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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Dandy 80th Birthday Special

The Summer Specials for both The Dandy and Beano arrived in my local WH Smith yesterday, so they should be all over the UK. Here's my thoughts on The Dandy one, titled the 80th Birthday Special...

It was never going to be easy to comfortably cover 80 years of Dandy history into one 68 page comic and still please readers of all ages, but this special makes a good job of it. Personally I'd have liked to have seen more pages on the 1960s, as the decade is represented here solely by a couple of Winker Watson strips, but that's just me. 

In most cases, the special attempts to represent how Dandy characters have changed over the years, so we get examples of a (very early) Desperate Dan strip by Dudley Watkins, compared to ones by Ken Harrison and Jamie Smart. 
Desperate Dan's first cover strip is reprinted in full.
We also get several examples of Korky the Cat by various artists, but the character has undergone so many redesigns over the years that even that only cat-scratches the surface. A nice selection though!

With space being limited, it surprised me that ten pages are taken up with a five-part Jack Silver story from 1981. Artwork by Bill Holroyd is always welcome of course, but it's a shame so much of Jack Silver meant there was no room for memorable characters such as Corporal Clott, Black Bob, Brassneck, and more. No straight adventure strips are represented either, so there's no Umbrella Men, Iron Hands, or Crimson Ball
Jack Silver by Bill Holroyd.
Apart from Jamie Smart's Desperate Dan, none of the 2010 revamp is covered, but the 2004 redesign is, along with samples of Wayne Thompson's Jak. The back of the bookazine features a cover gallery of selected annuals and specials. (Sadly, one summer special cover is stretched to fit, giving Korky an odd shaped head.)
Cuddles and Dimples by Nigel Parkinson.
If this comes across as a bit negative, don't be put off. These are just things that niggled me a little personally, but over all, the Special is a very nice selection of top quality strips and a reminder of just how great The Dandy was. It credits a lot of the artists too, which would have been unthinkable when some of these strips were first printed. A good sign of how things have changed for the better at D.C. Thomson. 

I felt it was a bit strange that there was no mention whatsoever that the weekly comic actually ended five years ago, but as the Dandy brand survives in the all-new annual every year, and a reprint special every summer, it still counts as celebrating its 80th birthday.

The Dandy 80th Birthday Special, 68 pages, bookazine format, out now for £6.99.


James Spiring said...

It was definitely weird to see "this artist still draws this strip to this day" mentioned a couple of times, considering that new Dandy material now only appears once a year in the annual. And they should've used something else instead of that summer special cover - you can actually see that the cover is torn, so the stretching isn't the only problem there.

Minor nitpicks though, overall I agree, this was a good mag. So was Beano's with it's single storyline running through all of the strips.

Lew Stringer said...

I suspect they wanted to be positive and perhaps felt that mentioning the weekly was cancelled might add a sour note to the celebratory tone of the special.

I'm glad we still have the annual anyway. It'd be nice if the special could feature a few pages of new material but it sells less than the Beano so that's not likely. (Not helped by my WH Smith forgetting to put them on the shelf until I asked about them, when they discovered them out the back still in the plastic wrapping.)

Mike said...

Would you kindly elaborate on the following observations?
1) While The Beano still reflects its traditional art style, towards the end of its life, The Dandy changed its art style (in my view) to something cruder, more juvenile, and not for the better. Why?
2) When The Dandy ceased being printed, it was to continue as a web comic (rather than a digital release). Did this happen?

Lew Stringer said...

The Dandy had been losing sales for a long time, and was well behind The Beano, so a revamp was decided upon to try and slow down its inevitable cancellation. I'm sorry you felt that our work was crude and not for the better. A lot of readers felt it went out on a high. The comic ran for exactly 75 years, which is still something to be proud of. (The only British comic to ever top that is the Beano.)

Yes, The Dandy went online with all-new material. It didn't really catch on, and there were technical glitches, so it didn't last long.

SID said...

The Dandy Summer Special arrived at my branch of WHSmiths today (as told by the manager there).

I agree that it didn't cover everything but maybe the annual will do its bit to celebrate? I also wonder if the special is aimed at the older readers which is why they didn't look at the 2010 revamp?

I liked it too. No Black Bob (my favourite) but I enjoyed the Jack Silver (my second favourite) strips. I'm also a fan of Winker Watson though the Eric Roberts' version. Perhaps his strip was a little old fashioned but that's what I liked about it.

I personally liked the idea that DCT sees The Dandy as ongoing rather than being defunct. It's not as if the majority of people reading it wouldn't know that the weekly comic was no longer around.

My nitpick: The special says that it was Charles Grigg who gave Korky his green eyes & red nose. But if you look at the Monster Comic covers which came well before Charles' time and you can see that Korky already has those attributes.

Mike said...

Thanks for answering.
And: Oops! Cheer yourself up by drawing me as a villain in Brickman. Aargh!

Lew Stringer said...

There's a celebratory story running through several strips in The Dandy Annual 2018, Sid, although it's more about Cactusville's 80th rather than the history of the actual comic I think. (Going by the two pages I did for that long story anyway. I could be wrong.) And of course the annual is all-new, so there won't be any reprint material in it.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Hello Lew,

I have a quick question triggered by your mention of Brassneck...

Was there a methodology in place at DCT to decide to continue / discontinue a feature? Or was it more of a "robots aren't in anymore, let's do [whatever] instead?"

Just curious...

B.t.w. your article has inspired me to get the Dandy! Thanks for that.

Lew Stringer said...

Stories are often dropped if reader response hasn't been too good. However, sometimes even popular stories are dropped to make way for new ones, to keep a comic fresh. (I know. Seems counter-productive but there you go.)

In the case of Brassneck, he was around for a long time, and was popular for many years under his original artist Bill Holroyd. Brassneck was even revived for the short-lived digital Dandy, albeit with a modern tweak.

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