More from the cuttings files – this time a 1990 article from The Independent by design writer Jonathan Glancey on the reborn ‘original’ Dan Dare.
A quick recap: when the ‘new’ Eagle was launched in 1982, it featured ‘Return Of The Mekon’, a strip retconning (the original) Dan Dare into a Battle of Britain test pilot sent into the future, Buck Rogers-style (per the requirements of a TV series then still in pre-production). As the strip developed, and the television show never materialised, the focus became the great-grandson of (original) Dan. Also called Dan Dare.
This (new) Dan Dare had eight years-worth of adventures in the (new) Eagle, with varying levels of enthusiasm from readers, and striking art from the likes of Gerry Embleton, Oliver Frey, Ian Kennedy, Carlos Cruz and John Gillatt.
By the late 1980s, the speculation bubble, plus a nostalgia boom driven by (original) Eagle readers now all grown up, out of short trousers and with some disposable moolah, meant that Mike Higgs was able to put out the high-quality Hawk Books reprints of the (original) Eagle‘s (original) Dan Dare adventures, which increased interest in the (not new) Dan Dare from younger readers. It certainly tickled my fancy – I got the ‘Dan Dare – Pilot Of The Future: The Deluxe Collector’s Edition‘ (Patrick Hawkey first edition) as a present for passing the Eleven Plus, and started from there.
Then there was the whole COMICS HAVE GROWN UP!11!!! marketing spiel from trad publishing houses realising there was a gravy train to jump onto, whilst carpetbaggers continued to skew the market, giving the impression of comics as some kind of magic money generator, all at the same time as juvenile titles’ circulation were sinking.
Throw all that together, and you have Fleetway in 1989 coming up with an idea to reinvigorate (new) Eagle: by ditching (new) Dan, and reintroducing (original) Dare. In a sense it was a masterstroke – not least because they secured the talents of (original) Eagle artist Keith Watson. It was a way of exploiting the canon, the back catalogue, the interest of older readers and the then-preoccupations of the publishing sector.
And that’s where this article comes in. By 1990 we were (if I recall correctly) three albums into the (original) DD saga, and Hawk was ready to release its ‘Dan Dare Dossier’, a big, glossy, full colour and comprehensively list-filled biography of the character, his creation and his memorabilia. The (original) Dan Dare in the (new) Eagle wasn’t working as well as it was hoped so there was a little bit of tinkering to update him; but by then one can imagine that the parameters available had been severely constrained. But modification were made, and younger bucks like David Pugh and Keith Page provided some excellent artwork for what must have been a tough brief (“more modern than the new ‘old’ Dan, but more more retro than the old ‘new’ Dan…”), and as a young reader then it did feel like perhaps the corner was being turned.
Of course, it was but a valiant rearguard action.
Apologies for the haphazard scans. I will transcribe the article into plain text when I have a free moment for ease of searchability. In their wisdom, Apple decided to sell me an HP scanner/printer that doesn’t have Twain drivers (which means that I can’t scan to Acrobat and use OCR) having accidentally missed out this somewhat salient fact in their sales blurb. Cheers!