It was recently announced that Titan Comics will be reviving Dan Dare. Whilst the adventures of the pilot of the future have continued in the magazine Space Ship Away, (which only has a very small circulation) and there was also recently an award winning audio drama based on the character. There sadly hasn’t been a mainstream Dan Dare publication for almost 10 years. Its practically a dead brand, so naturally long terms fans are excited at the prospect of a whole new generation being introduced to the character.
I personally have decided to celebrate by looking at what I feel to be the greatest monsters from all of the various versions of Dan Dare throughout the decades. From the hideous Biogs, to the evil super computer Orak, to the bloodthirsty space Vampires to the evil galactic super criminal Xel to the most famous of all Dan’s adversaries, the green skinned, dome headed super genius The Mekon!
An ally of Dan Dare, appearing in the last ever issue of the 2000 AD series. Morag is an alien whose planet was conquered by the shape shifting aliens known as the Krulgans. The Krulgans were once great rivals of the Treens (who were the only species that could detect them) but by the 23rd century all of their power and influence appears to have gone, with the killer of Morag’s husband even working for the Mekon of all people.
Morag makes her introduction when she sends her pet Pterodactyl to murder the Krulgan. Scenes like this are why I love the 2000 AD version of Dan Dare so much. They’re just so wild and crazy almost anything can happen. Dan and Sondar have been chasing the Krulgan for the past 3 issues (as it was he who framed them both) and just when you think they’ve caught up to him suddenly out of nowhere a Pterosaur shows up and snaps neck!
Morag though having inadvertently blundered Dan and Sondars chance to prove their innocence nevertheless agrees to help them bring down the Mekon. Sadly however it was at this point that the series came to an end, due to the Eagle reacquiring the rights to Dan Dare.
I think its one of the biggest wastes in all of comic books that we never found more about Morag. An alien woman who looked like Xena the Warrior Princess and had a pet Pterosaur that ate people at the very least sounds like a really, really fun character. Apparently there were even plans to give her her own spin off series after a short run in Dan Dare.
Sadly again nothing came of it, but personally I hope that we some day find out what happened to Dan, Sondar and Morag. It would be brilliant if we saw her in the revived Titan series.
The main villain from the 50’s classic Rogue Planet. Orak is a gigantic super computer that rules over the Phant race who worship him as a God. Constructed many thousands of years ago, Orak ensures that the Phants and the Crypts are locked in a perpetual war through their food rations, with the Phants food making them more aggressive and the Crypts making them more docile.
Orak obviously doesn’t have much of a personality for Dan to play off of, but still his design is brilliant, one of Hampsons best. Like all of his best monster designs it is powerful and menacing looking, yet at the same time it has an oddly pleasing shape with Hampsons use of striking colours and vivid details making it a fantastic piece of art in its own right.
Orak would later go on to influence characters in both Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who. In the story The Underwater Menace, the false God Amdo is based on Orak, whilst the super computer Orac from Blake’s 7 was obviously based on and named after Orac, though Orac in Blake’s 7 was mostly on the side of the good guys however.
The main villains from the late 50’s story The Phantom Fleet. Now the Phantom Fleet is almost universally regarded as the weakest of the original Dan Dare series by fans. Even Frank Hampson himself hated it.
Personally I think its not a bad story, its still if nothing else enjoyable. Still it definitely is flawed and the Cosmobes probably have the most uninspiring design of any of Hampsons aliens. They are just fish men.
However I have to give them some credit for being among the most dangerous aliens Captain Dan ever faced.
They are shown to have a weapon capable of eating metal, which they use to decimate an entire Treen invasion fleet. This could be seen as one of the first examples of the Worf effect in practice with the Treens who are the most iconic of Dan’s enemies being slaughtered en masse just to show how badass the new villains were.
Dan actually doesn’t manage to defeat the Cosmobes. Its only a blunder with their own weapon that causes their own destruction.
Whilst they may not have been in the best story and their design was quite bland, it cannot be denied that few villains gave Dan as much trouble as these guys so I feel they still deserve a place on this list.
These guys would absolutely thrash the Mekon in a fight.
27/ The Mercurians
Appearing in the third Dan Dare story “Marooned on Mercury” these aliens are peaceful but also somewhat placid too. They are easily conquered by the Mekon and the Treens but eventually Dan is able to convince them to overthrow their reptillian oppressors.
A problem with the Mercurians was that they were in some respects too similar to the Therons who had appeared in the original Dan Dare story Voyage to Venus.
The Therons were similarly a race of peaceful creatures who refuse to fight the Treens, until Dan Dare shames them into taking action against the Treens. The idea of Dan helping a peaceful but useless race of aliens to learn how to fight would also resurface in the Rogue Planet with the Phants and the Crypts.
Still despite this the Mercurians were quite an interesting race all around. They had a bizarre design and I liked the way they were only able to communicate with each other via song too.
