When 2000 AD was first released in 1977, it brought along with it one of Britain’s most enduring and endearing science-fiction characters. Dan Dare was back, but anyone expecting the same hero as seen in Eagle comics was in for a shock. Gone was the stiff-upper-lip spacefarer, rejected in favour of a man who was more than happy to let his fists do the talking, someone who talked back to those in authority. Like Judge Dredd, Dan Dare captured an aspect of the Dirty Harry attitude that was prevalent at the time. Naturally, there was an uproar. Traditional Dare fans shouted in protest at this revived version, while his new audience – the boy readers 2000 AD was aimed at – adored the exciting no-nonsense approach. This was a new Dan Dare for a new generation.
Thirty-eight years later, publishers Rebellion have gathered Dare’s adventures together in a lush hardback volume. As a slice of nostalgia, it's an absolute joy to behold, an adventure story that writers Pat Mills and Gerry Findley-Day ensure keeps rolling like a locomotive. Dan Dare is here to act, to save the planet from aliens, not to pause for introspection; he punches and shoots – even wields a living axe – Drokking and Stomming his way across the galaxy with a ragtag group of misfits for a crew. A product of its time, certainly, but a delight to read.
The accompanying artwork is incredible, although the contrast in styles between Belardinelli and Gibbons is vast. The former populates space with creatures out of nightmare, his planetary landscapes a phantasmagoria that the reader can easily become lost in, while the latter has a sharper style, everything more clearly cut, with spaceships and weapons looking like NASA blueprints. Both are superb; although Gibbons is a firm favourite in most cases, his art most suiting the military tone, Belardinelli’s contribution remains a unique vision that cannot be ignored.
This is a great package, one that will have older readers recalling images from their youth, while offering Dan Dare to a further generation of comic-book fans. It feels like it's taken a long time to see these stories back in print, but it has been worth the wait. Who knows, perhaps this will be the stone that causes enough ripples to inspire future creators to bring back Dare once again and prove that, whatever the interpretation, he remains a timeless character.
DAN DARE – THE 2000 AD YEARS VOL. 1 / WRITER: VARIOUS / ARTIST: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: REBELLION / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 4TH