Friday, August 31, 2012

Daleks in the 21st Century


The Daleks return to our TV screens on Saturday night (September 1st, 7.20pm, BBC1) in the start of a five week run of Doctor Who. It occurred to me this week that I've actually seen every Dalek story that's been televised. Yes, I'm that old. 

Back in 1965, or 2065 as the comic insisted, TV Century 21 ran a regular Daleks comic strip on its back cover. For me, this was an even bigger draw than the spectacular strips inside which featured Fireball XL5, Stingray, Lady Penelope and others. I was therefore over the moon when TV21 No.23 featured The Daleks as the main cover feature. I'm pretty sure this is the first time The Daleks dominated the cover of any comic, so it's little wonder that this issue is highly collectible.

Covers of TV21 at this time always featured Gerry Anderson characters, so this issue (and a subsequent one which also featured Daleks) were very unusual. The reason they were featured was to promote "the exciting Dalek film being made by Regal Films International". You'll note there's curiously no mention of Doctor Who, even though the movie would be released as Dr.Who and The Daleks


The other reason for the cover feature was because that issue featured a competition to win an Inflatable Dalek by giving a name for the Red Dalek. All readers had to do was explain why they chose one of the six names listed. Interestingly, the comic strip had already featured a red Dalek with a name, - Zeg, - which was a far better than any of those names listed. 

Want to see what that issue's Dalek comic strip was like? Here you go...

Script: David Whittaker. Art: Richard Jennings.

This strip made such an impression on me when I was six that I distinctly remember making little Plasticine models of the Daleks, their flying saucer, and the snake creature so that I could re-enact the story.

What's great about The Daleks is that even today new generations of children find them just as fascinating as we did when they first appeared. TV21 was set in the 21st Century and now here we are in the real 21st Century and Daleks are still around. Long may they rule!

Commando Nos. 4527 to 4530


The latest four Commando comics, - out now! Thanks to Scott Montgomery at D.C. Thomson for providing the info. 

 
Commando No 4527 – The Leopard Commander

 It sounded almost cute and cuddly, an Italian commander named for a big cat. But his British adversaries in East African were under no illusions, they knew that, like his namesake, he was fast, agile…and deadly!

Story: Alan Hebden
Art: Keith Page
Cover: Keith Page

 

Commando No 4528 – The Doomed Legionnaires

Men from all over the world, men with secret shameful pasts, men who had no place in their home countries. Here they were, gathered together to fight an implacable enemy, for a flag that was not their own.
   And because they were foreigners, they had been handed a suicide mission. They were indeed

The Doomed Legionnaires

Story: Steve Coombs
Art: Benet
Cover: Benet

Commando No 4529 – Take No Prisoners!

SKULL and CROSSBONES…
Ten British prisoners lay dead — shot down in cold blood. And there were no witnesses to the terrible crime.
   The only clue to the killers lay there in the blood-stained dust — a German helmet bearing a skull and crossbones emblem…an emblem which from that day on was to be a death warrant to every Nazi who wore it.

Introduction

Ask most people about Commando and they’ll tell you about nasty Nazis and clean-cut fair-playing British. Yet this story from 1962 shows that those assumptions, like all generalisations, don’t stand up to scrutiny. Sure there are nasty Nazis but after that things become a bit more hazy and there’s a moral ambivalence amongst the British.
   But don’t let that put you off! As ever, Eric Hebden crafts a great story behind Ken Barr’s intimidating cover, and Casarubio’s strong and confident black linework complements the atmosphere very well.
   All in all, this commando takes no prisoners. Sorry.

Calum Laird, Editor

Take No Prisoners! originally Commando No 25 (June 1962)

Story: Eric Hebden
Art: Casarubio
Cover: Ken Barr

 
Commando No 4530 – The Deadly Deal


There are good deals, bad deals and deals like the one Jan de Groot made. He agreed that he would work as an agent in enemy-held territory where the slightest slip-up would lead to arrest, torture and probably death.
   It was going to take all his courage to keep
THE DEADLY DEAL


Introduction: 
Our main character, tough-as-nails Dutchman Jan de Groot is a hot-headed hero, which also makes him a flawed hero — and this twisty-turny yarn is an excellent example of a Commando espionage story done well. It’s complemented by veteran interior illustrator Cecil Rigby’s artwork, which is chock full of icy black waters and moody nightscapes.

Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

The Deadly Deal, originally Commando No 2145 (December 1987)

Story: Allan Chalmers
Art: Cecil Rigby
Cover: Jeff Bevan

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pimples for sale


If anyone's interested I have a few more pages of my original artwork for sale up on eBay. This selection includes the 1987 Pete and his Pimple Christmas story from Oink!, a Combat Colin penciled page from Transformers, and the first Specky Hector's History of Comics from Buster

Auction ends on Sunday. Good luck! 
See the items by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Are You Ready?


As I reported back in May, there's a brand new weekly comic heading your way soon from David (V for Vendetta) Lloyd and an all-star line up of comic creators, with all-new full colour content at an affordable price. Aces Weekly makes its digital debut on September 30th!

More news here:
http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/combat-colin-back-in-action-this-summer.html

And don't forget to bookmark the official website:
http://www.acesweekly.co.uk/

Monday, August 27, 2012

Comic Oddities: NODDY'S TALL BOOKS (1960)

  
Although The Dandy was the first comic I had regularly it wasn't the first comic I actually read. For years I've thought it was a Christmas 1963 issue of Yogi Bear's Own that was my introduction to comics, but recently I realised that I must have read Huckleberry Hound Chuckleberry Time before that. 

However, after sorting out some old stuff to throw out / sell I found a couple of comics that I remembered having even before the aforementioned titles. Dated 1960 (when I was just a year old) I must have had them a couple of years later, when I was 2 or 3. I think it's safe to say that Noddy's Tall Red Book and the Tall Yellow Book were the first comics I read (or had read to me). I recall there was also a Tall Green Book, that seems to have been lost in the time stream. Sorry about the condition of the books in these photos, but I was only a toddler at the time...


Make no mistake, these are comics, not picture books, using Enid Blyton's famous Noddy character in what I think are new stories. An unusual format, but definitely all-comic strip material. Each "book" measures 7.5cm wide by 26cm high and has just 12 pages. Each spread features a complete comic strip, so there are five stories in all. Each page is read from top to bottom before doing the same with the corresponding page. Here's the opening strip from the Red Book which must be the first in the series as it introduces Noddy...


In typical British comics subversive fashion, Noddy almost drives into a policeman, and that's the end of the story so he gets away with it. In another strip, the residents of Toytown think Noddy himself has been run over. It's panic in the streets until Noddy reassures them he's ok...


In the next story, Noddy has his car nicked by a bad goblin, but luckily Big Ears is around to dish out some instant justice. I'm not sure what the sailor's doing in the background...


In the Yellow Book, Noddy doesn't show an ounce of gratitude to Big Ears for rescuing his car. Buying a gun from a grinning merchant in a backstreet shop he shoots Big Ears in the face and gut, laughing while he commits the foul deed, making The Joker look like an amateur in comparison...


Ok, it was a pop-gun, but being shot in the face by a cork would still hurt. Sadistic little git isn't he? You could take someones eye out with that. 

I don't know how many of these comics were published. As I said, I had three, but if they were based on basic colours there couldn't have been many more. Anyone else out there remember these comics?

To read the strips, click on the images to open in another page, then click again to see them larger.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Before Mudman...


Before Mudman, before Jack Staff and Kane, and around the time of the controversial St.Swithin's Day comic with Grant Morrison, comic artist Paul Grist was illustrating strips for DC Thomson's girls comic Nikki

He even became the regular cover artist for a while. Here's a few examples from 1989...




As you can see, Paul's pleasant style and his great sense of composition and balance of black and white was evident even then. He also drew a semi-regular strip called I Love Dave about an infatuated teenager. Here are three of those strips...




There's a good interview with Paul about his career on the FPI website here

Website dedicated to Paul's work: http://www.weisshahn.de/kane/

Butt-Face's Bank Holiday Badness

When the sunshine over Blackpool is blocked out by a giant ass-teroid (an asteroid shaped like a bottom) there's no prizes for guessing which British comics bad guy is responsible. Yes, once again the cheeky Butt-Face is up to no good and it's down to Team Toxic to stop him.