Also whilst they were just kind of a retread of the Therons, in some ways I actually preferred them. The Mercurians somewhat refreshingly weren’t that fond of humanity either. The Therons were kind of the standard “thank you wise earth men for teaching us your ways” where as the Mercurians never really trusted humanity and they don’t become our allies afterwards either. Its more of a “get off our planet and keep your war with the Mekon away from us in future” type of agreement they have with humanity. Indeed throughout the story we are left to wonder if they are friend or foe, and in the end they only fight back through their own accord when they realise that the Treens will exterminate them completely.
26/ The Silicon Mass
The Silicon Mass is native to Venus. It lives on the Treens side of the planet in a large molten lake. The Silicon Mass is the most dangerous life form on Venus. Even the Treens are terrified of it. It has no weaknesses and devours anything that comes near it, even spaceships!
The Silicon Mass is an absolutely terrifying villain. You’re never sure just how intelligent it is. In some moments it feels like its on the level of an animal hunting and killing for food, whilst in others there are hints that its perhaps on the level of a human being or a Treen the way it is able to outwit its prey.
The Silicon Mass much like the Daleks in Doctor Who is one of the few genuinely alien life forms in all of science fiction in that there is nothing we can really relate to about it.
Its obviously not human, buts not even like any kind of animal either. Its a sentient, gigantic, well mass of living silicon. I don’t know how it even eats it prey it just seems to envelope them and then they’re gone!
Whilst the Silicon Mass was brilliant creation, ultimately it only ever played a minor role in any of the stories it appeared in. It understandably was a bit limited as it only lived in one lake on Venus.
25/ Princess Myriad
Princess Myriad is a supporting character throughout the “Servant of Evil” story arc in the 2000 AD series.
Myriad is a warrior princess and ruler of the planet Lystria. She and Dan have a very tense relationship at first, but eventually the two grow to respect one another with Dan even declaring that she had more courage than anyone else he ever met.
Myriad for me was quite an interesting character as she was quite an interesting deconstruction of the stereotypical beautiful female alien in Science Fiction.
In shows like Star Trek we are often introduced to a female warrior alien who is alien looking in that she might have green skin or even have a bumpy forehead or something like that, but otherwise she will still presented in a way that’s designed to be appealing to the male audience. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course.
Still what I thought was quite interesting about Myriad was that on paper she sounded like the stereotypical savage alien babe that the earth man eventually “civilises” through this strange earth thing called love.
However in Lydia’s case they thankfully don’t go down that route.
To start with they actually make her quite hideous looking. She has a long thin face with no nose, a tiny little blow hole for a mouth, and big black eyes.
Also she and Dan have a totally platonic relationship throughout. Though they clash at first, eventually the two come to have nothing but the utmost respect for one another based on the sacrifices both are prepared to make in order to bring down the Mekon.
Its just such a shame that we didn’t get to see more of Lydia as sadly the strip ended not long after her introduction and thus her story arc was left unresolved.
Personally I would love to see her return as an ally in the new Titans series.
From the 50’s classic The Reign of the Robots. These robots were created by the Mekon and used by him to conquer the earth (and Venus) in Dan Dare’s ten year absence from the Solar System.
Reign of the Robots is one of my absolute all time favourite Dan Dare stories, and the Elektro/Selektrobots are a big part of that. They help to make the Mekon and the Treens seem even more menacing than usual. At certain points you honestly feel like there is no way can Dan can win against the robots. Here Dan isn’t just fighting lizard men, or fish men, but huge mountains of flying steel!
I also love their designs as well. Their design can almost be seen as a precursor to many of the robotic monsters in Doctor Who including even the Daleks and the Cybermen themselves.
The Selektrobots have the same basic pepperpot shape as the Daleks, with a similar round base, dome shaped head, and long mechanical grip hands.
There are also elements of the Cybermen’s basic design in the Elektrobots look too, whilst they are almost identical in design to these white robots that appear in the classic Patrick Troughton story, The Mind Robber.
Overall Elektro/Selektrobots are the original classic British robots and its a shame that the Mekon didn’t use them more often.
23/ The Dark Lord
The main villain for most of the 2000 AD series. The Dark Lord was the leader of the Starslayer Empire which covered most of the region of the Lost Worlds Galaxy. In some ways he was quite a flat character. He was just a kind of generic evil space emperor. Even his name was a cliche.
Still I did love the Starslayer empire. It was actually the most ambitious story in probably any Dan Dare series. Normally it would be a big deal for Dan to rescue a planet from under the rule of an alien like the earth from The Mekon in Reign of the Robots, but here Dan would have to try and save an entire galaxy.
What was really interesting about The Dark Lord story arc was that the evil aliens looked mostly human whilst the aliens they were persecuting looked monstrous.
