Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rip Solar

(* Here's another feature from the prolific pen of Jeremy Briggs as he investigates...)

RIP SOLAR : Not Just Ranger’s Inter-Planetary Investigator

Ranger was one of Look and Learn’s siblings. Launched in September 1965 it had a larger number of comic strips than its older brother, the best known being "The Rise And Fall Of The Trigan Empire". After forty issues Ranger was amalgamated into Look and Learn taking Trigan Empire and several other comic strips with it, including "Space Cadet" painted in colour by Geoff Campion.

Yet "Space Cadet", featuring the character of Jason January, was not Campion’s only Ranger strip. From 19 February to 30 April 1966, Ranger also ran a two page black and white science fiction strip illustrated by Campion entitled "Rip Solar, Inter-Planetary Investigator". It told the story of Major Solar of Space Control and his assistant, Quartermaster Burke, as they battled the climatic damage wrought on Earth by the Shining Planet. Yet any Ranger readers who had read Lion comic six years earlier may have found the story hauntingly familiar. In June 1960, "Captain Condor and the Planet of Destruction" told the story of Captain Condor of Space Patrol and his assistant, Quartermaster Burke, as they also battled the climatic damage wrought on Earth by the Shining Planet.

Captain Condor was Lion’s spaceman character. Created by Frank S Pepper as a rival to Eagle’s Dan Dare, Condor had been appearing in Lion from its first issue dated 23 February 1952. Initially illustrated by Ron Forbes, his art chores passed through the hands of a number of different artists over the years but for the story entitled "The Planet Of Destruction" beginning in the issue of Lion dated 11 June 1960, Geoff Campion was his artist. The story ran for fifteen weeks until the issue dated 17 September 1960 and was to be the last Condor story that Geoff Campion illustrated.

Ranger’s Rip Solar version began at part 2 of the of the original Lion story, and remarkably would skip the fifth original episode and then combine parts 12 & 13 from four pages down to two as well as parts 14 & 15, also reduced from a total of four pages down to two. So the fifteen episode Lion story became an eleven episode Ranger story. Also changed was the lettering. Ranger as a magazine used typed lettering on its strips and therefore the original Lion hand written text boxes and speech bubbles had to be changed. Since the type font was justified, it required a straight line down both the left and right hand sides of the speech and this caused the new bubbles to often be larger than the originals and so cover more of the original art.

While it may seem unusual now, it was not the only time that such renaming and reprinting had taken place in British comics titles over the years. Perhaps the biggest identity crisis happened to Super Detective Library’s Rick Random who became Nick Martin in the Valiant Picture Library reprints of his stories and then changed his name once again to the rather more outlandish Dair Avalon when the same stories were reprinted in the Space Picture Library Holiday Specials.

Perhaps this renaming of characters is what Rip Solar should have really have been investigating.

(* Rip Solar images from Lion, 18 June 1960, and Ranger, 19 February 1966 © IPC Media.)

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