Regular readers of downthetubes will know we recently presented a rare “Lost Episode” from Radio Luxembourg‘s 1950s serial The Adventures of Dan Dare, with the permission of the Dan Dare Corporation. Its presentation, along with the previous discovery of other episodes, prompted writer and literary agent Philip Harbottle to kindly provide us with an episode guide for the series – and confirmed strips he drew in the 1950s, adapting some of the stories, provide what is believed to be the only record of some of the still missing 760 episodes.
Back in the 1950s, the young Philip Harbottle had already fallen in love with comics, including the Eagle, and his own comic art attracted a news item in the Junior Mirror in June 1955.
Having already penned his own “Dan Dare” adventures based on the Eagle stories, in 1954 he turned his attention to the Radio Luxembourg show, aired between July 1951 and May 1956.
The series, which ran for 764 episodes over four years, was written by a team of writers, including script editor Geoffrey Webb, who also co-created and wrote Dick Barton – Special Agent and The Archers for the BBC. His sons were avid followers of the show – just like an estimated three million other fans across the UK and beyond, according to one contemporary newspapers article.
“I had been listening to Dan Dare on the Radio Luxembourg serial for about a year, but it had failed to make much of an impression on me,” Philip recalled for Eagle Times back in 1989, because of the terrible radio reception on 208 metres medium wave, making it impossible to follow. But in the Autumn of 1954 came a significant development: my parents had fitted wired radio on the “Re diffusion” system, and one of the four stat ions it received was Luxembourg! For the first time, I could listen to an entire serial.
“This was what I had been waiting for! I quickly became addicted to the serial – and also to the sponsored product, Horlicks. I used to eat it straight out of the jar, with a spoon, as if it were jam! What this did for my health or sleeping pattern I’ve no idea, but I suspect I spent most of my drug-induced sleep dreaming about Dan Dare, whose adventures subsumed my creative imagination.”
Those imaginings led to a desire to document the show, using his own speed writing to detail dialogue and then turn the episodes he listened to into comics. Because Radio Luxembourg never gave the titles of their stories over the air, the titles Philip gave his strips were his own.
“I can remember the thrill of excitement I felt listening to each instalment, and can only shake my head in astonishment at the youthful enthusiasm shown in creating a body of work, purely for my own personal satisfaction,” Philip commented back in 1989. “I had no thought of publication.”
These strips by a budding creator who would go on to write Garth for the Daily Mirror will no doubt raise a smile from members of the comics community who no doubt began their own careers drawing their own strips for fun – and these comic strips represent an at least partial document of a radio series no-one, it seems, thought important enough to keep. We are very grateful to Philip for sharing some of them with us.
• For those of you fascinated by the long-lost Dan Dare radio show aired on Radio Luxembourg, Philip Harbottle has compiled an episode guide which may jog the memories of older fans of the Eagle comic character
• This guide complements our overall feature on the show (which includes the opportunity to listen to a “Lost Episode”, with the permission of the Dan Dare Corporation)
Dan Dare © Dan Dare Corporation
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. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 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.