Its true that in most sci fi the sympathetic aliens are made to resemble us. The Doctor, Spock, Dan Dare’s own Therons etc whilst the aliens who are more unsympathetic like the Daleks, the Cybermen, Jabba the Hut and The Mekon are obviously more inhuman. Even the Klingons are later give a more monstrous look than say the sympathetic Vulcans.
However once again Dan Dare is able to turn quite an old Sci Fi cliche on its head by making the evil, frightening, alien resemble us in almost every way. The only difference between us and the Dark Lord physically is that his skin is green. Among the aliens he has conquered however and who Dan mus risk his life for are hideous Insectoid aliens.
Overall whilst he wasn’t the most deep villain the Dark Lord did make an effective nemesis for Dare and once again allowed Dan Dare to flip an old Sci Fi trope on its head.
22/ The Phants
Though they only appeared in The Man From Nowhere trilogy, these aliens are undoubtedly among the most iconic of all Dan Dare’s enemies.
The Phants would wage war on the hapless Crypts for sport every few centuries. They would drive them to near extinction after which the few surviving Crypts would escape and go into hibernation for years before returning to their ruined planet to rebuild, only for the vicious cycle to begin all over again when the Crypts would return to invade them.
It is later revealed that the Phants and the Crypts were both influenced by their food supplies, with the Crypts food making them aggressive and violent and the Phants making them placid and harmless.
Its quite an interesting twist that The Phants who seem like the most formidable monsters are really nothing more than mere pawns themselves of the great super computer Orak.
In terms of design they are reasonably interesting. They have a strange mixture of reptillian and mammalian characteristics. Their skin is scaly like a lizards, but at the same time their faces are long and somewhat deer like. They’re almost like some strange creature from Greek mythology the way they are a mix of different creatures and
However it is really the quality of their single appearance in the original Dan Dare series that scores them a place on this list. Sometimes you can get great monsters who were wasted in crap stories, and other times you can get what are fairly bland monsters that happen to be in terrific story.
I wouldn’t say the Phants are bland, but again its really the quality of their story that I think has made them endure as one of the all time most famous monsters from the Dan Dare franchise.
Introduced near the end of the 2000 AD series, the Krulgans are a race of hairy war like creatures who once held a huge influence in the galaxy, though it appears to have vanished by the 23rd century. They also have the power to shapeshift.
The Krulgans are the sworn enemies of the Treens as the Treens were always able to smell them regardless of whatever form they were in.
It is hinted that the Treens won their centuries long conflict and destroyed their empire as one Krulgan is shown to be a servant of the Mekon.
Sadly as the Krulgans only appeared near the end of the 2000 AD series we didn’t really learn much about them and they have never been featured in any of the other Dan Dare reboots over the years.
I think this was a real shame as the Krulgans had real potential. The idea of giving the Treens a rival race is inspired.
I’ve always loved rivalries between alien species whether that’s the Rutans vs the Sontarans, the Narn vs the Centauri, the Klingons vs the Cardassians, or the Daleks vs the Movellans, there is always a lot of scope for some great stories in there.
You can explore what begun the conflict, show the desperation both species are willing to go to to escape the centuries long war, see how third parties might attempt want to take control of the situation for their own benefit (like the Shadows aiding the Centauri against the Narn) or you can even have our heroes be forced to take the side of one warring race not because they are any less evil, just less dangerous, like the Doctor working alongside the Movellans against the Daleks. Finally you can also have one race triumph over the other for a short while like when we saw the Narn get conquered by the Centauri in Babylon 5 or the Movellans be almost brought to the very brink of extinction by the Daleks.
I always loved these types of stories because it was fascinating watching two races start out as equals only for one to fall so miserably. This seemed to be the direction they were going in with the Krulgans as again the only one we see is the Mekons slave.
On top of their potentially fascinating conflict with the Treens, the Krulgans shapeshifting abilities also opens up a lot of interesting story potential. Unlike Dan’s other enemies there was obviously a real sense of paranoia. Its also worth mentioning that the single Krulgan Dan encountered was able to m
I can’t believe that nobody has ever returned to the Krulgans in all the various Dan Dare revivals over the years. Here’s hoping that Titan think of something cool to do with them in their up coming reboot.
20/ Spiders (The Web of Fear)
Now The Web of Fear is often regarded as one of the all time worst Dan Dare stories of the 60’s (though it did inspire a Doctor Who story of the same name many years later.)
Still the Spiders I thought helped to elevate the story somewhat. Their backstory is barely fleshed out, but they were quite an interesting idea, and the artwork from Keith Watson also helps this story to be more enjoyable than its reputation would suggest. The story is in black and white as many early 60’s stories were. I think a lot of the 60’s stories tend to be looked down upon because they are in black and white, and Dan Dare obviously had become famous in the 50’s for its bright and exuberant colours, so understandably many felt this was a step backwards.
Still for this story I think it worked as it helped to generate a suitably spooky atmosphere with the monsters creeping in the dark, which obviously wouldn’t have worked in a 50’s strip.
