I’m fairly sure my first introduction to Colonel Dan McGregor Dare of Spacefleet was in the early 1970s, when my parents bought me a Dan Dare annual one Christmas. (No, I’m not old enough to remember Eagle, where Dare originally appeared.) The annual contained two stories, ‘The Red Moon Mystery’ and ‘Safari in Space’ – and they’re still my favourite Dare stories. We were living in Oman at the time, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t buy it there. Anyway, I treasured that book for years.
And then, during the early 1990s, I was in London visiting friends, and in a remaindered book shop on Charing Cross Road I found the seventh volume of a series of Dare reprints published by Hawk Books. I bought it, but never saw any of the other volumes in the series. When I returned to the UK to live in 2002, I decided to complete the series. It took me several years, and quite a bit of money, but I eventually did it. The last one I purchased was volume 4 Prisoners of Space in early 2009.
And here’s the full set…
There are actually two editions of the first volume. I have the second edition, the 10th anniversary edition of the original. The Red Moon Mystery, volume 2, is one of Dare’s best stories.
The Man from Nowhere, volume 6, and Rogue Planet, volume 7, is a two-parter and are one of the better stories.
While Dare was away helping aliens on their home world in Rogue Planet, the Mekon conquered the Earth using robots – but Reign of the Robots, volume 8, is a bit silly, to be honest. The Terra Nova trilogy, volume 9, is one of my favourites. Since this was the most expensive volume to buy, it must be everybody else’s favourite too.
The last three volumes cover stories written and drawn after Hampson handed over the reins and, sadly, neither the design nor the stories are as good as when he was in charge.
Back in the day, you could actually buy replica Spacefleet uniforms. In fact, there was a huge amount of merchandising for Dare – everything from button badges to tin spaceship models. All before my time, of course. You often see items available on eBay for silly money. There’s even a novel, Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future by Angus P Allan, published in 1977. The book is illustrated with black and white line-drawings of panels from the comics, but as a novel it’s a bit rubbish.
Dan Dare has been resuscitated a number of times. In 1977, he appeared in the first issue of 2000 AD, and lasted until 1979. The strip has yet to be published as a trade paperback omnibus, which is really annoying. I do have a 2000 AD Dan Dare annual from 1980, but it’s not very good. The Eagle comic was relaunched in 1982, and featured Dan Dare as its flagship strip – but this was a grandson of the original Dan Dare. The new Eagle folded in 1994. In 1990, Grant Morrison scripted a new Dare, set in Thatcherite Britain, which was serialised in the Revolver comic. It was later republished as a trade paperback. In 2008, Virgin comics published a seven-issue Dan Dare mini-series written by Garth Ennis. I have an omnibus of the first three issues but wasn’t impressed. New Dare stories have also appeared in Spaceship Away, a magazine dedicated to Dare, and which has to date published twenty-seven issues. We won’t mention the terrible CGI television series.
Also worth noting is a “biography” written by Daniel Tartarsky, which was published in 2010: Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: A Biography. Titan Books have also published a series of Dare reprint volumes, which are smaller in size than the Hawk Books versions. They’re also still in print. And it appears that Haynes will be publishing an Owner’s Workshop Manual on Spacefleet Operations in June of 2013. It’s already on my wishlist.