The Lion in the Seventies – Part 2


We resume Lion‘s story with the issue of 31 October 1970. The comic is trundling along with a set of stories evenly divided between old stalwarts that have, individually and collectively, run out of steam, and relatively recent arrivals that offer little to justify their appearing in a comic that was now running in its third decade. Lion‘s sales are in decline, it has just shed its spectacularly badly re-drawn reprints of Dan Dare, and has one new series beginning, the peg on which this latest instalment hangs. On the positive side, it is still only 7d per week, though 3 New Pence now shares cover space in anticipation of the forthcoming decimalisation, and there are 40 pages weekly.
The current line-up consisted of: Carson’s Cubs (3pp), General Johnny (2pp), Spot the Clue with Zip Nolan (2pp), Oddball Oates (2pp), Paddy Payne (2½pp), Sweeper Sam the Mild Matman (2pp), The Boy from Jupiter (2½pp), Flame o’the Forest (3pp), The Spellbinder (3pp), Robot Archie (3pp), Britain AD2170 (3pp) and Mowser (1p). Paddy Payne was a reprint, as was the ‘new’ series, which had appeared in the Sixties as the tedious and unfunny Jimmi from Jupiter, who wasn’t even renamed here, unlike the Karl the Viking reprints. Zip Nolan was either a reprint or indistinguishable from one.
The only top quality art was the ongoing excellence of Reg Bunn on The Spellbinder, the only other art of distinction being the light, cartoony style on Oddball Oates. Flame o’the Forest had good clear art, albeit too slick and uninvolving, and the rest ranged from cheap to ugly. This included Carson’s Cubs, which had never been impressive to look at and, after all this time without improvement, was positively painful to the eye.
Mowser was all that remained of Lion‘s history of purely comic one-pagers, and this had long been another strip that had the same formula week after week, hitting the same beats in the same panels over and again. The line-up this week is that of a comic that was played out.
But Flame o’the Forest and Oddball Oates, who was after all, let us remember, a multi-sport drugs cheat, had only one more episode apiece, which meant two new chances to recapture that old energy and inspiration.
But let’s not get too hasty. The first of these was another reprint, Maroc the Mighty, with prime Don Lawrence art, under the title The Steel Band but the other was at least new. The King of Keg Island was about orphan Peter Cable, who inherited an island as he was running away from the cruel and vicious orphanage owner Simon Lashley, who plotted to steal Peter’s valuable inheritance from him. With this set-up, would this be just another compilation of cliches? Probably.
Unfortunately, there was a massive wait to see how that might develop, as a ‘production issue’ killed off publication of Lion and its companion papers until 6 February 1971. This isn’t referenced in Wikipedia, but I remember the first of the power cuts striking in December 1970, so I’m going to venture a guess that it was industrial action by the minors causing electricity shortages and badly affecting the printing industry. Whatever the cause, Lion had lost eleven weeks, not that the difference was apparent just going from issue to issue on DVD3.
Though it appeared I may have been overly pessimistic about The King of Keg Island, with Peter and his three mates holding on to their independence on the titular island, and seeming to dispose of Lashley’s menace incredibly quickly. Artistically, I kept detecting resemblances in line-work and faces to the artist who had drawn Oddball Oates, now adopting a more realistic style.

But changes were once again necessary. Another of Fleetway’s new weekly comics had failed rapidly, so with effect from 20 March there was another merger, this time into Lion and Thunder. Sweeper Sam was carted off from 6 March, making room for a six page Spellbinder episode to tie up the current storyline. General Johnny got sent back to school permanently, Paddy Payne was given an extended run out to end his reprint story and Britain 2170AD was left to re-establish civilisation in peace and quiet. Lashley’s overly rapid discomfiture signalled a rapid curtailment to the Keg Island story, with a handy deus ex machina, food-wise, and the Jimmi Jupiter reprints were returned to deserved obscurity.
But the biggest shock of all was that, from 6 March, Robot Archie was no more. He, and the pals, Ken and Ted, would adventure no more, after a run of fourteen years.
The new paper was left with Carson’s Cubs, Zip Nolan, The Spellbinder (though without Reg Bunn, who passed away in 1971, aged 66, after a long and honourable association with the comic) and Mowser. From Thunder came Black Max, about a German First World War Richthofenesque Air Ace and his overly large Bats, Fury’s Family, about a lad who had liberated his animal friends from a hateful circus, Phil the Fluter, about a lad with a magic flute that stopped time when it was played, a two page strip that broke with all Lion tradition by being in full and rather rich colour, The Jet-Skaters, a bunch of kids with jet-powered skates, The Steel Commando, a Second World War story about a metal version of Captain Hurricane and The Jigsaw Journey, in which traveller Dr Wolfgang Stranger took on a quest to find a lost city whose whereabouts could be located if you assembled a map cut into nine pieces.
Also added to the title was Adam Eterno, about a gaunt 421 year old, time-travelling man who could only be killed by gold, which was written in a curiously lugubrious and stilted fashion.
It was a bit of a jolt, which was what Lion needed. But, as other mergers had amply demonstrated, which if any of Thunder‘s features would last more than a couple of months?

