Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bad Circulation


The latest circulation figures for comics and magazines make for grim reading. Many magazines have suffered falling sales but the real shocker was The Dandy apparently falling from around 15,000 readers to around 7,448 readers since its revamp last October, a loss of 48% of its readership.

I'm no expert in how statistics are worked out but this seems a little suspicious to me. Of course, some might say I'm biased because I contribute to The Dandy, and perhaps I am. However, it seems bizarre that when The Dandy increased its frequency from fortnightly to weekly it should suddenly lose half of its readership! Not only that, but this also coincided with the comic significantly dropping its price to £1.50 (from £2.50), increasing the strip content, and vastly improving its distribution. Yet allegedly it still lost half its readers?

People were swift to point the finger of blame, and there's already a Facebook group calling for the abolition of celebrity-based strips such as Harry Hill, despite the celeb content only being a small part of the comic. Truth be told, readers have actually reacted well to the celebrity spoofs and recently The Dandy has revamped its cover to parody celebrity magazines.

No doubt the big relaunch last October, which saw practically all of the old strips and features replaced by new characters, did cause some readers to abandon the comic. Some people don't like change, even when it's for the better. (Reprints and articles replaced by brand new strips, for a lower cover price? A no-brainer... one would have thought!)

Some older readers have expressed dislike of the modern cartoon style used by some of the new artists, as is their prerogative of course, but similar modern styles have proven to be very popular in childrens books so why not in comics?

Perhaps some children were confused by the satire of the celeb strips? (As we learned on Oink! years ago, kids can only understand satire if they're familiar with the subject being parodied.) However, The Dandy carefully parodies people that most children will be aware of, such as Ant and Dec, Cheryl Cole, Jamie Oliver etc. although Jeremy Clarkson might be a bit of a stretch. (Wouldn't young kids find Top Gear a "Dad's show"?) Even so, most of The Dandy's strips are not celebrity based. Perhaps the lack of free gifts put kids off? Are today's children simply not interested in comics anymore, only the plastic toy?

However, stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, it's not only The Dandy that has suffered falling sales. Personally I'm putting a lot of the blame on the retail giants. Yes, I know I've banged this drum before, but things are not improving in that area. Shelf space is often too small for the number of comics and childrens' magazines out there and staff often shove them in upside down or back to front. Here's a photo I took at a local supermarket a few years ago. The situation is no better today...



How on Earth is a child or a parent supposed to find a comic in that mess? You can't even see the comics lurking in the dark at the back of the "display". More likely they'll just choose one from the front, and what comics are always at the front in most of these shops? Nursery titles and girls' magazines, which funnily enough are the two categories which are still doing quite well.

A few years ago WH Smith decided to stack comics in a display that was too high for children to reach! Again, nursery and girls' titles were lower and easier to get to:


At least Toxic is still doing well, with sales of 40,000. A case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" perhaps?

I know there are some who think that publishers should simply launch more comics. They argue that as comics are popular in Europe and Japan, they should also work here. Sadly it's not that simple. Unlike those countries, the British have always regarded comics as throwaway childish junk. As each generation reads less and less comics, respect and interest for comics inevitably diminishes. Some may argue that publishers should try anyway, but the resistance from the trade to non-licensed comics, and the high prices retail giants charge just for stocking a title every issue, make it virtually impossible. Let's hope forthcoming comics Strip Magazine and The Phoenix can pave the way for a new era. Perhaps publishers should look towards other outlets, focusing on book shops with more albums such as Garen Ewing's The Rainbow Orchid (published by Egmont), or try to get their comics into shops that kids actually go into these days (computer game stores for example).

British comics have taken a bloody nose so far this century but they're not out yet. Show your support if you can, and buy The Dandy, The Beano, Toxic, 2000AD and others to keep the industry alive.

UPDATE:
Those that claim some strips in The Dandy are poorly drawn, or look like they're done by children, are not only being insulting to the creators but they're also completely wrong. One might not like the styles, but a simpler or more abstract approach does not mean it's below professional standard. In fact there is nothing in The Dandy that could be classed as "poorly drawn". The aim isn't to draw realistically, and if one looks at the artwork thoroughly there's a sound structure and consistency to each style. Complaining that the modern style isn't "as good" as, say, The Dandy of 1970, is as off-target as saying The Dandy of 1970 wasn't as well drawn as Ally Sloper's Half Holiday.


SUBSCRIBE!
Thanks to Mike in the comments for reminding me that if you subscribe to The Dandy it's a mere £15 for 15 issues! Only £1 an issue, far cheaper than in the shops! Go to: http://www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk/Group-Dandy.aspx

82 comments:

Tom said...

Surely that must be a mistake. 48% is the biggest drop of anything on that list, by a WIDE margin. If it were really that bad they would surely have stopped printing it already.

ElvenBrit said...

Hi Lew,
the drop in British comic sales is a reflection of the way things are in general on the high street. I'm the manager of a Waterstone's and the book trade is suffering in the same way. Books, comics, Graphic Novels etc are all classed as luxury items, and customers are picking n' choosing which titles they want the most, where years ago they would have bought the lot.
I totally agree with your observation about the way comics are displayed in shops, especially newsagents. They are a mess, and most of them are damaged, because of the forceful way they are crammed in. Working for Waterstone's we are taught that the way you merchandise/display a book can improve your sales, because it can act as the silent bookseller.
I have a five year old son who's in to Ben 10, Spongebob etc, and yes a free toy helps, sad but true.

