art by Joe Maneely, from Strange Tales #18.

Strange how I don’t even blink at the thought of a scientist building a robot but “an exact copy of a human brain” and I’m immediately thrown into disbelief. Absolutely unpossible! That would literally never happen.

The imaginatively named John Doe is a good guy robot, sacrificing their existence to save their creator’s daughter from a troublesome boyfriend.

Probably doesn’t need punching but, you know, you can never be too careful. He does look a bit stern.

Two panels drawn by Gerry Embleton from the eighties reboot of The Eagle comic. Both panels involve a humanoid figure "peeling" their face off to reveal a robot underneath.
Art by Gerry Embleton

Along with Bolland’s “gaze into the fist of Dredd“, this is one of my all time fave comic panels. The reveal is great but it’s the “Grief! A Robot!” that edges it into the sublime. Nobody suspects a robot! Especially one sent by The Mekon to ensure no peace can be brokered.

And that, really, is why you need somebody on hand who is willing to punch robots. The alternative is the dastardly Mekon and that’s not going to lead anywhere good.

Gerry Embleton’s work is always good value but this is some of the best mask peeling since Roger Delgado’s Master graced Who in the seventies. That Embleton makes Wagner and Mills vision of Dan Dare fit so seamlessly with Frank Hampson’s is the icing on a really very delicious cake for me. Incredible work.

Art by Ron Turner

Look at the way that noggin opens up at the top! Fantastic.

2K was sent to sort out a bunch of Daleks and Mechanoids in Impasse. Obviously he gets into a right old pickle, what with a planet on a collision course and all that, but I wouldn’t feel too bad about adding to his problems with a swift jab to the arm.

Presuming that doesn’t pop open with spikey bits as well. I’d need a sticky plaster then. Messy.

A panel from Magnus, Robot Fighter. It's Magnus smacking the head off a police robot which was, frankly, asking for a slap.

Given this site is named in honour of Magnus, Robot Fighter, it’d be fairly rude not to include Polrobs (Police Robots).

Pretty much every single original, proper, Magnus story has not only some fantastic robot designs but also some fantastic robot slapping going on. It’s just the best.

What I adore most about Polrobs in Magnus comics is how it’s almost impossible to imagine them actually moving, to imagine them being the overpowering presence that they are – to be so troublesome as to need a good kicking at every opportunity. Absolutely nothing about them suggests they can move with any sort of elegance or grace, or indeed move at all.

It adds to the joy of them because the implication here is that humanity has grown so lax and uninterested in any sort of politics that they are underneath the boot of a bunch of awkward, useless, bendy robots.

Which also leads to the question “Is Magnus *that* good at punching robots or are the robots really that easy to take down?”, but let’s not think about that. I’m sure he’s the best robot puncher ever.

From Dan Dare: Reign Of The Robots. Art by Frank Hampson, I assume.

Some yellow/gold robots. They are tall but simple as though easily rendered in tin like you robots. They're bipedal but have 4 arms, 2 of which are grabbing claws.

There’s a few different types of robots in this particular story but I just love these. They could very easily be rendered in tin as toys and, bonus, wouldn’t be too much of a nightmare to get a bloke in a cardboard costume of them.

Which is pretty much perfect, really.

Outside of Spaceship Away, poor Dan Dare hasn’t had much luck since the eighties. The most recent comic reboot made for a poor comic, never mind poor Dan Dare. The animated series was a thing that happened and the Virgin comics reboot at the hands of Garth Ennis made for, and I’m being polite here, clumsy reading.

Dan Dare chats to Digby about the north/south divide

It’s not been a complete write off though! Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes’ Controversial Memoirs Of Dan Dare is absolutely excellent and a personal fave. It’s sort of a proto-Scarlet Traces (which is also excellent), mixing a traditional scifi tale with some especially scathing digs at the establishment.

Memoirs is an angry story – angry at over a decade of Tory stewardship, angry at those complicit, angry at a system that makes people complicit. It’s remarkable how cleanly it bookends the Dan Dare story considering, largely by virtue of knowing that if you’re going to punch, punch up. By knowing which side Dan Dare needs to fall on.

It’s worth remembering how explicitly anti-fascist the very first Dare story was, a parable on the wrongs of doing nothing when there’s harm being done.

To Morrison’s credit, the Dare here feels very much like the Dare of Hampson’s creation, the Dare who battled to keep people safe, albeit one caught outside of their better days.

Over the years Dare might have lurched from those beginnings to various shades of action hero but Morrison puts Dare back where he began, with more than a little help from his friends.

A few panels where Dan Dare is asked to pose for a photo in a way that conveys 'rising to the right'

A promo picture for the Daleks animated series. There are multiple Daleks with a golden Dalek Emperor taking centre stage.

I pretty much gave up on Timelord Victorious before it began, a complete mess of cross media what even is this and why would I want it.

However, they had me at an animated Dalek story, starring the Daleks. As a kid (and a grown up, I reread them often), I was fascinated by the sixties Dalek comics. Alongside Dan Dare and later 2000ad, some of the most formative stuff for me.

On the way back from the shops I’d often lose myself in imagining a cartoon version, Daleks fighting Mechanoids, the kind of “who would win in a fight?” stuff kids are prone to do. You know, one Dalek on a transolar disc versus sixteen Mechanoids on a planet populated by killer plants. The normal stuff.

Daleks! is so very nearly that. It is absurdly low budget and has a faint air of 2000’s fan film but that’s okay. I mean, I would do murders for this sort of thing with a Netflix budget but hey, since when has that ever been Doctor Who? It’s a show all about doing lots with not much money. And this is the closest anything has gotten to making those daydreams of long ago real.

The mismatch of art styles, the Official Indie Game Style Low Poly Explosions, the videogame circa 2004 cut scene vibe and lack of any coherent pacing is all part of the fun. Sitting down and watching the first two parts with the youngest, giggling at them deciding which Dalek is best Dalek, cheering at the battles and so on, that’s what it’s about.

It would be very easy for me to be down on it for the production and initially, I kinda was. I’d missed the point though. None of that matters. All that matters is it works as the closest thing to the Dalek stories that existed only in my head since RTD wrote The Stolen Earth and my kid bloody loves it.

Kinda like me through all the years of loving Doctor Who, it’s as much in the imagination as it is on screen. It sorta had to be, long may it always be.