The tradition of adding a comedy one pager after a merger or revamp certainly continued, with the debut of The Spooks of St Luke’s, and also of Sam, making a delayed arrival from Thunder with pure Beano style art. Sam would only ever be an irregular features at first, but after several weeks on and off, The Spooks became a weekly affair.
The issue of 24 April 1971 sees me move on to DVD4. The comic has gone decimal, and costs 3p weekly. By now, it’s possible to see where the Thunder imports are heading. Phil the Fluter’s colour was very erratic to begin with, badly off-register most of the time, but it’s there to highlight the time-stopped panels, when everything is black and white except Phil himself. However, the Jet-Skaters is risible, with the four kids spending most of their time bent over with their arses thrust out in a manner that I cannot see any other way than as obscene.
Fury’s Family is also dull, with Fury a jungle boy with no understanding of the modern world and too prone to fly off the handle, albeit with the odd beautifully drawn panel of one or other of his animal friends, whilst The Steel Commando isn’t as funny as it would like to be, and certainly not original. But the widened range of subjects at least makes this period of Lion‘s history much more palatable than was the last, tedious phase.
There was a shock on 8 May as Mowser moved into colour (off-register, naturally), replacing the back page ad, though this was just a one-off. However, the colour Mowser was repeated in August and September, and became an occasional thing. Speaking of the tatty old puss, a letter published on 3 July, advocating dropping the feature, elicited the remarkable statistic that it was 8th favourite out of 13 in Lion, the only cartoon feature in any IPC adventure comic not to be least favourite.
To my surprise, the Thunder imports proved more long-lasting that their predecessors, with The Jigsaw Journey the first to conclude on 17 July. But this just gave way to yet another return by Paddy Payne, billed as being in a new story, but of course another reprint.
The problem was that, whilst the latest merger had given Lion a much-needed kick-start, before long all the new series had become just as repetitious and unimaginative as those they had replaced. Each one just recycled the same ideas, over and over again, like the utterly hollow Zip Nolan or the increasingly ludicrous Carson’s Cubs, which really, seriously needed to ditch the two rascally Directors, Braggart and Snook, and find a new threat. But you know they never would.
Not before time, another trio of new series arrived simultaneously on 16 October, pushing out The Jetskaters and, yet again, Paddy Payne. The new series were Dr Mesmer’s Revenge, about an Egyptologist whose home, a personal museum was robbed, and who sought revenge on the crooks by raising a mummy to life, The Last of the Harkers, about a big-eared lad who set out to restore his family’s sporting honour with the aid of a ghost of his ancestor, and The Can-Do Kids, about four school-leavers setting up an any-task business to raise funds to go round the world. One drama with mystical overtones and two comedies: what difference would these make?

Though it was the least propitious of the new series, and far too reminiscent of The Waxer in having one lone Policeman suspect and be disbelieved by everyone, Dr Mesmer’s Revenge proved interesting, thanks to some clear, crisp and solid art, realistic and detailed. It was the best we’d seen since Reg Bunn and Don Lawrence. And certain panels and settings seemed very familiar, leading me to initially suspect that the artist could be David Lloyd, of V for Vendetta fame, though according to Wikipedia, Lloyd didn’t start his career until much later in the decade.
The Can-Do Kids had a certain silly charm to itself but was spoiled by giving them an adversary in the form of an ex-Brigadier, still wrapped up in 1944, intent on driving them out of his neighbourhood. A little of stereotypes like that goes a long way, and a lot gets very dull very quickly.
The Last of the Harkers was a more overt comedy, drawn in a broad cartoon style, but it was set up to be inherently formulaic, and by this time, Lion just did not need more formulaic stuff.
As the comic passed over into 1972, approaching its twentieth anniversary, Paddy Payne was back yet again, with yet another reprint. And there was an interesting touch in The Spellbinder as Nyarlhotep was used as a magic world. Given that Sylvester Turville had already referred to a spellbook by one Al-Hazred, it leads me to wonder if the editor was aware of these Lovecraftian references. I doubt very much the audience were.
Phil the Fluter was dropped at the end of the month, as was the colour centrespread, to be replaced by a horror story called Watch Out for the White-Eyes, as a strange gas affects first a flock of crows then a mild-mannered schoolteacher, turning them into superhuman aggressors.
Another passing moment of note was in the final panel of The Can-Do Kids for 19 February, when a fleeing bystander was drawn as an obvious caricature of then American President, Richard Nixon. The next issue saw the official celebration of Lion‘s twentieth birthday, and the first absence by Mowser in years.
Which is as good a moment as any to draw a line under the penultimate part of this series.

