A nice surprise, when I got back from holiday the other day, was to find waiting for me a review copy of this new book from Haynes Publishers.
Written by long-time Dan Dare fan (and Eagle Society member) Rod Barzilay, and beautifully illustrated with cutaways by Graham Bleathman, the Dan Dare Space Fleet Operations Manual takes a detailed look at (and inside) the spaceships, space stations and various other craft that played such a huge part in bringing the excitement of space travel to Dan Dare stories through the 1950s and 1960s.
Published on 6th June, 2013, the book harks back to those earlier times when, every week, British schoolboys (and their Dads, not to mention a few Mums and sisters!) thrilled to the space adventures of Dan Dare (The) Pilot of the Future, as told in comic-strip form in the pages of Eagle. The creation of Frank Hampson, Dan Dare's adventures ran for nearly 20 years in Eagle (over 9 of them under Frank Hampson's direction) and the character name has resurfaced several times since, not always in the full spirit of the original, but testimony enough to Frank Hampson's and Dan Dare's enduring legacy. As well as from the original series in Eagle, the author has pulled into the timeline of Space Fleet history relevant episodes from, Eagle Annual ABC Film Review, Dan Dare Annual, Dan Dare's Spacebook, the Sunday People newspaper strip, "new" Eagle, and his own Spaceship Away magazine, which since 2003 has been publishing Dan Dare stories in (or close to) the style of the Eagle original. Some of the cutaways included in this book have previously appeared there.
Part of what made the stories so compelling, memorable and influential in their hey-day, was the extent to which Hampson, his studio team and their sympathetic successors created a believable future universe in which to place the stories: new worlds, new technologies, new civilisations; fauna, flora, friends and foes. Since the stories were projected some fifty years forward from the end of the Second World War, readers of the strip today will notice that the real world has diverged from the future envisaged then for Dan Dare, and that world can now be be seen as an alternate reality from our own - one in which Britain took a leading role in the development of space exploration, where the United Nations supported an effective World Government, and an Interplanet Space Fleet combined international resources from countries such as Britain, the USA and France to explore space and defend the Earth from external threats.
Following a brief introduction from its author, the book treats the world of Dan Dare as fact, Interplanet Space Fleet having "commissioned Haynes to produce the Dan Dare Space Fleet Operations Manual for its personnel, cadets and those interested in the part it has played from our first steps into space to the exploration of the solar system and beyond". The contents feature:
- A personal introduction (dated 2022) by the Controller of Space Fleet, no less than Dan Dare himself!
- A history of early spaceflight, propulsion systems and first steps to the Moon (1960!) and Mars (1965!)
- Fully detailed and comprehensively annotated cutaway drawings of the principal ISF spaceships, space stations and installations, along with many of the alien craft that Space Fleet has encountered to date
- Profiles of ISF personnel, and the aliens they have faced over the years
- Space Fleet history: a guide to ISF’s missions and Dan Dare’s adventures
The Author, Rod Barzilay, as did most of us in the Eagle Society, grew up with Dan Dare and Eagle magazine and is a lifelong enthusiast. In 2003 he launched Spaceship Away magazine, which along with other sci-fi stories, has for 10 years (three issues per year) featured new Dan Dare stories, illustrated in the original style, and designed to fit within the original Dan Dare timeline. Graham Bleathman is an illustrator famous for his detailed cutaway drawings, particularly those associated with Gerry Anderson series, such as Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, and two Wallace & Gromit Cracking Contraptions Manuals.
Fully authorised by the Dan Dare Corporation Limited, this Haynes Manual joins a number of other space fiction oriented manuals from Haynes - including manuals for Thunderbirds (also illustrated by Graham Bleathman), Star Wars Millenium Falcon, and the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. It is a wonderful addition to any library of books about Eagle and Dan Dare, or for that matter the broader subject of cult science fiction series, and would make an ideal companion to sit alongside the Titan Books reprints of the original Classic Dan Dare series. Unfortunately the Titan run seems to have stalled with Trip to Trouble, which appeared in January, 2011.
Conclusion: Highly Recommended!
For other reviews of Dan Dare Space Fleet Operations Manual, see:
Dan Dare Space Fleet Operations Manual by Rod Barzilay, illustrated by Graham Bleathman, ISBN 978 85733 286 8, is published by Haynes Publications at £16.99. Well worth the money, but at the time of this review, it can be ordered from amazon.co.uk at £10.87