The Spiders originate from an asteroid that travels through space. They survive by invading other planets, wiping out the native life forms and taking all they can from them.
In a way the Spiders are a retread of the main villains from the second Dan Dare story “The Red Moon Mystery” but still I think they were quite interesting visually and I particularly liked the way their webs were able to ensnare their victims in space. This is an idea that the Doctor Who story of the same name would later utilise when the Great Intelligence traps the TARDIS in a web in space.
The Spiders are also shown to have telepathic abilities which allow them to control people. Though sadly they didn’t really do much with this power in the story itself I do think it was a great twist that the Spiders seemingly had an almost human like intelligence when we initially they appeared to be nothing more than animals.
The Web of Fear is nowhere near as bad as its made out to be. Whilst I still wouldn’t call it a classic it does have a lot of interesting ideas and the Spiders are great antagonists.
Dan’s main ally in taking down the Biogs in the first 2000 AD story. Monday belongs to the 5th generation of humans who have settled on Mars. As a result of this his body has been altered somewhat to survive on the surface of the planet.
Monday was a brilliant character. With a striking design and likable personality, Monday made the perfect ally for Dan Dare. He is presented as being a strong, charismatic leader who will stop at nothing to protect his crew. He can be ruthless, yet is also fair, and though he distrusts Dan at first, eventually the two come to respect each other with Monday later sacrificing himself to save Dan and the rest of the earth.
Mondays death is one of the most moving moments in all of Dan Dare. The cover of his face staring into the sun mere minutes away from death is a truly striking and memorable image.
Whilst Monday’s sacrifice is perfect, at the same time I do think it was a real waste that the authors killed him off. Personally I’ve always thought that Monday, Rok and Doctor Ziggy Rodan would have been better supporting characters for Dan than those he had throughout most of the 2000 AD years, Bear, Gun etc.
18/ The Two of Verath
An enemy of the 2000 AD version of Dan Dare, the Two of Verath was originally two criminals who despised one another, who were subsequently fused together as a punishment.
The Two was an inspired concept. Two sworn enemies forced to spend eternity together, both as different as night and day, with one of the two being a violent savage, and the other being a twisted mad scientist. Despite their animosity however the Two have to rank among Dan’s most dangerous enemies. They commanded an entire planet made up of the worst criminals in the entire Galaxy, and very nearly managed to slay the Mekon too, after the latter had tricked them.
The Two was a brilliant foil for the Mekon. I liked the way that the more intelligent member of the Two is ironically the one who falls for the Mekons trick.
At the same time however I like the way that the Mekon in turn greatly underestimates the Two. The Mekon assumes that as the Two’s minions are criminals, murderers, the absolute worst the universe has to offer, that they will have no real loyalty to the Two and will gladly serve him. However he gets a nasty surprise when the Two return in alliance with Dan Dare and the Mekon discovers that actually all of the criminals are genuinely loyal to the Two after all.
The Mekon discovers much too late that there is honour among thieves after all.
Its sad that the Two like many of the 2000AD characters has been overlooked. Personally I’d love to see him pop up as a sidekick of the Mekon and recurring enemy in his own right in the new Titan series.
17/ The Therons
Arch rivals of the evil Treens. The Therons originate from Venus and are human in appearance. They all have brown skin, and blonde hair.
The Therons are a completely peaceful race, though despite this they were inadvertently responsible for the ascension of the Treens. They evolved on the other side of Venus to the Treens, with the two sections of the planet being separated by a natural flame belt.
The Therons evolved from mammalian like life forms, whilst the Treens evolved from reptiles and Dinosaur like creatures. The Therons built a highly advanced society, whilst the Treens were initially nothing more than savage war like monsters. The Therons would later find a way to cross the flame belt where they attempted to civilise the Treens and help them by supplying the reptile men with pieces of advanced technology.
The Treens played along at first and pretended to be grateful to the Therons, convincing their neighbours that they had honestly changed. Sadly however the Treens would later after mastering the technology granted to them by the Therons, attempt to conquer them and succeed in conquering humanity. Though the Therons managed to drive the Treens off of the Earth, Atlantis, the greatest city on earth was destroyed in the result setting humanity back by thousands of years.
The Therons vowed to never interfere in the affairs of other life forms ever again, but many thousands of years later when the Treens attempt to conquer the earth a second time, Dan is forces the Therons to help him. Following this the Therons would go on to be frequent allies of Space Fleet against the Mekon and other threats such as the Red Moon.
The Therons might seem a bit blander than some of the more colourful monsters in other Dan Dare stories, but they have a very interesting history and made great counterparts to the Treens.
It was a wonderful irony that they had actually created arguably the most dangerous creatures in the entire universe, and it was also I feel quite a nice metaphor perhaps unintentionally for when larger countries attempt to go in and fix the problems of smaller countries, but end up just making everything worse.
