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Comic Strip: Dan Dare

Classic British science fiction comic strip, created by Frank Hampson in the Eagle comic in 1950. Colonel Dan Dare of the Interplanet Space Fleet and his band of companions would explore other planets and defend the Earth from a variety of colourful alien threats, including arch-enemy the Mekon. The strip was known for the high quality of its artwork and its long, complex storylines, which could run for over a year of weekly two-page episodes.

The original strip ran from 1950 to 1965, with a number of format changes and a general decline in quality in the last few years. It has been revived several times, often with wildly different versions of the character: in 2000 AD (1977-1979), in the New Eagle (1982-early 1990s) and, most recently, in a limited series written by Garth Ennis.

Tropes:

  • Ace Pilot: Dan.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: Subverted during the 'All Treens Must Die' storyline. After being released from his imprisonment for genocide as Earth, now with its defences offline, came under a surprise assault from the Mekon's invasion force, in a last, desperate bid to do something, Dan and his crew were bunged into the Anastasia and told to do whatever they could. When one enemy fighter launched a missile on their tail, Dan tried to use the local canyon to escape it. Unfortunately, the missile was just as good, and his attempts to get back out of the canyon were thwarted by fighter wings at a higher altitude keeping them pinned down. With a mountain looming up ahead, Dan tried pulling straight up anyway, noted the missile was still unfazed, and just turned to his crew and apologised. Annie promptly took the missile up the tailpipe.
  • A Father to His Men: Sir Hubert, as Dan explicitly pointed out to some politicians who wanted to destroy a space station he was on at the time. Dan himself was more of a Brother to his Men.
  • Animated Adaptation: There was a CGI Dan Dare cartoon at the Turn of the Millennium.
  • As You Know: Lampshaded in an early strip:
    Dan: The impulse waves are broadcast into space from stations on the Earth, Moon and Mars, picked up by the ships and stored in Impulse Cylinders like a battery stores electricity. Then the waves are fed to the engines as required - it saves carrying tons of fuel - right?
    Hubert: Yes Dan and C-A-T spells cat. What's the point of this elementary lesson?
  • Cliff Hanger: Every episode. Sometimes involving actual cliffs.
  • Cool Chair: The Mekon sits on a hovering chair. In some stories it also has defensive shields or other gadgets.
  • Cool Starship: The Anastasia, a unique combination of human and alien technology.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Dan Dare.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Dare was sometimes seen smoking a pipe, perhaps as a Shout-Out to the pipe-smoking RAF officers of the Second World War on whom the character was based.
  • Fashions Never Change: A lot of the main cast wear military uniforms, but everyone else dresses like it's the 1950s.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Gradually introduced during the initial run. The first few stories are set in our solar system. The first faster-than-light trip turns out to be a slower-than-light ship that put the crew into suspended animation for most of the voyage. The development of real FTL travel was a plot point in a later story, and it eventually became commonplace.
  • Fighting Irish: Perhaps not a perfect example of the trope, but Lex O'Malley was never one to turn down a scrap. And had the nose to prove it.
  • Heavyworlder: The gravity on Venus is approximately 90% of that on Earth, giving every human a small degree of superstrength while on the planet. They're not kryptonians, but it does give them a bit of an edge.
  • Honor Before Reason: Dan has a rigid code of honour that the Mekon tries to exploit.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The story 'The Red Moon Mystery' featured "space bees" that would strip planets of organic life.
  • Interplanetary Voyage: In the first few years the stories were set entirely in the solar system.
  • I Want My Jetpack: The strip's 1990s have hotels on Mars and everyday gadgets including personal helicopter backpacks.
  • Joker Immunity: The Mekon almost always gets away. On the rare occasions he doesn't, the heroes capture him and put him in prison, from which he eventually escapes. Averted in the case of every other villain, who tend to be around for one story and die at the end of it.
  • My Brain Is Big: The Mekon.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Space battles are depected a lot like World War II air combat.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Pretty much everyone, but especially Dan.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Prof. Peabody is an expert in whatever science the story requires.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Given that Garth Ennis isn't Warren Ellis, he was unable to fill the 2008 limited series with scads of Technology Porn. Instead, he focused on what he is good at - characterization, particularly that of the half-broken yet unrepentantly idealistic Dare.
    Prime Minister: He has all this wonderful memorabilia, it really is quite charming... What I can't understand is why he said yes so readily; he quite obviously despises all that I stand for, but there he is, off to fight for king and country...
    Jocelyn Peabody: I imagine he considers it his duty... Dan was dedicated to the International Space Fleet. He saw it as everything that was best about us: Mankind United, no more wars on Earth. But when all's said and done, he's still an Englishman. When his country's threatened, he'll answer the call.
  • Pseudo Crisis: With a cliffhanger every two pages, some of them are bound to be less than essential to the plot.
  • Raygun Gothic
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The Mekon's race, Treens, are reptilian humanoids.
  • Schematized Prop: The strip would sometimes include cutaway technical drawings of the spaceships and other tech.
  • Science Marches On: The strip put some effort into being scientifically plausible in its early years, even using Arthur C. Clarke as an advisor, but science has marched a long way since 1950. In particular, almost all the planets of the solar system are depicted as being capable of supporting human life.
  • Seadog Beard: Lex O'Malley certainly has one.
  • Shiny-Looking Spaceships: The ships weren't usually shiny as such, but were almost always brightly coloured. (The spaceship interiors, on the other hand, were often cramped and utilitarian.)
  • Sidekick: Albert Fitzwilliam Digby.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Prof. Peabody is pretty much the only female character.
  • Space Clothes: Averted in the case of humans, who wear 1950s clothes even while walking around their futuristic cities. The aliens wear classic Space Clothes, though.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: The strip made some effort to get the science right, but there were some errors, such as spacesuits hanging and folding in a way that looks like they are not pressurized (because they were drawn from real-life models wearing overalls), and spaceships manouevring like aeroplanes.
  • The Spock: Sondar, whose species (Treens) have suppresed all emotion.
  • Spock Speak: Sondar.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: The telesender (which needed a machine at both ends).
  • Those Two Bad Guys: In the short Eagle Annual stories, Dan often found himself up against a skinny/fat pair of crooks called Starbuck and Vulcani (who appeared to have wandered in off the set of fellow Eagle strip PC49).
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: The first story was set in the then-distant 1990s.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Space-Fleet pistols fired non-lethal, paralysing gas, and Dan was always keen to find non-violent solutions to conflicts. Thrown out the window in the Ennis series, where the Royal Navy (who have taken over Space-Fleet's duties) pack futuristic assault rifles, and Dan apparently lethally wounds the Mekon in their climactic battle with what looks like a katana.
  • True Companions: The regular cast changed with each story, but the members would always be unfailingly loyal to one another.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Part of Dan's rigid (even by 1950s standards) code of honour. Some other characters are more flexible.
  • Zeerust

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alternative title(s): Dan Dare
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