Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Spaceship Away... the official Dan Dare comic

A new issue of the thrice-yearly Spaceship Away was published recently (issue 12). For those who haven't heard of this title, it's a 44 page full colour comic magazine featuring brand new Dan Dare strips that are produced exactly as they looked in the 1950's Eagle. In fact, the strips are so exact that the serials are broken into two page installments (complete with Eagle logo and 1950s layout) plus they're often drawn by Don Harley, one of the original Dan Dare artists! Those cynics who say "comics aren't like they used to be" should be pleased that this comic for one proves them wrong.

Spaceship Away is a labour of love published by dedicated Dan Dare fan Rod Barzilay. However it has full permission of the copyright owners, the Dan Dare Corporation, which means that this isn't "fan fiction" or "small press" as such; it's an official semi-professional Dan Dare comic, as legitimate a home as Eagle was to chronicle the ongoing adventures of the "Pilot of the Future".

In recent issues Rod has expanded the page count to include more sf comic strips such as Jet Morgan (Journey into Space, reprinted from Express Weekly) and Hal Starr (by Jeff Hawke creator Sydney Jordan, newly coloured by John Ridgway). The comic also includes other brand new Dan Dare stories by Keith Page and Tim Booth, plus a few one-page humour strips (the standout one being Dan Bear by Andy Boyce) and various features and exclusive artwork.

In my experience, most of the comic fans who bemoan the lack of UK adventure comics aren't subscribing to Spaceship Away for some reason. Admittedly the price is high at £6.99 an issue, but quality colour reproduction as seen here isn't cheap, and a limited print run will push the unit cost up. Also, the subject matter may be considered too dated for some tastes, and not "grim and gritty" enough for some 20 something fanboys. (Rod states in the current issue that three quarters of the readership are in the 50 to 70 age group. Hey, if that doesn't make it an "adult comic" then what does?) However, I always thought that the concept of being a comics fan was to appreciate good storytelling and artwork, in which regard Spaceship Away should appeal to all age groups, irrespective of whether one was a child of the Fifties or not. (Personally speaking, I never read Eagle as a kid, but I can really appreciate the strip now.)

Spaceship Away reminds me of the comics of yesteryear in that it's an anthology title, so there's plenty going on in its pages. The only thing that lets it down a little in my opinion is the awkward title masthead design, which betrays its PC desktop publishing origins and detracts from the professionalism of the rest of the comic. Perhaps Graham Bleathman (who is spotlighted inside this issue) could be commissioned to design a new logo?

If you wish the UK still had "proper comics" and you've never given Spaceship Away a try, here's your chance. All the back issues are still available from the publisher at http://spaceshipaway.org.uk/ where you can also subscribe to future issues. No.12 is out now, and issue 13 will be published in October.

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