Cheer yourselves up this wet Bank Holiday weekend with the latest issue of Toxic, - in the shops now bagged with a bunch of gifts including a Bin Weevils frisbee and an Angry Birds sticker album (and starter stickers). 40 pages featuring work by Russ Carvell, Laura Howell, myself and others for £2.80.

The last 12 months have seen the average sales of Toxic rise from 40,000 to 43,000, making it one of the most successful children's magazines/comics currently published. Launched in 2002, Toxic will be 10 years old next month. 
http://www.toxicmag.co.uk

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Douglas Phillips, Illustrator

  
The artist Douglas Phillips has sadly passed away at the age of 85. His many works included illustrating stories for The Rover and Victor (one being I Flew With Braddock) and covers for The People's Friend

His daughter Deborah has kindly provided more information on her father's career:


In addition to being an exceptional painter and illustrator of over 100 children's books, he was also known for documenting old Dundee in his lively pen and ink drawings and his book collaborations with Ron Thomson.





Following army service in India and Ceylon, dad started his artistic career with DC Thomson in the art department illustrating for The Rover and The Victor amongst others - most notably I Flew with Braddock and such real-life stories as "Sink the Bismark" and "The Target was Turin". 



After leaving Thomsons, his association with the firm continued as, for over 1000 issues of The People's Friend, he was the pen and brush of J Campbell Kerr. 




Latterly he was best known for his evocative landscapes of the Scottish countryside especially his beloved east coast and the Mearns. 



He was a gentle man, full of fun, interesting stories and always with a mischievous twinkle in his eye - he will be sadly missed by all who ever met him.

Tragically his death comes a mere 3 weeks after that of his wife Margaret (also formerly of DC Thomson) to whom he was devoted. He leaves behind his daughter Deborah also a painter and his son-in-law Mark who carries on the family tradition as a graphic designer within The Beano.

Douglas Phillips - born Dundee 1926. Died 19th August 2012.




My sincere condolences to the family for their loss and my thanks to Mark and Deborah for providing the text and images for this post.



 


Monday, August 20, 2012

Charlie Brooker on The Dandy

My original art to this week's final Dark Newt story
It feels like there's been more written about The Dandy over the past week than there ever has been in its 75 year history, and the commentary shows no sign of stopping yet. This weekend saw DC Thomson's Sunday Post report an optimistic piece on the comic's digital future (but still not revealing any details), whilst The Independent on Sunday went all misty eyed because they think the end of the printed Dandy will mean the end of free gifts in comics. (Have they even looked in a newsagents over the past ten years? That mound of magenta and dayglo green polythene with its plastic innards, - that's the comics section.) The Dandy, incidentally, hasn't had a free gift since Christmas.

Now writer, journalist, broadcaster, ex-Oink artist and "that jammy b*gger who's married to Konnie Huq" Charlie Brooker has posted his thoughts about the demise of the print version of The Dandy. Enjoy:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/19/reports-dandy-death-greatly-exaggerated

His comments about certain commentators being stuck in the past are valid (and very amusing). We should be looking forward to a digital Dandy, assuming it's continuing as a digital comic and not some online game/joke source. Still, even if that happens we'll just have to roll with the times. Life isn't static, so why should comics be an exception?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Memories of The Dandy

Preview of the final episode of The Dark Newt
It's been a very strange week in British comics. Saddening, to hear confirmation that The Dandy's days are numbered (literally, if you follow the countdown clock to the demise of the paper edition). Unsettling, for the artists and writers, wondering if there will be work for us in The Dandy's digital future. Heartwarming, to read of the interest and affection that Britain's oldest comic has inspired in people.

I love The Dandy comic. Have done since I was four years old and my Mum bought me a copy in January 1964. It became the first comic I had regularly. I looked forward to it every Monday and I can still recall sitting at home with my Mum reading Black Bob to me. It helped teach me to read, putting my reading skills so far ahead of my classmates at infant school that the teacher asked my Mum if I'd had private tuition. (I should add that I levelled out a few years later. I didn't turn into a living brain, as any reading of this blog can attest.)

