NOTE: Blimey! is no longer being updated. Please visit http://lewstringercomics.blogspot.com for news about my comics.

Monday, December 30, 2019

My first DANDY (1964)

I've mentioned before that the very first comic strips I saw were a few Noddy's Tall Books editions (see here) and one issue of Yogi Bear's Own (see here). However the first "proper" comic I read, and the one that stirred my enthusiasm to read it every week, was The Dandy No.1155, dated January 11th 1964.

This issue would have arrived in the shops on Monday 6th January 1964... which I've since discovered was the day I started school! Coincidence? I doubt it. I think it's highly likely my mum bought me this comic as a reward for my first day at school and also to encourage me to read. It certainly worked. The Dandy and its characters completely mesmerised me and reading it (and having it read to me by my mum) boosted my reading ability to put me top of the class. 

I hasten to add that I didn't keep that status throughout my schooldays but it's undeniable that comics are a massive help in teaching children to read and expand their vocabulary. 

(I should add for historical interest that only posh kids went to nursery back then, not council estate kids like me, so my first day at infant school, age 4, was my first experience of being away from home without any parents/family.)

As this is my penultimate Blimey blog post I thought I'd have a look through that first Dandy I had and I'll try to remember what it was that appealed to me so much. 

Firstly the cover by Charlie Grigg. Not that I knew who'd drawn what back then, as D.C. Thomson kept their artists anonymous in those days. Korky the Cat reminded me of my grandad's cat, so I liked him straight away. The fact that Korky had such a strong, distinctive face helped too, and he was looking directly at the reader! Something I hadn't encountered before (but have used it countless times in my own strips). The punchline stuck in my memory for years, even though I misremembered it slightly as "X marks the spot where Korky's been". 

Page 2... Desperate Dan by Dudley Watkins. I remember finding Danny and Katie a weird looking pair of kids. Why was little Danny dressed like that with that thing around his shoulders? (Bear in mind I had no knowledge of history at this point.) It didn't matter though. I found the strip very funny and Desperate Dan became an immediate favourite. 
Pages 3 and 4... The Crimson Ball! Now this was something else. Weird and a bit scary (in a good way), the artwork by Jack Glass was eerie. The mystery of the Crimson Ball was compelling, and in following weeks we'd discover there was an enemy spy inside it controlling it! Mind boggling when you're four years old!

Page 5... Dirty Dick by Eric Roberts was always good fun. I always liked the way Roberts drew tree trunks and bulls. There were cows in the nearby field to where I lived as a child so this environment was relateable to me...
Page 6... The Smasher by Hugh Morren. It was ok. Never a big favourite of mine, but one I grew to enjoy and I certainly enjoyed drawing the character for the very last issue of The Dandy in 2012.
Page 7... Black Bob, with art by Jack Prout. I know this strip divides readers but I was completely absorbed by it. I liked dogs so that was a plus, and the artwork was sublime. My mum read this to me every week until I was able to read it myself.
Pages 8 and 9 (centre pages)... Corporal Clott by Davy Law. Fast-paced, brilliant, and daft, this won me over straight away. I had no idea it was set in South Africa. I didn't know what South Africa was when I was four.  I always remember baboons turning up in the strip a few weeks later. I'd never heard or seen baboons before then, and to this day I still think of Davy Law's depiction of them whenever I see any on tv. 
Pages 10 and 11... Joe White and the Seven Dwarfs by Bill Holroyd. I thought this strip was great, especially little Goofy in his bowler hat. Holroyd was a master at depicting slapstick...

Page 12... My Home Town by Frank McDiarmid. These little educational snippets were perfect for young readers, although I must confess I didn't always read this page...
Page 13... Sunny Boy by George Martin. The best thing about The Dandy at this time was that all the artists had their own distinctive styles and Martin was another who was great at drawing funny slapstick...
Pages 14 and 15... Winker Watson by Eric Roberts. It didn't matter that I couldn't relate to a public school environment, or that I didn't understand why Mr.Creep wore a long black gown and funny hat (mortar board). The stories were interesting and funny, and Winker's brother had weird spiky hair that fascinated me. (Years later I gave Pete from Pete and his Pimple a similar hairstyle in the early days of the strip.)
Page 16 (back page)... Big Head and Thick Head by Ken Reid. Yes, this was the first Ken Reid strip I ever saw and it make me laugh right away. I remember being puzzled by Big Head's shiny hair though, and wasn't sure if it was a hat. My dad wore Brylcream on his hair but it didn't make it look like a helmet. Anyway, it didn't matter. The strip was funny and I found the exaggerated bumps on their heads hilarious...
So that was the very first Dandy I read. I actually remember ripping this one up and throwing it away when I was about 7. My mum suggested I might want to keep it to read again but I thought I knew better. (A reversal of the usual "my mum threw away my comics". My mum always encouraged me to keep them!) Of course she did know better. She always did. Years later, in the 1980s, I bought a pile of old Dandy comics again including this one. 