James Spiring said...

Took you long enough! :p

Definitely not a great situation. Any idea how the Fun-Sizes and Classics were doing before they stopped last year? Is the Dandy doing as bad as those were? I hope not.

Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear! I'm glad you mentioned WH Smith. I remember reading "Bury My Heart at W.H. Smith's" by Brian W. Aldiss. I wonder if he'd like to change the title now! Such a shame that good stuff gets lost in the morass of plastic toys and wrappers!!!
Bang that drum again Lew, we agree

Jack Silver said...

I can believe those figures.

The Dandy of today has none of the old Dandy we loved, there's a scary old bald man on the cover, the writing in the bubbles looks childish, the "art" looks rushed and hard to follow, the "jokes" are not funny, the celebrity stories are inappropriate. They should have followed the example set by Beano and sticked to the formula that worked.

Lew Stringer said...

Jack, the point is the old formula WASN'T working, which is why they've been more experimental. It's obviously not to your taste, and fair enough, but as for "it's not funny", humour is in the funny bone of the beholder.

Peter said...

Thanks for writing this article Lew,it struck a chord with me and i'm sure it resonates with a lot of people who grew up reading and
loving comics.

It is awful to see how the market for british humour comics appears to be dwindling, and not through lack of trying or talent either.

I produce artwork for a childrens magazine called Okido,which is aimed at 3 - 7 year olds,and mercifully bucks the current trends - its not tied in with any licensing, it has no advertisements, and it is available in a wide range of outlets, including gallery shops,some wh smiths and a lot of independent shops.its something i'm very proud to contribute to.

its really hard for me to understand why the Dandy is not doing well,i'm not particularly keen on the satire stuff, but love the humour strips like 'thingummy blob' and 'arena of awesome'
surely there is something for everyone in there??

I really hope a way to remedy the current situation can be found before it is too late.

Steve Flanagan said...

You can't buy something that isn't on sale.

Over the last day or two, I've kept my eye out while shopping. In that time I've visited 4 convenience stores which sold a small selection of comics. None had either the Beano or the Dandy. I've also visited two newsagents. Both had the Beano, neither had the Dandy. So quality is irrelevant.

Which is a shame, because the current Dandy is much fresher and funnier than either it or the Beano has been for a very long time. "Pre-school Prime Minister", in particular, is a classic, and the single tier strips add a lot of energy.

As for Harry Hill - British comics have been putting 'slebs on their covers since Dan Leno's day, so it's not something to get worked up about.

Jack Silver said...

I judge how funny a comic is by how much it makes me smile and Dandy doesn't make me smile ergo it's not funny. I bought the first two new issues and they were low standard for what the Dandy used to be. Your own insecurity about it is apparent by the way you snapped at me and James. You always find time to write long bits about Commando every fortnight so you could have fit in a blog about Dandy's decreasing sales before now if you put your mind to it. It's old news now.

Lew Stringer said...

Jack, I suggest you read my blog of a week ago to see why I've had more important things on my mind.

As for the Commando pieces, they're published verbatim from the press releases DC Thomson send me. It takes about five minutes to post those.

Although why I'm explaining myself to an obvious troll I don't know. Jack; off.

1000MB said...

It is a real shame to see the decline of two British icons. Im 14 myself and I collect old comics and annuals. The way I see it is after 1986 The Dandy just got I feel more discusting I remeber looking at a recent Dandy Annual it was just awful having characters where you see them being sick and actually seing what is in their sick is just horrible. I know they have got to try and reach a larger market but making it discusting is not the answer. I know this has changed since but it gives a bad image to the comic. You see if you have an adult looking at that perticular annual they would wonder what on earth happened to their beloved comic. Another problem I find is that the comic is not advertised. One last thing one of the recent Beanos featured national trust houses how can that appeal to their target market? Its a good collecters piece yes but not a comic kids would want to pick up. To end I want to agree with you on the way they display the comics it is awful. OK rant over

Thanks

Lew Stringer said...

I think the National Trust issue of The Beano was so they'd get publicity in the press, which would hopefully remind parents the comic is still around.

Regarding distribution of The Dandy, yes it's definitely getting worse. I haven't seen it in my local Smiths recently and only one other shop in town stocks it (just one copy). My corner shop however has four, and I buy two of those.

Anonymous said...

I think a major part of the problem regarding the decline of comics is the cost. For example, back in 1974, The Beano cost 3p. If the price of the comic had simply risen with inflation it would be about 27p today. If it had risen with wages it would be around 35p. I know it's now in colour and a larger size comic, (But now with advertising I understand) but it's still a huge increase above inflation.

Anonymous said...

hi lew,
you probably have considered this already:
i guess u read dandy in 1960s as a kid...
the dandy in 1968 cost 1.67p(4d) and with inflation would cost 22p today! 1217% price increase

but it actually costs £1.50 - which is 8882% increase on 1968 price!

so price has increased 7 x inflation rate!!!

i know its full colour now and on better quality paper, but u have less panels, less words... so it takes less time to read...

so in real terms its more expensive product!

Lew Stringer said...

