Dan Dare: Mission to the Stars

The Menace from Jupiter was the last Dan Dare story to appear in Eagle, but before we end this sequence, there’s an oddity to consider. Not a story from one of the Annuals, nor any of the other Eagle-related publications that came out from Hulton, or Odhams, or Longacre. But a genuine, little-considered but authentic Sixties adventure.
Mission to the Stars was the only Dan Dare adventure to appear outside Eagle. From 20 April to 4 October 1964, 29 weeks in b&w, three tiers a week, Dan’s extraneous adventure appeared in the Sunday People, drawn by Don Harley and written by William Patterson, best known as the scripter for Sydney Jordan’s Jeff Hawke strip in the Daily Express.
As far as I am aware, the only place in which this story can be read, outside of those who carefully clipped each instalment out of the People, every week, and preserved them carefully in their collections, is in The Dan Dare Dossier, a wonderfully informative book published by Hawk Books as a companion to their Facsimile Reprint Series. At the time of writing (July 23rd), there were three copies available on eBay, starting from £16.00.
I’d recommend getting the Dossier for itself, but not if all you want is Mission to the Stars. Reproduction is not consistent: approximately two-thirds of the story is printed neatly, with good, clean line-work, from the original art or at least first generation negatives, but the rest of the episodes, at random, look to have been shot from photocopies of very different standards.
Even if the entire story was printed from the highest quality originals, I still can’t say much in favour of this story. It features Dan, Digby and Wilf Banger on a hyperspace mission in Copernicus II, on a mission to track down the Copernicus I, lost on a mission to Alpha Centaurus five years earlier. There, the trio discover a machine civilisation, robots out to steal the Copernicus II’s overdrive, in order to spread their metal rule throughout the Universe.
These robots have the power to teleport things, and also to duplicate the ‘fleshmen’, which they start by impersonating Digby, except that they haven’t noticed that they duplicate things the wrong way round, making Digby left-handed.
To be honest, it’s a dull and uninspired story, unable to rise above the central improbability of robots, with no apparent creator but themselves, turning out to be identical to cheap, dictator obsessed human villains. Given the timing, and assuming a short lead-in to the serial, it’s possible that Patterson may have been ‘inspired’ by the very recent debut of the Daleks in the fledgling Dr Who Saturday early evening children’s serial.
But Patterson brings nothing to the idea. His Dan and Banger are mere cyphers, and though Digby has the glimmerings of the ‘other ranks’ personality, he’s nowhere near the Lancashire lad we are so familiar with.
This is doubly disappointing. Patterson was so witty and subtle on Jeff Hawke that his era on the series is universally recognised as definitive. He was so much better than this effort, which is just phoned in. And given that this series appeared in a Sunday newspaper directed at an audience of adults, it is a cruel irony that Mission to the Stars turned out to be so much simpler and unimaginative than the stories still being aimed at 7 – 12 year olds.
I’m going to exempt Don Harley from most criticism, given that he was trapped by both the limited range of the story and the restricted space of the format. What he does is perfectly good, though he is far from convincing on Banger’s moustache, and he is as always neat and precise. Though used to drawing for colour on Eagle, he understands the differing demands of black and white
But I can’t help but be disappointed with his Alpha Centaurus robots, who are weedy collations of cones, circles and tubes with little logic to their design, who look like they could be pushed over by a six year old.
Overall, for completists only and they should approach it with large amounts of salt. It has no bearing upon the main Dan Dare sequence, though Denis Steeper will fit it into his Chronology where he boggled (rightly) at trying to incorporate The Menace from Jupiter.
An anomaly, in all respects, a sidebar before the true end.

Dan Dare: “Give me the Moon!”

