Yesterday’s Tomorrow


Date: 14 April 2015
Start Time: 9.30 am (Registration); 10 am (Symposium Start)

Venue: 27/29 South Lambeth Road, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1SZ

A BIS 1 day symposium to celebrate the Eagle comic and the launch of the career of Dan Dare

The front cover of the first issue of Eagle, with artwork by Frank Hampson.

The front cover of the first issue of Eagle, with artwork by Frank Hampson.

On the 14th of April 1950 a generation of spotty kids, some of which would become major players in British aerospace business, picked up an imposing colourful and authoritative weekly magazine (masquerading as a comic) which had been especially designed to introduce them to an exciting technical future, while at the same time preparing them morally and with the resolution to run an empire. On the first page, there began the first adventure of Dan Dare, ‘pilot of the future’ which was to run for 18 months. The first frame showed a British spaceport ‘some years in the future’ but clearly to be well established by the time the readers began their careers in the Interplanetary Space Fleet. 65 years later, the government is only now examining assessments into the possible location and viability of a British spaceport.

What went wrong? In Dan Dare’s world of the 50s, the British, having developed jet engines, computers and radar, were in the process of developing nuclear power, rocket planes and the other marvels which seemed to bring the planets within reach of the generation that subscribed to Eagle, ‘the new national strip cartoon weekly’.

The proceedings will start with a brief introduction by Gerry Webb who will then give the first presentation.  This will cover the science fiction and technical background to the period between the end of WW II and the early 60’s that was reflected in Eagle and inspired his generation’s view of a future which now seems like a dream of a very different parallel universe (Gerry expected to be skiing on Mars by the end of the century like Dan and professor Peabody). Alan Bond will then continue and enhance this theme; he comments:

“Anything seemed possible and this knowledge was extant amongst the rank and file of the population, and was daily reported in the popular press, not just the specialist journals. For me, and many of my friends, it was the appearance of this technology in media that reached my home through ‘Dan Dare’ in the Eagle comic, ‘Journey into Space’ on the radio and ‘Quatermass (especially Q II and Q &The Pit)’on television that had a huge effect on shaping our interests. These were intelligently conceived and written stories which brought in science, technology, sociology, politics and morals. In this talk I shall focus on these three story lines from three very different media and compare what they said and what I, and others, got from them.”

Both Alan and Gerry are veteran members of the BIS and both are directors of space technology companies which they founded (CST Ltd. and Reaction Engines Ltd). Alan is the renowned leader of the BIS ‘Project Daedaleus’ and the ‘Skylon’ spaceplane project.

After this introduction there will be authoritative presentations on ‘Eagle’ in general and the ‘Dan Dare’ strip in particular. The founding and progress of Eagle will be covered by Howard Corn who is the editor of ‘Eagle Times’ (now in its 29th year) which is the quarterly journal of the Eagle Society. The history and evolution of the Dan Dare strip will be given by Rod Barzilay who is the producer of the magazine ‘Spaceship Away’ devoted to publishing new adventures of Dan Dare in the classic style, along with items on Garth, Jet Morgan and other characters with similar nostalgia appeal.

After lunch, the afternoon will be devoted to a broad range of topics centered on the golden age of Frank Hampson’s Dan Dare and the legacy of Eagle in general. For example, Eric Fernie, Bob Parkinson and others will describe the Frank Hampson solar system, its races, cultures and technologies Greta Tomlinson, who was one of Hampson’s team of artists and the model for Professor Peabody, will be pleased to answer questions in a short session. An important contribution will come from James Bacon, who organised the programme at the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention in London. James will discuss how the image of Dan Dare has developed a mythical dimension in modern multimedia SF.

The programme will be divided by a lunch break (with wine, in the usual adequate BIS manner), morning coffee and afternoon tea into four sections.

Cost of attendance will be £40 for BIS and Eagle Society members, £50 for non-members and free for programme participants.

Be sociable; support the BIS!