Sunday, 4 December 2022

Ten Years since THE DANDY comic ended

It was on this day in 2012 when D.C. Thomson published the final issue of The Dandy as a weekly comic. What a final issue it was! A 100 page spectacular featuring a mixture of new material and reprint, including a pull out reproduction of the first issue from 1937! 

The Dandy ended on its 75th anniversary, and at the time it held the record for the UK's longest running comic! (A record only beaten now by Beano.) Sales had been falling for many years, so cancellation was inevitable. Several revamps had been attempted to slow down its final fate but nothing could delay its cancellation for long. Outside of the Beano and 2000AD, every other weekly comic from the 20th Century had long since departed by that stage so The Dandy did well to last as long as it did.

Some critics put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the artists and writers, with some criticism being needlessly nasty and aggressive. Curiously, those same critics had never blamed any creatives for the demise of other comics that had far shorter runs! For example I never saw any blame attributed to the artists and writers for Starlord only lasting for 22 weeks, or for Krazy only managing 79 issues. Of course not, because the contents were of high quality, yet somehow it was apparently the fault of those of us working on The Dandy that had sealed its fate. Doesn't add up does it?

Admittedly where anthology comics are concerned there will always be some strips that don't appeal to readers, always some work that is weaker to others, which is why the contents are often shaken up, but falling sales are often due to many other factors. Erratic distribution, competition from other media, rising prices and, in these days, kids simply not being aware that comics exist! Most of the current generation of children haven't developed the habit of going to the newsagents every week like we oldies did. These days, if kids are into comics, they're more likely to have discovered them as graphic novels (like Jamie Smart's very successful Bunny vs Monkey books) or been gifted a subscription by their parents or grandparents. 

Ironically, that final issue of The Dandy received loads of publicity in the media and subsequently sold so well that it had to go to a second printing! Some buyers remarked on comic forums that if they'd known how good it was they'd have been buying it before. Well, we did tell ya but it was too late by then! 

I really enjoyed contributing to The Dandy for its final two years. The strips I drew were Kid Cops and Postman Prat (both created by the Dandy staff) and The Dark Newt (a short run Batman parody I created). For the final issue I was asked to do Kid Cops, Postman Prat, plus a revival of three old characters; Julius Sneezer, The Smasher, and The Umbrella Men

You can see my version of The Smasher at the top of this post. I was asked to do more Smasher stories for a few Dandy Annuals that followed. (Thankfully The Dandy Annual still continues to this day, and, yes, there will be The Dandy Annual 2024 out next August.) 

The Umbrella Men had been a childhood favourite. A 1966 crime serial drawn by Charlie Grigg that had captivated my interest every week. The original series had been an adventure strip but I was asked to do a comedy revival. I felt the crooks must have served their time by 2012 so I showed what happened next. Here's the result...

For years it seemed that The Dandy was unbeatable, so I can understand people's outrage at it ending but sadly nothing lasts forever. No point moping about it now. 75 years was a heck of a run though! As noted earlier, The Dandy Annual still continues with all-new material, and The Dandy Summer Special is still around too, albeit mostly reprint. Long may they continue!



Manic Man said...

I would say from that issue, (the last issues of Dandy I got were that one and the last revamp which... no comment..)

some good stuff I liked, some I didn't, some peoples takes of charaters I didn't think much of, but... mm.. i wouldn't have said it's cause of the artists and writers that it failed.. I mean, when they redid Dan to be.. well.. Jamie Smart is a good artist but I didn't think much of that take on Dan.. But as a different character, I would be happier with it.. probebly also true for Chris McGhie's take on Bananaman..

BUT and the big thing, IT doesn't bother me cause it wasn't aimed at me.. I think if something did a comic like the Beano or Dandy which WAS aimed at me.. it would probebly flop big time.

There seamed to still be good stuff mixed with bad as normal, though aimed at a much younger group then me and not for the kinda time when alot of childrens stuff i still read was from (which ranges from .. well, very old to around early 90s, mostly late 80s).

Anyway.. Dandy tried a .. well.. it seamd very half arsed and never said it closed (on their own site) of an online version of the Dandy before finally just doing Annuals pretty much only.. I guess it's best to forget that online thing.. cause.. boy... no clue what they were thinking.. It could have been done well but that wasn't really trying..

Oh.. I don't remember a mention of it before, but of course the Smasher strip had a reference to other strips by you ^_^ Brother? Cousin? Father? Evil Clone from another universe?

Lew Stringer said...

I think the digital Dandy was a nice try but it was perhaps too over-ambitious in terms of animation that tended to freeze. It's a pity they didn't just upload pages to read but I understand why they wanted it to be busier.

Peter Gray said...

The Dandy has soo many comics of the past to enjoy... wasn't keen on the celeb stuff But liked Harry Hill...Jamie did make the Dandy fun in his design flavour... wonder if the Dandy could of gone Monthly...Bimonthly...seems a shame it closed...with Monster Fun showing it could of gone on...anyway glad the annuals and summer specials are going still...

James Spiring said...

The 2010 revamp was a big improvement over the previous Xtreme era quality wise, but definitely too little too late. I think the decline probably started with the 2004 revamp - they increased the page count and used glossy paper (ahead of it's time there), but of course the cover price rose too. Xtreme went in the wrong direction, adding non-comics stuff and increasing the price more. The 2010 revamp went back to the same paper type and price as Beano, but the damage was done by then - distribution had declined badly. At least when the comic folded, some of the staff (both creative and editorial) from the Dandy moved over. Andy Fanton, for example, now writes several Beano strips - having originally been hired to write and draw George vs Dragon for the 2010 Dandy revamp.