Frank Hampson, being watched closely by his masters

At least Watson’s artwork, for the most part, was back up to its usual standard, and the colouring was once again meticulous, but in all other respects, “Give Me The Moon!”, Dan Dare’s penultimate story, was a crock.
It starts off adequately, with the Tempus Frangit‘s landing after two and a half years in space, on the Vega expedition (a veil had better be drawn over the length of time Dan and Co have been away). The crew are met by Major Spence who, as we shall see in this story, has very much gone up in this world, if not in rank. Spence, who has transformed from the fussy, prim, nervous administrator of before into a hyper-competent, extremely confident controller (different writer, I’ll swear to it) dedicates himself to briefing the crew over the changes the world has seen in their absence, which primarily consist of new, automated, crew-free, faster, bigger load-bearing food transports from Venus.
It’s an odd return to the theme of the very first Dan Dare story, and in all the years between, not only is Earth still dependant upon food shipments from the planet of the Treens and Therons, it is still desperately close to famine and disaster if they are in the least disrupted.
And disrupted they are, by a mysterious terrorist organisation going under the name of Fist. And Fist has a demand in return for giving up its campaign of terror, destruction and world-wide starvation: it wants the Moon.
Fist: we are so in the James Bond Sixties, aren’t we?
A story like this stands or falls on its basic premise, and even as a ten-year-old boy, I knew that there was something fundamentally dodgy about the idea of Fist demanding the Moon. What was it going to do with it? Especially when the Government still had the Earth. It was just a flashy, big, dumb, daft idea, and it’s lack of plausibility was made explicit in mid-story when, with the terrorist organisation at the height of its campaign, someone actually asks what they want with the Moon when they’ve practically got the Earth?
That’s a case of being too clever by half. Fist – which has appeared out of nowhere, with World Security completely unprepared – is too big and too strong. It has resources everywhere, men and machines setting up attacks all over the globe, it can vanish at a moment’s notice, abandoning the organisation’s entire superstructure and not be weakened, it can create a projection of solid light cones that enables an entire spacefleet invade the moon, and this monstrously overwhelming, secret organisation is controlled by a single mind, and a mind with a day job: he’s doing all this in his spare time!
It’s beyond the least bit of credibility, and even the boy I was could see this.
That criminal mastermind spends most of his time in the story flitting around Spacefleet HQ, where he holds the important post of Commissionaire. Dan looks at him with curiosity on his return from Vega, and Spence names him as ex-spaceman Benny Clark, injured in the battle with Xel and the Tritons, restored by plastic surgery and given heavyweight, coloured lens glasses that compensate for his enforced blindness.
But he’s really Laszlo Romanov, the supposedly-dead head of ‘Big M’, an engineering empire inherited from Magnus Romanov’s ‘Magnus Group’. Laszlo, who was born blind, is supposed to have died in a Mars spacecraft accident, after which ‘Big M’ was broken up. Funnily, almost every piece of equipment recovered from Fist is derived from ‘Big M’.
In a way, the notion of Fist’s commander hiding out in so humble a role is very clever: a lowly official, forever on the scene in his menial role, his presence taken for granted, he is ideally placed to eavesdrop. But, like Fist itself, the amount of information – truly sensitive information – he picks up is far too great for plausibility.
And to have his headquarters disguised as a water tanker on the roof of the apartment block in which he lives stretches credulity to the point where it just goes twang!
As for the telling of the story, it’s in much the same mode as The Singing Scourge, all disasters and cliffhangers and colossal bangs. Watson is given a final shot at calling up past characters as Lex O’Malley – still captaining Poseidon – is found in charge of food supplies in the South Indian Ocean and becomes, for a time, part of a triumvirate of chiefs responsible for combating the threat of Fist to the world’s food.
I say for a time for, about two-thirds of the way through, O’Malley drops out of the story, completely forgotten, as Banger and John F. become the troubleshooters who finally track down Clark/Romanov and his secret HQ.
That’s not the only sloppiness about this story. At one point, a list of possible intelligence leaks from Spacefleet HQ is produced, with Clark’s name at the very top. But Dan, who has seen the Commissionaire gun down two unimportant Fist hirelings, swears faith in Clark, insistently so, heading off any actual investigation. Then, several weeks later, when Fist is starting to look more and more like a Laszlo Romanov operation, suddenly Dan’s staking his whole belief on Benny actually being Laszlo, without a word to prepare us for such a volte-face.
The worst moment of all relates to Digby, however. He and Dan, in Anastasia, go out to investigate the Fist satellite, only to be paralysed, like the ship, by electrical defences. Digby is captured and taken on board the satellite to be put to death: his spacesuit is ejected from an airlock.
There’s no two ways about it, Digby has been done for, and here are stiff expressions of regret from Lex, but not Dan. And the Wigan Wonder is out of the story for weeks until, Dan having decided to trick Fist into coming out into the open by actually giving it the Moon, there’s an off-hand reference to Fist, as a goodwill gesture, giving Digby back, alive.
It’s nonsense, utter nonsense, being written by someone who can’t be bothered to give the story the remotest element of consistency or plausibility. If this is indeed the work of Frank Pepper, then it’s negligible: less meant to last for five minutes and then be forgotten, than written in half that time and forgotten twice as fast. The Earth-Stealers was dire, but that was simply bad: it wasn’t done with anything like this level of underlying contempt for the intelligence of its readership.
I’ve already said that Watson’s art, and the colour palette both improve distinctly from the longer part of The Singing Scourge and it’s necessary to point out that John F.’s skin colour and his features go back to their original distinctiveness, though Watson – due to editorial direction? – does to his best to avoid showing the American’s face too clearly most of the time.
But really, “Give Me The Moon!” demonstrates just how rapidly downhill things were going. And then there was only one left.

