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British comics grew out of “boys papers,” a mélange of juvenile comic strips and action adventure stories aimed at children, not their parents, that came out weekly on cheap newsprint. Take the British Dennis the Menace, for instance, about a dark-haired troublemaker who causes chaos wherever he goes, whom children are expected to sympathize with; the American comic of the same name, in contrast, is about the perils of parenthood, drawn by a sophisticated gag cartoonist for parents, at least originally. Dan Dare and Roy of the Rovers come from children’s comics, too, but both appeal beyond their intended audiences: They have complicated lead characters, striking artwork, and stories that will resonate with older Americans raised on diets of science fiction and sports. Dare is a colonel in the British space fleet who first appeared in 1950. Unlike his contemporary, Flash Gordon, he is not a loose cannon, but rather a soldier under orders who is responsible for his men. The stories aren’t exactly nonstop action—the characters sometimes take lunch breaks (with milk from live cows carried on the spaceship)—but they move along briskly. The book opens with a vacationing Dare and friends on a photo safari on Venus, but they soon find themselves piloting a prototype rocket in search of a long lost ship and encountering a Bronze Age civilization straight out of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The strip is classic high space opera, and each two-page strip is a beauty. The artwork, by a variety of hands, is in the bright, sunny style of the early days of the space race, when it was still possible to have picnics on Venus and be menaced by giant ants. And yet every attempt to introduce Dare outside the U.K. failed, writes comics historian Richard Sheaf in his introductory essay, “Dan Dare Abroad.” At home, though, the commander’s of sufficient stature that this is the 12th volume of Dan Dare reprints, and the last with stories written by series creator Frank Hampson. Like Dan Dare, Roy of the Rovers headlined his own strip and ran for two pages in each weekly, or three if the cover was a panel of the story. The character is a star soccer player and manager, and the new volume is a long run from 1976-1977 and a story from 1979. All the characters have long hair, shaggy mustaches, and sports cars, but their storylines are remarkably modern. The book opens in media res—a supermarket chain has offered 30,000 pounds to the year’s leading scorer. One sportswriter becomes convinced that Roy is grandstanding in an attempt to win the money, but, meanwhile, Roy is concerned with maintaining his team’s unbeaten streak. The stories continue with a jealous substitute player who has no stamina, another star player who’s in a rivalry with an opposing team, and other tales. The stories call to mind current American scandals—if the strip still existed, one imagines, it’d probably meditate on steroid use. In the end, neither book offers the same appeal that a sophisticated graphic novel brings, but they shouldn’t have to; that isn’t why they were created. They were weekly entertainments never meant to stand on their own, but, over decades, have proved fully able to do so.