The first issue I had. Jan 11th 1964. Art: Charlie Grigg.
Some say The Dandy was too old fashioned by the 1960s, but it was having stories set in that sooty, post-war working class land of factory chimneys, seaside deckchairs, horse-drawn milk floats and Dads in pullovers that made it so appealing to me. You see, the Sixties may have been swinging in Carnaby Street but most of Britain still looked like it was the 1950s so the environment of The Dandy reflected the world that I lived in. 

The first Ken Reid strip I read. Instantly hooked!
Then there were the strips themselves. Charlie Grigg on Korky the Cat and The Red Wrecker. Dudley Watkins' Desperate Dan. Davy Law's Corporal Clott. Jack Glass' The Crimson Ball. Jack Prout's Black Bob. Bill Holroyd's Brassneck. George Martin's Sunny Boy. Eric Roberts' Winker Watson and Dirty Dick. Ken Reid's Big Head and Thick Head. All brilliant. All by top class creators. The Dandy was different to The Beano. Unlike many other comics of the period it never had the influence of Leo Baxendale and as such it was more diverse in its art styles I think. That diversity has returned in recent years, perhaps too late.

I've been reading The Dandy every issue since 1964, give or take a few breaks. I did stop for a year in 1968, possibly to afford all the Odhams comics, and I gave up all humour comics for about three or four years in 1975 when I left school, thinking I was too old for them. Fool! 

Brilliant comic violence from Davy Law.
When I decided to focus on a career in comics in 1980 I sent off some art samples to The Dandy, hoping for work. They were politely rejected, and rightly so. I just wasn't good enough. Even after I started freelancing for Marvel UK and IPC in 1983/84 DC Thomson still proved to be a tough nut to crack. Eventually I managed to get in there, firstly drawing several Fun-Size Dandy comics (including a couple of Korky the Cat dream jobs, ghosting Charlie Griggs' style) and then, in 2010, being invited to be part of the big relaunch of The Dandy as a weekly comic. 

Working for The Dandy has been fantastic. An ambition fulfilled, and a pleasure to be part of a great team of creators whose work I admire and respect. A team that includes Jamie Smart and Andy Fanton, who read my work in Oink! when they were kids, which pleases me no end even if it does make me feel ancient.

In next Wednesday's edition my six-part series The Dark Newt comes to an end. (See the preview at the top of this post.) At this moment in time I don't know what else I'll be doing for the weekly apart from a few strips in the final issue for December. (The Dandy Annual will continue next year though, and I've written three scripts which I'll be illustrating for that very soon.)

I'll miss The Dandy, both as an employer and as a comic that's been part of the landscape all my life. I hope its proposed digital future will feature originated material and that it proves successful enough to continue for many years to come. (I also hope it'll feature archive material, to show the younger readers what great classics were around before their time.) 

The Crimson Ball by Jack Glass. Eerie and exciting.
It'll be a day of mixed feelings on December 4th when the comic celebrates its 75th anniversary with its final issue. It will come with a reprint of The Dandy No.1, bringing it full circle. The ending is the beginning. What's next?

Commando Special Request week

Here's the info from DC Thomson regarding the latest four Commando comics that are in the shops now. All reprints this week, but some classic tales if you haven't read them before.

Commando No 4523 Gas-Bag Gunmen

Never had men gone on a secret mission in such a strange craft. Huge, slow, clumsy, she was a perfect target for roving enemy planes.
   But she also happened to be the perfect ship for their job. Yes, these guys knew exactly what they were doing!

Story: R.A. Montague
Art: Cam Kennedy
Cover: Ian Kennedy

Commando — By Special Request

This Pacific War story — from the typewriter (remember them?) of veteran Commando writer “Monty” Montague — is almost unbelievable. Yet, a combination of careful plotting and cracking art pulls you past any doubts you might have had.
   Speaking of art, the black and whites are from Cam Kennedy who was very friendly with Victor De La Fuente whose drawing skills can be seen in Commando No. 4524. Both men can produce magnificent movement in static pictures.
   Stewart Duncan was one of several people who asked to see this one again, principally, he says, because only Ian Kennedy could put a blimp on a Commando cover and not have it look ridiculous.

