THE FEATURED IMAGE is a copy of Frank Bellamy’s Dare that I painted in 1982. It is a pointillistic pen and ink drawing overpainted in acrylic watercolours with the addition of silver paint for the starry background.
DAN DARE Pilot of the Future was created and drawn by Frank Hampson as the main full-colour feature on the first two pages of The Eagle, launched in April 1950 by Editor Marcus Morris with most of the other strips in the publication also originally supplied by Frank Hampson.
I have set a gargantuan slideshow depicting various Dan Dare, Digby and Mekon images featuring my own illustrated artwork.
1. The first two images are tonal versions of my copy of panel one of Dan Dare in Eagle No. 22, dated 8 September 1950, in which Dan and Digby are in a Treen Helijet piloted by the Treen Sondar. Having just rescued Sir Hubert Guest and Professor Jocelyn Peabody, two of Dan’s companions, they are flying low in take-off over the vaporous lava plains of Venus, with the pseudo-tentacles of the Silicon Mass reaching out for them from below. The flexible ladder not yet retracted is grasped by a pseudo-limb and in a panic Sondar is accelerating and gaining altitude to pull away. But the ladder needs slack in order to snap back and break the grip of the Silicon Mass, and Dan is shouting, “Dive Sondar, you ass! Dive!”
2. The third image is an original ‘new look’ Dave Draper version of Dan Dare in Spacefleet uniform, with the lantern jaw exaggerated. It is followed by 14 versions ranging from the duochromatic to the startlingly colourful, which were created in the Colour Adjust facilities of my MacBook.
3. The eighteenth image, painted in acrylic watercolours is a caricatured view of Dan Dare and his arch-enemy the Mekon in a montaged cloud setting.
4. The nineteenth image is a close-up detail of the Mekon in cloud view taken from the preceding image.
Images 20, 21, and 22. There are three separate colour representations depicting the same view of the Mekon on an airborne chariot, which I’ve loosely based on a panel towards the conclusion of the first Dan Dare story in the Eagle.
Numbers 23, 24, 25 and 26 are all tonal variations of image1: the first panel of the first Dan Dare story in Eagle No. 22, 8 September 1950.
Numbers 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31 in the slideshow are all versions of the same caricature featuring Dan Dare in Spacefleet uniform, with the peaked cap casting a bizarre surrealistic style shadow pattern across his forehead.
32, 33, and 34 are alternative versions of Dan Dare and the Mekon in Cloudview, rendered here in Black & White, Black & Gold, and Sepia Tint consecutively. These are followed in turn by five images of the Mekon: two in Cloudview and three on 3D Viewer, numbered 35, 36, 37, 38 & 39.
The contents of Dan, Dig ‘n’ Meeky Converse , and Dan & Dig Converse , are my own invention. Sometimes I do little spoof cartoons in Christmas and Birthday cards sent to close friends and ‘Dan, Dig ‘n’ Meeky Converse’ is one of them. They are usually based around the current situations of that particular year.
Click on each image in the slideshow to enlarge and view. Place cursor over image to reveal centrally-placed arrows to move back & forth manually through slideshow. Alternatively, click on (play slideshow) in the description beneath to automatically scan through the images.
* * *
Towards the end of the Eagle’s reign as an independent entity when the Hulton press was taken over by a new syndicate sometime around the late 1950s, things took an ugly turn for Frank Hampson and all staunch young Dan Dare fans.
A new artist, Frank Bellamy took over the strip as Frank Hampson left in disgust at the proceedings. Having never copyrighted his creation, which had become the Eagle’s property, he lost all control over it.
Bellamy was a great artist with much experience and a particular style that was professional and pointillistic in execution but he was ordered to completely revamp everything in the Dan Dare strip. the uniforms, spacesuits, spacecraft, machinery, architecture – everything that was not already bolted down and immovable in fact, even the script – and that was a great mistake.
In a single stroke between one week and the next, Dan Dare and everything in the strip had become virtually unrecognizable. Frank Hampson’s work and that of his assistants Don Harley and Keith Watson had suddenly been transformed into something quite alien overnight.
Being a regular reader of the Eagle since the age of eight, when the first issue had been published, I wasn’t at all happy with the path it was taking and at around the age of eighteen or nineteen, stopped reading the comic altogether.