It's increased like that because the unit cost is higher and because retail giants now charge a fortune just to stock it, which they didn't in the 1960s.

True, a 1960s Dandy might take a bit longer to read than a modern one, but the same could be said by comparing a 1930s Funny Wonder to a 1960s Dandy. It's not really a comparison that most of today's readers would be aware of so I don't think that'd put them off.

Diego Jourdan said...

Well, compared to how comics are doing in 98% of the World, British comics are doing great... declining sales due to economies melting down are not a new thing by any means, and we just have to get used to the whole children's entertainment pie being split into smaller pieces. It's not about "quality" (though quality goes a long way), or being "funnier" than the next comic, but about striking a chord among a given readership, which of course, can be difficult and tricky, but that's the way it goes, and there are no clear paths to success (just think how many bands from the 1960 didn't survive the 70's, or how many 1930 strips didn't survive "Popeye").

1000MB said...

At least the Dandy has stopped being extreme nad now reverted back to comics if it was still like that it would be 2.50 pound. Some of the strips in the dandy are ok like 101 ways to use a meerkat thats just funny, but then having a strip about Cheryl Cole's Mole (face mole) it puts it in comparison. Kids would rather see a strip about celebrites facial floors than Korky the Cat, Desperate Dan. Its was a sad day when Korky was axed and even worse making Desperate Dan tiny. It just relfects the children of today. At least the Beano has some original characters still in it.

1000MB said...

Oh and whatever happened to the Classics from the Comics magazine?

Anonymous said...

hi lew.
all comments about drawing styles are subjective. sure, but all that matters in the end are sales. its a product. why should we SUPPORT it? if we like it, we will buy it! but people should buy it or it will disappear? what logic is that?
these poorly drawn strips are on the level of JOECARTOON. sure people dont mind seeing this standard of cartoon for free, but few will pay for it. thats why he shut down his website last year and put stuff onto youtube. are dandy's distribution and display problems the cause of it dramatic decline in sales? i think its content. content is king. there are better things to pay £1.50 on even in comics..

Lew Stringer said...

Anon, obviously no one is suggesting that people who don't like The Dandy, or those who don't care if it survives, should support it. My comment was aimed at those who perhaps only pick it up occasionally, or who haven't tried it yet.

As for the strips being "poorly drawn", sorry but you're completely 100% utterly wrong. The styles may not be to your taste, and you may not LIKE them but the ability is there. Take my word for it, the structure of the strips is sound.

As for "content is king", well, expanding to the bigger picture, the sales of practically every magazine, comic, and newspaper continue to fall. Does that mean that no one in the publishing industry is doing a good job? No one at all? Or could there just be other factors involved?

Lew Stringer said...

MB, Classics from the Comics folded last October:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.com/2010/10/final-classics-from-comics.html

Anonymous said...

hi lew,
i have an 8 year old nephew. would i buy him the beano - maybe. would i buy him the dandy - no!!!
what market is this "comic" for? it is a hodgpog of styles!
where is this "sound structure" on some of the strips? good writing? good design? good draughtsmanship?in the end maybe you cannot analyse it all.
if it is such a great commodity, it would not have lost almost 50% sales.
the banks collapsed because of poor judgement and short term thinking by "experts" in the banking field.
maybe dandys collapse is a reflection on the poor judgement of talented people!

Anonymous said...

The strips in the Dandy ARE poorly drawn. there are artistic standards that art is judged by, take it from ME. nothing is a match for a Ken Reid Jonah or a Jack Prout Black Bob or Bill Holrods Brassneck. the standards have been dropping for 30 years and its worse than it's ever now. put it out of its misery the REAL Dandy died when I was a youngster

Anonymous said...

Hi Lew

The Dandy relaunch had big problems from the start. They put out 200,000 copies of the first relaunched issue but sold just 20,000, only 10% of the print run. After that they scaled back their print run and eventually started putting plastic gifts back onto certain issues. Their ABC seems low but then that was going from a monthly to a weekly, they were bound to drop some readers. ABCs are sales per issue so it wouldn't take into account a change of frequency.

I think the biggest reason for the drop off is the lack of plastic gifts. Without a massive license to support it (like Moshi Monsters) every other magazine has to rely on it's covermounts to generate sales. There will always be some kids who buy Dandy or Beano or Toxic religiously but the majority are floating readers who make their decision when they get to the magazine rack. The mag with the best gifts wins! The reason Toxic still does well is because they have great listings in the supermarkets so kids can always find it.
Andy

Lew Stringer said...

In that case Andy it would seem that British kids are no longer interested in content, just playing with the free toys. A sad day indeed.

Anon, the "sound structure" I was talking about was that even though each artist had his/her own style, it was consistent within that style. A badly drawn strip wouldn't be. What aspects of the styles lead you to think it's poorly drawn? Because it's not realistic? That's not the aim.

It's fine to say it's too simplistic for your tastes, or too sketchy, or whatever, but once you state something is badly done then you need to back it up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lew

The Dandy is not poorly drawn and the strips it contains are of a very high quality. It impressed everyone who saw it at my former company and we were amazed and saddened when it failed to sell well. I'm sure every child that does buy it enjoys it.

Andy

Lew Stringer said...

