Dan Dare
Dan Dare: Safari in Space
Medium: comic
Year: 1959
Keywords: Dan Dare, SF
Writer: Frank Hampson, Alan Stranks
Artist: Frank Hampson, Eric Eden, Don Harley, Desmond Walduck
Country: UK
Format: 18 two-page episodes, The Eagle Vol.10 #1-18
Website category: Comics
Review date: 9 June 2021
dan dare
It's the beginning of the end. In 1959, Odhams Press bought Hulton Press, publishers of The Eagle, Swift, Robin and Girl. They demanded shorter storylines and an end to Frank Hampson's studio system. Then, on top of that, Hampson's scriptwriter, Alan Stranks, died on holiday of a heart attack.
That said, though, this story's perfectly okay. It's the first act of a trilogy rather than a complete story in itself, but that's fine. It looks as if Hampson's plan for accommodating the "shorter storyline" demand had simply been to change the story's title a few times for camouflage.
It begins with the gang on a safari, on an island in South Venus. They're on holiday. Pretty soon, though, someone's shot Digby and stolen their spaceship, the Anastasia. It turns out that all this was done just to lure away our heroes, because a bunch of Scottish nutters have invented a super-spaceship and want Dan Dare to pilot it to Terra Nova. (The lead nutter is called Galileo McHoo and his relatives include Copernicus McHoo and Halley McHoo. They're scientific geniuses and they want the universe to know about it.)
The early chapters have some dumb bits.
1. Flamer is here too, inevitably, and nearly gets himself killed by doing something stupid. Why is he here? Why does Dan keep letting him stick around? (I don't actually mind the brat going on this safari holiday, although by now one wonders if he even has parents and a family. It's as if he's been adopted by Spacefleet. I did roll my eyes, though, when he gets to accompany our heroes on the coming interplanetary adventure.)
2. Vol.10 No.5 has a shockingly bad rendition of a fight. You'll be smacking yourself in the head to remind yourself that comics are normally good at portraying these.
3. On the next page, Professor Peabody sees a submarine. This is "Professor of Everything" Peabody, by the way, mega-brain and mistress of all scientific disciplines. How do the men respond?
COMMANDER LEX O'MALLEY: "Poor girl, the heat's gone to her head."
SIR HUBERT GUEST: "Typical case of female hallucination and hysteria. These Venusian herb pipes are jolly good."
Once we're past this filler and on to the main plot, though, it's fine. Galileo McHoo inhabits an ambiguous story space, committing apparently villainous actions while also being the perfect host, a would-be employer and the bearing of world-shaking news for Dan personally. It's setting up the ongoing story nicely.