The Therons would also go on to influence the Thals in Doctor Who, with the Thals and the Daleks having a similar dynamic to the the Treens and the Therons.
The Therons I feel are often left out of further versions of Dan Dare because they are seen as excessive baggage, but personally I always felt that they helped to flesh Venus and the Treens out more.
16/ Nimbus Aliens
The main villains from Project Nimbus, probably the best of the Frank Bellamy stories. These aliens are Ant men who originate from another galaxy and seek to conquer our solar system.
Their characters are paper thin, and their motive is very unoriginal. In fact they are so under developed, they aren’t even given names!
Still they score so highly on this list because of their spectacular design. Whilst the stories Bellamy worked on are not that highly regarded most critics and fans I think would agree that at his best, his artwork could rival even that of Frank Hampson, and the Ant Men certainly represent some of his best work.
I think they might have worked better as mechanical creatures. We’ve had a few insect or bug aliens in Dan Dare already, and I think they would have been more interesting if it had been left open as to whether or not they were wholly organic or at least part machine as what’s great about their design is that it looks like it could be a robot or an organic life form.
15/ The Atlantines
The Atlantines were the third intelligent race on Venus. The are not native to the planet however. Originally they came from the most advanced society on earth, Atlantis, but the Treens invaded and conquered their city.
Though the Therons did manage to drive the reptillian monsters away from the planet, unfortunately the Atlantines came to view all aliens as hostile and attempted to destroy them. In doing so they set off a Treen weapon left behind which eventually destroyed the entire surface of Atlantis.
The only Atlantine survivors were those the Treens had brought back to Venus who they would keep as their slaves along with their descendants. The Treens would perform horrific experiments on the Atlantines which caused them to develop a number of physical differences to regular humans such as blue skin, and a large bumpy forehead.
The Atlantines are eventually freed from the rule of the Treens by Dan and the earth men, and later become allies of the earth and the Therons.
The Atlantine’s are often jettisoned much like the Therons from future adaptations. Personally though once again I thought they were a brilliant idea.
They really showed us just how cruel the way the Treens and the Mekon were. It was through their cruel treatment of the Atlantines that Frank Hampson was able to make the Treens into the perfect metaphors for both the Nazis and the South African Apartheid regime.
There was also a certain tragic irony to the Atlantines. They had once been part of the greatest civilisation on earth, but thanks to the Treens when Dan first sees them, they are practically on the level of cavemen. They are violent, seemingly barely above animals, wield clubs, and they all live huddled by a fire in deep dark caves. Its a brilliant twist that I would have never seen coming that these people were once the most advanced on earth.
Dan’s sidekick from the early 2000 AD series. Rok is a wolf like alien and a life long fan of Dan Dare who joins him on a mission to find the true mastermind behind the Biog invasion (which is later revealed to be the Mekon.)
Though he has some grissly habits like eating his enemies, what I think made Rok quite interesting was that despite his fearsome appearance he was actually one of the sweetest, nicest and friendliest characters.
Indeed he’s far more sympathetic than the overwhelming majority of Dan’s human allies. Its just a shame that they didn’t use him more often.
13/ Living Axe
A minor villain, but still a fan favourite nonetheless. The Living Axe is great because its just such a crazy idea. Its almost comical at first the way Dan’s axe grows a face and then tries to eat him!
However the fantastic artwork from Massimo Belardinelli actually helps to give the Axe a somewhat frightening and disturbing aspect. The creature looks absolutely disgusting with its thick, bulging vains wrapping themselves around the steel, its a truly bizarre mix of flesh and machine.
The Living Axe I think demonstrated what the 2000 AD series did well in that it was able to bring the most over the top ideas, even more so than the original series to life in a way that could still be quite effective.
A Star Dweller and the main antagonist from 1978 Dan Dare Annual. Solan had a truly spectacular design. Like a weird cross between a Gargoyle and a Treen. Solan was one of the most powerful and dangerous creatures that Dan ever came across.
Solan has incredible mental powers, So much that he is able to build an entire city as well as several creatures and monsters such as the fearsome Scarag. Throughout the adventure Solan works alongside an evil human criminal named Mytax who wants revenge against humanity. The ending of the story sees Solan’s father arrive where it is revealed that Solan is in fact a child.
The ending is lifted straight from the Charlie X episode of Star Trek the original series, and its nowhere near as effective as it either, though the image of the gigantic Star Dwellers flying into space is absolutely striking. Despite the unoriginality of the conclusion to the story I still think that Solan was a great villain who again would have lots of potential in a future Dare series. A god like alien with an unusual friendship with one of the Earth’s worst criminals, who can conjor creatures with his mind, and who looks like a green Angel!
The most recurring character in the entire Dan Dare franchise after Dan and the Mekon themselves. Sondar has appeared in almost every iteration of Dan Dare.
