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Welcome to the web home of THE EAGLE SOCIETY.

THE EAGLE SOCIETY is dedicated to the memory of EAGLE - Britain's National Picture Strip Weekly - the leading Boy's magazine of the 1950s and 1960s. We publish a quarterly journal - the Eagle Times.

This weblog has been created to provide an additional, more immediate, forum for news and commentary about the society and EAGLE-related issues. Want to know more? See First Post and Eagle - How it began.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Virgin's Dare?

In August 2007, the British press (eg The Times) leapt to announce the return of 'Dan Dare' in a new comic (ignoring, as already pointed out by Lew Stringer, that he's already been back five years in Spaceship Away).

Virgin Comics' press release emphasized that "Dan Dare has been an icon since 1950 … selling nearly 1 million copies each week in the pages of the Eagle". It also said: "Readers familiar with Dan Dare stories will recognize many of the original cast …." It specifically referred to "Colonel Dare" being back. The expectation of the press and of fans of the original 'Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future' was, therefore, that Virgin were going back to the original characters, albeit some ten years or so on.

In the first issue of Dan Dare (published 29 November) some of those original characters (Dan, Digby and Jocelyn) appear in name, but their appearance is markedly different from the characters created by Frank Hampson, so in this respect it can’t meet the expectations of fans of the original 'Dan Dare'. Since very little actually happens to the main characters in the first part, it is difficult to judge whether their behaviours will be true to the originals, though Dan seems to want to do "the right thing", and Digby wants to help him do it. What is clear is that the universe inhabited by Dan Dare in this story is not the same one developed for him by Hampson and his team. Hampson’s optimistic world of an Interplanetary Space Fleet serving a World Government of United Nations has been binned in favour of a post-apocalyptic scenario. Not only has the whole world order changed, with Britain emerging as top dog, but the Royal Navy seems to have taken over Space Fleet and the design of everything is different: spaceships, space-stations, uniforms. And, presumably, service ranks are now those of the Royal Navy. How the latter will square with Colonel Dan Dare being back I don’t know. The inside front cover credits may include "created by Frank Hampson", but I doubt Hampson would recognize this as his creation in other than name.

One feature of the original 'Dan Dare' was the care taken to ensure everything was “right”. I found it annoying that there are incongruities in the visual telling of this story that are irritating, especially on re-reading. There is a war memorial that seems to be on the cricket pitch. There is lack of continuity: pictures on walls, and other incidental objects, are arranged differently from shot to shot, or disappear. For example, a lamp and papers that disappear from Dan’s table, a teapot that comes and goes from the same table during Dan’s conversation with the PM – petty things, you might think, but such continuity gaffes erode the illusion that this is a depiction of an alternate reality. It wouldn't have happened in Hampson's day.

If you can ignore all the above, or if you have no great attachment to the early 'Dan Dare', then the story may hold some interest for you. In the UK, Dan Dare is only available in specialist comic shops (a point Virgin Comics failed to make clear in their press release), but apparently it is "selling well" in UK - as reported by downthetubes. It's not clear what the numbers are (possibly tens of thousands?) but if the success were to equal that of 'Dan Dare' in the 1950s Eagle, it would need to sell something like 4 million copies a month!

According to the Southport Visiter, the local paper at the birthplace of the original Eagle, Colin Gould, proprietor of the local comic shop 'Planet Eater' said: “A lot of the regular customers have been coming in and asking for it, many are people who read the original Eagle in the 1950s." I wonder how many of those, after seeing issue 1, will be back for issue 2?

Quote from writer Garth Ennis (see downthetubes): "I've pretty much ignored all subsequent incarnations. The one exception would be the Irvine jacket Dare wore in the 2000AD strips, which is a British aviation icon we just couldn't do without." Er, actually Mr. Ennis, Dan's leather flying jacket is from the original Eagle version. Dan was first seen donning it in 'The Red Moon Mystery'. It was one of the few things carried across to the 2000AD incarnation of 'Dan Dare' from the original Eagle - and, apparently, one of the few things carried forward here!

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