Dan Dare: The Singing Scourge

One aspect of Keith Watson’s tenure as Dan Dare artist that I’ve never seen highlighted is his flexibility. Frank Hampson, Frank Bellamy, Harley and Cornwell, all dealt with a series published in colour on the cover and page 2, with only the most minor of tweaks to account for a re-designed masthead and, in Harley/Cornwell’s case, the loss of cover space to Men of Action for about five months.
But Keith Watson’s art was continually being subjected to new demands, as format succeeded format, with little more than a year on each occasion to settle into Eagle‘s latest notion.
There was the Monochrome Year, of two internal black and white pages; the Hybrid Year, with a colour poster cover and one and a half black and white pages; and the recent years or so of two colour pages, on the front and back covers of the comic.
For a week, things seemed as normal for the new story, The Singing Scourge. But only for a week. Because the second episode was once more inside the comic, although still in full colour, and Dan Dare would never recover the cover for an original story again.
One could justifiably ask what the hell the editor was playing at? Introducing a major format change to his leading strip only a week into a new story, when the merest forethought would have got the two to coincide. But further sloppiness was to follow, rapidly.
Watson had obviously been instructed that Dan Dare was moving to Eagle‘s middle pages, so he drew the next two episodes as a two-page spread. Unfortunately, the story was being printed across two internal pages, because the centrespread was still Heros the Spartan‘s turf, so Watson reverted to two internal pages.
Then, for some reason, Watson missed three or four weeks (this and the following story are the only ones in the entire series that I do not have in collected form and I am missing a handful of episodes, here and there). Whether this was illness, or frustration, I have no idea, but Don Harley was called upon to fill-in for this period, the last of which was in the centre pages, Heros having been demoted to a single page. Watson returned a week later, to continue the strip in centrespread form.
Do you, like me, get the idea that nobody knew what they were doing?
The Singing Scourge re-unites the Tempus Frangit crew for another expedition in Wilf Banger’s ship, though in token to the times, this being 1965, Major Spence is left behind and his seat in the five-man crew goes to American Professor of Radio Astronomy John Fitzgerald (most people call me John F) Smith, who is the first person of colour to take a leading role in the series.
John F.’s an interesting case. The name is an obvious nod to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose assassination had rocked the world about eighteen months earlier. And in his first few weeks of appearance, he is portrayed with quite dark skin and clearly ethnic (but not exaggerated) features.
But once Watson returns, this distinctively black appearance is out of the window. John F. is rarely seen with the same clarity as on his debut, and when he can be seen, his features are much less distinct, and his colour far less pronounced. Indeed, as I’ll come to shortly, Watson’s entire artwork suffers a substantial change at this point.
However, to the story. We are given a brief mysterious introduction on the first page, to a spaceship blasted apart in space in the Vega system and a powerful, fatal radiation source falling to a planet, before Dan and Digby are summoned from leave, fell-walking in Lancashire, to pilot the refitted Tempus Frangit on an expedition to Vega for John F.
The (other) Professor has detected a strange, controlled, radiation in that system, a self-renewing power source that ‘sings’ in a rhythmic fashion. With Earth and the Solar System’s planets liable to run out of atomic power in due course, if this energy can be recovered, it can sustain Earth’s power needs almost infinitely.
Whereas previously the Tempus Frangit simply moved in time, there’s a different explanation now for its purpose. Effectively, the trip from Earth to Vega will take a year each way, but will be instantaneous to its crew. Already that statement makes me nervous: in what Earth craft could Spacefleet reach Vega in a year, given that it is 25 light years distant? And the statement that the journey would take a year is directly at odds with the near-simultaneous statement that the stars multimillion miles distant couldn’t be visited in a human lifetime.
This kind of sloppiness is all over the place. Later in the story, a single panel will state that the captured Earth team have been in prison for two months whilst Dan laments that he has been working on his metal cuff for three weeks without making a scratch.
Then there’s the Tempus Frangit‘s arrival. Almost immediately, it’s struck by a radiation blast that burns out certain of its circuits, primarily those that power the computer calculations of the reverse time-jump, so it’s got to land. The nearest land is an unusual variation of paired planets, this having orbits so close to one another that they have a shared atmosphere, permitting travel from one to the other without going into space.
I am no scientist, but even as a ten year old boy, it struck me as a dodgy set-up, since the gravities of the two near Earth-sized planets ought to have torn them both apart before they got close enough for the atmospheres to touch, let alone merge. And it’s more than convenient that these atmospheres are functionally identical, if two planets are using them.
But the thing about paired planets is that we know what will happen on them. Dan and Co have landed on Lapri, the more fertile planet of the pair, home to the native Trons, but controlled by the brutal, four-armed Vendals, who have moved from the desolate Volk to take over, thanks to the destructive power of The Singing Scourge. This is John F.’s radiation source, fallen to Volk some indeterminate time ago, where it was discovered by the brothers Koo, Koob and Koom.
The Scourge was being forged into weapons by the Koos when it was accidentally broken in two, killing Koom and crippling Koob, who thus broke the law that Vendals are not allowed to be sick, ill, infirm or injured. This ousted Koob and the Scourge was taken over by the villainous Reshnek (or The Reshnek: the story can’t make up its mind), who uses it to devastate Volk in the process of killing off all its non-Vendal races, before going to take over Lapri.
(The scourge having been split into two, there are two Scourges but one gets shot down on the flight to Lapri, vanishing into its ocean, for no apparent reason or point for the story).
All this comes out at various times over the long story. Dan and Co start off by appearing as saviours to the Trons, but being captured and imprisoned by the Vendals as I mentioned above. At long last, they’re taken out to be executed via The Singing Scourge, but their spacesuits happen to be radiation-proof so, after the Tron crowd gets wiped out, the Earthmen are shunted to Volk to forage in its deserts.
Naturally, Dan and Co raise a revolution which proves to be very successful, and takes control of Volk.
Before they were lifted off Lapri, the crew did succeed in inflicting radiation burns on (The) Reshnek which, eventually, force him to return to Volk himself, in accordance with the law, to deal with the revolt. It all gets a little tedious by this point, the story having become primarily one of blood, thunder and cliff-hanging peril that gets overcome thanks to surprise information withheld from the reader until next week, a constant ‘with one mighty bound he was free’.
Ultimately, the defeated Reshnek heads back to Lapri with the Scourge, only for the treacherous stowaway, Koob, to use it to kill him. Koob, planning on taking over and killing everyone in his way, gets shot down trying to land on Lapri, and a final assault by a hastily-built fleet completes the overthrow of the Vendals and the restoration of Tron rule. Since nobody particularly wants the Scourge, Dan and Co are allowed to take it back to Earth, once they’ve repaired the Tempus Frangit.
No, I don’t have a very high opinion of this story. It’s sloppiness and its scientific implausibility, together with the crash-bang nature of the all-action story and its general choppiness lead me towards that half-formed suspicion I mentioned when discussing the ultra-rapid ending of The Moonsleepers. I think that The Singing Scourge marks a change in scripter for Dan Dare, that David Motton’s services had been dispensed with, whether at his choice or not I don’t know.
At different times, I’ve read of different names as writers for the original Dan Dare run. Amongst those is Frank Pepper, a very successful writer of comics series for British comics and, amongst many others, creator of Dan Dare’s hastily-conjured rival in Lion, Captain Condor. There’s a delightful mini-interview with Mr Pepper in Alistair Crompton’s The Man who drew Tomorrow (not retained in Tomorrow Revisited) about Pepper’s approach and attitude to his work that couldn’t be a greater contrast to Frank Hampson if it tried. Pepper is credited in Wikipedia as having written Dan Dare, and this story and its successor do read like the work of someone who was writing an entertainment for small boys that was meant to last for five minutes and then be forgotten.
Finally, I do have to comment on Keith Watson’s art for the majority of this story, and after his return from his brief sabbatical. I’ve been very complimentary about Watson’s art, but I cannot praise this later work in The Singing Scourge. For one thing, the art is very badly served by the colouring, which is some of the flattest, least detailed, and abstract the series has ever seen.
Watson had hired Eric Eden to colour his art once Dan Dare returned to Eagle‘s cover, Watson being colour-blind, and Eden had produced fantastic work, but this is horrible and amateurish. Eden, by this point, was drawing the adventures of Lady Penelope for the new, Gerry Anderson-oriented TV21 and his replacement was simply not good enough. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets, with whole panels coloured in a single shade lacking any relation to the actual setting.
And beneath the colour, and all too often screened by it, Watson’s actual artwork is crude and blocky. His figures are stiff, detail is lacking, and backgrounds are far too often completely absent. I’ve already mentioned the change in John F., but the overall effect is of haste, and skimpiness. All the sterling work in rebuilding the series from the Odhams’ nadir is undermined. I can only assume that Longacre, with Eagle‘s sales steadily sliding, had drastically undercut Watson’s page rates, creating the very situation that Frank Hampson, fifteen years previously, had determined should not be allowed.
Great days, far gone.

