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Titan Books: Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future
Posted 25/3/2004
Source: Pulse

Titan Books has a lot of comics related projects coming up. One of the most anticipated is their collection of Dan Dare comic strips from the British Boys biweekly comics collection, The Eagle. Editor Nick Jones gave us some details about why the time was right now for Titan Books to introduce a whole new audience to Frank Hampson's classic strips.

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Jones believes the art in Dan Dare is some of the best the 20th Century comics medium has to offer. "The comic strip is so amazing to look at," enthused the editor. "As a piece of comics art, it's right up there with the best that the medium had to offer in the 20th Century. Practically any major British creative superstar - from Dave Gibbons to Grant Morrison - were influenced in some ways by Dan Dare. You only have to look at something like Warren Ellis and Chris Weston’s Ministry of Space to see the influence right there on the page. So not only will it appeal to older fans who might recall the comic from first time round, but younger fans who are simply interested in reading one of comics’ most influential creative milestones." Jones continued, "Also, from a historical perspective, Dan Dare creator/writer/artist Frank Hampson and his team instituted a way of working in the 1950s that foreshadowed the way someone like Alex Ross creates comics today. Hampson’s team posed for photo reference and assembled scale models, and the content of the strip was initially checked by none other than Arthur C. Clarke in an attempt to make it as scientifically plausible as possible. "

For those unfamiliar with Dan Dare, Jones explained a little about the character. "Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future is the Earth’s greatest space hero," began Jones. "He was created by Frank Hampson in 1950 as the cover comic strip for the new British boys’ weekly comic The Eagle. During the 1950s Dan was probably the most famous fictional character in the UK, generating mountains of merchandise, and propelling The Eagle to sales of three-quarters of a million copies each week. Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future was stuffed with memorable characters, like Dan’s right-hand man Digby, and the evil, green-skinned, bulbous-headed Mekon, and a newer version of the strip reappeared in 2000 AD in the 1980s. But Frank Hampson’s initial 10-year run remains the seminal incarnation of the characters." When asked what set Dare apart from Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers, Jones joked, "His uniquely British stiff upper lip!"

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Thanks to the success of the recent CGI Dan Dare cartoon, currently running in the US on the Animania channel, Jones feels the character is "at least recognizable by his name."

Titan Books has some plans in place to make sure as many people as possible know about this new Dan Dare volume. "We’re planning a widespread press campaign to educate new readers about Dan Dare and also to let fans of the classic comic know about our new collector’s editions. We hope to achieve reviews and features in the mainstream press as well as in the comics and trade publications. We’re also planning to promote this title during UK National Comics Week (May 24-30), and we’ll be working with the Dan Dare Corporation, who are running a Dan Dare exhibition at this year’s Comics Festival in Bristol (May 28-30). And we’re securing endorsements from Dan Dare fans like Terry Jones (Monty Python) and working closely with some of the channels who broadcast the CGI animated Dan Dare to promote the book to younger readers."

Jones continued, "In this first volume we’ve got an introduction by Dave Gibbons; a Who’s Who guide to the characters; a checklist of the comic strips; and a six-page article on the genesis of Dan Dare, all illustrated with rarely-seen behind the scenes photographs and images of classic memorabilia. For future volumes, we’ve got a never-before-published interview with Frank Hampson (who died in 1985), and we’ll be talking to some of the other original Dan Dare studio members. This is one of the most beautiful, thrilling, exemplary examples of comics art ever committed to print."

The publishing schedule for Dan Dare is as follows:


Jones is working on a few other comics related projects at Titan. "At the moment, I’m finishing off Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s Marshal Law graphic story album, and working on the first volume of classic newspaper strip Modesty Blaise. We’re also pulling together Writers on Comics Scriptwriting 2, the follow-up to the very successful first book, this time featuring interviews with THE hottest scribes currently working in US comics, and set to debut at San Diego. Stay tuned ...."
I must say this has got me fairly stoked Smile I read the later incarnation of the Eagle in my younger years, and Dan Dare has always been a favourite character of mine. I even have a much read 70s paperback copy of Voyage to Venus somewhere. It's good to see a publisher delving back into the past for stories that still stand up against todays CG colored epics without resorting to titillation.

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