This year the Jeff Hawke club will once again hold its annual meeting and dinner at West Dean college in Sussex. It will be held from 24th to 26th September. Set in beautiful grounds , West Dean is a grand country house which now functions as a college and place of learning , but still retains an ambience of its Victorian grandeur. Sydney Jordan, creator of JEFF HAWKE will be there as will editor and publisher of the complete Jeff Hawke series in English , William Rudling. If you would like to attend this year to meet Sydney and other members of the Jeff Hawke club, contact William at the email address on this website. Skipper Prossitt
In 2017 , as part of their development of the COMIC CREATORS PROJECT, the CARTOON MUSEUM acquired a batch of original artwork and comic strips from the Bayly-Souster group, for whom Sydney worked when he first came to London ( see: The Butterfly effect in Fleet Street – on this blog 20 Dec 2015).
The collection includes many early pieces by Sydney including DICK HERCULES , HAL STARR and much other early work from the early fifties. An extensive interview was given by Sydney to Richard Crouch from the CARTOON MUSEUM ( available at comiccreatorsuk.wordpress.com) which provides some interesting insights about the early career of Hawke’s creator. Skipper Prossitt
The mysterious Prossit, described by the outlaw Phfoofph as “the best tramp skipper on all the spaceways” first appears in COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE as an ally of Chalcedon who aids his escape from trial in Galactopolis in her battered old ship, the Quantum. She is deft and quick -thinking and does not suffer fools gladly . She proves a match for Chalcedon himself in both guile and her knowledge of all the loopholes in Galactic law. Although human in appearance she is clearly extra-terrestrial in origin, being by her own admission at least 160 years old. She seems to have lived the life of a space pirate for many years , originally with her husband, until he was caught and executed a century ago.At the end of COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE she and Chalcedon make their escape in Kolvorok’s commandeered scoutship, and she does not re-appear until OVERLAND, her second and final appearance in the
Hawke series. In OVERLAND everything has changed in the power politics of the Galaxy. Chalcedon is now head of the Galactic police and Prossit is hiding Kolvorok who is now a fugitive from justice. Again she is portrayed as resourseful and clever, writing the speeches that Kolvorok will broadcast to the Galaxy, to stir up support against the Chalcedon regime. The plans goes awry but Prossit makes her escape and avoids falling into enemy hands. She shows up again, this time in Chalcedon’s flagship, just in time to rescue Hawke , Mac and Kolvorok from a freezing fate and persuades the judge to set them free. Skipper Prossitt
The BEES ON DAEDALUS is unusual in the Hawke canon for its almost mythic quality, somewhat analogous to the medieval romance where the hero rescues the besieged queen, marries her and frees her people – although in Hawke’s case as an unwitting protagonist. Hawke is stranded on an Asteroid that is honeycombed with inumerable cells and populated by a race of creatures, who , although humanoid , live as a population of insects , in a colony where the individual is of no account and where consciousness only manifests itself as a collective entity. The colony comprises female workers and a queen who alone is capable of independent thought. The colony can be regarded as one entity and the workers seen as mere extentions of the queen’s will.Hers is the guiding consciousness of the entire hive. Presumably there are also drones elsewhere, but we do not meet them.
The idea of the hive-mind has been used by many sci-fi writers since HG Wells first penned EMPIRE OF THE ANTS, a short story published in 1905, in which a Portugeuse captain is sent on a mission up the Amazon river to investigate the ravages of an ant colony which has acquired a collective intelligence and which is destroying human settlements along the river. The portrayal of the hive mind has almost always been seen as an abhorrent thing, opposed to the basic values of Human individuality, and its guiding consciousness as an evil to be removed. An interesting work in this regard is Frank Herbert’s HELLSTROM’S HIVE (1973), a truly horrifying study, in which the hive society is compared to the human and in which the hive has its own very disturbing moralities but which make a chilling sense in their own terms. Closer to Sydney’s story is Sprague de Camp’s ROGUE QUEEN (1952) in which an expedition from Earth lands on the planet Ormazd where the dominant humanoid species live in hive societies under the iron control of a fertile queen. The main population, as in THE BEES ON DAEDALUS comprise infertile females and a group of drones who service the queen. Its main protagonist is one such female called Iroedh who is pursued by the hive after trying to free one of the hive drones who has been sentenced to death . Forced in her exile to eat meat , which the hive teaches is poison to all females except the queen, she discovers instead that not only does it do her no harm , but brings about her own sexual maturity. She thus becomes a rival to the hive queen, and the dissemination of this knowledge , which allows drones and females to be paired , causes the collapse of the hive system.
