Thursday, December 15, 2011
Christmas Comics: DANDY and BEANO (2011)
In the shops right now are the Christmas issues of The Dandy and The Beano. There's the Dandy above, obviously, resting on top of the original artwork for the Postman Prat story in that issue.
Both comics have 44 pages this week, each bagged with a bunch of gifts. Both have the cover price of £3.99 *.
Yes, that's eight quid for two comics, but both comics are taking a break for the holidays and won't be back until January 4th. In essence, you'll save money. I know the bagged "gifts" don't sit well with some collectors but one has to look at it from the publisher's perspective. As declining sales on both comics have shown, children today expect comics to come with several gifts. It also encourages shops to stock more copies. (Even my local newsagent doubled his order this week.)
Forget that Christmas issues of old never needed to be bagged with extras to be popular. We're living in a different time now, and all comics need to find ways to attract attention and to compete with all the other kids' mags/comics that are out there. The idea behind today's Christmas comics is for them to be used as stocking stuffers and, bearing that in mind, these issues would be a pleasant treat for most children. A handful of armchair critics may sneer at today's UK comics industry (it's far easier to tear something down than to create something new, as any local yob will tell you) but the history of British comics is one of adapting to survive, and, format aside, the contents of these two legendary titles prove that the talent pool is as strong as its ever been.
On to the comics themselves. The Dandy has a lively cover by Jamie Smart featuring Desperate Dan. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dan on the cover more often in future as, sadly, this is the last issue to feature a Harry Hill strip.
Since the relaunch of The Dandy in October 2010 Harry Hill's Real Life Adventures in TV Land has usually been the lead strip in the comic, and has been a joy to read. Nigel Parkinson (who explains more about the background behind the strip on his blog) crafted a comic strip that I'm positive will have lasting merit. What Nigel achieved was to go beyond the traditional comic fare and pack the strip with gags and witty surreal humour. Even under lesser artistic hands the writing would have carried the strip but combined with Nigel's excellent cartooning it was solid gold. It had a few critics who hated the idea of celebrities in the comic, (missing the point that such strips poked fun at celebs) but I'm sure that the strip will be fondly remembered by comic historians in the future. Take a bow, Nigel, and good luck with future Dandy projects.
Other strips in this issue include the brilliantly daft My Freaky Family by Nigel Auchterlounie, George vs Dragon by Andy Fanton, Postman Prat by David Mason (and drawn by me) and much more. Here's the seasonal logo I designed for my page...
Over in The Beano, there's the welcome return of Steve Bright who provides a great wraparound cover. Inside, there are two Meebo & Zuky strips by Laura Howell, a five page Dennis and Gnasher strip by Barrie Appleby, a retro Dennis the Menace page (from the late 1950s or early 1960s) by Davy Law, four pages of The Bash Street Kids by David Sutherland, and much more including a very nice Minnie the Minx two-pager from Ken Harrison...
It's a special issue in several ways, not least because for one issue only there's the return of Jim Petrie who came out of retirement to draw a Fatty Fudge strip based on an idea from a competition winner. Jim certainly hasn't lost his touch.
* Those of you who are subscribers won't have had to fork out the £3.99. For those of you who haven't subscribed yet the mega-bargain 15 issues for £15 subscription offer on The Dandy is still available from the DC Thomson website, (http://www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk/Group-Dandy.aspx) whilst The Beano subs offer one at £17 a quarter on Direct Debit (http://www.dcthomsonshop.co.uk/Group-Beano.aspx )
More Christmas fun soon, with a plunge into the past to unearth another seasonal comic from the Time Vortex! What year will we arrive in? Anything is possible. Anything!