Gas-Bag Gunmen, originally Commando No 804 (January 1974), re-issued as No 2036 (November 1986).


Commando No 4524 The Deadly One
Captain Mike Reilly had lost his left eye in battle so the Top Brass had given him a desk job. And Mike didn’t like that one little bit, because he knew he could still out-shoot, out-march and out-punch almost any soldier living. After all, Nelson only had one eye and one arm and look at the mess he made of England’s enemies!
   So Mike set his mind to scheming to get back into the war, little knowing he was letting himself in for the biggest shock of his life…


Story: Hardy
Art: Victor De La Fuente
Cover: Jordi Penalva

Commando — By Special Request

There was quite a queue to nominate this one for another airing, Lee Grice being one who suggested it. Looking at that Jordi Penalva cover image, you can see why. It’s so strong what’s inside almost doesn’t matter.
   Only almost, though, and the combination of Hardy’s story and Victor De La Fuente’s super-dynamic art gets you into the action from the first picture. Compare Victor’s black and whites with Cam Kennedy’s in No 4523 — they work the same magic.
   As for the title, it works on several levels and in combination with that cover suits the story much better than the working title of Ten Desperate Men. Well done, the 1971 Commando Editor, for picking it.

The Deadly One, originally Commando No 529 (February 1971), re-issued as No 1523 (July 1981).



Commando No 4525 - Island Of Ghosts


The superstitious Japanese sentries on the remote South Sea island dreaded the moonlight tropical nights…
   For that was when the ghost walked, and they knew that in the morning another of their men would have vanished without trace…
   And in his hiding place a crazy Welshman would clean the blood from his well-used knife…

Story: Eric Hebden
Art: Bielsa
Cover: Ken Barr


Introduction by Calum Laird, Commando Editor
The eagle-eyed amongst you will spot that the hero’s blade on the front cover doesn’t quite match the description of it on the back — this is much bigger than a knife! But, hey, with a menacing cover image like that, who cares? There is no doubt that Ken Barr’s Commando covers could catch the eye from the other side of the room and draw you in.
   Once you were caught, Bielsa’s stark black and white images underlined the menace in the story, well-crafted as ever by Eric Hebden. In this case he may well have drawn on his experiences as an officer on Gibraltar to give the story its authentic feel.
   And the ghosts? You’ll have to find out about those for yourself.

Island Of Ghosts, originally Commando No 30 (July 1962).



Commando No 4526 - Luck Of The Devil

Fleeing into a cave in the grip of mortal fear, John Tilley had the first of a series of amazing escapes from death. From that day he was so lucky it was almost unbelievable.
   His men said he had the luck of the Devil. Was that his terrible secret?

Story: C.G. Walker
Art: C.T. Rigby
Cover: Jeff Bevan

Introduction by Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor
This jungle yarn — from the pen of veteran Commando scribe Cyril Walker — has a supernatural flavour. The story kicks off with a 1000-year-old curse and then jumps forward in time, focussing on the deadly effect it will have on a group of British soldiers in World War II Burma. Or will it?
   There are great visuals too, of course — courtesy of another couple of Commando veterans, artists Cecil Rigby and Jeff Bevan. A quarter of a century on, “Luck Of The Devil” remains a terror-tinged tale that never lets up.
Luck Of The Devil, originally Commando No 2122 (September 1987)
 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

BREAKING NEWS on The Dandy: The Official Word from DC Thomson


DC Thomson have just Tweeted their official statement regarding the fate of The Dandy. Here it is in full:

A lot of people have tweeted us regarding news reports surrounding the future of The Dandy. A statement follows:

DC Thomson is continuing to develop its magazines operation & portfolio to create an efficient business model that will build on the strength of our existing brands and products. There are many challenges within the industry at present, but we’re excited that the digital revolution has also given us an opportunity to innovate and develop.