Dan Dare – the 2000AD years


Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no…

I read the news on Thursday (oh boy…) and one newspaper at least was making much about the reprinting of a large number of Dan Dare stories, unseen for many years. This volume of material will be printed in two volumes, the first of which will appear next year.
Of course, when I say ‘Dan Dare’, it’s on the understanding that this is not any version of the veteran hero that I recognise as actually being Dan Dare. Rather, it’s the complete IPC revival of the character that began eight years after he was finally laid to rest in black and white reprints in the thankfully-forgotten Lion & Eagle. It is the 2000AD ‘Dan Dare’, drawn at different times by Massimo Belardinelli and Dave Gibbons, that is finally to be reprinted, after thirty seven years unseen.
In 1977, Dare’s revival was one of the selling points for the new 2000AD comic. I was 21 that year,  unemployed for most of it, in limbo between Law College and the Articles of Clerkship that would see me on the road to becoming a Solicitor. Money was extremely tight, but I had loved Dan Dare in the latterday Eagle and I was interested to see the return. Not that I ever saw 2000AD 1, which sold out rapidly, so I had to settle for issue 2, which saw the debut of a character who has become as much a definition of British comics as Dan himself, Judge Dredd. It took only a single episode to demonstrate that this ‘Dan Dare’ was not for me.
I didn’t expect to get the original Dan Dare again: if anything, Dan was a very Fifties character, and this was the late Seventies, and the Year of Punk, moreover: when No Future was the watchword, there could hardly be a Pilot of the Future.
But the new ‘Dan Dare’ wasn’t even an updating. It was explained that there had been an accident, centuries before, that Dan had lived on in suspended animation, to be revived in this new future, his body so damaged that his face could not be recreated in any form that looked like he had before.
No Spacefleet, no Digby, no Earth, no eyebrows: they couldn’t have been more comprehensive in throwing out everything about the original Dan, and that went for every tiny aspect of his personality. In short, only the names were the same.
I really have no idea whether the Belardinelli ‘Dare’ was a good character in his own terms. A long time ago, a friend who owned a comics shop in Liverpool allowed me access to his 2000AD back-issues, to read for free, to take notes about the ‘Dan Dare’ strips, in return for me sorting those back issues into numerical and accessible order. There were many gaps towards the beginning, so I never had the chance to form any kind of real assessment of that first revived version, except that it was typically 2000AD: fast, brutal, uncultured, flashy and basically a bit crap.
Well, I was hardly the audience was I? By 1977, the boys who would have once lapped Frank Hampspon’s, or even Keith Watson’s Pilot of the Future wanted violence and destruction and people who fought and swore…
Evidently, the editors of 2000AD agreed with me in some respect about the Belardinelli ‘Dan Dare’, for it was pulled, revamped drastically, and rebooted, this time with art by Dave Gibbons. This was the pre-Watchmen Gibbons, yet to break into the American market. I remember him being regarded in fandom as a good ‘meat-and-potatoes’ action cartoonist, and his artwork on ‘Dan Dare’ bore this out.
It was stronger, steadier, more controlled. It was primarily in black and white, which aided the greater air of stability to the work. Gibbons also met Frank Hampson and apologised to him, though Hampson was pleasant to him about his work!
I read much more of Gibbons’ work in John Mottershead’s shop basement, but I remember very little of it. better art, certainly, and the return of the eyebrows, if nothing else physically about the character. Did it stand up? Better than 2000AD‘s first version.
But that’s the thing. Certain creations impress themselves upon us, slide into our minds and occupy our memories because we recognise the life in them. They are true creations, neither symbol nor puppet, and they have within them an unshakeable, unchageable core that makes them, for better or worse, what they are.
To exist in 1977, Dan Dare had to be ‘updated’. Given how much he was a creation of his times, I doubt very much that, for a weekly boys comic that year, or after, he could have been presented in the context of his times without ignoring far too much of those core qualities. Neither Belardinelli’s nor Gibbons’ characters stood a chance as arsion of ‘Dan Dare’ that stood in any way upon the ground. That clash between the name and the actual stories was unbridgeable.
Burdened by ‘Dan Dare’, neither version stood a chance of breathing. As new creations, they might have established themselves. It’s been the story with the vast majority of the post-1969 attempts to revive Dan.
As far as the historical record is concerned, this is the last of the early 2000AD series to be reprinted and it deserves it from that viewpoint. I shalln’t be rushing, or even idling, to add it to my collection, though I’d borrow it from a Library, out of curiosity. I hope that 2000AD‘s old fans will enjoy it.