This is the comic that grabbed my interest in the art form. I was fascinated by comics from that day on. A few months later I was having The Beano every week too, and TV21 a year later, followed by Wham!, Smash! and a zillion others. I soon started creating my own rough efforts, eventually leading to fanzines and ultimately professional work.... and the privilege of being a contributor to The Dandy comic in its final years and to the annual for the past several years. All thanks to this issue, and of course to my mam, for starting me off on that long road. 

•••••••••••••••••••••

My last post will appear tomorrow.

14 comments:

Peter Gray said...

What a lovely post and your early memories...
On your own comic blog maybe just an idea a Monthly Blimey blog post...will misss it...But of course loads to reread...

Nutty Big D said...

Loved Ken Reid's Big head and Thick head - sometimes the injuries they'd sustained by the end of the page were so horrendous that Ken decided that they had to be "censored" with a panel blocking the view of them - it was first time I'd come across the word, and so rather appropriately thought it was pronounced "Ken soared" !

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Peter. I don't think it'd work to have an occasional Blimey post on my other blog as that one is to promote my business so it'd look unprofessional to go off at a tangent to talk about comics I'm not involved in. (And could confuse potential clients.) 😄

Little Peanut said...

Agreed Peter, this is another great post.
Lew... my online viewing will be somewhat diminished with the loss of your regular posts, however...onwards & upwards.
Good luck!

PhilEdBoyce said...

A lovely tribute Lew and interesting to see where some of your ideas came from, right back to that first issue you read. The perfect post to wind down the blog with.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Phil. Yep, end at the beginning. :)

Nutty, I'm sure that was where I'd first seen the word "Censored" too. Good old Ken. :)

Robert P. said...

That's not the first Dandy. It started in 1937.

Lew Stringer said...

I know Robert, but the point is this the first one I had. I know it's self-indulgent but I hope it's an entertaining post too.

McSCOTTY said...

Aww what a wonderful post Lew and one I can relate to, the Dandy back them was a great comic in amongst many other great comics I remember the Crimson Ball strip vividly as a kid and had the same reaction to it as you did. I had all but forgotten about Sunny Boy, I loved that strip and George Martins art. Looking back I wasnt a fan of Black Bob until I was about 8 years old when it became a firm favourite. My first memory of comics was Harold Hare and a thick book of story's I got for Xmas as a 4 year old that had Ken Reids Fudge the Elf strip in it, that stayed with me for years and I only realised it was Fudge the elf about 30 years later when I picked up the Savoy reprints . The power of art and nostalgia. Will be sorry to see Bliney close but a brilliant last few weeks, thanks for the memories and info.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Paul. I'd never heard of Harold Hare until I was in my twenties. The comic passed me by as I didn't have nursery comics (apart from a few issues of Bimbo and TV Toyland, but that was after I'd started reading the Dandy, TV21 etc.) I went straight onto the hard stuff, me. :D

SID said...

The Dandy was my favourite comic as a young boy (and is still one of my favourites today). I must admit I am impressed that you remember the precise issue when you started reading it.

I started reading The Dandy (along with The Beano) in 1969 when I was 4 or 5 though I can't remember exactly when. I only know it was sometime that year since it was after I had Bobo Bunny (which started that year) and that was when the first Black Bob story I remember (with Butch the German Shepherd) was printed. I was sad when Butch disappeared after the end of that storyline. Funny how things like this stick in your memory.

And like you, Lew, my mum must've read the story to me as I could not read at that age).

Similarly in The Beano I remember Billy the Cat in the same way - in particular when his cousin Kathleen joined the strip and most memorable being the storyline where a villainous boy with similar abilities stealing a copy of Billy's catsuit from a waxworks and going on a crime spree - ending with Billy and the imposter having a punch up on top of a double decker bus. I don't remember when these stories took place.

Anyway, good times. :)

A pity that Beano doesn't do these type of strips today.

I will look forward to reading your last ever post today.

James Spiring said...

As I'm sure you've noticed, SID, even the Beano and Dandy Annuals no longer use the adventure stories in recent years. Considering the success of Rebellion's Treasury of British Comics, I don't think it would be a bad idea for them to do collections of some of the old stories (Black Bob is an obvious one). They could even do a one-shot (maybe a bookazine printed the same way as the summer special) with new stories about the likes of Billy the Cat, General Jumbo, and Jack Flash.

Lew Stringer said...

They did a Black Bob book about 9 years ago but presumably it didn't do too well as they didn't follow it up. They've done Victor books too. We'll have to see what their Heritage Comics brand comes up with in 2020.

SID said...

Sad that the adventure strips stopped, James. Hopefully Heritage Comics will have a rethink and bring some books in the new decade.

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