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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Space Ace #11 (October 2018)

The latest issue of Space Ace returns to the slightly longer story format, thanks to the appearance of two 12-page stories from the third Lone Star Annual (1957), 'Space Ace and the Black Pirate' and 'Space Ace and the Tyrant of Trathane'. In between is a 7-pager, 'Space Ace and the Tower of Tongaylar' from Lone Star v.5 no.3 (1959).

The earlier tales are interesting in that they refer to Space Ace under his former name – when Lone Star began publication in 1952, it introduced ex-stratosphere pilot, scientist and Sheriff (!), Space Squadron Commander Ace Hart. Unfortunately, there was already a character named Ace Hart ("the Atom Man"), who had been active since 1948 in the pages of World Distributors' Super Thriller. The strip and its hero became Space Ace, a rather odd name, but it stuck...

Why did Space Ace revert to Ace Hart in Turner's two stories? It might (and I emphasize might) be because Western Super Thriller (as the rival magazine had become) folded in 1956 and Turner or his publisher might have been attempting to re-establish the earlier name. However, Ace Hart subsequently turned up in text form in the Super Thriller Annual, making this a one-off reappearance.

In 'The Black Pirate', a space miner has his cargo of lithanium stolen and barely escapes with his life. Space Ace and Bill are soon on the trail of the Kelly gang, led by "Killer" Kelly, a gangster with an eye-patch and a base on Deimos, where miner "Digger" Dimes pays our heroes back for earlier saving his life, by saving theirs... twice!

Ron Turner's love of science fiction comes through in the creation of "Digger" Dimes, who owes something to "Noisy" Rhysling, a character created by Robert A. Heinlein, who roams the spaceways, singing songs. Heinlein's 'The Green Hills of Earth' is directly alluded to in one of Dimes' songs.

The shorter yarn of this latest trio relates how Ace and Bill pick up a message from the rightful ruler of Ralkor, a planet that has been taken over by the ruthless Kelvax. After a thrilling prison break-out, Ralkor and his Earthman rescuers take the battle right to Kelvax's headquarters.

'Tyrant of Trathane' also begins with an alien in distress, in this case the son of the ruler of the peaceful southern half of the planet Trathane. Its northern neighbour is ruled over by a tyrant named Timar who is about to launch a strike against the south. Ace and Bill investigate and discover that Timar is using a huge, mobile, burrowing bomb to lead his forces.

The issue also has a brief article about a very scarce Ron Turner project from 1954, Into Space with Ace Brave!, a pop-up book compiled and illustrated by Turner. I imagine that the illustrations will be new to most of the magazine's readers (they were to me!).

You can get hold of this latest volume of Space Ace for £8.95 (UK) or £12.50 (Europe) and £14.50 (International) including p&p — and that's pretty much at cost, I can assure you — with payments through Paypal via spaceace.54 AT virginmedia.com or by cheque or postal order to John Lawrence, 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Beds. LU5 4RB.

John tells me that he has some back issues available from volume 7 onwards, but it is best to check for availability before trying to order.

In his editorial, John Lawrence announces that this is the penultimate issue of Space Ace. The next will be the last for now, although he already has another project up his sleeve. Replacing Space Ace will be Ron Turner's Tit-Bits SF Comics, which will reproduce, with John Ridgway's superb colouring, Turner's contributions to the scarce 1953-54 Pearson comic. The smaller paperback format made it impossible to reprint the stories in the same format as Space Ace without extensive cropping and resizing. One story from the first issue will be the previously unpublished (in English) 'Diamonds of Death', which has only ever appeared in France.

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