In Review: Spaceship Away 34

Spaceship Away 34 - Cover

 

The latest issue of the Eagle-inspired Spaceship Away, available now, comes with another great cover from veteran artist Don Harley inspired by the original “Dan Dare” tale “The Ship that Lived”, and includes a great bonus Christmas gift – a 24-page “Dan Dare” prose story The Swords of the Martyrs by New Zealand-based writer Denis Steeper.

 

Spaceship Away 34 - Dan Dare

Art by Tim Booth

 

Published three times a year, the first “Dan Dare” strip in this issue, drawn by Tim Booth, has a distinctly Christmas flavour to some of its pages, much like the original Eagle would have done.

The line up is as follows:

• Dan Dare stars in “Mercury Revenant” and “Parsecular Tales” by Tim Booth
• Andrew Darlington reviews the final fifteen Dan Dare Eagle Annual stories of the second decade and beyond
• A complete Jet Morgan Annual “The Space Castaway”, written by Charles Chilton and drawn by Bruce Cornwell
• Alan Vince looks at the attempt to produce a Dan Dare television series in the 1980s by ATV, something we’ve covered on downthetubes as part of our re-presentation of articles in the fanzine, Eagle Flies Again, but Alan’s research has revealed a lot more detail about the failed project
• Don Harley’s impressive centrespread complements Alan’s article by showing Dan and his friends, based on Keith Watson’s designs for the series
• John Lawrence reviews SF illustrator Ron Turner’s 1950s hero Space Ace
• Models from Dan Dare’s World depicts The Mekon
• This issues’s cutaway from Graham Bleathman is a Treen Interceptor which was not included in the recent Dan Dare Haynes Manual
• This issue’s 1950s memorabilia features a rare Dan Dare remote control helicopter
• A back cover painting of the Anastasia leaving Mars Station, by 1960s Gerry Anderson TV series designer Mike Trim

 

Swords of the Martyrs - Cover

 

Speaking personally, I can’t say I’m hugely impressed by the Jet Morgan reprint this issue but the features are great. Alan Vince’s article is particularly fascinating and the work by Graham Bleathman and Don Harley top notch.

I’d also have to say I find Tim Booth’s well meant intent to capture the essence of Dan Dare as he originally appeared in the Eagle a little wearing. There’s no disputing he skilfully capture the sense of wonder that the original stories were filled with, with plenty of wonderful alien mystery to his stories,  I find the dialogue at times a trifle wooden.

My feeling is that the  format of the title doesn’t do Tim’s work justice: it feels very compressed, which I think wouldn’t be the caseif the title was produced at Eagle size, as the number of frames per page don’t work well within the A4 format. Like Lew Stringer, I’d have to agree that the use of Comic Sans as a lettering font is also a negative factor.

All that said, if you’re a hard core Dare fan, Tim’s attention to the series original continuity will have much appeal.

Perhaps a “Dan Dare” strip by a different artist (or indeed, another strip with a different character entirely) might be worth considering in future issues. Past editions have featured some great “Garth” re-presentations, for example.

I’m conscious that I may be appearing over critical of the issue. There’s no disputing the hard work of the editorial team when it comes to continuing the Dan Dare mythos and it’s hugely appreciated.

Spaceship Away costs £8.50 per issue, which may may sound steep but with a low print run the high price reflects the cost of production, as all contributors get paid for their work on the title. If you’re fan of the Eagle and “Dan Dare”, Spaceship Away remains, for now, your only post of call for new stories featuring Britain’s best-known comic hero.

• To find out more about Spaceship Away and to buy your copy and back issues, visit:  http://spaceshipaway.org.uk

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, Features, Reviews

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4 replies

  1. Damned with faint praise. (Gulp)

    In answer to your comments on my work for Spaceship Away, I never understand the current fashionable hatred of Comic Sans as a typeface for work within the speech balloons and panels of the comic strip genre… but if you or Lew Stringer can point me in the direction of a more suitable and freely available font, I would be delighted to avail of it and would indeed be hopeful that the dialogue in the stories – which I both write and draw – would become less wooden…. Such a font needs to be free, as although paid for the work, the page rate is somewhat less than a tenth of my commercial rate. It is a labour of love and a tip of the hat to the original great illustrators who worked for The Eagle – I learnt to draw by copying their art and attempt to emulate both Frank Hampson’s story telling and drawing skills in my offerings.

    Or – I could just stop drawing the strips altogether and get on with my life.

    Tim Booth

    • You see, this is why I’m always wary of passing comment on titles I do really like, because I know full well how much hard work goes into creating the pages you have done, and how hard Des and Rod work on the magazine. I certainly wouldn’t want to put you off drawing the things you love and no review should have that affect. (And I’m sure it won’t).

      In terms of fonts, check out http://www.blambot.com – there are plenty of free fonts there along with pro fonts.

      If you’re able to pay for fonts at some point in the future I’d thoroughly recommend Richard Starkings comicbookfonts.com. I use CC Meanwhile, the Tim Sale fonts and Richard’s own Hedge Backwards on a variety of projects.

  2. Thanks for the info, much appreciated.

  3. I can only echo the suggestions that John’s given you Tim. It’s in no way a criticism of your excellent work, just a criticism of the font. I’ve noticed that Comic Sans is also used on the other strips in Spaceship Away so it’s nothing personal.

    The reason comics steer clear of Comic Sans is that it’s not a very well accomplished font. I appreciate that you want a font that looks as close as possible to the hand lettering used in 1950s Eagle, and that is certainly closer in style than some other comic lettering fonts that look too American for your purposes.

    I agree with John and recommend Tim Sale’s fonts, available from Comicraft. (The Beano was using that font until recently.) They’re not free but the company usually has a New Year’s Day font sale at half price so it might be worth looking into it:
    http://www.hipflask.com/Tim-Sale-fonts-p/ts1.htm

    As I said, not free, but they are tax deductable and it’s just like buying any other illustration tools really.

    Hope that helps, and I look forward to seeing more Dan Dare pages from you.

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