Dare (from Yesterday’s Tomorrows)
by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes
Yesterday’s Tomorrows is a collection of Rian Hughes’ retro futurist artwork, featuring stories that have been unavailable for many years. And the centrepiece of this book is his reworking of the British science fiction comics legend that is Colonel Dan Dare. A lesser artist might have swamped Dare in darkness to reflect the mood of the story, but not Hughes. His Dare is a technicolour explosion that captures that lost dream of a future in the stars; it’s the zenith of Hughes’ style, his most angular, cutting edge and intricately art-deco work.
Written by Grant Morrison, this anti-Thatcherite tale of a future gone wrong is definitely not the Dan Dare of old. This is Morrison completely deconstructing the character to both represent an iconic past and to contrast against the story’s bleak landscape and subjugated people. This is a Colonel Dare retired, directionless, tired, disillusioned and seemingly powerless to effect change in the world he no longer recognises.
Dare is brought back by the government, led by the Thatcher-esque Jocelyn Peabody. He may be a washed out ex-hero, but brand Dare still says patriotism, individual strength and a glittering modernist future. But the government’s desire for power eclipses anything Dare can imagine, that, almost inevitably involves Dare’s old nemesis; The Mekon. Britain’s food crisis will be averted by the Mekon’s highly addictive food substitute Manna, but it’s also an aphrodisiac that will lead to mass copulation in the streets and the complete subjugation of the Mekon’s new children. It’s Dare’s final mission and here, unquestionably, The Mekon has won.
Morrison and Hughes’ very down to earth science fiction tale still strikes a chord today, with all it’s political manoeuvrings and obsessions with power above all. The end is as downbeat and final as you could get, with Morrison first humiliating Dare and finally allowing him a last, redemptive, heroic act to thwart The Mekon. It may not be the Dan Dare you half remember, but as an alternative look at an icon of British comics royalty it’s incredibly powerful work.