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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Desperate Times

Today's Daily Mirror, The Sun, and The Dandy
Yesterday's explosion of media interest in The Dandy online, and today in the national press, has been astounding. The rumours of the world's oldest comic facing its possible demise due to falling sales brought forth a ton of support and encouragement for The Dandy's survival. (Except for someone crowing "I told you so" and claiming he should be the new editor. There's always one.)

Even some bloggers who don't particularly like the modern version of the comic were hoping The Dandy will survive, and such optimism is very much appreciated by all involved with the comic. 

A spokesperson for DC Thomson said that they were currently carrying out a review of their magazines and that no firm decision had yet been taken.

The story broke on Monday night, initially it seems by The Guardian. Other online press sites swiftly picked up on it, basically repeating and re-wording the original news item. During Tuesday, the rumours were all across the Internet and were being reported on radio and TV in interviews with people such as Paul Gravett, Gary Northfield, Simon Donald, Rich Johnston, and Dr Chris Murray. The story spread abroad, with even The Washington Post covering it

So widespread is this story that it's too time consuming to follow every post, every thread, every comment. However from what I have read there's one thing that most of the media seems to have ignored: the work lost to artists. Comic fans appreciate this of course but the general press does not. They'll mention everything from cover prices to nostalgic whimsy for long-gone characters but what seems to have been overlooked is that cutbacks in the comics industry affect the livelihoods of cartoonists and writers, and freelancers receive no redundancy payments. The British comics industry still survives, but cutbacks are suddenly happening all over and everyone's swimming towards the same lifeboat.

Imagine a similar rumour going around about, say, the closure of an engineering firm, or cutbacks in schools, or shops closing some branches etc. Quite rightly, the paramount focus would be on people losing their jobs. Yet when the comics industry is threatened with cutbacks the media totally ignore the fact that the main people losing out are the ones crafting the stories that entertain readers or help teach children to read. (Although as we cartoonists are often told "It's not a proper job". In that case perhaps we should be exempt from paying proper tax.)

Interestingly, one newspaper reporting the rumour has mentioned the effect it has on creators and surprisingly it's today's edition of The Sun. It's cartoonist Steve Bright who makes the astute observation and at the end of his comments he says:

"Its publishers assure us that there is still an exciting future for The Dandy via new media opportunities. Whether that embraces the dwindling army of comic artists remains to be seen.
Drawing funny comics has always been a serious business for us. Today, it is also a very sad and worrying one." 

Well said, Steve. If the public stop to consider that comics are produced by people doing a job of work then it'll have been worthwhile.

See also Jamie Smart's excellent and passionate article for The Guardian

The increased interest in The Dandy has led to many people saying they're going to start buying the comic again. That is indeed wonderful news, although as many newsagents no longer stock the comic those potential new readers might face considerable difficulty. My suggestion would be to try your local newsagents first, and if they don't have it try the bigger retailers such as WH Smith, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, etc.

Good luck! And as the old saying goes, Always Keep A Dandy Handy.


James Spiring said...

It's not that surprising about The Sun, as Steve works for both The Dandy and The Sun and their publishers have an established relationship. The Sun played an active part in 1997's Dan leaves the Dandy publicity stunt, campaigning for his reinstatement and running single line strips (the source for those must've been either the Weekly News or Sunday Post, as he was never less than a half page in the Dandy).

Dr Andy Oliver said...

'New media' smacks of marketing senior management bilge. I bet they have not done anything sensible such as a focus group? Both my 3 and 5 year old read dandy with dads help. They are not at the stage where they would appreciate iPad versions of the comic etc. The love it when the actual comic falls through the letter box and they can hold it between each other and turn the pages etc. Hopefully I would expect them to rethink this.

Lew Stringer said...

To be fair they do often use focus groups for the comics, so I would imagine they'd do the same for a digital version.

That said, I think the media took the mention of digital too literally and ran away with it. There has been a digital Dandy since November 2011, which many pundits commenting this week seem unaware of.

Stevo said...

And if you can't find a physical copy, there's always the digital offering for those with iPhones/iPads etc.!

Peter Gray said...

i hope there will be a way for The Dandy to carry on..its a good comic!!

Peter Gray said...

Just read the Daily Mail one and thought it was good it does help children to read..

Its really strange how The Beano is doing well But The Dandy is so low..

If and I say if it does go online I hope a lot of the artists will be able to keep there jobs...and not just new Desperate Dan stories..

A lot of comics seem to end near or on Comic cuts reaching its milestone or nearly then closing..Buster nearly 40 years before it closed..

Lets hope The Dandy comic..or online..will continue for another 75 years;0)

Anonymous said...

Losing the Dandy would be a shame at any time, but this soon after a revamp that seems to have given massive creative freedom & work to wildly diverse creators? That'd be just cruel.

- Charles RB

Barry said...

"Although as many newsagents no longer stock the comic those potential new readers might face considerable difficulty."

Yes I'm banging on about this again.

