Friday, 30 November 2012

The Dandy nears its end - so go back to the start

Here it goes again - the scanning's complete so things can get back to normal without any strange green women standing around. Less than a week to go until the Dandy dies, sort of. Look at it a number of ways...

-Some might say that it's NOT dead, because it's carrying on in a digital form (this doesn't count).

-Some are counting the current issue as the last one (due to next week's "official" last ever issue being a bumper celebration/funeral sort of affair, this week's being the last of the standard format ones).

-Then there's the folk who believe that the Dandy died whenever "their version" of it ceased to exist (that's me!).

For me, that "version" would be the one that ended in October 2004, just before it turned into something that was less a comic, more a magazine-with-occasional-comic-strips (and then THAT would morph into that hideously unmentionable incarnation). So really, and I'm certain I'm not alone in saying this, but the REAL "last ever" Dandy looked like this:

And it was catastrophic reinvention after reinvention after reinvention following this issue, leading us to the sad state we find the Dandy in today (for those late to the party, Lee James Turnock sums it all up hilariously). And it IS depressing, and depressing things aren't fun to write about. Instead, we'll be looking at where the Dandy all started for me on a personal level, back in the Summer of 1992 in a now-defunct newsagents...

Yep, we're looking at the 1992 Dandy Summer Special!

We begin, as used to be the case with all comics, by flipping over to the back cover to see what goes on with Dan's "Desperate-sized" mountain bike:

And what follows are my first encounters with a whole heap of classic characters and brilliant artists - obviously impressing (and fun!) enough to keep me interested for the next twenty years (and obviously beyond, there's a LOT of back issues to go through).

Here's Bully Beef & Chips by Jimmy Hughes:

David Mostyn's Molly:

(Thoughts as a 6-year-old: "What's Torremolinos and how's it prounounced?")

Robert Nixon's Korky the Cat:

Spotted Dick by... Ron Spencer? Looks a tiny bit like Ron Spencer's, but I'm not certain. Not claiming to be an expert here, by the way.

Next is Dinah Mo, and again I'm not certain who it's by. Steve Bright, perhaps? Any help'd be appreciated:

Sid Burgon's Keyhole Kate is up next:

In case it's not apparent by now, the running theme of this particular Summer Special is "hobbies" - most of the Dandy Summer Specials throughout the Nineties based all its stories loosely around the one thing (1993's being my favourite, but that's one for another day).

Here's Desperate Dan's second appearance in the comic - the first page looking like a Ken Harrison, with the next two pages looking more like David Parkins, although I could be wrong (and probably am!):

John Geering's Bananaman's next up, a character I was already familiar with due to his cartoons (voiced by the Goodies!):

My first ever encounter with Barrie Appleby here, with Cuddle & Dimples. I'm not too keen on Barrie's current stuff, but as a nipper, these ugly children were my absoulte favourites - which would make Appleby the creator of my idols. Good for him!

Trevor Metcalfe now with Growing Paynes, a character I always enjoyed reading but hardly ever found entertaining (if that makes sense?):

The amazing Jim Petrie's next with Billy Green & His Sister Jean, two characters I never saw outside of Summer Specials and annuals:

Terry Bave's Winker Watson is a character I initially hated, but he grew on me over the years (especially the multi-part stories). The reprints of these are what I enjoy most in the current Dandy, which shows that Winker has longevity at least:

Looking back on all the Dandy comics I've read over the years, Brian Walker's version of Smasher stands out as a favourite - here's my first meeting with the accident-prone scally, breaking the fourth wall as he's interviewed by "Jerry Hogan":

More from Mr. Appleby now, with Granny - not as entertaining a character as Cuddles & Dimples, but it's all about the background jokes, here concerning a curious crab who ends up being booted off the beach by a nasty little starfish:

Another one from Ken Harrison now, with an oddity of a strip called Golden Old Days. Reading it in 1992, it seemed cosy enough yet also out-of-place amongst everything else I'd just read. Still, at least it's nicely drawn:

And now the highlight - my very first encounter with Tom Paterson, with Hyde & Shriek. Everything changed after this one - every haunted house I drew after reading this would feature a crumbling tower and a caged beast (like the ones seen on the strip's title), and every dark patch would become inhabited with eyeballs. The little details really make it too - the favourite here being the trail of mushrooms that sprouts up behind Shriek. Paterson's signature smelly sock even has an "origin" of sorts here, as it flies off Shriek's foot in the panel before the main appearance.

And finally, there's this bingo-card jobbie - holidays used to be filled with precisely these sort of things, and they still are if you keep your eyes open for them:

So I only joined the Dandy party when it was fifty-five years old, that's fine. It was only a year-and-a-bit after this initial introduction when I got my first Dandy Beano hardback book, which introduced me to what I'd been missing out on. The same can happen with the few hundred kids who'll be upset when their favourite comic finishes next week - only they'll have a whole seventy-five years worth of fun to catch up on. I envy them, a tiny bit.


  1. Yes, you're right. That IS when the real Dandy died - or at least started it's long, slow, terminal decline.

  2. Some of the new Dandy stuff was alright, strip-wise and art-wise, but I wasn't a fan of them adding about 50 free gifts every issue and trying to turn it into a magazine...

    Oh, and Bananaman was far better when he appeared in Nutty, and Eric looked even less likely to turn into a superhero and it was a lot funnier...

    But yeah, will be a shame to see this go...I wish kids today were reading more comics like this rather than the crappy licensed stuff that seems to fill newsagents these days..

