Thursday, 10 January 2013

A (slightly delayed) look at the last ever Dandy - Part 1

Humble apologies - this post here was intended for early December, but festive shenanigans got in the way (and took priority too). Plus, there's a LOT of back-issue scouring involved, and the scanning and the cropping and the re-sizing... All very annoying but hopefully worth it.

Anyway, the last ever issue of the Dandy then. For a start, it was hard to get hold of thanks to the wonderful folk at WH Smith's (we requested ten copies for our shop, they sent one - and people wonder why the comic industry's dying a slow, sad death?). Eventually I ended up with three of them, so that's alright. 

Now, how to best celebrate the final issue of a British institution, with characters familiar to generations of comic-lovers? How about getting someone to knock out a mess of bug-eyed, barely recognisable scribbles during his lunch break? Yeah, that'll do:

Ken Harrison drew a far more appropriate, and all-round more respectful design as well, but this was relegated to the back cover:

How about doubling the demand by producing two different covers? Empire and gamesTM both did it for their celebration issues, why not the Dandy? Oh, DC Thomson, how you boggle the mind!

The cover promises "75 Classic Stories", but this is far from the truth. The comic takes the form of a countdown of the 75 greatest Dandy characters of all time, but the vast majority of these are done by the very people who helped to finish off the comic. Alex Matthews does a good job of Wacko and Tin Lizzie, Nigel Auchterlonie's Korky's a bit of fun, Wilbur Dawbarn does a VERY nice Robin Hood's Schooldays, and Lew Stringer's Smasher's a good one too - but for the most part the characters that shaped the childhood of thousands of people are reduced to throwaway three-panel (or even single panel), somewhat mean-spirited gags. 

Wouldn't it have been more respectful (and indeed, cheaper!) to fill the entire comic with reprints? As in, showing the characters in the form they took that made the Dandy the success it (mostly) was? Also, and with specific reference to Stuart Munro here, as quoted on Lew Stringer's blog:

"I also drew Hamish The Haggis Basher. It's a Tom Paterson strip that only appeared in one annual in the 80's, I had no picture reference and haven't read the strip, which is a first for me!"

Yeah, good one, that's respecting your influences there. Don't bother reading the thing, just make it up.

Which brings me to the next point - why did they even bother messing with the Dandy in the first place? Why not, back in 2004, turn the entire Dandy into a comic full of reprints, with the cover being the only new content each week? It worked for Buster for around ten years, and even then it was only shut down because the publishers couldn't be bothered with it anymore.

Meanwhile, all these new characters and the artists that came with them could've found work in a new, seperate title launched by DC Thomson - called 100% Funny or something. If this would've lasted for as long as the 2010 version of the Dandy lasted, it'd be a minor success (akin to Monster Fun in terms of longevity), and become an odd little footnote in comics history. You know, instead of being the thing that put the final nail in the coffin of Britain's longest-running comic.

Overall, we've the final years of the Dandy to thank for introducing Wilbur Dawbarn, Nigel Auchterlonie and Alex Matthews to a wider audience, and the best of luck to those three.


  1. "How about getting someone to knock out a mess of bug-eyed, barely recognisable scribbles during his lunch break?" I did a big hearty laugh at this.

  2. This was like reading my own blog posts about The Dandy - we seem to be in agreement about a lot of things pertaining to the sadly-deceased comic, especially regarding Ken H. Harrison's cover and the fact that DCT would've been better starting a new comic featuring the newer artists, instead of inflicting them on The Dandy. A new comic wouldn't have had the expectations of its own history to live up to and would've perhaps appealed to a whole new audience.

    Also, regarding the cover, the fact that a picture of 'classic' Dan had to be added to make the comic recognizable seems to indicate that the use of Smart's version was a last act of defiance by the editor to spite those who had 'dared' criticize some of his decisions.

    I have to confess that I didn't much like Wilbur Dawburn's own style in regard to some of the things he's drawn, but I heartily approve of his emulation of the classic styles of old. If only Smart and Fanton would follow suit.

    1. Cheers, Kid - only just noticed that Dan on the cover's been added on. At least it proves SOMEONE was seeing a bit of sense!

    2. Not only did Smart's Dan strips reinvent him as a mad-looking fat bloke, they also missed the point of what the character was all about. Dudley D.Watkins would never have drawn Dan having a 'horse poo mountain' catapulted onto his head, for example, let alone entering a fancy hat contest. Superimposing banal juvenile whimsy onto a classic comics character just didn't work.