Sorry that it’s a bit of a Dare-fest round here at the moment, just in a comfort read mode for some reason.

art by Martin Wheeler, pic from ZX Art.

Anyway. One of my more profound early (earlier?) inspirations lies with Martin Wheeler’s art for Dan Dare II. Both of the Gang Of Five Speccy Dare games are great (Probe’s entry, not so much) but gosh, the tile work in Dan Dare II still kind of blows me away. It’s up there with the more recent Vallation as one of the best examples of Speccy tile art.

Look at this! What an amazing thing to wring out of a Speccy. The colours! Just wow stuff still for me.

art by Martin Wheeler, screen from ZX Art.

Martin’s still plugging away at games, their latest is Separation for PSVR. Sadly, I can’t play it due to my sore noggin not really being receptive to weighty things being placed on it. It does look gorgeous though.

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.

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'