The new look Dandy has been out for two days now and so far the reaction has been mostly favourable. Most comic fans on Comics UK have embraced the changes, as have most people who have left comments on Nigel Parkinson's blog and here.
The new format has also made an impact. The Dandy is now printed on heavier, better quality paper and has had a redesign that is less cluttered and has its own identity. It really does look the freshest and most up-to-date comic on the stands now. Let's hope it has the same impact as issue No.1 did back in 1937 and sets a new direction for British comics to take.
Naturally it's not 100% positive and no one expected it would be, but as yet the only criticisms seem to be mainly about The Dandy not being like it was. That of course was the intention! It was losing sales so it had to change. I'm sure every 50 year old would like to see The Dandy in the style of Eric Roberts, Charlie Grigg and Ken Reid again but that's not going to happen. Comics have always evolved, from the styles of Tom Browne in the 1890s, to Roy Wilson in the 1930s, to Leo Baxendale in the 1960s. Now this is a Dandy for today's children, with modern styles from the likes of Jamie Smart and Wayne Thomson.
The other criticism has been about the new Dandy's use of celebrities, for which I'd point out that celebrities in comics have been around since Dan Leno's Comic Journal in 1898 and Film Fun in 1920! It's also worth mentioning that issue one of The Dandy in 1937 featured Our Gang, drawn by Dudley Watkins; a strip based on the Hal Roach films! So there you go; the new Dandy, back to its roots!
Of course it's too early to judge how it's done sales-wise, but at least people shouldn't have difficulty finding it. With an increased print-run copies are everywhere. (My local Smiths had 28 copies when I bought mine on Wednesday. They used to stock just two issues of Dandy Xtreme.)
Having said that, comics artist/writer Kev F. Sutherland (now appearing in Doctor Who Adventures) has had difficulty finding a copy during his travels to teach his comic art masterclass. Some reports are also coming in of Smiths putting copies out of the reach of children for some unknown reason. These are obviously significant issues that need addressing.
Publicity for the relaunch has appeared across the media. Bogies artist Nigel Auchterlounie was interviewed by Sky News and you can see that by clicking here.
Nigel Parkinson, artist of the Harry Hill strip, drew specially commissioned caricatures of the Loose Women chat show team which were shown on screen as they briefly mentioned the revamp on their Wednesday lunchtime show.
Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show discussed the new look issue and that can be heard on the BBC iPlayer here about 1 hour 40 minutes into the show:
Sadly some of the older critics haven't done their research and seem unaware that The Dandy has been constantly changing for decades. It hasn't suddenly jumped from the artistic style of its 1970s format to the modern version. It's been a gradual evolution. This latest incarnation is quite significant though, with no less than 18 new strips debuting in the same issue.
You'd think that with The Dandy taking such a bold risk to relaunch in the current economic climate that the media would be congratulating it, but not the Daily Star, singling out the new look of Desperate Dan for criticism. (A "new look" created by Jamie Smart, that has been in place for three years by the way, had the Star done their homework.)
Unfortunately the Daily Star tends to pander to a readership that it thinks is reluctant to change, like a poor man's Daily Mail. Speaking of which, one reader on the Mail website posted:
"The writing was on the wall when they took Dan's gun off him. Not politically correct, might be seen as supporting gun culture etc etc.
Comic artist/writer Mike Collins was interviewed on BBC Radio Wales and that can be heard here, about five minutes towards the end of the breakfast show:
Although not a Dandy artist himself, Mike proved to be a great ambassador for the comic and managed to steer the interview into a positive direction. Cheers Mike!
Those radio links are likely to be only available for the next few days so listen in while you have the chance!
Time will tell if the new Dandy is a success. Let's hope it ushers in a new golden age of non-bagged, all-comic strip publications!
(Below: My original Postman Prat artwork for the first episode and the finished version in the comic. After scanning the page into my Mac I coloured it in Photoshop, e-mailed the page to the Dandy office, and the lettering was added in-house at DC Thomson.)