Tuesday, 24 April 2012
On Dan Dare by Garth Ennis & Gary Erskine
I've done my best to leave no evidence of my tearfulness, but tearfulness there most certainly was. Convincing expressions of decency are so rare in today's adventure fiction. Modesty, restraint, honour, honesty, respect, self-sacrifice; these are untypical qualities in our bad-ass obsessed media, and the simple fact of their presence can entirely defuse a body's cynical defences and well-up the tear-ducts with all the relief of a friendly smile at a moment of weariness. To feel that inarguable decency is being expressed in a way that's neither cloying nor regressive, embarrassing or cack-handedly manipulative, is an incredibly rare experience. To realise that such culturally verboten principles are suddenly being openly discussed is to be reminded that it's not a shameful business to believe in the most fundamental of values, no matter how unspohisticated, conditional, and supposedly naive they are.
And so, 2011's Captain America movie can always reduce me to snuffling when Steve Rogers quietly declares; "I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies. I don't care where they're from". That's my political ideology right there, stripped of cant and the cold-hearted cleverness of spin. It's exactly the same with Ennis and Erskine's 21st century re-invention of Dare Dare, a little-discussed masterpiece of political idealism wrapped up in the big-budget trappings of top-notch military sci-fi. It's a tale which always causes me to repeatedly choke up, and which always leaves me wishing that I didn't feel so fundamentally alienated from the self-serving popularity contest that so often seems to pass as the politics of my own culture. Isn't that what a polemical yarn is supposed to do? Of course, Utopias fit for heroes - let alone the rest of us - are conspicuously absent from human history, which means that any moment in time would most probably inspire the same sense of alienation. But it is inspiring to be reminded that we all could choose to do just a little bit better, at the very least.
Dare Dare by Ennis and Erskine is the subject of current The Year In Politics piece over at Sequart - here - and I hope you might consider popping over and taking a look. There's also something of a respectful if all-too-brief glance back at Dare-creator Frank Hampson's glorious achievements on the strip in the 50s too. I think I've kept the tearfulness out of things over there, but I suspect that there are still traces of eye-dabbing and snuffling to be found. Reader, beware.