Dan Dare: Pilot with Two Futures


(This article was first published in Spaceship Away 29, Spring 2013, copies of which, and other back issues and subscriptions, are available via the Spaceship Away website.

Spaceship Away is published three times a year and, in addition to new strips, features and articles about the classic Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future of the much-missed Eagle comic, also features long-forgotten strips and stories starring other science-fiction heroes of the period.)

Dare the Future

Spaceship Away has always concerned itself with Frank Hampson’s Dan Dare, including the work by other hands that ended with Eagle‘s cancellation in 1969. From time to time there have been mentions of some of the later versions in 2000AD and the New Eagle, though, Keith Watson’s glorious contributions aside, I’ve tended to find that they could have been perfectly good stories if they hadn’t been saddled with Dan’s name.
But there have been two attempts to do a more mature, darker Dan Dare, a version of the character that is both true to Dan’s past but which sets that past against a much changed future, and it’s worth comparing these two stories, to see if either of them are successful.
The first of these appeared from IPC in 1991, by Grant Morrison (script) and Rian Hughes (art). The story appeared in Revolver 1-7, with the final episode appearing in Crisis 56 after Revolver‘s cancellation. It’s a brief story, eight episodes of 8 pages, and was collected in a single volume, under the name of “Dare” that is now ultra-rare.
The brevity of “Dare” does it no favours. There’s no room for subtlety, or indeed thoughtfulness, though given certain aspects of the story, it’s tempting to be thankful that Morrison – a young Scottish writer who has gone on to be phenomenally successful in the American comic book industry – wasn’t given more room to extend his travesty.
The story introduces Dan as a recluse, an invalid reliant on a cane. Mentally, he’s naïve, clinging to a simple certainty about the world that’s irrelevant to the modern day. At every moment, Dan just doesn’t understand.
He’s drawn out of seclusion to attend Professor Peabody’s funeral, Jocelyn having committed suicide, another in a series of scientists who’ve died whilst working on a food substitute programme (a nod to the Venus story). At Peabody’s funeral, Dan meets the Prime Minister, Mrs Gloria Munday.
I would describe Mrs Munday as a thinly-veiled representation of Margaret Thatcher if that did not discredit the subtleties in previous thinly-veiled representations everywhere. Munday is seeking re-election for the Unity Party and wants to use Dan, and his nostalgic appeal to older, better times, as propaganda.
Also at the funeral is Digby, but he rejects Dan’s approaches. Digby – a northerner and therefore, in this story, the soul of decency because he’s working class, see – has shunned his Colonel for years, since they put down a Treen rebellion during which Dan, following orders without thinking as he tended to do, killed women and children.
But Digby is prepared to show Dan what Munday’s Britain is really like, how the North is being beaten down, neglected, repressed. Digby persuades Dan that there’s something more behind Peabody’s suicide, that the project on which she and the other dead scientists are working has a sinister aspect. They find a tape left by Peabody, detailing that ‘Manna’ is a biomass made by breaking down the bodies of unwanted humans (northerners, of course) in league with the Treens.
Digby is killed getting Dan away, whilst Dan almost immediately loses the tape to the Government, he being an out-of-date simpleton. Mrs Munday is revealed, as if this is going to be a surprise, to be working with the Mekon. Dan mouths empty platitudes but is hauled off by the Police
But Dan Dare always saves the day. In keeping with his intellect, his knack for improvisation and his unending optimism, Dan has, as instructed by Digby, left a thermos flask in Anastasia’s cockpit. It contains a thermonuclear device powerful enough to vaporise London and all its inhabitants, including the Mekon, Mrs Thatch… Munday and Dan himself, not to mention giving Morrison the opportunity for a pretentious ending: the bomb wipes the page clean of everything but white, which dissolves into an artboard waiting for an artist to draw upon it, complete with a ‘voiceover’ from Frank Hampson at a low point in his life, wishing Dan Dare would ‘lay down and die’.
All in all, “Dare” is a pretty thorough act of arrogance and contempt towards another person’s creation, an attitude that reaches its nadir just before the end when Morrison unsubtly suggests that Dan is going to be subject to unpleasant sexual assault. But “Dare”’s biggest problem is that it’s not a Dan Dare story: Dan and his world is simply a shallow peg onto which is hung a political story whose ‘satire’ is delivered in a limp and amateurish fashion that would disgrace a student rag.
As to the art, let’s absolve Rian Hughes from responsibility. His style, based as it is in the European ligne clair tradition, doesn’t fit the world of Spacefleet at all, but he was chosen for that very reason. And, given what he’s called on to illustrate, he’s not totally unsuited for what is pretty much a cartoon story. His Dan and Digby are recognisable for who they ought to be, as is Anastasia, and I’d actually take his version of the Mekon over several of the IPC versions that have preceded it.

