It's been exactly ten years today since The Dandy was revamped for a new generation of readers. Yes, 27th October 2010 was the day that The Dandy No.3508 arrived in newsagents, replacing its previous Dandy Xtreme format.
Dandy Xtreme had been an attempt to turn the long-running weekly comic into a boys' fortnightly magazine in the style of Egmont's successful Toxic. It didn't really work, and so another major revamp was used to turn The Dandy back into what it did best; being a weekly funny comic full of strips, not "gross" themed features! However, it was always going to be difficult to win back the readers who had left and appeal to the kids of 2010.
The Dandy's sales had been declining for years, and even with the best intentions the Xtreme makeover hadn't helped. Turning it back into a comic was the best idea, but making it look exactly like it had before the Xtreme revamp would have been pointless, because the old "traditional" look is where the sales decline had begun. If it was going to be revamped, it needed a bold contemporary new look and a totally fresh start.
The new-look Dandy that arrived ten years ago was practically a new comic in all but name. New logo, new design throughout, brand new characters and even printed on top quality paper. Old favourites Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat were still there, but had been completely updated by Jamie Smart and Phil Corbett. Other new artists and writers had been commissioned too. This was a radical revamp.
The cover star was now popular TV personality Harry Hill, thanks to popular cartoonist Nigel Parkinson, an artist who had contributed to The Dandy for years. You can read about the background to that over at Nigel's own blog here:
As for me, I was one of the relative newcomers to the comic. I'd never worked for The Dandy before (apart from a few Fun-Size editions 20 years ago) so I was over the moon to be commissioned to draw two new pages; Kid Cops and Postman Prat. Originally, scripts were supplied to be by freelance writers or the Dandy staff but later I scripted my own. (I was used to writing my own material although I'm happy to work with writers too if the scripts are funny, and the ones for The Dandy were!)
Reactions to the new Dandy were mixed, as you'd expect with any major revamp. Some people struggle with changes, even to comics! However, the vicious abuse that some artists received was uncalled for. Grown men posting hate about artists of children's comics? Quite pathetic really.
Other reactions were more calm and reasoned. Even if they didn't like what they saw, they understood that The Dandy wasn't aimed at 50 year old men. Pleasingly, a lot of people loved the revamp and the positive voices online certainly outnumbered the negative. See this link for more on that:
Sadly even changing The Dandy back into a comic couldn't halt the decline in sales for long. The first issue did well when it was getting media publicity but not so well when it was out of the limelight and shops rapidly decreased their orders. Society is different to how it was when we were younger and this generation of children just haven't developed the habit of buying a comic every week. They can't be blamed for it as it's just how it is. The Beano has always survived because it's always had the advantage of a regular solid base of characters that loyal readers knew would be in the comic every week. The Dandy, like most other comics, always tended to shake up its contents every now and then, which is great for variety but can also upset readers who prefer consistency and familiarity. The changes to The Dandy had come too late to save it, but it was a valiant try.
The Dandy ended on its 75th anniversary in December 2012. Ironically that last issue completely sold out within days and had to go to a second printing to meet demand! Such is life in publishing. It was immediately relaunched as a digital comic but sadly it was somewhat "buggy" and folded after 13 weeks.
Some people blamed the contribitors for the comic's end, forgetting that sales were plunging years before the revamp. They insisted that a more old-school look would have saved it... but that never saved Beezer, Topper, Whizzer and Chips and every other "traditional" comic did it? Fact is, everything has its day, and instead of pointing the finger of blame perhaps we should celebrate that The Dandy lasted for 75 years, making it the second-longest running UK comic in history!
I felt it was a privilege to be part of The Dandy's long history as it was the first comic I had regularly when I was a child. Although The Dandy ended as a weekly comic in 2012 it has continued as a summer special (mostly reprint) and as The Dandy Annual (all new). The Dandy Annual 2021 is in the shops now, with four new double-page Postman Prat stories by me, so make sure you grab a copy and remember the old slogan... Always Keep A Dandy Handy!