Sondar is a Treen who stops suppressing his emotions after a near fatal encounter with the Silicon Mass which causes him to experience fear for the first time.
After this Sondar begins to question the Mekon’s orders and later helps Dan to bring down his regime. Sondar would later go on to aid Dan in future battles against the Mekon and other threats.
Sondar would be the only major supporting character from the 50’s, aside from Digby and the Mekon to appear throughout the 1960’s. He would also be the only character from the original series other than the Mekon and Dan himself to appear in the 70s series where it was revealed that he had somehow managed to survive for over 200 years. Sadly however the strip was cancelled before we could find out exactly how Sondar had survived or indeed how he and Dan hoped to bring down the Mekon who had framed them.
Sondar was a great character who in many ways was quite ahead of his time. The idea of having a more cold, logical, alien member of the crew that didn’t understand human emotions would obviously be something that would be replicated in many subsequent sci fi series, such as most notably Spock in Star Trek.
The idea of an alien from a malevolent race overcoming their naturally ruthless nature and then being rejected by its own kind as a freak is also something we have seen pop up across various other classic sci fi series such as Rusty the Dalek and Strax the Sontaran from Doctor Who or 7 of 9 from Star Trek.
I also felt that Sondar helped to make the series less black and white from the beginning as it showed us that unlike say the Daleks that the Treens weren’t all naturally evil. Most of them had simply been raised on evil beliefs, and if exposed to new ideas they could change.
This of course just made the Mekon all the more twisted at the same time as it showed how he chose to be the way he was after all.
10/ Carnivorous Sand
Sadly I can’t find a picture of this character online so I’ll just post a real sand storm.
Yes you read that right. In an issue of the 2000 AD series Dan goes to investigate what happened to an earth colony on an uninhabited planet that completely vanished.
He discovers that the sand on the planet is alive, and that it eats flesh! Many of Dan’s own team are stripped to the bone by the carnivorous sandstorms, but Dan is ultimately able to escape the planet by using his ship to affect the atmosphere of the planet to the point where it rains which destroys the sand.
What makes the flesh eating Sand so scary is that unlike the Mekon or Xel its obviously not something that you can fight. Its literally a force of nature and once its cornered you, you’re gone. Its a truly frightening moment when Dan realises that basically what he is standing on and everything around him is a predator.
The images of the monster ripping its victims flesh from their bones and eating it in front of them are without doubt among the most gruesome and horrific in the entire 2000 AD series.
One notable thing about this monster was that it inspired a later episode of Blake’s 7 by acclaimed sci fi and fantasy author Tanith Lee called Sand. Sand has almost the exact same premise as this story, involving members of a colony vanishing on a seemingly uninhabited world only for our heroes to discover that it is because the sand on the planet is alive and has eaten the colonists. Avon even escapes the Sand monster using the same trick as Dan of making it rain.
The main monster from The Last of the Golden Ones trilogy. This is one of my absolute all time favourite Dan Dare stories. It marks the end of the Lost Worlds story arc and sees the death of all of the 70’s era supporting characters. Though I never cared much for characters like Bear it still was shocking to see them die so suddenly and pointlessly. In a way it kind of reminds me of the ending of Blake’s 7.
Its an even greater irony that the alien that causes their deaths Moebius is actually not even remotely evil. Moebius once belonged to a race of aliens called the Golden Ones who wanted to explore the universe. The crew however were all killed by a space plague, but Moebius who was the last of them to die, was able to download his mind into the ships computer where he would continue to pilot the vessel, exploring the universe on his own for centuries.
Unfortunately the ship soon began to take on a mind of its own and began to conquer and destroy other worlds, and snatch spaceships .
Moebius’ mind was unable to overrun the ships, and there was no crew left to fix it.
The ship ends up snatching Dan’s space craft. There Dan and his men are forced to deal with the descendants of the others who have been captured, and who have since degenerated into brutal savages.
They build up the true mastermind behind the vessel to the point where you think its going to be the ultimate monster Dan has ever faced, and then in a brilliant twist it turns out to be the good guy who has brought Dan here so that he can help him destroy the vessel. Sadly whilst Dan is successful, none of his men are able to escape the ship in time, whilst Dan himself barely manages to escape and is left drifting, near death alone in space until he is discovered by the Mekon (poor guy can’t catch a break.)
Again its a brilliant irony that the one alien that was finally able to bring down Dan’s crew after all they had been through and arguably come closest to killing Dan himself was one of the most benevolent they ever faced who simply wanted them to help him save countless other worlds.
Again sadly I couldn’t find an actual picture of this character online so this will have to do.
From the 2000AD series, Signa is a gigantic squid over several thousand feet long. It comes from a race who lived in the vaccum of space who were believed to be nothing more than a legend by the people of earth.
Though possessing great power, Signa led a terribly lonely life. Later when he became marooned on an Ice planet, Signa goes to great lengths to lure Dan and his team down to where he is trapped simply so that he can finally have some company before he dies.
