Saturday 12 March 2011

The Evolution of Dan Dare

From Malcolm Norton comes this fascinating early version Dan Dare. As Alastair Crompton in "Tomorrow Revisited" recounts, Frank Hampson's original brief from Marcus Morris was to provide artwork and script for the story of a tough young parson named Lex Christian working in the East End.

It was Hampson who added the visual and conceptual flair and turned the parson into an inter galactic adventurer whose own moral code conformed to what Morris wanted as a role model for the flag ship strip in what was to become Eagle comic.

The two pages below represent the halfway house and were dummied up for a long round of visits to possible publishers who might be prepared to put money behind the project.

It was to be a long journey as you can discover when you read this fascinating account of the Eagle comic and the men behind it.

Seriously if you haven't availed yourself of a copy of this book and you are in any way remotely interested in this era of UK comic art you will find this book a truly gripping read.

Dan Dare © The Dan Dare Corporation Ltd. 2011


  1. Blimey - /Chaplain/ Dan Dare. I had to read that twice - and check the calendar to be sure it's not April 1st. After the McLoughlin cover recreation, I thought you might be pulling our leg with a Hampson pastiche, Peter!

  2. Nice thought Dave, but it's all true.

    I remember the first time I read about the story of how Dan Dare came into being was via a long - very long letter that Frank Hampson wrote to the Association of Illustrator's Journal.

    It did make for a revelatory and it has to be said depressing read as Hampson railed against those he felt had done him out of ownership of his creation.

    Still a salutary warning about how corporate muscle can undermine the rights of creatives.

  3. Oh yes, I've just been reading the sad story of Kirby, Ditko and co - and Stan Lee too, often unfairly vilified by hardcore fans. But does anybody think these guys or their families will ever see a fair share of the tens of billions of dollars their creations have raked in for the faceless studio and publishing moguls?

    I just noticed that on Twitter, Steve Ditko has about a dozen followers. Now, I grant you he'd probably rather have fewer still :) but where is the justice when one of the foremost creative talents of the last fifty years is so neglected?

  4. I'd certainly echo your recommendation Peter. Tomorrow Revisited is well written and beautifully illustrated; my only reservation is that these aspects aren't always too well integrated. For example pages 154 and 155 feature artwork from the 1964 Lion Annual that may or may not have actually been drawn by Hampson, yet frustratingly there is no evidence for his involvement given in the text, nor any other reason for their inclusion!

    I guess Frank Hampson's sad story is one that must have been repeated endlessly since the first primitive humans were inspired to daub paint on the walls of their caves. The problem is that many creative people are so concerned with the visionary aspects of their art that they have little time for the more mundane skills required to secure a proper income from it. As a result a disproportionate number of them die in near-poverty, after which their work goes on to provide a very good living for countless others more focussed on the here-and-now.

  5. I'd definitely put money on the Lion annual artwork being a Hampson production. It's got all his hallmarks in terms of staging, the poses, the fresh faced innocence and on the top left panel of page 155 the young man looking over his shoulder is surely Flamer Spry?

    I think part of the problem with the absence of text to explain this inclusion as well as the glaring absence from page 193 of Jim Holdaway's take on the same Modesty Blaise episode that Hampson went so badly adrift on is down to the fact that the author and the designer were working apart and there seems to have been some communication glitches as a result.

    I still love this book though - glitches notwithstanding!

  6. Phil Rushton is quite right that the 1964 Lion Annual artwork is not referred to in the text, nor is there any evidence that it was actually drawn by FH. In it's favour, if FH had signed the artwork there is no doubt the Mirror people would have removed his signature.
    Also a large number of people are convinced this is FH. For myself I am not so sure. The artwork arrived in the book without myself being consulted, although I had seen it before, and know it has been attributed to FH.
    The short answer is, I don't know, but suspect that after the way the Mirror men treated Hampson, he wouldn't work for them ever again, and they wouldn't have the neck to ask him.
    Alastair Crompton