_This is the next post in my series counting down to the 40th Anniversary of the first issue of 2000AD, on 26 February 1977. With this post I will start using the tag #inorbiteverymonday
and I'll try to post once a week on the anniversary of each prog._
Thrill 3: DAN DARE
2000AD 40th Anniversary / Prog 1
Colour printing was expensive in 1977 so 2000AD had only four colour pages: the front and back cover and the centrefold. The story chosen to occupy the coveted colour double-spread for the first issue was a reimagining of 1950s space hero, Dan Dare.
And what a debut: the organic, slightly surrealist artwork by Massimo Bellardinelli is a delightful assault on the senses. I'm not sure anything quite like this had ever been seen in British comics, which were more accustomed to clean, straightforward lines. I remember that the visualisation of Jupiter's Red Spot made a deep impression on me at the time.
Belardinelli apparently tried out for no pay in this first issue, but he did get a rare honour not accorded to any of the other creators: on the last page of the strip, he is credited by name for his work. In 1977, it was against IPC's policy to credit artists and writers, a policy which was to be challenged by 2000AD's editor during the first year of publication.
The idea with the new Dan Dare was to appeal to the nostalgia of the Eagle comic character, which had last seen a story published ten years previously. Once again it was Pat Mills at the helm, writing alongside Ken Armstrong. In their version of the character, Dare had been in suspended animation for 200 years, allowing them to discard all of the supporting cast and reshape the character to their new story. (Although Dare's most notorious villain, the Mekon, did make a comeback later in the series).
One other notable detail: Dan Dare is the first character to use the substitute swearword, "Drokk!" which was later to become part of Judge Dredd's staple vocabulary.
Next: Thrill 4!
About the tag #inorbiteverymonday
: The first issue of 2000AD stated on its cover, "In Orbit Every Saturday", but this changed to Monday from Prog 7 onwards, and remained on the cover of every issue in the classic era.