As a city, Manchester has some of the richest cultural history in the world. Industry and creativity are driving forces and it’s safe to say that I love the place I grew up in. The history extends to comics, as Manchester has its very own superhero in the form of Dan Dare. Considered to be the British answer to Buck Rogers, Dare is arguably one of the greatest sci-fi characters of all time. I’m looking into the character’s background to understand how he represents the soul of his home.
A homegrown hero
Dan Dare was created by acclaimed artist and writer Frank Hampson. Born in Audenshaw, Hampson fought during WW2, survived and settled in Southport. He enrolled in the Southport School of Arts and Crafts, where he caught the attention of Reverend Marcus Morris, who asked Hampson to come up with some illustrations for his parish magazine. Dan Dare was created out of the collaboration in 1950.
Hampson’s experiences helped to develop the background for his character. Colonel Daniel Dare was born in Manchester in 1967 and educated at Rossall School, which is a real venue near Fleetwood. Dare went into the military and became an expert pilot. He trained in jiu jitsu and his skill led to him becoming chief pilot of the Interplanet Space Fleet.
Dare had all the ruggedness of a typical action hero, but he preferred a non-violent approach. His sense of honour meant he would rather die than break his word. His adventures often sent him into space to do battle with his arch enemy, The Mekon.
Becoming an iconic British character
Dare appeared in the pages of The Eagle, where he became a hit among school children. This came down to the talent of Hampson and his team. Dare’s storylines were praised for their complexity, with a lot of focus on scientific plausibility. A young Arthur C Clarke worked on the series, acting as a science and plot adviser. Interestingly, Dare’s stories were set in the 1990s, but the dialogue was similar to 1950s war films.
The character proved to be popular enough that in 1977 he was incorporated into 2000 AD. During the 2000 AD run, Dare was depicted as closer to a traditional superhero, with a colourful uniform.
Dare found success in the modern day as well. Writers like Grant Morrison and Garth Ennis are responsible for revamping him for a younger audience. The most recent series to feature the character was published in 2017 by Titan Comics.
Dare has inspired the creation of other superheroes, such as Marvel’s Captain Britain. The character’s longevity is a reminder of Frank Hampson’s genius and Manchester’s enduring spirit.
Carry on our kid.