Not only did the strip feature Dan, but there was a large cast of supporting characters. Of these, Albert Fitzwilliam Digby was the faithful batman and sidekick - only he and Dan appear in every story. Here are two views of Dig from the Venus story : on the left, he has just been captured by a rather nifty Treen device for rendering your opponents helpless! The picture on the right is rather perky looking for Dig, though Frank obviously liked it as he signed it.
Dig starts off as being extremely gormless [an English dialect word incapable of exact translation, but being "not with it" is perhaps an equivalent], and also idle and overweight [one as a consequence of the other]. On the other hand, he can come up trumps surprisingly often - perhaps he represents that side of the English character that doesn't do much until roused by indignation, after which there is no stopping him.
Here are two later views of Digby : The frame on the left is from Rogue Planet , and the one on the right is after returning to Earth ... after an absence of ten years! He is carrying Stripey, who has been brought back from Cryptos. Stripey is less impressed by the English weather [it is raining!].
But the many of the stories revolve around the six pilots of the ships to Venus : Dan and Dig; Hank and Pierre; Sir Hubert and Prof Peabody. Here are Hank, Dan and Pierre with what the caption described as "a friendly Theron".
Here are Sir Hubert and Prof from a later story , and Prof later ... [she was right. But Sir H. didn't believe her at first ...]
The original model for Jocelyn Peabody was Greta Tomlinson, one of the original studio artists. She and Harold Johns left [or were sacked] in 1954. Prof mysteriously changed her appearance in later stories! [We will pass over in silence the moment in The Mushroom, when Keith Watson's scriptwriter, David Motton, marries her off to an American mining engineer!]
Sir Hubert probably appears in more stories than the other characters, but as Controller of Spacefleet he is an important figure. He is based entirely on Frank's father Robert. The left hand frame comes from a fight with the Treens. Sir H, rather dishevelled, has just paralysed Dan by mistake - and then seen him fall over a cliff ... the frame on the right is from Safari in Space, and follows Prof's sighting of the submarine. There is a running joke throughtout the stories that Sir H, being somewhat oldfashioned, doesn't entirely approve of Prof - but she always shows him that she can cope.
Other characters came in later, particularly Flamer Spry. He first appears in Prisoners of Space, but is a regular from there on, until Trip to Trouble, which is his last real appearance. He is a cadet at Astral College, Spacefleet's training college, and, in true cadet tradition, manages to get into all sorts of other places too.
And Lex O'Malley, Commander R.N., appears in The Man from Nowhere, and in most stories from there, even those with Don Harley and Keith Watson. The left hand frame comes from the same page in Safari in Space as the earlier pictures of Prof and Sir H, the right hand from Rogue Planet.
And here is another good view of the cast, from Safari in Space again. From left to right ... Lex, Prof, Dan, Digby, Flamer.
[I find myself going more and more to this story for good images : the colouring in particular was superb.]
But where would they all have been without ... ?
2nd January 1997 revised 1st July 2002
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