Dan Dare - The Stories

© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
DAN DARE – The Stories Part I

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© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
The first Dan Dare story was published on the 14th April, 1950.
How long Hampson had been preparing this story we do not know.
We suspect, however, that Hampson had some doubts abut how long Dan Dare, or even how long the Eagle would last, as the story was not given a title, (a title would imply that it was to be the first of a series).
Now, of course, it is usually referred to as the 'Voyage to Venus'.
What is evident, right from the first page, - in fact from the first frame, is the realization that Hampson had meticulously planned the background to, what was to become, the Dan Dare saga.

Spacefleet HQ
There was 'Spacefleet', with its headquarters in Formby in Lancashire, (interestingly close to where Hampson had lived and worked).
And the date ? - well initially it was put at 'some years in the future'.
Exactly when we only learn later.

© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
Of course there was Dan, and also the Controller of the Spacefleet, Sir Hubert Guest (who was, in fact Hampson's father, 'Pop Hampson') –apparently an ex-RAF senior officer, (who we later learn was a pioneer of space-flight).

© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015

On the same page we are introduced to Digby – Dan's 'batman'.

Albert Fitzwilliam Digby (Space-man Class I) is the essential, slightly comic, 'working class' 'prop', that all adventurous 'toffs', like Colonel Daniel MacGregor Dare require in such adventures.

While Hampson's art work, even at this stage, was superb, the actual comic that hit the newsagents did not look very good – mainly because the new German presses which Hultons were using, (only the Germans could manufacture good printing presses– even straight after the war), had not 'bedded in' properly.
But the hardware, featured in the strip, was immaculate, and completely believable, and the characters seemed 'real', (after all Dan was an idealised version of Hampson, and Sir Hubert was Hampson's dad.)
The second page of the same edition, set in Dan's luxurious, futuristic apartment in Spacefleet HQ, introduces Digby who, in true 'batman style, brings Dan his breakfast.
But breakfast is not all it should be.
Here Hampson cleverly introduces the central theme of the story.
The earth's population has soared, and what with no wars, very little illness, and high level of prosperity, the earth's population has outstripped the food supply.
As a result people are forced to eat synthetic food, which is neither tasty, or very good for them, and there is a danger of social and political disruption.

Kingfisher Takes Off
The powers that be have therefore thought up a plan to go to Venus, where they think they may find food to feed the earth's hungry billions, (this part of the story does rather stretch ones credulity).
But – already two attempts have been made to reach Venus, and both have failed, with the spaceships mysteriously disappearing, – and now a third attempt, which is being made by a spaceship called 'Kingfisher', may be in trouble.
And so Hampson, very cleverly leaves his readers on the edges of their seats as they wait for a whole week to find out if 'Kingfisher' has reached Venus.
You, of course, do not have to wait that long.

Well – it's next week, or in comic time a few minutes late, and Dan and Digby are on their way to see Sir Hubert – and here Hampson introduces an interesting bit of 'hardware' – the 'Jepeet'.
© Copyright Zac Sawyer 2015
The 'Jepeet' is a 'jet propelled gyroscopic jeep'.
It has no wheels, just a sphere on the underside, and obviously a gyroscope that prevents it from toppling over.
They arrive at the Administration Block of the Space-fleet HQ, and go upstairs, where the Kingfisher is being observed (in daylight) through an 'astroscope' (a bit like a telescope, but unbelievably powerful and capable of operating in daylight).
So they can clearly see 'Kingfisher' powering its way to Venus.
Now here there is a 'glitch' in the story (the first of many scattered through the Dan Dare saga).
We are told that the previous two Space-fleet ships 'disappeared', but presumably with the 'all seeing 'astroscope' the Spacefleet boffins would have seen the previous ships exploding, just as Kingfisher exploded – so really the only mystery is not 'what happened to the ships ?', but rather 'why did they explode ?'.

Sir Hubert's Heli-Jet
So next Sir Hubert, Dan and Dig are off in a 'helicar', (it's really just a fancy, jet propelled helicopter).
Dan pilots, (wearing, for some unexplained reason, a huge pair of white gauntlets), while Sir Hubert sites beside him, and Digby takes the rear seat.
It is interesting to note here that Hampson, at the beginning of the strip, depicts Dan as very young, compared with his appearance later in the story, and Digby as somewhat older than he later appears.
Obviously Hampson, at this stage, had not settled on a definitive appearance for his main characters, except of course for Sir Hubert, who as very accurately modeled on 'Pop Hampson'.
There is then a lot of fill-in dialogue, explaining earth's food crisis, as they wing their way to confront the 'powers that be' with the latest news.
However, Hampson cleverly adds in a simple statement that is sure to get his readers racing to the news-agents, or anxiously awaiting the sound of the papers being delivered on 5th May.

Dan simply says, 'I've got it ! I know what happened to the 'Kingfisher' !'

lots to follow - please be patient