John Freeman’s article “British Comic Heroes: Lion’s “Captain Condor” here on downthetubes

Captain Condor tagged items on Amazon.co.uk (Affiliate Link)

Lion – King Of Picture Story Papers

Steve Holland has a great article on Brian Lewis’ career here on Bear Alley

The Art of Brian Lewis Facebook Group

Art by Brian Lewis for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery

For more about Lion, we recommend Lion – King Of Picture Story Papers by Steve Holland, available direct from his web site here

Captain Condor, Lion © Rebellion Publishing Ltd.

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. 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 "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Collections, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News

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