Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sydney Jordan's DAN DARE

I was sorting through some old bookshelves this weekend and found, tucked inside an old Dan Dare paperback, a couple of pages clipped from an old newspaper. The newspaper in question was called The Planet On Sunday and was launched on 16th June 1996 as a new weekly newspaper with an environmental edge. One of the features of the paper was a new Dan Dare comic strip by Sydney Jordan, Theyan Rich and Angus Mckie - Jordan, of course, is renowned (along with his friend and collaborator Willie Patterson) for his creation Jeff Hawke another British space adventurer who's adventures ran for 20 years (1954-1974) in the Daily Express

The Planet On Sunday only lasted one edition - the financier of the paper, millionaire environmentalist and entrepreneur Clifford Hards withdrew support when he was unhappy with the tone and content of the first issue (the exception apparently being the Dan Dare comic, which he liked). 

So the new Dan Dare strip arrived sadly stillborn, over almost before it was begun. But it was a beautiful and tantalising thing with great promise. First of all it was big, unlike most newspaper strips which run one or two tiers this was four tiers, 3/4 of a tabloid page, about the size of a standard US comic! Secondly the story itself is very intriguing - and not what anyone familiar with Dan Dare expect. First of all there's not a spaceship in sight, rather a beautiful WWII Spitfire anachronisticly flying over Surrey in the "Third millennium AD" The landscape itself is that of a quiet English village, but populated, it seems, by the alien Treens - or at least a young Treen boy and his father. Then we have the graveyard which not only holds the grave of classic Dare character Sir Hubert Guest, but also shows signs of Nazi graffitti - and then there Dan himself revealed in the last panel in a somewhat untypical unshaven state interrupted in his apparent grief by a mystery voice behind him. Questions, questions, questions... 

...Questions which would sadly remain unanswered. Or will they? If my Google-fu is worthy it seems this and two more episodes were published in November 2010 in issue 22 of classy Dan Dare fanzine Spaceship Away, which is something I'm definitely going to have to look into! Are there even more to come?

On a side note, the Sydney Jordan Dare bares a fair few similarities to the opening pages of the (excellent and highly recommended) Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine Dan Dare mini-series published in 2008 by the short-lived Virgin Comics and acquired and reprinted by Dynamite Entertainment. I wonder if Ennis had read the Planet On Sunday episode and had it in the back of his mind when he wrote his version, or if it was just a case of parallel evolution?

Anyhoo, I have scanned the Planet On Sunday pages - along with the strip is an interesting article on the history of Dan Dare, his creator Frank Hampson as well as a little behind-the-scenes piece on Sydney Jordan and the 'new' Dare strip - and  I present them here for your reading pleasure.


  1. "I wonder if Ennis had read the Planet On Sunday episode and had it in the back of his mind when he wrote his version, or if it was just a case of parallel evolution?"

    It's a well-known fact Garth Ennis has not read any comics since 1989. Probably.

  2. Just a bit of background, having come across this: in the mid-1990s Sydney Jordan commissioned me to research the Dan Dare background for him, having won the competition to draw the new version for the Planet on Sunday. The stipulation from Frank Hampson's estate was that the new strip had to be fully compatible with the original stories and after researching them, I proposed that we set the action in the unexplained gap between the events of 'The Ship that Lived' and 'The Phantom Fleet'. Sydney already had the idea that he could bring Dare back by showing him recovering from some sort of trauma, and as he had a head injury and oxygen starvation in 'The Ship that Lived', he might have had a relapse on return to Earth, possibly after tracking down the fate of his family during the Mekon's occupation of Earth. Sydney agreed to this and asked me to work on a follow-on story, which was going to feature a space debris recovery system, which had continued to function and was now loaded with weaponry from the battle before Earth's surrender.
    Best wishes, Duncan Lunan.