Dan Dare: The Mushroom

The baddy who always comes back

Those who feared for the Mekon’s safety in All Treens Must Die! did not have long to wait, for Ol’ Greenbean was back as dastardly mastermind on the opening page of the succeeding story, The Mushroom.
It seems an odd thing to do, and featuring Dan Dare’s arch-enemy in successive stories had never been tried before. Shoving the Mekon up front, when he’s not actually active in the story, is a dramatic waste of that revelatory moment. On the other hand, that bit’s been done, over and again, and as memory of the Tyrant of Venus hasn’t had time to fade – there is a hiatus of eight panels – you could say that this kind of classic scene is redundant on this occasion.
And given that treens are introduced on the cover of the next issue, it is rather pointless to propound mysteries. Especially in a story that will only run sixteen weeks, all told.
The plot of The Mushroom is very simple. The Mekon begins a terrorist campaign, using a satellite to project a fiery ‘seed’ into the heart of London. This ‘grows’ into a thrusting, metallic mushroom-shaped tower that sucks the life and the heat out of all the surrounding ground and area. Londoners are forced to flee their homes. The Mekon gives an ultimatum, that he be restored to rule on Venus, or his Mushroom will destroy London and others will be used against other capital cities.
By taking his attack directly to the people, the Mekon expects their panicky, narrow-visioned response to force the Earth Government to act in his favour. He’s wrong, of course, because nobody in Government is stupid enough to think for one second that Appeasement will work (shades of Hampson’s original identification of the Treens with the Nazis again), but this is still early days, and one city only. If the situation escalates, and the public’s fears along with it, who knows where this might go?
(Let me point out the continuity disjunction between this story and Reign of the Robots and the Treen Holocaust. I make no comment. At the time, boys not that much younger than me had not been alive to read Reign of the Robots and we were none of us aware of it. Just mentioning it, that’s all).
That the situation doesn’t escalate is, naturally, down to Dan and Co. He and Digby, in Anastasia,  trace the radiation beam that feeds energy to the Mushroom back to the satellite and confront the Mekon and impossible odds. But it’s Wilf Banger who saves the day, on Earth. Brought in as the scientific specialist, good old Wilf has only one scientific thought in his head from the moment he appears, and that is to blow the Mushroom into pieces small enough to be fried with bacon and eggs, and perform scientific tests on what’s left on the side of the plate.
The Mushroom is impervious to every assault, that is, until Banger has his men tunnel underground, pack explosives round the Mushroom’s base, and knock the whole thing over. With no focus any longer, the energy of the Mekon’s beam reverses back to the Satellite and blows it up. Dan and Digby are rescued, and for once there’s no particular attempt to suggest that the Mekon might have gone down with his ship: a green ‘meteorite’ streaks away in a controlled fashion, making it pretty damned clear that it’ll all happen all over again.
Indeed, the Mekon would again be back in the very next story, The Moonsleepers, though not as the principal villain.
In short, its not a complex story. Indeed, it comes close to a couple of the longer stories of Motton and Watson’s Monochrome Year, though it’s more compact and pursues a tighter plot-line. The sixteen week length is awkward: too short for substance, too long for flimsiness, but it’s real failure lies in coming directly after All Treens Must Die! The fall in scope, in ambition on the Mekon’s plans is bathetic, and The Mushroom just cannot get over that hurdle.
Again, it’s beautifully drawn and glowingly coloured, though I do want to take a little time to expand on that claim, because I’m very much aware that there are many Dan Dare fans who deride certain aspects of Keith Watson’s work.
I’m not an artist, and I lack an artist’s vocabulary to either criticise or commend. I’m biassed in favour of Watson because his is the Dan Dare I grew up on, but I still find his art immensely satisfying as an adult. His version of the Hampson style lacks some of the detail, the lushness that Hampson pioneered, but there’s a reassuring solidity to it, and something of a cragginess to his figures. He’s not as graceful as Hampson, and his figurework can sometimes be stiff, and static, but his technical art is superb. His work carries an extra degree of stylisation over Hampson’s resolutely naturalistic approach, but there’s a more modern, appealingly workaday aspect to it that befits the fact that the series, and Dan, has been at this for a long time. The lack of idealisation is much more appropriate to the times.
That said, I am aware that most criticism of Watson lies around his ability to draw faces, or rather Dan Dare’s face in particular. Given Hampson’s original design, it’s a difficult face to draw, especially the lantern jaw, and there have been several instances in past stories where head-shots of Colonel Dan from the wrong angle have looked disproportionate and clunky.
But the biggest difficulty is the head-on, full-face shot and there are a couple of real stinkers in The Mushroom. Watson cannot make Dan’s face look convincing (and there’s another example with Wilf Banger in there). Head-on, Watson’s faces flatten out and drop towards the cartoonish. Deprived of assistance by the colouring, he has to go to excess on closely inked lines, attempting to set up shadow and form, but these fail to cohere. He also makes an awful mess of Banger’s mouth in his close-up.
It’s a weakness, yet he can draw convincing faces from other angles, so the flaw is in allowing himself to be cornered into that particular composition, and not finding another method of presenting the shot that doesn’t betray him to his worst flaw.
Which pre-supposes that he had that kind of freedom to depart from David Motton’s scripts, about which subject I know nothing whatsoever, save that the two only rarely met, and that this was a scripter’s world in the post-Hampson mid-Sixties.
Those who are familiar with The Mushroom will have been wondering why I’ve not yet spoken of the story’s most famous aspect. I’ve chosen to leave that till last.
Watson had done a magnificent job of shoring up Dan Dare. He’d seen the series back into colour, to extended story-lines, supporting cast, the return of the Mekon, Anastasia and, in the previous story, Sondar. Now, on the second page of the opening episode, a lanky, bespectacled Texan Pilot-Captain, swinging a baseball bat, sends a home run through a window. Venturing inside to retrieve his ball, he becomes the first person on Earth to see the nascent Mushroom and its Treen attendants. It’s Hank Hogan, seen for the first time since The Solid-space Mystery, but to all Dan’s oldest fans a symbol of the truly early days, at the beginning.
So Dan and Digby go to meet Hank, and it’s a proper reunion of friends, none of this business call on O’Malley stuff. And, in a supercharge of nostalgia, Hank has a scrapbook, and it’s got everyone in it, all the old gang.
Pierre Lafayette – Principal of the Lake Chad Rockery College, enjoying piloting, fishing and French food. Lex O’Malley – supervising a Sea-Harvesting Project in the Indian Ocean. Sir Hubert Guest – retired and about to publish his memoirs.
There’s a glaring omission, for there is no mention of former Astral College Cadet Spry, though the young Flamer was seen in All Treens Must Die!‘s montage, capering as he did when Sir Hubert authorised his presence on the Cryptos Mission. But the question all the old fans want answered is “And Miss Peabody – the Professor I mean,?”
Oh, my. What emotions might underlie that enquiry? Are there regrets, expectations, hopes? But Hank, with blythe cheerfulness, pronounces the doom: “You mean Mrs Jack Gurk?” (in the Sixties, though thankfully for not too much longer, a woman’s married name submerged her not only underneath her Lord and master’s surname, but also his first name). Jocelyn has married a Mining Engineer, and moved with him to Mars.
How does Dan react to that news? It’s what everyone wants to know, and upon which everyone projects their own pet hopes. But it’s not even Dan who asks, but Digby. Does Dan care at all? The romantics want him to, but the truth is that, since their return from the Terra Nova Mission, he has apparently neither spoken to or of our favourite redhead. Given his seeming penchant for taking burly sailors and fourteen year old boys off into space, perhaps we should not get our hopes up too high.
But at least Hank is back, and a door opened, although once he’s produced his scrapbook, though he hangs around for the rest of the story, he plays no active part in it. But his little half-page steals all the glory in The Mushroom: it’s the only thing the fans ever remember.

