Sunday, June 19, 2016

Earthsearch (Jeff Hawke's Cosmos)

The latest issue of Jeff Hawke's Cosmos is actually a separate book entitled Earthsearch containing the first five (or six, depending on how you count them) stories starring Lance McLane following the demise of Jeff Hawke in the pages of the Daily Express in 1974. Some syndicated Hawke stories appeared, notably in the Scottish Daily News, but an attempt to revive the character in the pages of the Daily Record faltered as the new paper wanted to distance itself from its rival's property.

Thus was born Lance McLane, who debuted in May 1976 in a tale that lacked the humorous tones of Hawke and his well-established coterie of aliens; instead, McLane's adventures were set against a darker background, the Earth all but uninhabitable after a collision with the Moon and mankind's survivors based on three vast spaceships, Faith, Hope and Charity, or spread thinly around the solar system. In 'Last Frontier', McLane is performing surgery on Mars when he and his nurse are kidnapped and forced to fly to a desolate Earth populated by barbarians, knows as Pocs (post-collision survivors).

'Angel of Mercy', the second story, introduced a new regular character. An S.O.S. signal McLane and the crew of Hope to a distant asteroid where only one of the two entities identified is human. The second is an android, a being made to last for centuries afraid of letting the human's take her dying companion.

To avoid spoilers I'll skip fairly promptly through the remaining four tales. The android Fortuna takes a pivotal role in 'Telepath', set in the icy-wastes of South America, and 'Chimera', set on Saturn's moon, Titan, while Hawke and Fortuna crash-land on Earth and find themselves captives on an island of women in 'Lysistrata II'. 'The Achene on Amalthea' spans the solar system from Jupiter to Venus with Hawke and his crew in the grip of a strange alien lifeform.

For this volume, McLane has been renamed Jeff Hawke but the beard, background and storylines mean these stories sit uncomfortably within Jeff Hawke's universe. That situation was resolved  after a while so that new stories could be told where McLane could adopt the name Hawke for syndication. Although there's no attempt to disguise their origins, these are definitely Lance McLane yarns, not Jeff Hawke.

That's not to demean the stories, which are excellent. They're more straightforward science fiction compared to some Hawke tales, which had the advantage of twenty years of back story and a wide range of well-established human and alien characters. (Here, Fortuna is mankind's first contact with an alien being and having people refer to Hawke as "the good doctor" is somewhat anachronistic.)

I think I'm right in saying that the first tales are drawn for the most part by Paul Neary while later stories were drawn by Jordan assisted by Thayen Rich due to the pressure of having to both write and draw the strip.

The stories are accompanied by Duncan Lunan's notes and there are some short articles by Lunan, Roger Ley and editor William Rudling rounding out this issue's 110 pages. 

Subscription rates are £26 for three issues here in the UK and £34/39/41 for overseas subscribers, payable in a variety of ways. You can find more details (and back issues) at the new Jeff Hawke Club web page or by contacting william AT

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