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Saturday 6 April 2024

Dan Dare #2 - Book review


This is the second deluxe collector’s edition of The Red Moon Mystery and Marooned on Mercury featured in the Eagle comic from October 1951 to February 1953.

I first bought the Eagle in February 1958 (featuring the Dan Dare story The Ship that Lived). Thereafter, I was hooked – not only by the colourful artwork in Dan Dare but also the other features inside. The comic exuded an almost intoxicating smell, either the ink or the paper, or a combination of both. Subsequently, I managed to obtain a good number of the preceding issues, but never had an entire set. So the publication of these deluxe editions published by Hawk Books (1988) in full size and full colour were must-haves!

The story of The Red Moon Mystery is about a mysterious red moon that has appeared. It is threatening the space stations of Mars and, inevitably, it is likely to move against Earth. The other characters are Dare’s batman Digby, Sir Hubert Guest, Professor Jocelyn Peabody, the Yank, Henry Hogan, Sondar, the good Treen and Dr Ivor Dare, an eccentric scientist. It seems only Dan Dare and his pals can avert disaster! This adventure is written and drawn by the legendary Frank Hampson (though also see the reference below). This adventure takes place in 1999 - some 48 years in the future...

Marooned on Mercury. At the end of the previous adventure a massive explosion thrusts Dare’s spaceship towards Mercury, where they crash-land. Little do Dare and his crew know, but the evil Mekon has set up a base on the far side of Mercury; from here he intends to attack Earth, as space-born despots tend to do from time to time. On Mercury the team encounter strange beings, Mercurians, and enlist their help to combat the Mekon and his Treens. This adventure was drawn by Harold Johns as Hampson was ill.

Naturally, the tales are somewhat dated in their speech patterns and unscientific appreciation of planets like Mercury. And yet, they are fast-paced, inventive, even exciting, as well as amusing. There is a tendency to put too many words in the speech balloons – seemingly necessary to explain many of the ‘technological’ goings-on. And, for the time, it was probably ground-breaking to have a female professor as a significant character.

For more insight into the production of the weekly two-page full-colour strip, see WRITEALOT: FFB - The Man Who Drew Tomorrow (

Tuesday 2 April 2024



Craig Thomas’s ninth Patrick Hyde thriller (of ten) Playing with Cobras was published in 1993.

MI6 agent-in-place Phillip Cass is having an affair with Sereena, one of India’s screen goddesses who also happens to be the wife of Mr V.K. Sharmar, the prospective new Prime Minister. V.K. has a powerful brother Prakesh who is a dangerous ‘Mr Fixit’.  Cass discovers that the Sharmars have only been able to finance their rise to prominence by smuggling drugs on a grand scale. Instead of merely killing Cass, the Sharmars frame him for the murder of Sereena with the intention of embarrassing Britain. Peter Shelley has taken over from Aubrey as DG and recruits Hyde to return to the fold to investigate Cass’s case. Cass was planning on taking a holiday in Australia with his girlfriend Ros but feels compelled to intervene on Cass’s behalf since Cass has previously saved his life! Hyde soon appreciates that Cass is innocent but before he can further put further questions to his fellow agent, Cass disappears.

The thriller is predominantly about Hyde and Ros getting involved in locating Cass and getting him out of the country, while in the process acquiring evidence about Cass’s innocence and the Sharmars’ drug activities.

Throughout, Thomas provides a great deal of colour and visual descriptions to put you in the scene.

He has a knack with detailed observation, too: ‘The flight deck lay on its side – like the broken egg in the Bosch painting, he thought: his imagination affected as if by some nervous tic rather than horror at the scene (of the terrorist-caused airplane crash). It was hundreds of yards away, cordoned off, surrounded by the ants of the accident investigators and the police’ (p48).

There’s plenty of tension and close shaves and the pace never lets up.

This thriller has more than enough thrills to please fans of the genre.