Later, with the sad departure of Frank Hampson from this world in 1985, all the Dan Dare stories were reprinted in their original page format and reissued in hardback form by Patrick Hawkey Publishing between 1987 and 1991. I have collected the important ones [the first eight stories] and treasure them, dipping in to their unique world every so often.
Dan Dare 1950s-Eagle Stories List
The Venus Story: 1950-1951 – Drawn by Frank Hampson – Written by Frank Hampson
Red Moon Mystery: 1951-1952 – Drawn by Frank Hampson, Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson – Written by Frank Hampson and George Beardmore – Consultant: Arthur C. Clarke
Marooned on Mercury: 1952-1953 – Drawn by Frank Hampson, Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson – Written by Chad Varah
Operation Saturn: 1953-1954 – Drawn by Frank Hampson, Harold Johns, Greta Tomlinson and Desmond Walduck – Written by Don Riley
Prisoners of Space: 1954-1955 – Drawn by Desmond Walduck – Written by Alan Stranks
The Man from Nowhere: 1955 – Drawn by Frank Hampson & Don Harley – Written by Alan Stranks
Rogue Planet: 1955-1957 – Drawn by Frank Hampson & Don Harley – Written by Alan Stranks
Reign of the Robots: 1957-1958 – Drawn by Frank Hampson & Don Harley – Written by Alan Stranks
The above list is a simplified version as, behind the scenes, in one capacity or another, Frank Hampson was also usually assisted by his complete studio team of artists, consisting of Harold Johns, Greta Tomlinson, Bruce Cornwell, Eric Eden, Don Harley, Joan Porter, Jocelyn Thomas and Keith Watson. Frank also collaborated with the writer and other artists producing some visuals for Prisoners of Space, which was mostly illustrated by Desmond Walduck.
I regret not getting hold of a copy of Dare The Final Volume containing some great stories drawn by Keith Watson and scripted by David Motton, at the time it was issued, as it would be difficult to obtain now and would probably cost me a bomb and an arm and a leg and very likely also be secondhand and a little dog-eared and tea-stained – and I particularly like all my books in mint condition and keep them that way through decades of ownership.
Frank Hampson’s art was not only unique but very uplifting and refreshing in style, with much research of scientific facts and likely progress and with great attention paid to realistic and well thought-out detail, – and I loved it! Although there are many other guiding sources in the various genres and subjects I’ve handled, Frank Hampson is one of the main influences in the development of my own artwork
I waited expectantly to see what had unfolded in the Eagle’s Dan Dare strip each week. Because of Frank’s understandable need to produce the finest finished work in a quality magazine and get it as close to perfection as possible, it became a huge undertaking that required a team of assistants helping out to produce.
Frank Hampson and his Team of Artists
At first, he had Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson [who was also the model for Professor Jocelyn Mabel Peabody], Eric Eden, Bruce Cornwell [who produced and even originated at Frank’s descriptions or even independently, all the finely finished machinery, spacecraft and architecture, applying meticulous attention to detail]. And there was Jocelyn Thomas and Joan Porter amongst many others not always credited or named except for in biographical accounts issued at later dates, including hardback reprints, such as the Titan Books 2005 reprint of Prisoners of Space.
Harold Johns and Greta Tomlinson
Harold Johns took over a couple of times around the Red Moon Mystery and Marooned on Mercury period when Frank was ill. Harold sometimes worked with Greta Tomlinson producing Dan Dare short stories for the Eagle Annual. They also occasionally contributed, either individually or together to some of the panels in the original Venus story. You could always tell immediately by the style of drawing whose work it was, once you became accustomed to the particular artist’s work. Frank Hampson’s unique style you could spot a mile away, whether it was signed or not. But I always looked for his distinctive signature anyway [although he may have sometimes signed a panel that had been copied meticulously by another artist from a visual of his]. Apart from the occasional panel chipped in here and there by Frank between his bouts of illness, Harold John’s work featured fairly prominently throughout the Red Moon Mystery and Marooned on Mercury. Then Frank Hampson leapt back in the saddle at the start of Operation Saturn, only to be almost completely replaced in stages by that of another artist before very much of the saga had unwound.
At that time, it was freelance artist Desmond Walduck who took over for a while, through much of Operation Saturn and virtually all of Prisoners of Space.