Sexual relations are also the catalyst for change in BEES ON DAEDELUS , but in this case it is the introduction of Hawke’s DNA into the mix which will eventually free the “bees” by giving their descendents the ability to think and act autonomously. The queen in THE BEES ON DAEDALUS , unlike that in ROGUE QUEEN is portrayed sympathetically, not as a tyrant but rather as a mother trying to free her children from their enslavement by an un-named alien race who has hitherto held them in thrall.
The full story of THE BEES ON DAEDALUS can be found in JEFF HAWKE COSMOS Vol6 No3, and is available to buy from the JEFF HAWKE CLUB
A literary genre which has always held a fascination and interest for Sydney has been the ghost story, particularly those dating from what might be considered its Golden Age ; that is the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. During a recent conversation on this subject , Sydney brought to mind a host of authors from this period in which most of the modern tropes for the genre were established. One need think only of the terrifying banality of the phantom protagonists of “The turn of the screw” or the subtle interweaving of memory and lost love in James joyce’s short story masterpiece ‘The Dead” to see this high- watermark of the ghost story.
Among those who Sydney cites as an influence on his own creativity are the works of M.R.James and an Edwardian novella “ The beckoning fair one” by Oliver Onions, now forgotten, but in its day a best-selling work.
The one story in the Hawke series that may be said to truly conform to the structure of the classic ghost story is “Ghost Errant” in which a spectral squadron of Sopwith Camels appear in the English skies.
Sydney’s recollection is that the very germ of the story came to him back in the sixties when he was touring the Sussex countryside looking for a suitable property to buy for his young family. He describes that while driving he came upon a large house, once grand but now fallen into ruin and disrepair. Keen to investigate further, he entered the building to explore its crumbling interior. He described the house as being heavy with its own memories , and the feelings evoked brought to mind “The beckoning fair one”, and this elision formed what was to become GHOST ERRANT.
In both stories, the central feature is a house that contains a presence that seeks for a lost love. In “The beckoning fair one” the protagonist Paul Oleron rents an old disused property in order to complete a novel that he has been writing for many years. He gradually becomes more reclusive as the house exerts its baleful influence upon him and we discover eventually that a ghostly female presence lurks there , desperate to entrap the occupant as a replacement for a long lost love. We learn that the previous tenant, an artist was found starved to death in the house, a previous victim of the spectral presence. Oleron becomes increasingly detached from the world as the jealous succubus claims him for herself . Although he does not die in the house , he becomes deranged by the spirit and commits murder for which he is bound to be hanged.
In GHOST ERRANT the presence seeking her lost love is more benign, taking the form of an elderly lady Mrs Millyard ,who after more than forty years still mourns for her husband , a pilot killed in the great war. Hawke himself is more of a witness or bystander in this story, the main protagonist being Andrew Davenant , a pilot friend who first alerts Hawke to the ghostly squadron of Sopwith camels that he has observed while flying his light aircraft. Oleron in Onions’ novella is continually drawn back to the old house by the possessions of his ghostly lover that he discovers, like the harp in the window box; Davenant is continually drawn back to the house at White Edgley , firstly by the ghostly biplanes and then by the revelation that she has the remains of her husband’ s machine which he and Hawke set out to have rebuilt. In both cases the protagonists are willingly drawn into a web from which the only outcome will be their doom.
Both the ghostly female presence in “Fair one” and Mrs Millyard have a desire to bring back their lost love
and in both cases the outcome is fatal. Oleron becomes a deranged madman facing a death sentence whereas Davenant cheerfully follows his own inexorable fate by flying the re-built bi-plane and suffering the same disaster as its original pilot – a fatal crash which somehow gives the old lady a closure and a peace of mind. Sydney and Willie Patterson subtley reworked this story but created the sympathetic presence of mrs Millward rather than the malign phantom in “Fair one” . This gives GHOST ERRANT a new dynamic, an atmosphere of bitter sweet nostalgia rather than the sickly claustrophobic ambience of “Fair One”. In the Hawke story, despite the fatal outcome, the reader’s s sympathy for the lady is evoked. The quote from Milton uttered by Hawke in the strip , is from LYSIDAS, an elegy for a friend , Edward King, a poet and writer, cut off before achieving his full potential. Was this Sydney’s nod to Oleron , also a writer cut off before his great work was complete ?
