In Review Times Two: Dare Dare, the Biography by Daniel Tartarsky

Steve Herbert, who’s involved in the Altered Vistas web site and Eagle Times and Eagle Flies Again contributor Steve Winders have kindly reviewed Daniel Tartarsky’s new Dan Dare book for downthetubes…

Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: A Biography by Daniel Tatarsky
Publisher: Orion Books

Hardback 240 black and white printed pages and 64 colour pages.

Out: Now

The Book: Dan Dare, pilot of the future, was the creation of Frank Hampson, a young artist who cut his teeth on Meccano Magazine. Beginning in April 1950, Dan Dare was the lead strip in the hugely successful Eagle. The strip would only run to a couple of pages, but stories (and their weekly cliffhangers) could run for over a year. The majority of the strips involved Dan, a suave, natural leader, doing battle with all manner of alien lifeform to preserve the future wellbeing of Earth. Hampson’s bold use of colour and figurative style (he used real-life models) were groundbreaking in post-war austerity Britain.

A sketch by Hampson for to help another
artist, Desmond Walduck, featured in
Dan Dare, The Biography

In Dare Dare, the Biography, Daniel Tatarsky, with the entire Eagle archive open to him, researches the adventures of Dan Dare (and his co-pilots), and brings Britain’s favourite space hero to life. Talking to the original writers and illustrators, Tatarsky tells the story of Dare and Eagle, and paints a portrait of a nation emerging from World War 2, ready for life on other planets…

Review by Steve Herbert: This is the story of the creation of Earth’s greatest space hero,  and the story of the two men who would together create the worlds gtratest childrens comic.

Tartarsky tells the story of the Reverend Marcus Morris amd Frank Hampson’s early beginings before Eagle, how Morris became a clergyman, created the Christian magazine The Anvil and formed the SCP (Society of Christian Publishing) and how he took the magazine all over Fleet Street with Frank’s dumny comics to sell it single handedly, to save himself from bankruptcy.

Intertwined with Morris’s story, Tatarsky tells us how Hampson, the son of a policeman, discovered the world of comic books, learned his skils as an artist, discovered Space Travel in Antwerp during his Military service during wartime – and the eventual meeting of the two, which resulted in Morris offering Hampson work on The Anvil. Then how they went from a Christian magazine selling 9000 copies to a children’s comic selling 900,000 copies of its first issue.

The book follows the process of Eagle through the early studio system and its hardships and job losses, through to the end of Morris and Hampson’s run through to Frank Bellemy’s time and beyond.

Although Tatarsky goes into details of many aspects of Dan Dare’s creation, he dosen’t set out to cover one area, but the general story he tells in style. The book is packed with a fair number of colour illustrations, and several in black and white. It’s great value for money and made a excellent Christmas present – and for any Eagle fan, looks great on your shelf!

One of many photographs taken to provide Hampson’s team with visual reference
during the creation of the original Dan Dare stories for Eagle.

Review by Steve Winders: Daniel Tatarsky’s enthusiasm for ‘Dan Dare’ comes across clearly in this entertaining and informative book, which tells the remarkable story of how Southport vicar Marcus Morris and young artist Frank Hampson created Britain’s best selling comic and its famous space hero. Tatarsky provides a clear insight into the early life of Eagle from his interviews with Morris’ daughters, Hampson’s son and surviving members of the studio that Hampson set up to produce the Dan Dare strip.

Colour pictures of studio sketches, roughs and photographs reveal the effort that Hampson and his team made to make the strip so convincing.

Dan Dare creators Frank Hampson
and Marcus Morris with their
character. Art by Don Harley

As Tatarsky takes the story past the Hampson era his background information is not so detailed however and there are several mistakes. He wrongly attributes Hampson’s departure from Eagle to Odhams Press, who bought the publication in 1959. Although Odhams dismantled Hampson’s studio he did not leave until after the Mirror Group took over the publication.

Tatarsky also makes several references to Keith Watson producing the artwork for the strip single handed from March 1962 until January 1967. While it is true that he did work on his own for much of this time, he was assisted by Eric Eden for a period, during which Eden produced some stunning airbrush work. Other comments in the book indicate that Tatarsky was unaware of this.

Writing briefly about the relaunched Eagle which began in 1982 he says that it was given the “catchy name” of New Eagle and that it ran until 1992. In fact it was called Eagle and ran until 1994.

There are other mistakes, too, but Tatarsky nevertheless analyses the original Eagle stories very well and explores the success and influence of Dan Dare with a real understanding.

Errors apart, this is a well written book which definitely captures the spirit of a remarkable strip and its creation.

Categories: Reviews


1 reply

  1. In 1990 it was retitled ‘The New Eagle starring Dan Dare’ – not sure if that held until the end in 1994 though.

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