So, in a somewhat ‘daring’ move (I promise that’ll be the only time, ok?), Sir Richard Branson has acquired the rights to resurrect ‘classic’ British science fiction comic hero Dan Dare in a cross-platform deal that gives Branson the rights to the publishing, television, movie and video game licenses for the franchise. This is the latest high-profile entertainment deal involving Virgin, following hot on the proverbial heels of the announcement of the proposed Ramayan 3392 MMO to be produced in association with Sony Online Entertainment. The question is – why?
It’s no secret that Branson favors risky business deals – after all, it’s a defining characteristic of any successful entrepreneur, and to build up a media empire consisting of over 350 companies, you’ve got to have balls of steel. However, it’d be a not-inconsiderable challenge to name a franchise that would be harder to reinvent and rebrand for a modern audience, especially in the context of movies and subsequent video game adaptations. Perhaps this would be worse, but not by much – hopefully this series will be short-lived, and will crawl off to die in a corner somewhere, perhaps between Xena: Warrior Princess and reruns of Sliders.
The most pertinent question with regards to the imminent return of Colonel Daniel McGregor Dare is not one of style; even the guys at Extreme Makeover could probably cobble together a ‘look’ for Dan that would sit well with the legions of moviegoers and gamers that would buy into the franchise. No, the question lies with the character himself, and how the audience is expected to identify with him.
To say that Dan Dare comes from a different age would be a perfect example of the old saying ‘they don’t make ’em like that anymore’. Defined by his rigid moral and ethical code, Dare was a role model to a generation of kids in a time where the memory of World War II was still pervasive across popular culture, especially comics. Preferring diplomacy to violence, Dare serves as a memory of a bygone age where honor was still held in high regard, and a man’s word was worth something. Short of completely reinventing the whole notion of the Dan Dare character, how are modern audiences supposed to take him seriously? Strip away the moral aspect of his character, and what are you left with? A tired, generic space hero from a time long since forgotten in the mire of today’s popular ‘culture’ of product placement and questionable ethics.
However, I believe firmly in Branson’s business acumen, and genuine enthusiasm for the character. Perhaps my skepticism is misplaced; maybe the franchise can offer something sadly lacking in many of today’s entertainment series – integrity. Also, given the originality of the decision to develop an MMO based on a Sanskrit epic is certainly promising given the drought of originality in the video game industry today, and could be an indication of the care and attention that Branson’s team will lavish on the Dan Dare franchise. I for one would love to see them pull it off.