downthetubes contributor Jeremy Briggs recently discovered a rare screen promotion for Dan Dare, available to watch on the BFI web site – a 1950’s campaign advertisement encouraging his fans to join the Horlicks Spacemen’s Club.
As we’ve previously noted, the exploits of lantern-jawed space comic hero Dan Dare, star of the Eagle since 1950, also provided the basis for a thrilling British-made audio drama, broadcast on Radio Luxembourg. In this amazing advert, an unseen Dan (played on the radio by the anonymous Noel Johnson) advises young fans to send 6d in stamps and a jar label to his London address to join the Horlicks Spacemen’s Club.
As well as the Horlicks Spaceman’s Handbook – stuffed full of vital information about Dan, his friends, his enemies, space weapons and spacecraft – and the stylish tie sported by the young recruit seen in this advert, various other indispensable items were available from the club. These included the cap badge, the Dan Dare Spaceship Cup (ideal for hot malted milk beverages), and the Dan Dare Periscope.
The BFI dates the ad as appearing in 1956, but it is probably earlier. The origins of The Adventures of Dan Dare (as it was described in the pages of the Radio Luxembourg 208 Magazine) date to early in 1951, when the Beecham Group, owners of drinks company Horlicks, decided to promote the brand on Radio Luxembourg – with whom it had a long relationship, as far back as 1934 when the station ran the Horlicks Tea Time Hour, later retitled Horlicks Picture House in 1937.
Beechams engaged advertising agency of J. Walter Thompson to arrange the programme; a 15 minute, weekday serial featuring Dan Dare to be aimed at the 8 to 14 year old age group, arranged under licence with Eagle owners Hulton Press.
Presumably, this ad was shown during Saturday morning cinema club events, although if the 1956 date indicated on the BFI site is correct, it might also have featured on Britain’s nascent commercial broadcaster, Independent Television (now ITV), which launched in 1955.
Dan Dare fans are encouraged to send their 6d in stamps to Dan himself, at 40 Berkeley Square, London W1 – which was then the headquarters of JWT. The agency moved out to Knightsbridge Green in 2002, a feature on the Campaign web site noting the offices were by then beginning to look their age and served only to reinforce the feeling that London’s oldest agency, dating back to 1899, was stuck in a time warp.
There was only one agency in London that had the class to set up home in a former luxury apartment block whose tenants included Frank Sinatra, Merle Oberon and Arturo Toscanini
Do you remember seeing this advertisement, in the cinema or on TV? Were you “Mike”, the eager space hero featured? Let us know!
ALSO ON DOWNTHETUBES…
With thanks to Jeremy Briggs
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.