The latest issue of Rod Barzilay's Spaceship Away (#12, Summer 2007) has just arrived. Colourful and in the spirit of the original Eagle, the main focus of Spaceship Away is Dan Dare, with no less than eight related stories -- three adventure, four humour, one text serial. I guess if you don't like Dan Dare this will be something to avoid! But for fans it's a very welcome tri-annual publication.
Spaceship Away also includes articles and illustrations relating to Dare and space flight in general (a quick plug: one of the regular features is 'Designed for Flight' by Bear Alley contributor Jeremy Briggs) plus reprints of 'Journey Into Space' from the pages of Express Weekly and a recoloured 'Hal Starr' by Sydney Jordan (which originally appeared in a Dutch weekly... I think it was Eppo and was originally entitled 'John Start' but I'll need to check that with Syd).
The magazine has plenty of highlights, and it seems churlish to pick one, but for me it's the lead strip, 'Green Nemesis', which slots neatly into the run of Dan Dare's original adventures. Of the four pages in this issue, two are drawn by original Frank Hampson studio member Don Harley, eighty years young this year and deserving of some kind of major overview or interview (someone?). Backing up Harley is Tim Booth who has produced the other two pages and, more than any other artist, seems to be the natural successor of the Hampson studio. His own strip, 'The Gates of Eden', which is running concurrently, is also incredibly well drawn, although occasionally you will find a frame where he hasn't quite got the correct reference material from the comic -- if he had the resources that the Hampson studio had (photographs, models, etc.) I think he'd be able to mimic the quality as well as he does the overall style. I don't mean that last to sound quite as nit-picky as it does, but you can occasionally find a frame where you think a photo reference might have come in handy as in the two frames below: whilst Dan is a pretty good 'Hampson studio' depiction, Perkins isn't and it's that slight clash that detracts from an otherwise superb production.
Spaceship Away has its own website where you can pick up subscription details.
* A news report (Champion Media Group, 14 June) reveals that Southport now has two busts of Dan Dare. Both are at present being stored at the Atkinson Art Gallery, Lord Street, Southport. The second bust is to be exhibited at the Botanic Gardens Museum whilst the original (donated by the Eagle Society in 2000 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Eagle) will now be placed in the Wayfarers Arcade. Dan had previously been on display at the entrance to Cambridge Walks Arcade but was subject to some abuse and has recently had to be restored to his former glory.
* Apparently Dan Dare Corporation have a big announcement to make relating to Dan Dare and it would seem to have some connection with Virgin. Could this be Virgin Comics? The company was set up by Richard Branson, writer Deepak Chopra, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur and south Asian comics publisher Gotham Entertainment Group and released their first titles in the summer of 2006 to reasonably good reviews. Garth Ennis has been associated with the company, writing the 5-part series John Woo's 7 Brothers (the idea was from film director John Woo, based on a Chinese folklore tale about seven brothers with special powers) which ran in 2006-07 and it was Garth's name that has recently been mentioned in connection with a possible Dan Dare comic strip. But who could the artist be? Not, it seems, Chris Weston who did a very nice retro-SF series Ministry of Space with Warren Ellis a while back and who recently posted a nice pic. of Dan Dare on his blog but who has subsequently said "There's a long list of characters I'd like to draw at some point in the future: Strontium Dog, Flash Gordon, The Steel Claw, Doctor Strange, Superman and ...er... Frank Hampson's Dan Dare (although that ain't gonna happen anytime soon)."