Monday, June 18, 2007

Don Harley

The arrival of Spaceship Away and my mention of Don Harley recently made me dig out some volumes of Dan Dare reprints I have on my shelves. One is particularly apt for Harley as he was involved in redrawing pages for the first volume of Dare stories published by Dragon's Dream back in 1979. The Man From Nowhere was from my favourite period of the Dan Dare strip -- which is quite a long period as it runs from 1955-59.

I think that Frank Hampson and his studio, and primarily that means Don Harley, was at the peak of his talent. 'The Man From Nowhere' was the first story to appear after a 20-month run of strips drawn by Desmond Walduck, whose contribution to the Dare saga is often forgotten; the saga then continued with Dare classics 'Rogue Planet', 'Reign of the Robots', 'The Ship That Lived', 'The Phantom Fleet' (with more Walduck towards the end), 'Safari in Space' and 'Terra Nova', during which story Hampson quit the strip.

Most reprint volumes -- those put out by Hawk Books and Titan Books -- have reprinted the cover strips as they appeared, i.e. with the Eagle logo taking up a considerable amount of the top left corner. Dragon's Dream didn't. They went to the trouble of hiring Don Harley to repaint the opening panels, repositioning the images and extending them to fill the space taken by the Eagle logo and the Dan Dare title. On some pages, Harley drew an entirely new extra panel.

Unfortunately, I think Dragon's Dream must have found this process too expensive because, after The Man From Nowhere, the next two volumes used enlarged opening panels and repositioned other panels to fill the space. It doesn't look nearly as good.

I hadn't noticed until now that some of the frames have been redialogued slightly. One day I'll have to compile a list of the different versions of the classic Dare strips -- I know the Lion reprints, for instance, were redialogued and the Dan Dare Annual 1974 chopped 'The Red Moon Mystery' to shreds. Mind you, it's the kind of feature that someone might have already written for one of the many fanzines that have featured Dan Dare over the years... if it has already been done, maybe someone can point a copy in my direction.

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