Dan Dare: All Treens Must Die!

Favourites. There’s always one in every bunch, one that means more to you than any other, that arouses more excitement and intensity than any other, When it comes to Dan Dare, as The Stone Roses so eloquently put it, This Is The One.
All Treens Must Die! is my personal favourite, the story of my childhood that thrilled and awed me more than any other. It’s also, by general consensus among Dan Dare’s fans, the best, the most Hampson-esque story of the latter days of the series. And it represented another turning point in the history of the strip, in that this was the point at which Dan Dare returned to full colour, never to appear in monochrome again. Not in any format he had enjoyed before, but arguably even more prestigious, since Dan’s adventures now wrapped the Eagle around, appearing on both the front and back covers.
It’s beautifully drawn by Watson, and Eric Eden’s colours are gorgeously deployed to give perhaps the strongest post-Hampson art.
Yet the story has a very simple, linear line, and it is only 20 episodes in length (according to David Motton, it was originally planned to run for 22 weeks, though he could recall neither what had had to be cut, nor the reason for the truncation).
All Treens Must Die! is as much a follow on from The Wandering World as was The Big City Caper. We have dealt with Xel, now it is time to look to the other captive, who faces trial on Earth for his crimes around the Solar System.
Needless to say, the Mekon is surrounded by massive security, both in prison and in his daily transport to and from the Court buildings. Dan attends, watching proceedings, the application of proper Earth justice. It’s the demonstration that Earth’s system, Earth’s code, works.
Not all is well, however. Major Spence is also attending proceedings and is disturbed to receive an irate call from Banger, protesting against orders apparently emanating from Spence that are sending him and Cob to Venus. Banger has too much on to leave Earth at this point and he makes it plain that he has no intention of following these orders. On the other hand, there are Treens in his and Cob’s quarters…
Dan’s concerned enough to call Banger back, although there’s no answer. But he’s even more concerned when, checking Banger’s quarters, he finds them trashed and his two friends gone. The Police are not yet inclined to take it seriously, until a call comes in from the prison because, as we had all been expecting, the Mekon has escaped. And he has gotten off Earth and onto a Venus transport in the luggage of Banger and Cob, drugged and hypnotised into assisting.
There’s a full scale flap on about finding the Mekon, but the clue comes from Banger himself. Waking from his drugged state, he takes the typically aggressive step of forcing his way into the cabin and sending out a partial message, before he is clubbed down with brutal contempt from the Mekon. But he has succeeded in broadcasting both his personal call-sign and the letter M-E-K.
Dan and Digby head for Mekonta in the Anastasia, for our first reunion in years with President (no longer Governor) Sondar, who has not been seen since The Phantom Fleet. Sondar can provide some additional clues from seemingly unconnected incidents in recent months: a mutiny on three ships, the disappearance into the Flame-Belt of fifty Treens who have not been found.
This latter leads Dan and Dig to investigate the Flame-Belt, which is where the Mekon has made his base. The Earth passengers, including Banger and Cob, have been abandoned here to die, but the Anastasia finds them in time and, though too massively overloaded to fly, manages to get the hapless passengers far enough away for proper rescue.
Dan’s presence, and his interference, spurs the Mekon into advancing his attack. A submarine craft enters the Mekontan lagoon, and the Mekon launches a vicious assault on the main island. His merest appearance sees Treens en masse deserting to his colours, but the truly shocking thing is that they are gunned down, mercilessly, in those self-same masses. As the title proclaims: All Treens Must Die.
What lies behind this is a mystery. The Mekon’s plan appears to be, indeed is no less than the complete genocide of the Treen race, despite its willingness to support him. The stakes are raised high, far higher than an eight year old boy had ever encountered in his fiction previously.
Yet it is not this aspect that lifted the story for me. I have yet to come to that.
The Mekon is incredibly well-prepared. Indeed, too well-prepared, with equipment and soldiers, especially for someone who has not only just escaped from Earth custody, but who was absent in space on The Wandering World for most if not all the past three years. He has to have allies, but who on Earth, or Venus, could they be?
It is at this point that Sondar pulls the veritable rabbit out of the hat. It would be years, decades, before I would read The Ship That Lived so that I was not aware that they had been referenced at any previous time, but Motton takes this moment to go back almost the whole of my life, to ‘The Last Three’.
They are, apparently, a legend of Venus’s early times, ‘The Immortal Last Three of Venus’, and it’s significant that every piece of data regarding them has been wiped from Mekontan records. But they are a clue, and so too is an innocuous looking device left behind by the Mekon’s forces, a translucent ball in a metal frame.
This is Cob’s territory, and his tinkering soon establishes that it is giving off a weak signal to somewhere in the Flame-Belt.
This is enough to decide Dan. Leaving Banger behind to assist Sondar in a defence against another attack, he takes Digby and Cob back to the Flame-Belt in Anastasia, just in time to locate the Mekon’s base as a new wave of ships are sent out to support the Mekon in another murderous attack on Mekonta, another slaughter of the Treens.
