Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future - Voyage to Venus Part 1
If you're not British and of a certain age, you could be forgiven for not having heard of Dan Dare. But to your average UK male born before the Second World War, Dan Dare is an institution. Undoubtedly one of the most influential comic book characters the world has ever seen, Dan Dare was the cover star of anthology comic The Eagle - a post-war equivalent to Judge Dredd and modern sci-fi anthology 2000AD.
Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future is a vision of how the world might have been if the British Royal Air Force had come out the other side of the Battle of Britain and launched on a space exploration program to surpass NASA's. The big problem is that the population of Earth has exploded, leaving no room for growing food, so the heroes of space decide to explore Venus for potential food options. Naturally, Dan Dare and his side-kick Digby are called in to make contact with Venus and see if the planet holds any answers.
Considering this was conceived in the 1950s, it's surprisingly coherent - though with visionary Arthur C. Clarke providing a consultancy role, we shouldn't be all that surprised. Some of the obvious extrapolation is off kilter compared to the science we know today, but then there wouldn't be much of a story left if Dare had arrived on Venus and found it to be a volcanic desert. Instead he finds a lush planet containing two races - the human-like Therons and the cold, calculating, green Treens, lead by The Mekon. The rest of the story dates surprisingly well. There's only one woman on the voyage and she is called Jocelyn Peabody, but at least she's a Professor. For the 1950s this could almost be considered progressive.
Because the story was originally published two pages at a time, the plot is filled with plenty of action and cliff-hangers, at least one of which isn't even metaphorical. Even the artwork is impressive for its time, doing particularly well for being The Eagle's main feature and clearly getting a fair investment in its colour process.
Treated as a sci-fi adventure story aimed at youngsters, it's in a class of its own. This is definitely one for the retro-enthusiast collector, but it's also something that an original Dan Dare fan is going to treasure. The biggest downside is that it's only the first part of a story so you might want to order part two at the same time.
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