Its quite a good twist that Signa despite being one of the most powerful and dangerous of all Dan’s enemies is actually the most pitiful and helpless.
You can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him, as ultimately all he wants is just for there to be someone there by his side when he finally dies having never had anyone who ever even remotely cared for him throughout his entire life.
Of course your sympathy can only go too far as Signa is more than prepared to sacrifice Dan and his team in order to simply make his last moments tolerable as when he dies, they die.
Still Signa is arguably the most tragic character in the entire history of Dan Dare.
7/ Dan Dare’s Eagles
From the 1980’s series. Dan Dare’s Eagles were a team of aliens and mutants whose job was to help him track down the Mekon and deal with other threats across the galaxy.
They consisted of communications officer Velvet O’Neil who though appearing human, was later revealed to be half alien, specifically a Scouran, she had the ability to change shape every seven years (and would appear in 3 different forms throughout the series.) Tremloc a mutant Treen with blue skin and a former criminal. Apsilon Stelth an ex Paladin Knight, and Bounty Hunter who is dying of a terminal disease, and finally the only human member of the crew Andy Zapper Lawrence who had been flung forward in time from the 20th century.
The team were something of a mix of Dan’s allies and team mates from both the 50’s series and the 2000 AD series. Scouran obviously was something of an expy for Professor Peabody, whilst Zapper was in turn an expy for Flamer, Dan’s teenage sidekick from the 50’s, and finally Tremloc bares many obvious similarities to Sondar.
At the same time however Tremlocs criminal past, and Apsilon’s status as a bounty hunter obviously owes more to Dan’s allies like Bear from the 2000 AD series who were similarly criminals and murderers.
Whilst not the most original idea, I still really enjoyed the team. They were great allies for Dare as they were a much more varied lot compared to his previous teams. In the 50’s all of Dan’s allies had been fine upstanding members of society, whilst in the 70’s they were all criminals, but among the Eagles we had a hardened, brutal criminal, an enthusiastic young computer genius, a half human/ half alien who had never really fitted in anywhere and finally someone at the end of their life, desperate for one last thrill.
They were a very unlikely group to put together to say the least and that’s why in some ways for me at least they were Dan’s most interesting group of allies.
Dan’s archenemy in the 1960’s. Xel was a criminal from another galaxy who was accidentally brought to our solar system by Dan himself when Xel stowed away on board his space ship. Xel would go on to become Dan’s main recurring adversary throughout the 60’s apart from the Mekon himself.
Xel was a very different type of enemy to the Mekon. Where as the Mekon was a cerebral character who relied solely on his brains, and was (most of the time at least) a more logical and cold villains, Xel was a savage, brutish, war like character who relied more on his sheer strength and power.
Thus Xel could be a more direct foe to Dan, and actually take him on in one on one fights unlike the Mekon who always had to work through his enemies.
Another great thing about Xel was that Dan was completely responsible for the havoc he wreaked on our solar system, as he brought him here.
Whilst Xel to this day remains one of the most iconic and beloved Dan Dare villains, sadly except for a tiny cameo in the 2000 AD series, Xel has not appeared in any of the mainstream Dan Dare revivals.
Here’s hoping he turns up in the Titans Comics series.
5/ The Biogs
The first villains the 2000 AD version of Dan Dare ever faced. The Biogs are hideous race of mutants whose technology is grown from living tissue. They travel the universe searching for other organic life forms that they can convert into their fuel. In a way they are kind of like an organic version of the Cybermen or the Borg the way they assimilate other races into their own.
The Biogs whilst a fascinating idea only score so highly on this list because of their absolutely spectacular design by Massimo Belardinilli. The Biogs are just a mass of flesh, slime and tentacles desperate to consume everything near to them.
The Biogs definitely helped to establish the 2000 AD version of Dan Dare as being a much darker and in some ways more frightening take on Dan Dare than anything that had come before.
From the Lost Worlds story arc. The Vampires are a race of bloodsucking monsters who lure Dan and his men down to their planet (which only has one continent shaped like a heart.)
They pretend to be a friendly and peaceful people at first, but later Dan discovers the awful truth when two of his mean are lured away and killed by having their hearts torn out!
From the start I knew the aliens were really evil, simply because if they weren’t then there wouldn’t be any story, but I honestly would never have guessed that they were Vampires. Its a fantastic and absolutely terrifying twist when Dan finds out what they are and realises that all of his men are trapped unarmed and helpless with the Vampires ready to tear them to shreds.
The artwork for the creatures when they suddenly morph into red skinned, fanged, bestial monsters is fantastic, in fact I’d say that its Dave Gibbons, who drew most of the 2000 AD stories’ best work on the series.
To me the Vampires are without doubt the most frightening monsters in the entire Dan Dare franchise.