The image of a decent man

It’s perhaps unsurprising that there should have been no other attempts at a mature Dan Dare for a ecade-and-a-half, until the 2007/8 seven issue series from the short-lived Virgin Comics, written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Gary Erskine. With the final issue double-sized, this story ran to 176 pages, and Ennis takes full advantage of the additional space to produce a fully-rounded story in which the political points he wishes to make – more sympathetic to Dan’s worldview, and far more nuanced – can be woven into a story that’s more than just a coathanger.
Structurally there are surprising similarities between the Virgin series and “Dare”. Dan is again introduced as a reclusive exile, he is drawn back into the outside world by a Prime Minister clearly meant to represent the current incumbent and is reunited with Digby. Professor Peabody once again plays a substantial role in the story, without meeting Dan, Digby dies again, and the PM is once again in league with the Mekon. But all the relationships are very different from in “Dare” and, crucially, Ennis is not writing with contempt for Dan Dare and all that he stands for.
This came as no little surprise. Ennis, from Northern Ireland, has also enjoyed considerable success in America, primarily with the excellent Preacher, a tough, violent, irreligious and provocative piece of work. He’s an iconoclast whose instinct is to subvert heroic ideals: hardly someone you’d expect to approach Dan Dare with great respect.
And yet he does. Because Ennis also is a student of war and battle, and he has a tremendous empathy for the men who do the job, who get their hands dirty, and the camaraderie of men who fight and kill together. And Dan Dare, for all that he is foremost a pacifist, is still a military man: a commander who has seen action, who has fought for and protected his men and not spent their lives wastefully. To my surprise, Ennis ‘got’ Dan Dare, and Dan’s ideals, and he presented them with respect: yes, as something that was the product of another age, and perhaps a little simplistic, but ideals that were worth having, and that were worth fighting for, even in a compromised future that, in certain respects, was very like our own compromised age.
Dan, as before, is in exile, seemingly in an idyllic South Downs village, with cricket on the green and a friendly local, all of which is merely a holograph projection on a private base in the asteroid belt. But this exile is self-imposed: after Earth’s unity disintegrated, after China and America bombed each other into ruin, after England became master of the world by exploiting and robbing, instead of helping, the other surviving countries, Dan left Earth, unable to bear the betrayal of the former ideals of the UN and Spacefleet, all his battles rendered worthless.
But there are rumours of action by the Mekon, which is why the PM who has guided England on this path the last decade, comes to Dan to ask him to take over the Fleet and defend Earth again.
This Prime Minister is Tony Blair-manqué, a trimmer, a man without convictions, other than that he’s indispensable. It’s no surprise to quickly learn that he’s in thrall to the Mekon, and that he’s a coward who’s prepared to sacrifice all of Britain’s defences, including Dan Dare, superficially in order to minimise casualties, but primarily in order to maintain his role as ‘leader’. Even the Mekon sneers at him.
But Dan answers the call, though the PM clearly can’t understand why, especially as Dan plainly despises him. He receives an explanation he’s incapable of understanding from his Home Secretary: ten years ago, she was his Chief Science Officer and she’s still not lost the scientist’s need to know and understand, which drives her into a position of authority over the Government in the latter half of the story. She is, of course, Professor Jocelyn Peabody.
Dan prepares to take up his command in the wake of the Mekon’s first attack on the Fleet (a version of the Royal Navy, replete with all its traditions, has succeeded to the defunct Spacefleet). He’s assigned to the damaged Achilles where he meets his old friend Digby – an avuncular but sardonic friend – and his new friend, Sub-Lieutenant Christian, ranking officer in command.
Ms Christian is never given a first name, but I will go to my grave swearing that it must be Alexandra, or “Lex” Christian.
The story takes an unnecessary diversion onto a colony planet threatened by Treen-created Bug-Eyed Monsters, things unworthy of Dan’s world, and unworthy of this story. But Ennis makes use of this excursion to flesh out his Dan in splendid fashion, to introduce the Royal Marines, and to give Dan and Dig the opportunity to revive the old partnership a final time.