    1. Nutty's a great comic! They even gave Eric "Wimp" as a surname. I'll be posting some Nutty stuff here eventually.

      I tried to be enthusiastic about the new Dandy, and bought maybe the first ten of them before realizing what guff it had (mostly) become. There was the odd strip that I liked (Mr. Meecher, Pre-School Prime Minister), but the rapidly-increasing cover price and the rapidly-diminishing quality turned me off in the end.

  3. Hyde & Shriek looks like an excellent strip. Makes me want to get some Dandys from that period for my collection! Do you now when it started and ended?

    1. Couldn't give you the exact dates, but you're looking for the 1991-1992 era - it never made it to the full colour version in 1993, but it DID appear as reprints from 2004-ish.

      I'm sure that "History of the Dandy" book will have the answers, but I won't be reading that until Xmas (as long as Santa can get hold of a copy for me!).

  4. Hmm...working the dates out in my head, it sounds like I stopped buying The Dandy not too long before that issue. I had the 2004 annual but I don't remember that 'final' issue so perhaps it was a transitional year for me. Or something.

    Tom Paterson's art is just amazing. Even though I stopped favouring UK comics over other types of art, I still massively respect the incredible amount of detail in whatever he drew. I could literaly stare at each panel for ages and pick out loads of cool/weird things. Even my own (rubbish) comics that I drew as a kid ended up with smelly socks lying in the street etc.!

    1. The annuals are published with the following year on the cover, so you'd've got the 2004 annual in 2003... Still counts as transitional though.

      Wonder how many people started adding smelly socks and little squelchy things to their drawings after encountering Mr. Paterson?

    2. I used to draw comedy strips with "bouncy rocks", flying saucers, "skoda" anything (breaking down or crashing) and other little details in the background. I mainly do traditional-style adventure stories now, which removes some of the scope for that sort of thing, but I want to add one-page comedy strips to my comics again eventually.
      Ever heard of Ogri? It was an insanely-detailed one pager that used to appear in Bike magazine. Every strip was really like 2-3 stories, the "main" one, and then there'd be snails or mice or something having a different conversation at the bottom, and often a dog reacting to the jokes in the main story. No end of one-off background gags too, like corrupt politicians taking bribes and stuff. There's been no end of reprint books, though they are usually in the Motoring section of bookshops.

    3. I thought I'd never heard of Ogri, but a quick Google image search brings up some familiar-looking faces. I'll be looking for reprint books now!

      Ever considered traditional adventure stories but with lots of background gags? Kev Sutherland did that sort of thing with a few strips in UT, and it worked well.

  5. What a great summer special with lots of my favourite artists...;0)

    Steve Bright's Bananaman was very good...

    I love Tom Paterson's comic work well worth collecting...

    1. Ah, so that's Steve Bright and not Geering up there? All these folk ghosting each other, it really gets confusing!

    2. The above scan is by John Geering...

      I meant later on Steve Bright drew some nice Bananamans..

      I understand what you are saying about the different revamps and not liking it...But for me there were some good stuff right to the end..we will never know if The Dandy stayed the same like The Beano if it had lasted longer than its 75th Birthday...

  6. I'm flattered by the plug for my blog!
    I don't think that's Ron Spencer's work, by the way. Looks more like Barrie Appleby. I've tried to 'ghost' other artists' styles in the past, more as an exercise than anything, and I find it bloody impossible, so fair play to those that CAN manage it.
    Agreed, 2004 marked the end of the Dandy. Everything after that has just been an extended marketing exercise.

    1. You needn't be flattered, it was partially your blog that made me want to do one of my own!

      Parts of it look Appleby-ish, parts of it don't - top marks to whoever did it though, that train's hilarious.

  7. I really liked Tom Paterson's Bananaman from this era.

    He was doing quite a lot of stuff back then - I wish he was still drawing as much as that!

    Saying that, the Calamity James reprints are excellent! Hardly seem like reprints at all!

    1. He can outdraw most people without even picking up a pencil ;)

  8. What were those smaller editions called? The ones that were about A5 sized and featured an extended story for one character. I remember an advert for one featuring Keyhole Kate. She was reading a book with a huge keyhole cut into it, through which her nose was sticking. I used to think that she'd read the book so hard that her nose had grown and pierced the paper which had, in turn, been worn down by her intense gaze. To this day, when I'm really into a book, I can still feel a sort of energy emanating from my eyes coupled with a strange sensation at the tip of my nose. I blame Keyhole Kate.

    1. The Comic Libraries! That's what they're called. A lot of them are very good as well.

      There was also Dandy Cartoon Books and Beano Puzzle Books in the same series.

  9. They should have gone straight from this amazing Dandy to the 2010 revamp - the 2004-2007 revamp was quite good though, not exactly the best incarnation but I did like the use of longer strips and trying out new artists (although there were problems with the French reprints - Titeuf is not for a young audience!)

    The Dandy Xtreme most certainly killed the comic's chance of making it any further than its 75th really - I knew the end was nigh thanks to the Xtreme. But even so, the Xtreme did have some great strips in it - particularly Jamie's three-page Desperate Dans.

  10. Titeuf was in the Dandy? Blimey, when was that?

    I've got no problem with experimentation, but I think the problem with the 2010 revamp was that it was ALL experimentation, leaving it completely unrecognizable from the "real" Dandy - thus alienating all those who bought it for nostalgic reasons (which was what, roughly half the audience?).

    It was really like launching a whole new comic, but using the Dandy's name to sell it. Maybe if DC Thomson really DID launch a new comic, and if even then it only lasted until now, it would be looked back on as a fun little curiosity in comic history, and not as the final nail in the coffin for one of the world's longest running comics.

    Meanwhile, they could've kept the Dandy going as it was up until 2004, just fill it with reprints (like in the final years of Buster) to keep the traditionalists happy (as well as introducing whole new generations to all those fantastic characters).