You've got to stop saying stuff like this Lew, you'll put people off buying it, any local newsagent will happily order it and keep it under the counter for you, every week, The Dandy isn't hard to get at all. If more people realised this I think it would sell more, I'm always seeing comments like "I can't find it in my local" or "the covers are always scrunched up from being jammed into the shelves at WH Smiths" but none of this is a problem, just ask your local. It's how I've got all my news-stand comics since 2000ad in the 80s.

Also if more people requested it I think more newsagents would take the risk on whacking one on the shelves.

Maybe they should put one of those old coupons 2000ad used to have in it, you know the "please Mr Newsagent save me a copy".

Aidan Courtney said...

Well it is an amazing product. Like you said (and I meant to mention it last night in my typing frenzy) it is a place for comic artists to showcase their work too. Like a theatre showing plays it is a stage for artists and writers to work. Comics are undervalued as I have said before.

We publish a comic in the Irish language called Rírá (it means messing or commotion in English). It was conceived to promote the Irish language in a fun way using Irish talent we have based on the island. It was a nod to the Beano, Dandy and now the Phoenix. We have had people say 'Ugh no it's just a comic.' Then on the other hand we have had teachers, parents and others embrace the comic and see it for what it is. A fun easy way to read Irish. The same can be said for the Dandy or Beano or whatever...

I have read French comics and Dutch comics in the past. While my grasp of them both is pretty iffy. My French is conversational kinda if you can imagine the French person talking quite slowly. I have ordered food and been able to negotiate through the Netherlands without ordering the leg of a chair greased in dog manure on a plate in Dutch. This is because of reading comics in both languages.

Comics if used are a great tool for kids and they will seek them out in later life. I think about 30 years ago when everyone decided 'You know what comics should grow up' everyone forgot if you don't maintain the seedlings you don't get trees later who will pick up comics (good god where was I going with that).

Again I find I am typing a storm. Am sorry about that I do get animated when talking about reading and the benefits of comics regardless of the genre. So apologies.

Lew Stringer said...

Barry said:
"Maybe they should put one of those old coupons 2000ad used to have in it, you know the "please Mr Newsagent save me a copy"."

They already do Barry. Hadn't you noticed?

My comment about searching for copies was regarding the current issue. Yes, newsagents will reserve future issues if you place an order but they can't get *today's* issue if they don't already have it on their system.

Mike said...

Tesco seem to stock it fairly reliably, though you may have to dig through a load of plastic tat. I bought it on the way home the other night. "Chav Olympics" was great, though probably a one-off. And it features a guy throwing a shot-put through somebody's window, who said naughty kids don't appear in comics any more?

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, the claim about "Political Correctness" is somewhat exaggerated, usually by people who haven't read comics for 30 years or more.

Anonymous said...

virgin trains losing its franchise, now that is big news that is going to effect millions of people in this country and maybe thousands of jobs will be on the line both directly or indirectly... lets get this in perspective, the dandy is a just a cottage industry and if these artists are so passionate about drawing comics they can carry on creating their little pictures just as thousands of fine artists and painters do without financial reward and just for the shear pleasure... im sure you wont publish this lew, but really its not the end of the world, maybe just the end of a lifestyle for a few...

Lew Stringer said...

What a mean-spirited comment. No wonder you're afraid to put your name to it.

The financial hardship suffered by any job loss shouldn't be sneered at in the way you just have. Seems to me that you're the one in need of some perspective on life.

Barry said...

"They already do Barry. Hadn't you noticed?"

I actually thought that after I hit send.

"My comment about searching for copies was regarding the current issue."

Fair enough I take your point, apologies, maybe I ranted a bit but it just winds me up the amount of people that say they can't get hold of it.

Sorry again.

I'll get me coat.

Gareth said...

So Anon thinks that comic artists can live on fresh air. No wonder British comics are now the poor man of Europe.

Lew, I know I've asked this before but when are you going to do a blog about Spike comic? The Man In Black saga really got me when I was younger.

oh yeh, Save The Dandy!

Lew Stringer said...

I'll do a post on Spike one of these days Gareth! I don't have many issues of it now though. Gave most to the RSPCA years ago.

Lew Stringer said...

Barry, no need to apologize. Passions on this subject are running high. We all want The Dandy to survive.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that all my concerns re the Dandy is for the artists and those employed by the Dandy ( I have no personal attachment to the comic although I would like to se it survive it is iconic for the UK) - YEAH it certaily isnt "the end of the wOrld" but this is a comic blog and the DANDY represents a large chunk of that industry -any loss of work/ employment is a major issue for somebody - As Lew says a very mean spiritied comment - go sit in the naughty corner now - McScotty

Andrew Edwards said...

I bought both the Dandy and the Beano for the first time in just under 30 years yesterday, after hearing the news that the Dandy may be cancelled (confirmed today, by the looks of it). I enjoyed the Beano issue, but I LOVED the Dandy issue! I wish I'd have known how good it is before now. Looking at the digital idea - I would support that if the print one is stopping in December.

Gilly said...

All I am saying is I hope everyone finally gives The Dandy the attention it deserves.

When it came back as a proper comic you could tell that everyone involved with it worked incredibly hard to make it a fun fresh comic and that has not changed ever since.

Come on people Britain needs the Dandy!!!

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