Dan Dare
Dan Dare: Terra Nova
Medium: comic
Year: 1959
Keywords: Dan Dare, SF, rubbish
Writer: Eric Eden
Artist: Frank Hampson, Frank Bellamy, Eric Eden, Don Harley, Gerry Palmer, Keith Watson
Country: UK
Format: 22 two-page episodes, The Eagle Vol.10 #19-40
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 11 June 2021
dan dare
Eh? That's not even a story. I like the early episodes, though, while we're still in space.
Firstly, the spaceship gets bombarded by missiles. Dan, Lex and Flamer go spacewalking to inspect the damage and get separated, with their distance from the ship increasing at a mile a minute. Pleasingly, Peabody saves the day. It had been years since Peabody had been allowed to be cool like this. (She even corrects McHoo's Latin.) The true nature of those missiles is one of the coolest SF ideas in this series... and it's a throwaway. Those "bullets" were actually micro-spaceships on a different scale. Our heroes invent hypotheses about what they were, but we'll never know the truth. A complete solar system occupying less space than our moon? Microplanets?
Dan finds a ship that's been drifting for thirty years. They even know the dead pilot's name.
All that was good (and beautifully painted)... but then we land on Terra Nova and the story goes to hell.
Frank Hampson quit, you see. "Finally came the crunch when Hultons were taken over and the firm taking over were, themselves, taken over. It was a very, very unhappy time for me. Towards the end I was treated like an office boy... It's not easy to find the very things you helped bring into being, namely the EAGLE and Dan Dare, are no longer in your control." Odhams Press got their way and Hampson was replaced by Frank Bellamy and a slimmed-down studio. Eric Eden wrote the scripts and he's, um, better known as an artist. (He later drew Daleks for TV21, incidentally.) I actually like the Aztec/Inca/whatever themed culture on Terra Nova, but it soon turns a bit dumb and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Giant ants! Dinosaurs! Excitement! Pages that you flip through at great speed, because they contain very little content!
The story doesn't even end. It just changes title, becoming the third story in the Terra Nova trilogy.
There's also lots of stupidity.
1. Terra Nova is an Earth-like planet in our solar system with Earth-like temperatures, climate and life forms... but in a completely different orbit, so far from the sun that astronomers hadn't known about it. Let's ignore the astrophysics of that. (Mind you, this series has always regarded all the solar system's rocky planets as habitable.)
2. "Better bring that uni-lingua translator along, Spaceman Digby." Wow, this series is getting lazy with the language barrier. (Best of all, it doesn't even work.)
3. Terra Nova's primitive people look human. (Note that aliens in this series tend to look extremely alien, not to mention often highly designed and beautiful.) In other words, they're probably human. They wouldn't even be the first Earth-born humans that Dan's found on another planet, if one remembers the blue people on Venus. Space is busy and contains some very old civilisations. On seeing a word written in our alphabet, though, Dan thinks, "There is only one way that an Earth word could have been introduced into their language. My father must have been here!"
The art's gorgeous, though. It looks wonderful, both before and after Hampson's departure. The spacescapes, the Terra Novan jungle, the lobster ant design, the speeding ship explosion in Vol.10 No.39... it's a feast for the eyes. That said, though, Frank Bellamy's art style is so different that I boggled. Dan's face at the cliffhanger to Vol.10 No.30 made me laugh aloud. "THAT IS NOT DAN DARE!" screamed my inner fanboy. I went a bit berserk. These pages are very good, but schizophrenic. Bellamy, Don Harley and Keith Watson were working together on the same pages, you see. You'll have the comedy Bellamy monster and ultra-traditional Dan Dare in adjacent panels.
To be honest, Bellamy's a better comics artist. He draws Dan so expressively that he's barely recognisable as the same character... but on collaborative pages like these, that might break your readers' brains.
In short: what the hell was that? It's fascinating, though, as an example of the comics industry eating itself.