Cheers Andy. It is really a case of getting kids to notice it. Even a print run of 250,000 is no good if there aren't 250,000 kids who are in the habit of buying comics now.

That's the big problem I think; British kids are just not in the habit of buying comics anymore, especially weekly ones. I never see kids buy comics now, and even if they or their parents were looking for them it's an effort to find a specific title in a crowded display.

Sadly the odds are stacked against children's comics succeeding. The fact that The Dandy, Beano, Toxic and others survive is a testament to how good they are, not a glass half-empty condemnation of why they're not selling the quantities they used to.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lew,
i was in my local WH Smith at lunchtime. while there is a comics section, the Dandy was on a prominent display with other titles as part of a promotion; some being kids comics, some magazines. While there were no copies of the other items left, their place-holders being empty or a couple of issues of 1 comic, there was still a number of Dandys on display, about 10 copies!!!
Looking at the cover, i'm not sure who this comic is aimed at...

Anonymous said...

Hi Lew,
i was in my local WH Smith at lunchtime. while there is a comics section, the Dandy was on a prominent display with other titles as part of a promotion; some being kids comics, some magazines. While there were no copies of the other items left, their place-holders being empty or a couple of issues of 1 comic, there was still a number of Dandys on display, about 10 copies!!!
Looking at the cover, i'm not sure who this comic is aimed at...

1000MB said...

Lets put it this way if your a kid who watches tv and you see a magazine that focuses on tv programmes such as phineas and ferb and transformers and does alot of compettions a kid is gonna pick that one instead especially if it has a free gift. Thats why Toxic is doing well. As other people have asked what exactly is the target market for the Dandy? Lew quick question, I was reading the history of the Beano ad the editor said that there was a new strip called the ultras coming out, I looked this up and it said that it was later named the Super School which you draw. Euan said that it may even topple Dennis on the ratings. How is it doing on the ratings?

Anonymous said...

To those like 'Jack Silver' who have bemoaned the new variety of art styles, and suggested The Dandy emulate The Beano by sticking with more traditional styles because 'it works' are conveniently forgetting that The Beano itself has seen a 20% drop in sales as well. I think there's a much larger malaise here than just differing art styles, and I don't think screaming blue murder at The Dandy for daring to try something different is a way to help the beleaguered industry.

- David.

Lew Stringer said...

1000MB, I think the comment about toppling Dennis was meant as a joke. (Dennis is always top of the ratings, and deservedly so.) Super School did extremely well though. It's been absent from The Beano for a while as I was busy on other strips and was catching up after being ill in March, but I sent a new page off yesterday, and have another to draw next week so you'll be seeing Super School again at some stage. (Plus it's in the annual.)

Lew Stringer said...

David, well said. I think blaming the styles of artwork is a knee-jerk reaction in some ways, albeit heartfelt. As I've always said, we need to step back and look at the bigger picture, at what's going on in newsagents, at the attitudes to comics in this country, and how, or if, things can be turned around. Like Steve said, people can't buy a comic that isn't distributed very well.

Mike said...

The "rushed" artwork of the great Eric Parker didn't do Union Jack any harm... in 1923. Because people bought comics reg'lar then.
A subscription to the Dandy is only £15 and works out at £1 an issue. I'm going to promote that a bit around the internet/work (a few people there have young children!)

BLACK BOB said...

It's funny how people were singing the praises of the new look Dandy last year. Now that the experiment has failed people have turned on it. There's no one as fickle as a fair-weather friend!!

Lew Stringer said...

To be fair Bob I don't think it's the same people who have turned on it. (Well, some have admittedly.) Some people didn't like it from the start. They also complained about Dandy Xtreme, and the 2004 revamp, and the one before that... etc.

What the people who resist change forget is that Dandy and Beano have survived BECAUSE they changed. When you have two survivors out of HUNDREDS of titles published in the 20th Century that are long gone, those two comics must be doing something right!

Lew Stringer said...

Mike, good point about the cheap subscription rate! I'll add that to the main article. Thanks for the reminder.

Peter said...

the Beano does find some very inovative ways to get press attention, like the national trust comic, and a few years ago the massive (a guinness world record attempt i think) comic strip drawn on blackpool beach,and a few others spring to mind too.

These kinds of things do bring the comic to the attention of new readers and are very memorable.

Perhaps the Dandy needs to attempt some similarly unusual marketing techniques?

Lew Stringer said...

Good point Peter. Sadly it'd prove fruitless if shops were not stocking it though. But a good suggestion for their next sales push certainly!

spleenal said...

Humm
A worrying stat.
A drop of 48% ?
ABC numbers are issues sold and don't take into account number of issues in any given month? Is that right?
So if a comic went from 2 a month to 4 a month but sold the same number of copies per month then the sales of each issue would have to drop 50% Is that right?

if a comic sold
15000 issues twice a month that would equal
30000 a month
If it then went to selling
7500 a week that would equal
30000 a month?

Same number of issues sold a month.
But these numbers are with an apparent drop of 50%

The Dandy's sales only have an apparent drop of 48% So in real terms they're selling more issues a month. A rise of 4%?

So it seems to me that maybe there's only a finite amount of money out there.

I think that people are a little too quick to point fingers, It's that, it's this. Lose the toys off the cover and you'll lose some readers, drop the cover price and you'll get some back. etc.