Dan gains access to the base with Cob, Digby having sensibly but reluctantly been sent on to the south to enlist Theron aid: after all, they know him. Inside the base, Dan and Cob are quickly separated, and the former captured. The latter, finding himself blocked off from escape, starts to strip down machinery, bringing his technical skills to bear. Dan, meanwhile, is dragged by robots through a super-automated factory until he is brought in from of a gigantic Treen eye. And for Martin Crookall of Openshaw, Manchester, age eight, the story exploded.
There were only four weeks to go, and four banner front pages which built one upon another to elevate this story out of all rational attempts to analyse it.
A front page banner drawing reveals to us a Treen of ancient face, no longer wholly organic. His arms and legs have been replaced by metallic limbs. He is the first of the Last Three, the master of mechanism. Dan Dare is dismissed as mechanically insignificant, of no interest, to be dismissed. All the while that this fantastic figure – a Treen cyborg, long before I was ever to encounter that word – continues the task of administering this vast manufactory, uninterrupted.
If the Mekon was a superbrain, how far beyond him was this creature, this part-machine,showing even less emotion?
Dismissed, Dan was flung away, literally, into a cloud of swirling mists in which his every thought and feeling was pored through  and he was escorted through his own life. This was represented by a glorious panel in which everyone – everyone – who had ever been of importance to the Dan Dare series, appeared. Faces and figures, human and otherwise, a bare handful of which meant something to me then. It was an awe-inspiring moment, a kaleidoscope of stories, tales and adventures unknown to me, strangers who were yet of significance and I wanted to know who each of these were, what they were called, what they meant.
Even earlier than the mind-expanding effects of the incredible sequence in Justice League of America 37, in which the Thunderbolt ranges up and down time, obliterating origins, in this panel I was looking across Time itself.
Then the final panel and those words: “Dan Dare, you are living the last hour of your life!”
And a week passed, revealing the second of the last three: a gloating, floating Supertreen, poised yogicly in thin air, without arms, or so it seemed, for these have merged into the gigantic globic head, bigger even by far than the Mekon himself, impossibly so, even more inhuman. Dan Dare has caused the Mekon’s failures, and so he must die.
And the plan is unfolded, made explicit. The Treen race has failed. It has failed the Mekon, and so All Treens Must Die. The present race has been condemned, and a new Treen race, pure, unsullied, will be born to take up its proper place in the Universe, as conquerors in the Mekon’s name.
Frank Hampson, in devising the Treens and the Mekon at the beginning, had the coldness of the Nazis in his mind. Motton makes that connection flesh, in this story.
And Dan is flung away, to fall again. Meanwhile, in Mekonta, the Mekon has all but taken the city. But there is a message, Cob playing a distant but significant part, transmitting over and over the letter ‘D’. And at the thought of Dare among his allies, the Mekon panics. It’s a foreshadowing moment. The Mekon cracks, giving way to emotion, and in a very short time, this will prove his downfall.
Dan lands on a slab and lies there stunned. Asking where he is, he receives the answer, “This is the place called Life – the place of your extermination and Death.”
Thus the final part of the tryptich, the Last of the Three. Unlike the others, we do not see him clearly, from above, but from below, always at an angle. For he has the form of a normal Treen, albeit much taller, and he lacks the excessive brain-pan. But the Third of the Three is red-skinned, and he is served by Red Treens whose skin colour is even deeper in tone.
He has two questions to ask: “Would you die to save a broken machine?” and “Is dying to save a useless object called ‘Courage?’” For this ultimately what Treens are to Mekons: machines. He is the Breeder, and behind him in vats lie the new Treens, the Pure Treens, who will not be released until the least possible chance is gone that they may be afflicted by Sondar’s condition. They are why All Treens Must Die.
And why Dan must fight now, for himself, for Venus and the Solar System.
Then it’s on into the final episode, and those three portraits of the Last Three are completed by the Mekon, arriving at the head of his troops, to the sudden destruction of his plans. For the Third of the Three is dead, his neck broken by Dan, the stakes so high that our hero must kill. Then, as he climbs back to the halls of the First, he is confronted by the Mekon, who strikes with a tongue of flame, but too hasty, for Dan evades, the First dies and the factory, deprived of its mind, erupts into chaos. And the Mekon reacts in anger, anger towards the Second, the planner whose plans have failed, have ended in success by Dan Dare, yet again, and the supposedly-emotion free Mekon kills, and the Last Three are Immortal no longer.
But before the Mekon can attack Dan, the roof falls in on top of him, a hole blown in the mountain by Digby arriving in proper deus ex machina fashion with the Treens. And it’s over.
I know I’ve gone on too much about those four last episodes, but they’re why I can’t be objective about All Treens Must Die! I know that I can say that the end, in its final tier of panels, is too abrupt, that those two extra episodes should have been expended. I know that I can say that the penultimate episode, and the panel devoted to the Third, would have looked better without the top-of-the-page ballyhoo about the jointure of Eagle with the failed Boy’s World (bringing over the tedious British version of Iron Man).
But this one’s my story, my favourite. And I’m ready to read it again.

