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Spaceship Away Parts 1-5 Autumn 2003 - Spring 2008

01/12/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Spaceship Away in the USA - or Buy Spaceship Away in the UK

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pub: Spaceship Away. Rod Barzilay, 8 Marley Close, Preston, Weymouth, Dorset DT3 6DH, UK. 32-36 page A4 glossy stock magazines. Price: 6.99 (UK), 9.00 euro, 10.00 (overseas) each. On subscription, buy 6 and the 7th is for free!!!).

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Having reviewed the latest 'Spaceship Away' magazine last month, I was asked if I'd like to see the earlier issues. No prizes for guessing my response and I'm sensibly spreading the reviews out over the next couple months to allow the more budget conscious amongst you to go after these issues slowly than in a mad rush. Of course, you can always rush, just not on my account.

If you're a fan of Frank Hampson's 1950s 'Dan Dare' comicstrip in the late lamented 'Eagle' then much of the knowledge here is superfluous, mostly cos you know it already. If anything, Colonel Dan Dare is Britain's first comicbook space hero and from who all others have been measured since.
Publisher/editor Rod Barizilay obtained the licence to publish new stories of the good Colonel, using artists who were part of Hampson's team. The first issue features the work of Keith Watson who unfortunately died after three episodes and then on with other artists, including Don Harley, another Hampson luminary.

All of the more, shall we say, serious material is prepared the same way as Hampson would have done it with attention to detail, model work and using real people to model the poses. As such, it's no wonder the material looks so much in the Hampson mode. Combined with this are various behind the scenes features showing how the work was prepared, not to mention how some models were made and various interviews. Each issue has a range of correspondence which shows, if nothing else, that if you're a Dan Dare fan then you're not alone. To balance things out, there are various one page comedy skits featuring such as 'Dan Bear' and Digby, Dare's batman, as a teen-ager.

Rod Barizilay told me he was learning the ropes with the early issues but its apparent from the first five issues in front of me that he learnt fast. I should point out that these magazines are printed full colour on quality glossy paper stock hence their high price over page count which was still growing over these early issues, a clear indication that any profit was being fed back into the magazine.

Having only three issues a year also ensures that the level of quality is maintained throughout. There's an interesting quote from Frank Hampson himself that his readers would quickly read the stories and then go over them again at a much slower rate to study the art in detail. The same is true today.

What makes the Dan Dare reality stand out is its consistency with what was known back in the 1950s where it was thought that life was rife throughout our solar system. There was no template for spacesuits and such so Hampson had pretty much a free hand in creating as he saw fit and keeping within the idea that the British led the way into space. As he was also using live people as his templates, it also ensured that any practical basis was put into the material.

These first five issues of 'Spaceship Away' have kept to these ideas. There are three Dan Dare stories. 'The Phoenix Mission' where Dan and his colleagues are sorting through the various damaged spaceships left after a war with the Mekon. 'Project Pluto' where spaceships are being sabotaged. 'Green Nemesis' where a certain Mekon is planning further skulduggery. There is also a continuing tale about Hubert Guest as a young space pilot. Buying these issues in bunches will ensure you get large chunks of these stories. If you liked the Titan reprints of 'Dan Dare' then you will be more than at home here.

GF Willmetts

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