It's a complex world, there's never one reason for anything

Bradford said...

I'm going to make a suggestion now and it might be controversial and unpopular with some people but here goes. As someone said here content is king. Children do not like The Dandy as is. My suggestion is, sack the artists and replace them with people who work on comics that sell better! Watch your circulation rise.

Lew Stringer said...

Considering some of us also work for the other comics that sell better your suggestion would mean we'd be sacked and re-employed in the same day. More controversial than you thought perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Hi lew,
This topic makes me think of the decline of traditional pub games, some of which were played in pubs for centuries.
But as with everything, technology began to make inroads. Pinball machines were common pub games from the 1940s to the 1980s.
Since the 1970s, slot machines and video games (such as Space Invaders) have become widespread in pubs, causing a decline in the traditional games.
During the 1990s, especially in Britain, pub quizzes and quiz machines became very popular.
Games such as draughts are still popular with a minority, but as these players diappear there is no one to replace them.

Lew Stringer said...

I don't know how they work out the figures Spleenal. Maths gives me a headache at the best of times.

Like you say, it's not as easy as pointing the finger at one aspect. There are numerous factors at play as to why sales on almost all periodicals are falling. People really should stand back and look at the bigger picture. Sales have been falling for decades.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the dandy should return to being a monthly comic! Graphically some of the pages look the same every week. Thats ok for a newspaper strip, but for a comic.....?

Lew Stringer said...

The Dandy has never been a monthly comic. Besides, a month is a long time for a child and they're more likely to forget to buy the next issue.

1000MB said...

Just a note about the free stuff in comics, even when the Beano and Dandy started they gave away free stuff. Whoopie Masks and Express Whistlers are the Dennis frisbess and the Catapults. They certainly attaract the eye of young kids (if better displayed). I went into a moterway service I looked for the Dandy and the Beano neither were there. What is the Bbanneano and Dandys traget market?

Lew Stringer said...

Free gifts in the early days of The Dandy were not as prolific as you may have thought. After a handful of gifts from 1937 to 1940 there were no more until 1960, and then another gap until 1971! After then the frequency of gifts steadily increased.

The target market of The Dandy and The Beano has always mainly been children under the age of 12, although it's acknowledged that there are a minority of older readers too of course.

1000MB said...

So Lew D.C Thomson has to pay newsagents to stock the Beano and Dandy? Thats just not right! Thats probally one of the ways sales are decreasing if D.C Thomson have to pay they lose money if the comics dont sell well they lose more money so that means they can't sell to another newsagents the spiral goes on. If what I said is wrong sorry.

Lew Stringer said...

Could people please put their names to the foot of their posts when posting anonymously, as Andy did? Otherwise people are going to be confused between the genuine comments and those of others. Better still, use the Name/URL option. Thanks.

Lew Stringer said...

It's not quite like that MB. It's the big retail chains like Smiths and Asda that charge publishers for shelf space, not your local newsagent.

If a publisher wants his title at the front of the display, the more he has to pay. (That's why it's annoying when staff shove them in upside down or in the wrong place.)

This isn't just for DC Thomson. It affects ALL publishers of comics and magazines. I understand Empire magazine paid something like £20,000 a few years ago for a one month boxed display stand.

Lew Stringer said...

That's not £20,000 per shop by the way! That fee covers all branches.

ADFFLO said...

Mr.Stringer,

I've followed this "debate" with some interest and patience.

As Raven said on Comics UK this week no comic should be beyond criticism.

I have noticed that whenever anyone on this blog has tried to pass negative comment re: The Dandy you immediately shoot them down in flames.

Mr.Stringer, your attitude comes across as blinkered and somewhat aggressive.

There is obviously ***something*** wrong with The Dandy or it would be attracting a far bigger fanbase than it currently is!!

A head in the sand attitude is not good for the comics industry. This is why we no longer have the great comics we used to. Everyone ignored the iceberg.

If you're open for debate, allow people to comment without jumping in every five minutes to argue against them.

Thank you.

A DANDY FAN FROM LONG AGO

Lew Stringer said...

It's funny. What you see as aggression I consider reasoned counterpoint. The only aggression was towards an obvious troll. I think I'm entitled to to that on my own blog, yes?

I honestly do think that the new styles in The Dandy are not the reason sales are falling. I've followed that debate on Comics UK and if the old style of artwork was so enduring why aren't any of the old comics around today? Times change, tastes change, styles change.

That's not to say there's anything wrong with the old styles of course! Those artists were, and always will be, the greats. The problem is some critics think their own taste is universal, and clearly it's not, or the styles of W.F. Thomas and Roy Wilson would never have fallen out of favour. Different generations, different tastes. So it goes.

No, the reasons for falling sales (on practically EVERYTHING remember, not just The Dandy) are much more complex and diverse.

Hackers said...

It's not just comics - look at music or even the console games industry that has taken a hit recently in the UK. I'm afraid it's about capturing the public's imagination and sometimes, even with great product, people have to care or know it's there. My kids subscribe to both The Beano and The Dandy but I have to say that my eldest goes straight for The Dandy before reading the Beano. I think The Dandy is a funny comic - yes, it occasionally strays close to the edge but that's OK by me! Sometimes it's daft things that gain popularity for something - if Justin Bieber came out and said he couldn't live without The Dandy I'll bet sales would go through the roof. It's the way of the world these days...