Dan Dare: The Wandering World

The One Who Is Obeyed

In a manner that hadn’t been seen since Trip to Trouble, or perhaps even the transition from The Man from Nowhere into Rogue Planet, The Wandering World ran directly on from the last page of Operation Time Trap. Like its predecessor, this was a story that I knew only partially for half a century. There were pages from this story in the bundle bought at that Bring and Buy sale, though from the first week of 1964, I had Eagle on weekly order. The only gaps in the story throughout all that time came near its beginning.
But ultimately I got the complete story, which contained the last pages of the original Dan Dare run that I had never before seen. It’s a fine and private irony that my first and last Dan Dare pages should have been so close together in publication.
The new adventure starts with a dramatic aerial shot of the Tempus Frangit blasting off from Meit’s North Pole. They were indeed close enough to the exact Pole and escape into space, beyond two suns. There, Banger executes the Time Jump to take them home. His calculations have been thorough and precise, he has allowed for every pound of weight, and the removal of every ‘gift’ donated to the Meitians, the Jump will be to an exact position within Earth space. Except that he hasn’t accounted for the stowaway, Xel, and his weight.
And the Tempus Frangit arrives in the Solar System at the right time. Or rather, just outside of it. Beyond the orbit of Pluto (this was before the Kuiper Belt was discovered, indeed before Pluto’s main moon, Charon). They do not have enough fuel to return to Earth down the entire length of the Solar System.
Xel immediately makes his presence known – and felt – attempting to take over the ship. But he quickly realises this is a waste of time if it effectively cannot go anywhere. The impasse is quickly forgotten as sensors pick up a nearby object, what appears to be an artificial world, of immense clustered bubbles broken up by gaping pits that emit blazing radiation. Xel abandons ship to search for something more promising on this satellite/moon/world, with Dan and Dig closely behind, hoping to get to the native people – assuming there are any – before Xel creates a terminally bad example.
What they find on the Wandering World is something completely unexpected: the Mekon.
Whereas, on his last reappearance, Dan and Digby greeted the Mekon with nothing more than the generic “You’re supposed to be dead”, I’m impressed by the fact that David Motton has them reference The Solid-space Mystery.
Indeed, there’s a definitely understated continuity between the two adventures. It puzzled me for years why the Mekon is alone, with a perfectly constructed Treen spaceship, but without any Treens to carry out his bidding. But then when we last saw him, he was ejecting – alone – in an escape capsule from the Solid-space satellite, which was then promptly destroyed with no survivors.
It still begs the question of how he’s gotten from a satellite between the orbits on Mercury and Venus to the far side of Pluto, unaided, though he’s done a world class job on getting the native Navs to duplicate Treen construction.
What is most important is that the Mekon not only has a functioning spaceship, he has fuel for it, and enough to fill the Tempus Frangit‘s tanks as well. Unfortunately for the latter’s crew, he has the local population, the Navs – spindly, blue-skinned, hairless humanoids – under his complete control, and now he has an uneasy ally in the form of Xel.
As a newly introduced reader, completely lacking any knowledge of the series’ history, I spent my formative years thinking of Xel as Dan Dare’s primary adversary. He’s a constant presence throughout the trilogy of stories of which The Wandering World is the middle part, and he has a further role to play as villain in the future. But even at my young age, the contrast between Xel and the Mekon, their alliance a triumph of circumstance above nature, was fascinating to contemplate. Brutishness versus brain. Strength against feebleness. Bull-headed attack against thought and planning.
The Mekon was always the more deadly of the two, and where the Earthmen are incapable, ultimately, of overcoming the Stollite Emperor (though Dan does, incredibly, succeed in knocking him out, temporarily), it takes the greater villain to put Xel out of action with sufficient permanence to permit the story to proceed to a denouement.
The Wandering World is an intriguing conception. The Navs are survivors of an unspecified civilisation (from within the Solar System? From without?) that destroyed itself, leaving only those who were aboard a fantastic sky city, a metal construct powered by great nuclear engines. Over an unspecified period of time, the city has both wandered and developed its surface of bubbles, initially a kind of detritus generated by the engine, but now home to the Nav civilisation and its curious flora and fauna.
Dan and Digby, with Banger, explore the Wandering World until they reach the bubble where the Mekon has taken control. He has enlisted the Navs on a basis of lies about his role in the Solar System, and promises of giving them a planet of their own one he is ‘restored’, but they are quick to turn to Dan’s assistance when he puts them right.
But they are even quicker to turn against everyone when the matter becomes a three-way argument between the Earthmen and the two villains. “A plague upon both your houses!”, they cry, expelling the massive bubble from their world, leaving a massive hole, but dispensing with the threat for (their) good.
This is just what Dan and Co needed. The last few seconds of the Tempus Frangit‘s fuel is used to close in on the Mekon ship and its spare fuel. The Mekon is captured, Xel is incapacitated and the voyage home to Earth is before them.
Going by my personal impressions, The Wandering World is not as good a story as Operation Time Trap. It’s a less active adventure, with a stronger element of exploration: Dan and Dig see several of the bubbles and face various perils that have no direct bearing on the spine of the story, where all the actions of Operation Time Trap are focused upon the menace of Xel and the need for escape from Meit.
But it’s a strong, solid story, and if not up to the level of prime Hampson, it’s a far more worthy substitute than the pallid efforts of Eric Eden’s period as writer. Though it does have advantages that were denied to him, in that the overall story, from the Tempus Frangit‘s blast-off from Earth until it finally turns for home spans almost a full year of story. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen something with that scope.
And there’s still a direct follow-up to come.