We’re celebrating the fact that The Dandy has been in print for 75 years and we’re doing a lot of planning to ensure that our brands and characters can live on in other platforms for future generations to enjoy.

We will release a special edition of The Dandy to mark its 75th anniversary on 4 DEC 12.  This issue will be the last printed and will include a reprint of issue #1. There’s still a healthy appetite for The Dandy so we’re making it relevant for a new generation.

There are exciting plans in the pipeline to take the title in a different direction & ensure that the next 75 yrs are just as popular.

We’re counting down 110 days until the 75th anniversary bash & we’re working on some tremendously exciting things for The Dandy's future. What comes online then that will set the tone for the future. We’re excited that the digital revolution has given us an opportunity to innovate and develop and we’re confident that future generations will continue to enjoy The Dandy. Statement ends.

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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Day the World Went Dandy

It's the comic everyone's talking about and the next issue is on sale tomorrow! That's The Dandy No.3594 with 36 pages of fun every week for £1.99. (Still one of the cheapest comics around.) 

This week sees the fifth episode of The Dark Newt. Can Gnat Girl be trusted? Find out tomorrow!


Monday, August 13, 2012

The little comic that made history


It couldn't have been easy to condense 75 years of a comic's history into 288 pages but Morris Heggie and his co-writers manage it well, with The Art and History of The Dandy being as close to a definitive book on the comic as we're ever likely to see. 

The Dandy certainly deserved a book to be written about it. The comic that began way back in 1937 as a challenger to the mighty Amalgamated Press line of comics not only proved more popular than its rivals but eclipsed them all in longevity. The Dandy is now the world's longest running comic. The underdog that became a champion. 


The Art and History of The Dandy isn't as large as the massive History of The Beano that was published four years ago but it still serves as a perfect companion to it. The design is similar to the Beano one, and covers the history of The Dandy from the first issue (reprinted in full) up to a few weeks ago with the debut of my Dark Newt strip and Nigel Auchterlounie's Olympikids.


As it's published by Waverley Books, part of the DC Thomson empire, and written by staff members you're not going to get a warts-and-all exposé of the negative aspects of the comic or company. Then again, who'd want that in this book? This is a celebration of a great comic and the emphasis is on the positive. That said, the book still has depth, with the writers using their inside knowledge to reveal background information on artists and stories. (Interesting to read that Winker Watson once rivalled Desperate Dan for popularity and that Steve Bright was the creator of Bananaman.)


Numerous artists profiles are in the book.


Another benefit of it being a book written in-house is that Morris Heggie is also DC Thomson's archivist, so many pages are photographed from the original artwork itself, showing every brush stroke and correction. Fascinating stuff. 

Artwork by the excellent Bill Holroyd.

The bulk of the book focuses on the golden years of The Dandy prior to the 1970s. Amongst many other things there's a selection of classic Desperate Dan strips from the war years and the 1953 Coronation issue is reprinted complete.


There's also a section on the best Dandy Summer Special covers of the 1960s showing Charlie Grigg's marvellous original cover art complete with visible paste up lines on the logos.


Sadly the 1970s are quite poorly served, possibly because the comic itself was fairly static during this period and in need of a boost due to falling sales. (A ledger from 1950 shows The Dandy's sales then to be a staggering two million copies a week!) When long-needed changes did come to the comic in the 1980s it changed it considerably. Perhaps it wasn't so evident then, but looking at the issues in a historical context they become brighter and more open in style. The comic has continued to evolve ever since. 


I couldn't help wondering if the change in 2007 to Dandy Xtreme is now considered a mistake that the company wish to play down. Focus on the Xtreme issues is just one page, barely a mention, before the book moves on to cover the most recent revamp in the final chapter. 

2010 Harry Hill cover by Nigel Parkinson

The back of the book contains an index of stories and the issues they appeared in, taken from Ray Moore's Dandy Index. Unfortunately the information becomes more limited for the year's following Ray's input, but it still lists the issue dates of the first appearances of post-1986 characters. 

Priced at a RRP of just £20, (cheaper if you shop around) this is a fascinating book on the evolution of The Dandy and a fine tribute to the longest running comic.
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