Lunar Express

Prossit avatarIts hard to believe that man first set foot on the Moon fifty years ago today. At the time the promise and adventure of space travel, especially for a generation brought up on the sci-fi of the fifties and sixties, seemed to be unfolding into a reality before our very eyes. TV , radio and newspapers all brimmed with enthusiasm for the project , carrying up to the minute reports of the mission’s progress. The Daily Express itself had the largest headline of all the broadsheets proclaiming in huge typeface “ Man steps onto moon”.   The interior contained in-depth articles   dealing with every aspect of the great undertaking, including speculation into the whereabouts of the un-manned Luna15 , which the Soviets had launched at the same time. Regular news stories were pushed to IMG_7249the farther pages where Hawke himself could be found in a story called “The daughter of Eros

Members of the US administration were publicly and confidently predicting that Mars would be reached before the year 2000. Who would have guessed then, amid all the exhilaration of the moment that after 1972 no other human footprint would be made upon the Lunar surface for another half century?

For me the best piece in the Express that morning was the acerbic little pocket cartoon by Osbert Lancaster , which appeared next to the front page headline.   Skipper Prossitt                 IMG_7250

Remembering the first moon landing

IMG_7230By November 1959 my newspaper strip ‘Jeff Hawke” had been appearing in the Daily Express for five years and had settled into a realistic adventure series which was taking its main theme from the rapidly expanding space race developments, picturing what the future might be like in terms of flight systems and exotic missions. The strip which appeared on November 15th 1959 depicted a moonscape at a point in the story ‘Time out of mind’ where the hero and his crew are threatened by an alien entity that can alter time(!) We see the dust-ball that surrounds it drifting before a shard of rock on which a plaque bears the somewhat grandiose inscription.

 

ON AUGUST FOURTH, EARTH YEAR
NINETEEN HUNDRED SIXTY NINE
THE FIRST BEING SET FOOT ON
THE MOON AT THIS POINT…
HIS NAME WAS HOMO SAPIENS

This was before President Kennedy made his bold promise to see an American on the moon by 1969 and by the time the landing became reality and I was illustrating some of the images that the cameras had missed, I had forgotten my prediction from ten years earlier.But a young fellow Scot, Duncan Lunan a budding astronomer and writer contacted the Express to see if their editorial stalwarts had also forgotten.The paper picked up the ball in style and I was given my ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ as Warhol put it, in the company of Patrick Moore and James Burke on television. Burke’s masterly and enthusiastic handling of the occasion put me at my ease and Patrick Moore’s courteous, unshowy eccentricity demonstrated how not to get big headed about it all!
Duncan went on to a notable career in writing and broadcasting on astronomy and historical subjects,space exploration, science fiction (including stories for Jeff Hawke and Lance MacLane as well as erudite and thought provoking articles for Cosmos magazine which William Rudling has published from 2003 until now. Duncan was also instrumental in building an astronomically aligned stone circle in the Glasgow environs-a Scottish Stonehenge!
When I am asked to explain how I was able to get within fifteen days of the actual date of the landing, I tend to fall back on the fact that July the 4th, American independence day, would have been something to aim for in terms of maximum kudos in the battle for supremacy in the space race, showing how, despite their remarkable ‘firsts’, the Russian could’nt make it to the moon with a live crew. So allowing for last minute delays, a fifteen day hold-up would seem acceptable in any guesswork from ten years before. My two years at Miles Aircraft’s Technical School just after the war gave me a fair understanding of aviation engineering and I could see that NASA was building some very convincing hardware by 1959 so ten years ahead seemed ample time to design and construct a lunar lander. But my prophecy of the year 1969? Well I was invoking the old adage that work tends to stretch all the way to the final deadline-and John F Kennedy had set THAT!
When asked at the time to foretell when man would land on Mars, I had already put Jeff Hawke there in ‘Pass the parcel’ and so guessed at sometime in the eighties…Not an auspicious follow up to my minor success! But I have since asked Elon Musk to let me know first if he gets there and I’ll work round that. If only…!!

Sydney Jordan

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Lunar 10 collection

Prossit avatarJeff Hawke club publisher and editor, William Rudling has just informed me that the Jeff Hawke collection LUNAR10 is back in print.The first print run proved so popular that it sold out very rapidly It is the largest publication by the club and contains ten complete stories in a beautifully produced perfect -bound volume.  All  included stories are based  on the theme of our nearest neighbour in space and each story is accompanied by extensive notes written by atronomer and one-time Jeff Hawke script writer Duncan Lunan. Stories iclude:TIME OUT OF MIND, PASTMASTER, MOOSTRUCK,THE DAY THE MOON NEARLY EXPLODED, THE STRANGE SHIP, SELENA,  SHORTY’S SECRET,  HEIR APPARANT, THE DEAR DEAD DAYS  and THE NURSERY.The price is £30 (inc p+p) for the UK and £38 ( inc p+p) for EU members (US postage price on application).If you wish to obtain a copy of Luna 10 please contact William at the email address on our main website.  Skipper Prossitt

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Jeff Hawke club dinner 2019

Prossit avatarThis 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

West Dean college, Sussex
West Dean college, Sussex

 

Sydney at the Cartoon Museum

Prossit avatarIn 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

One of the  examples  of Sydney's early work from the Cartoon Museum  collection
One of the examples of Sydney’s early work from the Cartoon Museum collection

 

 

Skipper Prossit

Prossit avatarThe 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

Prossit takes charge during Chalcedon's  escape from Galactopolis
Prossit takes charge during Chalcedon’s escape from Galactopolis

 

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

Skipper Prossit from OVERLAND  - 1/35 scale model made by one of our club members
Skipper Prossit from OVERLAND – 1/35 scale model made by one of our club members

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The hive mind

Prossit avatarThe 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.                                                                               IMG_5367

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.

Sprague de Camp's 1952 sci-fi novel  dealing with the concept of the hive-mind
Sprague de Camp’s 1952 sci-fi novel dealing with the concept of the hive-mind

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.

Skipper Prossitt

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

 

 

 

Hawke is seized by the strange creatures on the Asteroid surface in THE BEES ON DAEDALUS (1971)
Hawke is seized by the strange creatures on the Asteroid surface in THE BEES ON DAEDALUS (1971)

Hawke and the beckoning fair one

Prossit avatarA 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.

The house at White Edgly  based on the ruined mansion that Sydney happened upon in the Sussex countryside
The house at White Edgly based on the ruined mansion that Sydney happened upon in the Sussex countryside

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

The iconic Sopwith Camel, the rebuilt version of which was to carry Davenant to his doom
The iconic Sopwith Camel, the rebuilt version of which was to carry Davenant to his doom

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 ?

Skipper Prossitt

"The beckoning fair one"  by Oliver Onions, published in 1911
“The beckoning fair one” by Oliver Onions, published in 1911

 

Original Jeff Hawke artwork

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  william@williamrudling.co.uk

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

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