Lew Stringer said...

Exactly. Another video game company closed a couple of weeks ago, despite the talent of its designers. There is so much diversity for kids these days so loyalty to a comic isn't anything like it used to be.

Diego Jourdan said...

I hear WWE KIDS mag sales are going up though... in fact, it is published twice as often than it's American counterpart! Check it out ;-)

Anonymous said...

Lew,
Is dandy trying to be a uk mad magazine?
To me the main image is always pretty static. Most issues give the same feeling to me, they look pretty muvh the same. Perhaps the casual person in tescos or smiths thinks its the same issue on display. I dont know who the artst is who does the covers but his style is not of the quality of the mad artists. Very 2d in my opinion, nothing leaps of the page! As for the dandy logotype? Very 2d again and very basic and primitive. Does this reflect 2011?
You are so right about the marketing and logistics aspects of selling any magazine in a tough marketplace.
Regards,
George

Lew Stringer said...

George, I think they're just trying a new cover design to see if it works. Cover strips went out of favour, a big cartoon didn't quite sell it, so now they're going for caricatures of people kids will be familiar with. If that doesn't work I imagine they'll try something else.

No, it's not as detailed as Mort Drucker, Jack Davis or the other Mad artists of old, but it's not trying to be. The artist is Chris McGhee. The logo was designed by Jamie Smart and it looks quite eye catching to me. I think any kid who LIKES comics would be attracted to it, but that's the problem, - most kids today are disinterested or apathetic when it comes to comics. Sure, everyone likes a laugh, but getting them in the habit of buying it is the big obstacle.

Barry said...

I've got a funny feeling the people that are moaning about the art style of The Dandy aren't entirely the target market, a tad on the old side maybe? Pining for the comics of their youth, I think. There's nothing wrong with that I suppose, but don't just say something's rubbish, just because it's outside your experience. Personally I think the Dandy is the most beautiful comic on the shelves at the moment, a dazzling mix of styles from the almost grafitti-like Pre-School Prime Minister and My Own Genie to Bananaman which is pretty traditional and your own Postman Prat (loved the way you had him hanging on for dear life to the gutter a couple of issues ago, nice touch, started a discussion between my son and I on what the "bits" of the comic page are called). It's a genuinely funny comic (The Bogies anyone?), there's something to make me laugh every week, which I can't always say of The Beano (And I was in the DM and Gnasher Fanclub, maybe I'm a pie-eater deep down really). Not too keen on the celeb stuff, but they seem to have dialled that down a tad and there's always plenty of other stuff. And that's an adult point of view.

My son always goes for The Dandy first (although if you asked him he'd say he was a Menace or a Dodger, but then again he did eat all his "Cowboy Beans" last night after I told him that's what Dan eats). The toys are a huge factor for him though unfortunately. If he had the choice of a rubbish magazine he'd never read with a crappy plastic toy on the front or a Dandy without, I hate to say I think he'd go for the toy.I can't really test this as I bring the B and D back from England to France for him. But in the French newsagents he always goes for the toy. Maybe Dandy could do some quality cover-mounts, the Joke kit with the Beano recently was a good one, maybe even something simple like really nice Dandy stickers and badges, lay off the crappy plastic guns and have something in keeping with the style of the comic. I'd also love to see some of Jamie Smart's art blown up to poster size, in fact a pack of three or four posters would make me a happy man.

To summarise, in my experience The Dandy is far more interesting to children at the moment than the Beano and I'm wondering if the sales drop may be partly due to the aforementioned older people either refusing to buy it for their children or at the very least saying to them "nah, it's rubbish these days, back when I were a lad" and putting them off, because I find it hard to believe that the kids dislike it that much, apart from anything else it is a far more modern comic than the Beano, don't get me wrong, I love the Beano but it hasn't really changed all that much over the years, maybe a bit less spanking and better paper quality (which is another bugbear of mine I much prefer less shiny pages).

And finally I will bang on about this constantly because the way WH Smiths treats it's stock is disgusting and I think we all have a moral duty to teach them a lesson. Don't buy it from them, go to your local newsagent, you probably go there every morning anyway and say "Can you keep me a copy of The Dandy and Beano every week, please?" even if they don't stock it they can order it and you never miss an issue. Right I better go (maybe I should have gone two paragraghs ago). Hope you're feeling better Lew.

Lew Stringer said...

Not too bad now Barry thanks. Looking at the figures in more detail it seems the issues that sold above average were all the ones with cover mounts (even though they cost an extra pound). Seems kids do go for the toys first. Inevitable really, considering every comic has a gift now. Kids expect it. So, as much as we'd like to go back to the days of cheaper comics without added tat it does seem that the target audience prefers a comic/toy package. A shame, but it's a sign of the times I guess.

Anonymous said...

lew,
tnks for your comments to my previous message.
if the toy is what kids see and want., then maybe the toy should be the main thing and the comic the giveaway, shrink it down to the size of the old bazooka joe comics i remember from the 1970s. maybe less is more - less comic! less for people to complain about!
george

Tony Howson said...

This is the thread that just won't die, isn't it ? A few more days and there'll be more comments on here than the current circulation of the Dandy.