3/ The Red Moon Aliens
From the second ever Dan Dare story. The Red Moon Aliens are gigantic insect like creatures who have destroyed countless worlds across the universe simply to survive.
Originally their planet began to drift away from their sun and the beasts were forced to live underground in order to survive. They soon degenerated into hideous beasts who were forced to raid other planets in order to gain the food and resources from them. The creatures would first conquer the native life forms, take whatever they could from them, and then when they were of no further use, completely and utterly destroy them before moving on again.
By far and away one of the most interesting concepts in all of Dan Dare. Though their design isn’t anything particularly special. Its not bad, but it is just kind of a generic big bug. Its the idea behind them that’s so fascinating that on the one hand they are utter monsters, having destroyed billions of worlds across the universe, yet on the other they are also victims themselves having only ended up the way they are because of the tragic circumstances that befell them.
Also I love the way that there’s no easy way out for Dan when facing these aliens. Even when he has diverted them away from earth he still decides to wipe their species out as ultimately he realises that he can’t let them go back into the universe as they will continue to destroy billions more worlds.
Thus in order to save countless lives Dan is forced to carry out genocide.
The aliens recently appeared in the award winning Big Finish audio Dan Dare series. This version gave the monsters a Queen figure that Dan could play off of. Sadly however whilst the adaptation of the Red Moon Mystery was excellent in the end it simply had Dan imprison the monsters rather than wipe them out which I think took away from how dangerous they were in the original story.
Before these monsters felt so unstoppable that Dan of all people was forced to do something utterly heinous to stop them, but here sadly it seems the writers just took the easy way out and had Dan stop them in a way that kept his hands clean.
Still overall both the audio adaptation and the original story are absolute classics. Its worth noting that the Red Moon Aliens were a big influence on the Cybermen from Doctor Who. Kit Pedler, the co-creator of the Cybermen was admittadly a huge fan of Dan Dare, and the Cybermen’s origins are very similar to the Red Moon Aliens.
The Cybermen were originally organic humanoid life forms from Earth’s Twin Planet Mondas. When Mondas drifted away from our solar system however, the Mondasians in order to survive slowly replaced all of their organic components with machine parts until they became the Cybermen. The Cybermen would then in order to survive invade other planets and Cyber convert other races into members of their own kind.
The Cybermen’s first story The Tenth Planet was in turn very heavily inspired by the Red Moon Mystery too.
2/ The Treens
The main alien race of the Dan Dare franchise. The Treens have appeared in every single version of Dan Dare to date.
The Treens originate from Venus. They evolved from reptiles and were originally a primitive and war like race, but when their neighbours, the peaceful and advanced Therons visited them, the Treens were able to steal their technology and become a highly advanced race in their own right.
The Treens would later suppress their emotions and become a totally ruthless race of conquerors desperate to subjugate all other life forms in the Galaxy.
The Treens would even succeed in conquering the earth a few times too.
Despite their status as the main villains of Dan Dare however, not all Treens were shown to be evil. Sondar was one of Dan’s closest allies, and many of the other Treens were only shown to serve their vile leader, the Mekon under duress.
The Treens are among the most important aliens in all of sci fi. Really I’d argue that they were second only to the Martians from H.G Wells War of The Worlds.
Whilst Wells’ Martians laid down the template for the classic alien invaders, the Treens marked the first time we really saw a fully fleshed out evil alien culture and society. Before the Treens most, though not all invading aliens were simply monsters, whilst with the Treens we saw how their society worked, their full history, and were taken deep into how their twisted minds worked. They also marked one of the first instances of aliens being based on the Nazis too. Frank Hampson openly admitted to this and following the Treens we would obviously see many more examples of aliens and monsters being based on the Third Reich too such as the Daleks from Doctor Who and the Empire from Star Wars.
Whilst the Treens may be overlooked by modern audiences personally I’d say they were every bit as well realised as many other classic alien races in big sci fi franchises such as the Klingons and the Cybermen.
1/ The Mekon
Well who else would it be? The Mekon is the leader of the Treens and Dan Dares archenemy.
The Mekon has entered into popular culture in a way few other villains have. With his popularity at times even exceeding that of Dan Dare himself.
The Mekon was created by the Treens to lead them. There have in fact been several Mekons created through the centuries, but the latest is the only one we ever see.
The Mekon like the rest of the Treens is said to be utterly emotionless, but over the decades he develops a very personal hatred of Dan Dare to the point where he sometimes is even willing to sabotage his own plans just to make Dan pay.
The Mekon has appeared in every single version of Dan Dare to date with it being conformed that he will be appearing in the Titan comics version. Ironically his characterisation has remained far more consistent than even Dan’s himself over the decades.
An enormously influential character (with Davros from Doctor Who having been inspired both visually and in terms of characterisation by the Mekon.) The Mekon is not only the greatest Dan Dare villain, but one of the greatest sci fi and comic book villains of all time too.
Thanks for reading.