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Hampson, Frank

Entry updated 5 December 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1918-1985) UK artist who almost singlehandedly brought the UK Comic strip into the scientific age. When the Reverend Marcus Morris and Frank Hampson originated the Eagle comic in 1949-1950, Hampson created the sf strip Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future for its full-colour front pages. While ostensibly designed to foster Christian values, what made the strip so revolutionary was Hampson's genius for colour, draughtsmanship and characterization, and his ability to create authentic-seeming future Technology. He brought the comic strip closer to the Cinema than any other UK artist before him, with panoramas, close-ups and a great feeling for movement and sequence. Together with a team of artists, scriptwriters and scientific advisers, Hampson controlled the cult spaceman on his adventures across the solar system until he abandoned the strip in 1959. Other artists then continued his adventures until the series ended in 1969; since then the character has been periodically revived in new comic strips, Videogames, and Television series, and a film adaptation was announced in 2010 though this remains unreleased. In addition to the compilations listed below, large numbers of Hampson's Dan Dare strips have been republished in numerous volumes from Hawk Books and Titan Books.

Dan Dare's arch-enemy The Mekon of Mekonta, the huge-brained Little Green Man with an atrophied body who rules the Treens of northern Venus, has become an Icon in his own right, appearing in transparent disguise as the PUKON (with attendant Treens) in the sf daydreams of Nigel Molesworth as recorded by Geoffrey Willans, and giving his name to the long-running pop group The Mekons (1977-current).

Hampson's activities after creating and drawing Dan Dare were less fruitful: he first drew an impressive life of Christ in comic-strip form, The Road of Courage (1959-1960; graph 1981), but a legal dispute brought his relationship with the publishers of the Eagle to a contentious end, and apart from a short stint on Lady Penelope for TV21 in 1964, he did no further work on comic strips. Indeed, dogged by ill health and embittered by the actions of Eagle's publishers, he produced very little published work at all after this, though he illustrated seven books for very young children for the publisher Ladybird Books and produced two sf spreads for Marvel Comics's British Spider-Man title in 1976. He received the Italian Yellow Kid award in 1975. [ABP/RT/GW/DRL]

Frank Hampson

born Audenshaw, Manchester, England: 21 December 1918

died Epsom, Surrey: 8 July 1985

works (selected)

about the artist

  • Alastair Crompton. The Man Who Drew Tomorrow (Bournemouth, Dorset: Who Dares Publishing, 1985) [nonfiction: an apparent subtitle, How Frank Hampson Created Dan Dare, the World's Best Comic Strip, appears only on title page: hb/Frank Hampson image plus photograph]


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