I have to say that whatever the faults of the current comic I now buy it every week which isn't something I can say about any previous incarnation of this venerable title. So I'm a customer they've gained (on a worrying note, that probably just means I cancel out a long time reader who's dropped the book).

The Dandy and Beano were by-passed in my youth - I went straight from Teddy Bear Weekly to Odhams group to U.S. Marvels in the space of 18 months between 1964 and 1966.

The current title is much more vibrant than I recall, so I wish it well. I don't like everything in there obviously but Harry Hill, Pratt / Kid Cops, the Etherington Bros (spelling ??) and the new Dan are worth my £1.50.

This year's annual was interesting. I'd like to see a Korky that doesn't look like a plush toy (but I'm ok if that's all we can have) and maybe a new take on Winker Watson (although even at the age of 7 I had problems with that name so I can imagine the reaction it would get now).

Daniel said...

The contempt shown by WHS when flinging comics at random shelves is symptomatic of their approach to all periodicals. Independent magazines are facing similar issues of dealing with poor displays and excessive wastage leading to negligible profits, and are having to turn elsewhere for sales (I got ranty about it a while ago.

Rather than people bickering about Harry Hill and art styles (and it's true – I bet the majority of people on here aren't exactly the target market, and will naturally gravitate towards the styles of their youth), we should be looking at the bigger issue of distribution. Online sales and alternative outlets (i.e. shops that aren't traditionally newsagents, but serve the same target market that the publications are aimed at) are what's working for independent magazines – so why not comics?

We can't expect the "flog it to Smiths, then it's in their hands" approach to work as well as it did ten or twenty years ago. Creative thinking is what's needed.

Daniel said...

Damn it, I left a bracket open.

Just to pick up on something else you mentioned about the grown-up references in Oink! going over the readers heads – when I used to read it, I think I was in just the right age bracket to half-undertsand the references, and those that I didn't, I kind of recognised from observing the mysterious world of The Grown Ups. Seeing jokes about things you don't understand makes you want to understand them. In a weird way, I guess Uncle Pig and friends helped to educate me.

It's okay to go over the reader's head by just a little bit. No more than an inch, I reckon.

Lew Stringer said...

I've received several comments talking of "poor" artwork in The Dandy, including one from someone who was so preoccupied with picking faults with my "attitude" (rather than sticking to topic) that I've decided not to publish it. (He was banned from this blog anyway. Does he not understand the meaning of the word?)

For those who think The Dandy of today features poor artwork, perhaps they could explain what they mean by "poor". As far as I can see the artwork is solid and professional.

Lew Stringer said...

Daniel, you're quite right. As I've said before, people should look at the bigger picture. There's a lot of quality publications out there that are suffering, and focusing on one aspect, such as a few pages of content one doesn't like, isn't the reason.

With anthology comics there will ALWAYS be some content readers don't like. You can't please all the people all the time. It's the nature of that type of comic. When I was a kid I hated 'Captain Hurricane' and would skip those 4 pages (and a couple of other strips I forget). However, a lot of kids clearly DID like it as it remained in VALIANT throughout its run. There have always been "skip" pages in comics, but comics still sold well. The reason for the falling sales of publications today is bigger than that.

Same goes for the "celebrity" strips in The Dandy. I read a criticism on Comics UK today from someone who claims the Harry Hill strip is "brainwashing" kids into accepting that celebrity culture. Taking comics a tad too seriously methinks! The spoof celeb strips in the comic are hardly comparable to the invasive gossip mongering of the press.

British comics have a tradition of featuring celebrities in their pages: Dan Leno's Comic Journal, Film Fun, Funny Wonder, Buster... the list goes on. No one ever reacted so strongly about it in the past because they saw it for what it was, - a bit of fun!

Anonymous said...

lew,
it was a different time then... when comics were just cheap fun! but i believe kids who read comics regularly were in the minority even then. everyone would just buy the odd issue or maybe their parents did it on impulse.
but today we live in a 24 hour news culture, professionally and online with blogs and facebook etc! and the internet is full of haters. everybody likes to hear how a one time hero has fallen on hard times.
george

Lew Stringer said...

Very true George, on all counts.

It's an ever decreasing circle. Like you say, as it's always been a minority who bought comics, only a percentage of those would buy comics for their children, and so on. Therefore it goes out of habit.

If possible, comics need to become "cool" again, as VIZ did amongst college students 20 years ago. as Hackers said on this thread earlier, if Justin Bieber publicly said The Dandy was an essential, kids would flock to buy it. Well, until the next fad anyway. :)

Kid said...

Here's another one you can decide not to print. (Am I bovvered?) I only commented last time because someone brought to my attention your reference to 'an obvious troll' and it seems pretty 'obvious' what you were suggesting. You always resort to this blanket statement whenever you receive criticism.

As for your 'attitude', others had already introduced the subject into the proceedings, so it was fair game for comment. No surprise to see you sticking to your tactics of misrepresenting the facts in service to your own warped view of things.

All you've done throughout this post is demonstrate to a number of your respondents just how unreasonable you can be - and you've managed to do it without any input from me. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Whew will this thread ever end!! I think The Dandy and Beano are both fab but they are so hard to get hold of in some places now. Your right Lew Smiths don't make it easy. I got this weeks Beano but not Dandy. :-( The hunt continues. I think they sell it at the hospital shop so I'm going there. Cheers Jaz.