Dan Dare: Operation Time Trap

A page it took fifty years to read

watsontimetrapA year had gone by, a year of short stories in black and white, hidden on the inside. But Keith Watson’s determination to hold the fort, to give the Dan Dare series the best of Hampson-standard art, to satisfy the reader’s anticipation, had given the readers something to cling to.
And the readers had done their part, pressurising Longacre about the series, continually asking for Dan Dare to be put back on the cover, put back in colour, in enough numbers, consistently, that Longacre had to admit defeat on all fronts.
Operation Time Trap is where the tide turns, where it starts to flow back towards something like a peak. It won’t ever get far enough up the beach to match Frank Hampson at his peak, but this can joyfully be said to be The Restoration. Back on the cover, back in colour were just the symbols, but with this story, Motton and Watson were freed from the restriction to short, thirteen week or less stories, and the ban on recurring characters was also lifted, equipping Dan and Digby with a new supporting cast to last them almost to the end.
Even better, Operation Time Trap would not merely run 28 weeks but, in the grand Hampson tradition, its ending would segue into the next adventure, and that would lead directly to a third, giving Dan and Co a year of continuous adventure.
But though the point was won, especially with regard to longer, more flowing stories, Longacre had merely compromised, not acknowledged defeat. The new format for Dan Dare did not kick in until three B&W episodes had appeared, and there was still a surprise to come: colour covers maybe, but only the cover – to be done poster-style, with two small panels in the bottom right corner, balancing the yellow-backed Eagle and Swift logo box in the top left corner – but inside the art was still black and white and grey, and there were one and a half pages of it.
One has to wonder why. Why, if the concession was to be made, hold it back until a story had already started? Was it really that impromptu a decision, or was it some feeble attempt to demonstrate that the editor was the one in charge here, no matter what the readers said? And why this unheard of, hybrid format? Was it hedging their bets? Leaving the door open to taking the series back into pure black and white again when they said it wasn’t popular enough? We don’t know, and it’s too late now for more than speculation. But I think the questions imply their answers.
There was one more thing. Watson had done marvelously in black and white, but, being colourblind, was handicapped by the return to colour. So he hired an assistant, an airbrush specialist, to colour these expansive, impressive covers. For the fourth time, no less, Eric Eden was back on the series from which it seemed he could never get away.
When it comes to the story, it’s time I acknowledged that a lot of Dan Dare fans are critical of David Motton’s scripting, regarding his dialogue as unrealistic and stilted. I’m biased by this being the Dan Dare I grew up upon, but I can’t agree. I’ve already spoken about his more descriptive writing in captions, and he’s certainly on top form in the first episode, succinctly setting up the situation and three new characters, in economical stokes.
Operation Time Trap was still on two internal B&W pages when it started, but the astute reader could have drawn from it the inference that the story was about to expand. That opening episode sets up Dan’s new mission, as pilot on the test run for the Tempus Frangit, and the giant, jet black ship, primarily spherical, is given impressive prominence in the opening panel. And the mission involves not merely space travel, but traveling in time as well, a new theme.
Plus Motton introduces three new crewmates, taking care to establish their characters in a manner that we have simply not seen over the past twelve months.
First is Colonel Wilf Banger, Engineer, Scientist, Designer and Builder of the Tempus Frangit: bull-headed with sweeping black moustaches and a bull in a china shop approach to problems. Then there’s his long-term assistant, electronics and mechanical genius, Technician ‘Nutter’ Cob (in later stories, the quotes that imply this is a nickname will be dropped and Nutter will become a genuine first name) who’s no respecter of ranks when his Colonel is in the wrong. And lastly, in all respects, was Major Spence, receding hairline, plump, little moustaches: a fussy, nervous administrator, a stickler for Spacefleet Rules and Regulations, whose value to the expedition – or nearly every other adventure – was impossible to discover.
Incidentally, the Major did have a first name, being Shillitoe. This was not disclosed at first, though it did come out in the first episode, and it would be mentioned only once again.
(Which was more than could be said for the meaning of Tempus Frangit. This was only ever explained in that first episode, which I didn’t read until the 2010s. Of course, the Latin translation was fairly simple, if you’d studied Latin which, apart from the Latin-tagged concepts I needed to know as a Solicitor, and some classic classical tags, I didn’t. I was finally clued in by a fellow Eagle fan at a Manchester Comics Mart in in the early 1990s).
So, the first Time Jump begins. Dan pilots the Tempus Frangit to the pre-determined point in space and Banger engages the Jump, much to Digby’s misgivings about the physical effects of the journey. But the Earthmen’s first shock is that they arrive in a region of lightless space, with no stars visible at all.
Unable to navigate, Banger engages the reverse jump, but the Tempus Frangit goes nowhere: it is held by some kind of magnetic lock.
Use of the short-range astroscope identifies a strange binary sun system with a single planet, Meit, on an eccentric orbit around/between the two suns. Dan reconnoitres the planet without finding any signs of civilisation, though it’s clear that the land is unstable, racked with earthquakes. Eventually, he lands the ship on an island the size of Sicily, only to find that it is made of concentrated, matted weeds that roll with the tidal swell, though they do support the spaceship.
The native Meitians are friendly, though they insist on gifts from their visitors, gifts that ‘give a man dignity’. Dan and Co quickly realise that there is another spaceship already on Meit who have already provided the Meitians with an invaluable gift – instant translators. And Cob quickly picks one apart to discover that it’s also a complex tv and radio surveillance device, which is being watched elsewhere.
There isn’t long to wait before the other visitors to the planet make themselves known. They – or rather he – is  Xel, the One in One Thousand Million, the One who is obeyed, leader of the Svallokin Empire of Stoll. His ship landed on land and has been wrecked by an earthquake, and he demands two places on the Tempus Frangit to escape the planet. Dan must leave two of his crew behind.
That’s never going to be an option, though everybody but Dan does discuss it as if it were a serious proposition. It never would have been, but Dan has already seen Xel for what he is: a tyrant, a brutal dictator, heedless of others lives: he is not putting anybody into jeopardy for someone like that.
Thus a mini-war rages between the two spaceships. The Meitian wise man confirms that it is possible to escape Meit’s magnetic grip. Xel has the wise man kidnapped to prevent him revealing to the Earthmen where and how they can escape Meit, though the wise man’s young assistant, Noli, confirms that it is from the magnetic north pole on midsummer’s day, between the two suns.
Xel temporarily gains control of the Tempus Frangit, at least until the ocean swell incapacitates the Stollites through major seas-sickness. Dan and Digby take one of Xel’s bubblecraft to locate his wrecked spaceship, trying to rescue the wise man and regain the Meitians’ goodwill and cooperation. They are captured, and Xel intends to enslave them, as he has his own, nasty, brutish, short, silver-skinned people.
But Digby saves the day with his usual luck: he’s earlier fallen into a food vat and, in climbing out, bent a feed pipe so that it spewed on the floor, instead of into the mix. That proved to be the drug by which Xel maintained his hold on his slaves. They run riot, rebelling against him, and he is forced to flee, with Dan and Digby (plus wise man) in pursuit.
The threat appears to be over, and Dan and Co can concentrate on floating the island to the North Pole. They are not aware, however, that Xel has stowed away on board, intent on taking the ship, but not until he has killed Dan Dare with his bare hands.
With the conditions getting ever colder, and the remnants of the island freezing and cracking, it becomes a slow-motion race against to get the Tempus Frangit into exactly the right place. Dan is forced to act when the ship is less than 100 yards from the exact point…
And the adventure went on, with a new story, The Wandering World, picking up the following week, directly from the cliffhanger of that take-off.
Incidentally, as an eight year old unused to words beginning with an X, I pondered over how to pronounce Xel’s name and in my head sounded it with an X, as in X-L, or excel, a word I was many years away from encountering. Not until much later, and exposure to xylophone, or Xavier, did I come to realise that, phonetically, it should be ‘Zel’. But that little mental stutter is forever there, and I still stumble in my head over the One in One Thousand Million, X-L.
I have mixed feelings about trying to analyse this story. This is where my relationship with Dan Dare and the Eagle began. Among its pages are the Eagle‘s Dad bought for me at that long ago Bring and Buy Sale. They leap out at me when I read the story with all the force of fifty years of memory.
In truth, this is a difficult story to read. For nearly fifty years, I knew it only partially, without beginning or end, a heavy weighting towards the middle and end, but with one sole b&w episode, and now I read the complete story at last, I find it hard to accept the additional episodes that complete and make sense of the tale.
It’s as if they are not quite real, as if they are an incredibly good pastiche, but still pages that have been made up afterwards, to fill in gaps where the ‘real’ pages have been lost forever.
Ultimately, the fifty-nine year old Crookall can’t override the eight year old boy who first read parts of this story and was so thrilled and excited by it that he wanted to read this every week. The best I can do by way of an objective assessment is that Motton and Watson took full advantage of the freedom from restrictions to broaden Dan’s horizons immeasurably.
Time travel. Distant galaxies. High peril. Strange planets with unusual natural laws. And a new recurring enemy who was in many ways the opposite of the Mekon, but no less evil and no less deadly. To a boy ignorant of Dan Dare’s past, this was glorious fun and astonishing adventure – and the rest of the comic wasn’t bad either!
It was indeed the beginning of a new era: a silver age of excitement and imagination.