Here’s another comic I never liked much when I was a kid. To me, The Dandy and its sister comic, The Beano, hung over British comics like the grey establishment. Even today, if I encounter copies published during the seventies, it’s a wonder to me that The Dandy has survived given how altogether more exciting and colourful comics published my Marvel UK and IPC seemed at the time.
However, the newsagent comic shelves have since become depressing, racked mainly with cheaply produced magazines with spine breaking gifts taped to the front. While The Beano continued, The Dandy dropped to a fortnightly frequency and got re-branded as Dandy Extreme (Christ, almighty). Things are pretty grim in UK comics if we’re all made depressed by this when, thirty years earlier, I would have been happy for both comics to disappear altogether.
Now, in a surprising bold move, The Dandy has been re-launched again, this time as a 100 % pure breed comic. I can’t believe my jaded eyes! This is probably the best The Dandy has looked to me… well, ever! And not a shitty free gift in sight!
First thing to note is that it’s using comic strip versions of celebrities as a lure. Harry Hill appears on the front and he strikes me as the perfect front man to a children’s comic. Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before? And although Simon Cowell, Jeremy Clarkson and Noel Edmonds might not have a similarly warm place in the hearts of British children, it’s perfectly right for them to appear as characters also, continuing a tradition of celebrity referencing in UK comics enjoyed by the likes of early Viz and 2000 AD.
Inside, without exception, the art is great. There’s an exuberance and energy which I don’t remember seeing in The Dandy when I was a boy. Everyone seems to give it their all from Nigel Parkinson to Lew Stringer to the rest who don’t sign their work and whose names I don’t know but would love to credit. There’s an indy tone to the art that I find appealing and I hope the kids do too. All of the brand new strips, they’re mostly brand new to me anyway, have a contemporary feel without appearing condescending or embarrassing. Most interesting of all is the best known Dandy character, Desperate Dan, being pushed to the back. I respect this move. Out with the old, in with the new; that’s what I say.
As a whole it works well, being strung together by funny, boggle eyed creatures and page numbers in the form of cup cakes. The fun even spills out onto an ad for Ben 10. Tonally, it seems to be more Oink than traditional DC Thompson publications. The production makes the comic feel like a proper product; it’s the right balance between quality and value for money (£1.50). Design wise, I’m not so sure about the strips appearing inside a colour border, but this is the closest to a criticism I can come up with. Even the name ‘The Dandy’ doesn’t bother me now. When us comic bores get together and talk about the ideal British children’s weekly, in my mind’s eye, this is what it looks like.
As to whether it will be a success or not, I have no idea. Already, because it’s The Dandy and it, like The Beano, has always been able to get real-world press attention, much to my annoyance in the past but not now, this re-launch has received a lot of coverage. I guess the comic will go through tweaks and adjustments as the editors receive reader feedback. Very young readers, the target audience remember, might be put off by the lack of a free gift, for example. I just hope they give the all-comic format long enough to bed in. Just imagine the fall out to comic publishing in this country if it’s successful. Shit, even I might get some work.