Anonymous said...

i think the real problem with the dandy's popularity is with its inexplainable choice of harry hill as its celebrity star and spokesman when clearly it should have chosen the far more talented comedic genius keith lemon!!!
from - wishes to remain anonymous

Lew Stringer said...

Fair point Keith. ;-)

spleenal said...

What are we on now? 78 comments?
Once we sort this out, lets all have a go at fixing the economy!

I must say I've been enjoying the to and fro and some of your witty replies Lew :)
I would subscribe to a "Argue with Lew" site. (on any subject)

And Barry if you're still there, I draw the Bogies and cheers!

Back on topic, the supermarkets etc do seem to do such a bad job, it's a shame other outlets can't be found.

Lew Stringer said...

Cheers Nigel, although some would disagree. Well, one would at least, but it gives him a hobby. :-)

I've often wondered why comics aren't sold in shops that kids actually enjoy visiting, such as game stores and toy shops. Surely it must have been tried?

Lew Stringer said...

I see that a certain person on his own blog says that I think that all the criticisms of The Dandy on this thread come from him.

Well Mr.Paranoid, if I thought that, I'd have blocked their posts just as I blocked your resentment-filled bile.

Furthermore, he then goes on to suggest I'm writing all the anti-Dandy comments myself so I can "posture" as a champion of the comics community. Not only is that absolute cobblers but it also contradicts his own comment that he's not the only lone voice against The Dandy!

As we've seen here (and elsewhere) there are several people who have expressed their dislike of the current Dandy. I've never even implied it was only one disgruntled person!

By the way sunshine, if you look back in these comments you'll see the person I called an "obvious troll" was 'Jack Silver' NOT you! So get that chip off your shoulder and relax.

Kid said...

Once again you mis-state the case. I merely pointed out that someone suggested to me that you might be writing THOSE COMMENTS THAT APPEAR TO COME FROM ONE PERSON - not that you were writing EVERY negative comment. Therefore no contradiction. And, even if I were meaning what you seek to imply, there is STILL no contradiction, as I would then be merely considering alternative possibilities. And if you're really telling me that you never thought Jack Silver might be me, then I'm a Dutchman.

Anonymous said...

" … a Facebook group calling for the abolition of celebrity-based strips such as Harry Hill …"

They really ought to know their comics history: "celebrity-based strips" go back to Funny Wonder and before, with the likes of Arthur Askey, and Laurel and Hardy, featured in strips.

CHALLENGE CHARLIE said...

Gawdon Bennett maybe those whingers should pool their rescources and make their OWN comic to show the world how it should be done. The gauntlet is thrown. Let's see if they can do it. LOL.

Lew Stringer said...

If they could produce a humour comic for less than a fiver a copy that's as good as or better than the standards set by The Dandy I'd buy it.

Simon Hall said...

I know this thread is very old, and I haven't much else to add, but there has been a noticable improvement to the magazine layout at a large branch of tesco near to me. as part of their store refurbishment, the magazine racks are now much taller and spacious allowing everything to be clearly displayed and neatly arranged. W H Smith still looks like a magazine shrapnel grenade has gone off in the shop, but I do notice that W H Smug does seem to be treated as library rather than somewhere to actually buy things. One of the more obvious problems i've noticed about displaying modern children's comics is the sheer volume of cover mounted crap (sorry - generational thing, but it is, as if the planet is clogged up with enough plastic toss already) and the bulk of it that seems to make displaying the things neatly and coherently an impossibility unless your racking is a deep as a thing thats very deep - a luxury not afforded most retailers.

If I'm honest, I'm puzzled by the continuing success of Toxic, but then I'll freely admit its not designed to appeal to someone in their 30s! My nephew used to get it and there's not a lot of content in there. Mostly enormous photo's of whatever's in that month, coupled with the usual slew of puzzle pages and a few comic strips dotted around. What exactly is the appeal?

Mind you, it's not just Toxic (shame its not Toxic! I used to love that, Pat Mills grand folly of 1991...) that's vacuous, most licensed comics are the same. A page (or possibly five on a good day) of strip material and the rest is castoffs from some junior version of Puzzler. It's no wonder stuff like the Dandy struggles these days, a whole comic that you have to read? Madness!

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for your comment Simon. I think this is a topic that isn't going away so any extra thoughts are always welcome.

Yes, my nearest Tesco has also improved its magazine shelves. The comics are clearly displayed and all covers are visible. Perfect. Just what the publishers pay them to do. Sales seem brisk too, and unlike some other retail giants they don't have the same issues hanging around all week.

I'm afraid Smiths and Asda still seem to treat comics badly though. True, cover mounts make shelving difficult, but if Tesco and corner newsagents can manage it I'm sure WH Smith and Asda could.

Yesterday in WH Smith at New Street Station (Birmingham) I noticed that they'd stacked every issue of Astonishing Spider-Man upside down and hidden it behind Essential X-Men. Neither of those comics carry cover mounts. In this case it was just lazy shelf-stacking.

As for why Toxic sells, I'd hope my work in it had something to do with it. (Although sadly they're going to be reprinting my old Team Toxic stories from the next issue, now they have 10 year's worth, so time will tell if that makes a difference.)

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