As for the digital Dandy, they couldn't even secure their paywall (you could access the individual strips just by putting their url in the address bar of your browser i.e. for free) - though it was secure enough that the Wayback Machine didn't capture any of it, not even the free issue zero. Too bad they haven't moved the content to, now that the Dandy website no longer exists. It's lost media now.

J C R said...

It was sad the Dandy folded although I'm glad we do still get a summer special and annual.

I do wonder how much the messy, often chaotic displays of publications aimed at younger children fail to entice them to pick up and explore new titles.

It's interesting that the Phoenix goes from strength to strength with most copies being mailed out weekly and that Monster Fun on a bi-monthly basis does have a younger following

Lew Stringer said...

I hope Monster Fun is reaching the audience it's intended for. Sadly, the branches of Smiths I've seen it tend to put it on the top shelf with Viz!

I think the messy displays are a huge turn-off for prospective buyers. Bulky, bagged magazines shoved into an ever-decreasing area is counter-productive. Sadly it's been that way for about 20 years now and I can't see it changing. The Beano rarely has gifts now (except for Christmas)but even that gets lost amongst the clutter of other mags.

Lew Stringer said...

Peter, it'd be nice if The Dandy returned as a bimonthly special like Monster Fun but I'm still not sure if it'd work. They tried a Christmas special a few years ago but presumably it didn't sell as well as hoped or they'd have done more. Perhaps the market can only sustain it as a part-reprint summer special and an all-new annual? I think we probably have to accept that cancelled comics aren't coming back. Rebellion tried several specials a few years ago but only Monster Fun has spun off into a regular comic, and Battle-Action as a kind of annual. It's a pity there weren't more Buster specials though as the first one sold well. (The second one was affected by lockdown of course, which was np fault of the publisher or its content.)

Manic Man said...

I might be wrong but.. personally, I love much older cover designs. Two major types i find are the best for me

1) Catcher image. I'll call it that cause it's an image to catch the attention of the person looking at it. This are like Old Superman cover where you had Jules Schwartz where he came up with the idea for the cover and got the writer to create a story based on it. The Cover gave you a good example of what the story was about and the tone and style of the comic. I think you have been pretty good at this with some of your self published comics.

2) Strip Cover. For anthology titles, a Strip on the cover is great. Not only do you have an extra page of strip but again, it gives a good taste of the style inside. Eagle, TV Century 21, Beano and Dandy are good examples of these. Often the strips carried on inside which gives you a reason to get the comic (though of course, you could read before you buy.. techinally)

anyway.. both of these gave a better hock to get people to read the comic then the oens which tried to be for a more adult market (I can't remember who said it but one USA editor did stop using covers with anything but a generic pin-up cause ones with speech bubbles was 'childish'). Sometimes they can be good pin-ups and sometimes still based on something inside but I find they aren't as good a hock to get interested in the comic.

But I know tastes change and for some reason, pin-up covers seam to still be the rage but then, it does mean the older style covers might make ones stand out a bit more.. though even "news" papers do more for the big-pin up with little cover copy these days...

McSCOTTY said...

My Dandy was from the 1960s to 1971 but I was sad to hear it had ceased publication in 2012. I picked up a few issues of the revamps just to see what it was all about but it wasn't my cuppa tea ( well I was too old of course and wasnt the target audience) but a lot of it wasn't for me but
it looked to me like the sort of thing kids of that time would like. It's a shame that childrens humour comics seem to struggle to find an audience today.

I love that "Umbrella men" strip Lew , that was a strip I used to follow as a kid great stuff.

James Spiring said...

Lew, I agree about Cor!!Buster, I bought the first of those, would've got the second, but due to lockdown couldn't get to WHSmith while it was on sale - they should've really extended the release window on that one, as it's entire sales period was when a lot of branches were shut. They appear to have the wrong message and think that lack of sales of the second means nobody wants more, when in truth, COVID is entirely to blame for that one flopping.

Lew Stringer said...

It's not as easy as that unfortunately. Once an agreement is in place for how long a shop will stock a publication it can't be extended. In the case of the specials, another one was lined up to replace it on the shelves. (I forget which one.) Even it it was possible, the publishers would have to pay again for shelf space and they probably determined it wasn't worth the expense.

SID said...

Sorry I missed this tribute.

I had The Dandy for the whole of the 70s (and then later from 2004 until its demise) and it was THE comic which got me hooked onto reading/collecting comics.

Yes I was pretty gutted when it was announced that the print comic was being cancelled as I still loved it and that the on-line re-launch did not work out.

But at the end of the day, 75 years is a great innings for a comic and pretty much lasted the same amount of time as my dear old Dad (he was born a year later after the comic was launched and died a year after the comic's demise). Plus it's last print issue was the best tribute issue that I have seen for any comic.

So rather than being sad that The Dandy is gone, I appreciate the fact that it had existed and had such a profound affect on my life.

Besides, it is not dead. It's just enjoying retirement while keeping its toe in with the Summer Specials and Annuals (which I get).

And talking of Annuals, will be picking up The Dandy Annual in a few hours time so I can read it this evening. :)

Have a Merry Christmas, Lew and hopefully a more prosperous 2023.

Lew Stringer said...

Well said, Sid, and thank you! Merry Christmas!