“Hi, I’m Jocelyn. Fly me!” It’s funny, but a couple of months back, a cover for Titan Comics’ Lost Fleet publication made me think it was their long promised Dan Dare revival. Obviously it wasn’t, but now the new Daniel is on the doorstep it doesn’t have the air of McGregor Dare.
It is entirely possible that I am too invested in the original, but with recent previews I hadn’t twigged who the gun-toting lass on the right is supposed to be. Crap! They’ve turned Professor Peabody into a stewardess!
Professor Jocelyn Mabel Peabody made her debut early in Dare’s adventures, joining the gang on a flight to Venus to hunt out new food sources and save a starving Earth. (Eagle, issue 5, May 1950 if you are counting.) She’s a bit of a swot, a geologist, botanist, agriculturalist and space pilot - and she isn’t taking any nonsense from the men.
Bear in mind, Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future might have been set in 1990 but this was a boys comic in 1950s Britain. The lead feature suddenly gained a female character who was smarter than the guys, joined them in the line of fire (or belts of fire in Sir Hubert Guest’s case) and frequently came up with the solution that defeated The Mekon or distracted The Red Moon away from Earth.
But Peabody was a mainstay of of the comic throughout the electric years that characterised the decade of the Fifties. I’m never sure if it is fair to describe her as a love interest for Dan. When it came to taking a break, she seemed to prefer the company of Lex O’Malley. All the nice girls love a sailor, I suppose? (Sir Hubert was on hand to chaperone.) That holiday was a prelude to Dare’s second jaunt into interstellar space and Peabody was on hand for the voyage to Terra Nova.
Coincidently, the character of Peabody was originally modeled on Greta Tomlinson, one of the artists employed to create the Dan Dare strip. She was part of the team for three years before moving to Iran with her husband, a BP engineer. Greta apparently remains an active painter.
Peabody ceased to appear on a regular basis during the Sixties, I would argue to the detriment of the strip. But those were strange days for The Eagle and Dan Dare. One of the last Dare yarns has the Prof married to a miner on Jupiter. Not long after it was all reprints.
There are some strange asides that follow. In Dare, originally produced for Revolver by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes, Peabody is dead, possibly by her own hand, maybe murder. She is absent from the 2000ad fever dream version of Dan Dare, but that is to be expected. Eagle was revived during the Eighties, with the great-great-grandson of Dan Dare as its hero. No Peabody but they did eventually add a Digby to the mix. Dan Jnr was kicked out during the Maxwell years, in favour of original Dan who was soon joined by Peabody - except they both got an Alien-style makeover. The Prof is more Ripley in this version. The strip is less setting out its own ground in this run than copying other things that were popular at the time. Some nice artwork by David Pugh, John Ridgway, Ian Kennedy and Keith Watson to be found if you ever fish these issues out.
Peabody did get engaged to Dan during that run, just in time for The Eagle to be cancelled (again). Having a publisher in the frame for gunrunning probably didn’t help either. She resurfaced with a rather shrill Dan in 2002 CGI tv show which is everything you might expect from a CGI show. It improves as it goes along but they didn’t make anymore, so it is kind of moot.
Come 2007, we see a more dignified if maudlin version of Prof Peabody who is now Home Secretary in the Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine Virgin Comics series. However, she is a bit of a backseat driver in this one.
So, I greet this new version of Peabody with some trepidation. Hopefully she won’t just be some gun-toting totty with an angry grin. Guess we will find out soon.