The Jeff Hawke club Has recently acquired a small collection of original JH artwork, comprising contiguous strips from the story POLTERGIEST, drawn in 1968 when Sydney and Willie Patterson’s creative collaboration was at its apogee, in what is regarded generally as the strip’s golden age. It shows Sydney’s creativity at its height. Each board is signed by Sydney
If you are interested in acquiring any of this superb artwork please contact our editor at email@example.com
There are currently only seven strips left for sale from this rare collection and all profits from sales will go to Sydney himself. Skipper Prossitt
The story Rip van Haddow, about a Canadian flyer who finds a strange portal into another world after crash-landing in the Rockies, first appeared in April 1963 , but the seeds of this story go back to the days of Sydney’s youth in Scotland. Sydney and his childhood, friend Willie Patterson, although from relatively poor backgrounds were united in their fascination with books and the new worlds of possibility that they opened up. According to Sydney they would discuss together subjects as varied as science, literature and art and these mutual interests bound their friendship ever closer. On one of the many walks they took together in their hometown of Perth, they encountered a young man with whom they fell into conversation. He was of similar age to themselves but from an entirely different background being from one of the local “landed families”. Sydney recalls him as “extraordinary”, having many interests similar to their own but viewing everything through a very unique prism, due to his somewhat eccentric personality. Sydney remembers that “ he hinted at another world beyond our social register” and opened up to them the possibility of subtle worlds , beyond the visible and quotidian. This unique encounter remained with them and its memory was to serve as the basis of the later story. The young man’ s name was – Haddow.
Sydney celebrated a significant birthday at the Jeff Hawke club weekend st West Dean college in Sussex last month (Sept ’18). A special Jeff Hawke themed birthday cake was presented to him by the club at the end of the dinner.
The annual Jeff Hawke weekend was held this year at West Dean college in west Sussex . West Dean is an atmospheric stately home , which was opened as a centre for the study of arts and crafts in 1971. The college , with its numerous buildings and annexes offers a variety of degree and post-graduate courses, while still retaining its stately home feel. The walls are adorned with ancient weaponry and portraits , animal trophies and cases of stuffed birds – all the accoutrements of a nineteenth century grand house. The club had its annual meeting in these atmospheric surroundings and a dinner to celebrate Sydney’s 90th birthday. We were so impressed by West Dean that we have decided to hold next year’s meeting in the same venue. If you would be interested in joining us in 2019 then contact William Rudling for details.
As well as his expertise in space technology Hawke also has an obvious passion for the motor car and drives a variety of vehicles throughout the strip. He shares this passion with his creator ; Sydney himself has had a lifelong interest in applied engineering , appreciating that marriage of functionality and aesthetic design so obviously manifest in classics like the Mk1 Spitfire and various models of the Porsche motor car , a version of which, the 356, he owned in the 1960‘s at the height of the strip’s fame. Hawke shares this love of speed and Sydney’s depiction of the future that we see in Hawke, includes wide, and relatively uncongested motorways including a version of what was in reality later to be the M4 but extending down into Devon and Cornwall, doubtless to serve the Dartmoor Space HQ. There is a speed limit in force , as Mac and his companion discover to their cost during the motorway chase sequence in “The helping hand”, when the crash occurs at 300mph! But the legal limit seems high , more like the German autobahn than that the modern British motorway as Hawke happily speeds along at 150mph in “The Gamesman”.
Hawke himself drives a variety of sixties style sports cars in the strips, which Sydney describes as amalgams of the Ferraris and Maseratis of the time and an attempt to extrapolate what they might later evolve into , but his Turbodyne, which is an entirely futuristic vehicle first appears in “ Council for the defense” . It is a very sleek and aerodynamic vehicle with a fin at the rear rather than a spoiler bar which Sydney describes as “a nod to Donald Campbell’s bluebird” , with which it appears to have much in common. The turbodyne appears once again in “ The Gamesman” as mentioned above, but when a tyre bursts at speed the car careers off the road to a certain destruction , which is only avoided by instantaneous transition into an alien dimension! Thereafter the components from its wreck are used to make a means to escape.
In subsequent stories Hawke reverts to his sixties style sports cars. Skipper Prossitt