Old friends meet

Because, when rescue shuttles arrive from a fleet that, under Ms Christian, is defying the PM’s order to fly into an ambush, Dan and Dig get in different shuttles and are transported to different ships. Dan returns to Achilles, leading a fleet suddenly under threat from Treens, and needing minutes to escape from destruction. Those minutes are bought for everyone when Temeraire breaks formation to carry out a head-on attack. When Dan contacts the ship’s commander, we are shocked, but not surprised, to hear Digby’s voice.
Digby goes to his death honourably, in the series’ most emotional moment, saving his Colonel one final time, doing his duty to his country. Dan is shell-shocked, but conceals his pain as a man of his generation was taught to do: their farewell conversation is light and confident but no less emotional for that.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Peabody has worked out the PM’s schemes, he has fled to join his master, and Peabody becomes effectively the PM. From here on, except during the Battle for Neptune, a fight that assumes the same importance as the Battle of Britain that the PM has never heard of, she and Dan are in subspace communication, during which a complex understory can be read between the lines these two can speak to one another.
The Battle of Neptune, and Dan’s final confrontation with the Mekon, dominates the remainder of the story. Though he remains the cold dictator he has always been, the Mekon has been finally tainted with hate. Denied his chance to torture Dan into infinity, he attacks from a position of strength that is not enough. It ends with Dan running the Mekon through with a sword, in honour of Digby. Perhaps not a thing our Dan would even consider, but autre temps, autre mores. This Dan has learned that finality is necessary.
Perhaps aptly, the story ends with Peabody, awaiting news, planning to run herself for Prime Minister, determined on a platform of restoring Britain to its real greatness, in decency, fairness and honesty, not in power and deceit, a platform we would all of us love to see enacted in real life. A platform made possible by the report of victory, made possible once again by Dan Dare.
So far as the art is concerned, Gary Erskine is a typically comic-book photorealist, with a decent, if not outstanding, command of facial expressions. His figure work is sometimes stiff, but his technical art is good. His Dan has the twisted eyebrows, his Digby the white hair and the broad, open face and his Peabody is an attractive but not spectacular or sexy redhead, but except in these respects, they are not recognisable as the faces we know. Nor, in uniforms or technology, is there any continuity from Hampson’s era. Only the Mekon and the Treens are rendered faithfully.
This decision seems strange in that Erskine can draw the Dan of old, as he demonstrates in issue 3. But it’s ironic, really, that after so many visually consistent representations of Dan Dare that haven’t had an ounce of the spirit of the character, this series should ignore visual continuity yet come closer than any before to channelling the essence of the man.
And so it ended. I may be in a minority, but to me the story brought Dan into a later life, not unchanged, but still familiar. He was a Dan Dare that I could recognise and believe in, a Dan Dare, and a Professor Peabody, who still carried within them the ideals of a better, stronger time, all the hopes and dreams we had when we read the Pilot of the Future for the first time: ideals that had been betrayed and tarnished as they have been by years of Government by reference to private gain and personal power, but ideals that Ennis could put to the front of his story and hold up as things that needed to return.
And they would have done, perhaps, if Virgin Comics hadn’t collapsed and gone under. There is no permanent collection of this story*, only the individual issues for as long as they can be found, and a reportedly substandard over-sized money-grabbing hardback of issues 1-3. The hardback collection promised in September 2008, on the inside back cover of the final issue, and the new series coming in the ‘Fall’ of that year, never materialised. More’s the pity in the case of the latter.

*Not so. I subsequently discovered that Dynamite Entertainment published a paperback collection in 2009 that clearly went massively under-publicised, and which is no longer in print. Scour eBay and Amazon for copies, and keep your pocket full of money!