Don Harley and Keith Watson
Later there was Don Harley and Keith Watson [who had been working behind the scenes previously] working together with scripting and artwork assistance from Eric Eden and contributing far more prominently, with Keith Watson taking over the strip in a later re-issued format of the Eagle in the 1960s and doing an excellent job in his personalized representation of Frank Hampson’s style. Although Keith Watson’s work was instantly recognisable by style as was that of Don Harley, who contributed prominently with Frank Hampson on the Man from Nowhere.
Dan Dare Characters and Studio Models
Like Greta Tomlinson, some of the other artists posed for characters in the strip. Frank’s father, Robert Hampson was the model for Spacefleet Controller, Sir Hubert Gascoigne Guest. He also donned naval uniform for photos of Commander Lex O’Malley and took on various other guises and poses, which were often photographed as reference frames for Frank’s work. Frank’s son, Peter was the model for Astral Cadet Flamer Spry. In more recent photographs, Peter Hampson looks remarkably like Dan Dare, which isn’t too surprising since Frank modelled Dan Dare in his own image and there is a fairly close resemblance between father and son in the Hampson family. Harold Johns would sometimes double for Dan’s batman and spacefaring companion, Albert Fitzwilliam Digby. Don Harley was used for at least one Digby pose later. Studio members would be required willy nilly to pull faces or assume poses for any of Frank’s Dan Dare characters as the situation demanded. Frank would even pull faces himself. One time a studio member walked in while Frank was smiling. He thought, he’s in a good mood, but Frank was smiling because one of his characters in the strip was.
Writers, Advisors and Influences
And then there were the various writers, advisors and influences; Alan Stranks, Chad Varah, Arthur C. Clark, Chesney Bonestell, Eric Eden, Don Riley.
The Man from Nowhere Trilogy
There was an absolutely brilliant period, even rivalling the original Venus Story when the Man From Nowhere Trilogy ran for approximately three years from around 1955; comprising The Man From Nowhere, Rogue Planet and Reign of the Robots.
Written By Frank Hampson and Alan Stranks; The Man From Nowhere, Rogue Planet and Reign Of The Robots were drawn by Frank Hampson with the assistance of Eric Eden, Don Harley and Joan Porter, and Desmond Walduck joining the fray again taking over some of the work on Reign Of The Robots.
Dan Dare, The Eagle, and Frank Hampson
In my opinion, Dan Dare was what made the Eagle. And Frank Hampson was the man who made Dan Dare.
Dave Draper 2014
is located in the ART section of the Pulldown Menu under Portrait, Fantasy and Space Art.
Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future
THE PRIME MINISTER SYNDROME
Located in WRITING under Stories
Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future
THE NUTWOOD AFFAIR
Located in WRITING under Stories
Located in ART under Portrait, Fantasy and Space Art
Located in ART under Fantasy and Space Art
‘Treens’ is set with a 24-panel slideshow, depicting a 14-page’ illustrated spoof I devised in 2001, called ‘On the Buses with the Mekon’ or alternatively, ‘Mekon On The Buses’.
THE FIRST 13 PANELS of ‘Mekon On The Buses’ are pencil visuals drawn over in pen-and-ink and colour-pencils. The remaining 16 panels are also visuals drawn in pencil that have not been embellished much further – by that time I was in a hurry to get my story down on paper as ideas were still fresh in my head and I wanted to capture them while I could. Some of the pencil visuals towards the conclusion of the story are more finely finished, particularly the final panel itself, which I use as the ‘Showcase’ or ‘Featured Image’ introducing my ‘Treens’ entry.
AND IN A FINAL FOOTNOTE I leave you with a jaunty little rap-style ditty I concocted within the last decade or so:
PILOT OF DE FUTURE
He Da Pilot of De Future
He Got to be Dare
Right from Da Start
Tell me Who can Compare
To Da Spacefleet Man
Dat Day call Dan
Who can Sort out
All Da Troubles
In De Stars What Am?
Tell me Who? Tell me Who?
Tell me Who? Tell me Who Dat up Dere?
Dan Dare! Dan Dare! Dan Dare!
Dat am Who Dat Up Dere
Dan Dare! Dan Dare!
Dan Dare Page – Dave Draper 2014