The summer edition of Spaceship Away (issue 27) is now available and features 40 packed pages in full colour. There's a fair bit of Don Harley work in this one, with a cover, centrespread, and a full page illustration. It's good to see one of the original Dan Dare artists being a regular contributor to this comic as it establishes a link to those golden days.
Speaking of original Dan Dare artists, sadly Bruce Cornwell passed away a few months ago and this issue features a nice tribute to him from Don Harley and Greta Tomlinson. There's also a short previously unpublished item from Bruce himself on his work, including his contributions to Danny Dare in Wham! (Bruce supplied the realistic artwork for Danny's daydream sequences in the humour strip in the early issues of the comic).
There's plenty of comic strip content this issue. First up is episode eight of Tim Booth's Dan Dare serial Parsecular Tales. Very meticulous artwork from Tim but it really needed a resumé caption to bring readers up to speed. It's not easy remembering the plot of a story when the comic is only published three times a year.)
Thankfully that's not a problem with Shadow Over Britain, the Jet Morgan serial reprinted from Express Weekly as it features a caption bringing readers up to date.
A great complete story this issue is Thoughts That Kill, a 1980s strip drawn by Ron Turner adapting a 1939 story by John Russell Fearn. It's been nicely coloured by Martin Baines and hopefully more of these stories will follow in future issues.
A two page tryout Dan Dare strip by Nick Spender proves he has the skills to be an ideal artist on the strip and I hope we see more Dan Dare from him soon. There's also a stylish cutaway illustration from Graham Bleathman for Dan Dare's Apartment. Graham excels at this sort of intricate work and, yes, you can just about see Dan Dare's toilet, but thankfully it's unoccupied.
One drawback in this issue is the lack of humour strips. The Ray Aspen funnies provided a nice balance from the adventure material and their absence is a disadvantage.
Spaceship Away is still reprinting Garth strips and now we're up to a 1970s Martin Asbury drawn serial, Finality Factor. Newly coloured by Tim Booth who does a good job but I have some problems with the way the strip is presented. On some panels the original lettering is in place, which is excellent, but on others it's been replaced by the awful Comic Sans font. Perhaps the source material wasn't too good and it had to be re-lettered, but there are far better comic lettering fonts out there to use. (Comic Sans is also used on some other strips in Spaceship Away. It really hampers the production. There's a reason why professional comics don't use this font, and one is that it looks cheap and ugly. Investing in a specialist comic font from Comicraft would be a better option.)
However the Garth strips in Spaceship Away suffer something far worse than Comic Sans. The strips have been resized to fit the A4 format, but it looks like 'Constrain Proportions' was unticked in Photoshop, leading to the strips being stretched vertically. It's most noticeable on circular objects such as planets, bubbles and suchlike appearing as ellipses, but it distorts everything. I fail to see the point in representing such classic strips if they're going to be distorted in this fashion. I can appreciate that if they were published in the correct proportion there'd be a bigger margin at the top or bottom of each page, but I'm sure collectors would consider it a small price to pay for strips being published as they were meant to be seen.
Perhaps I'm being too picky and most readers aren't bothered by the distorted pages and poor font, but for me it's a problem that's holding back Spaceship Away a little. For £7.95 an issue I'd have hoped these flaws would have been put right by now but it's something that's affected the publication for a while now. That said, Spaceship Away is still a fine tribute to classic Dan Dare and there's always new information in its pages for enthusiasts. The fact that it's reached issue 27 proves that it obviously has a loyal following and long may it continue to do so.
To subscribe to Spaceship Away or to order individual issues go to the website here: http://spaceshipaway.org.uk/