THERE ARE seven words guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any fan of British comics, and those words are ‘exciting news inside for all our readers!’ Oh, how those seemingly innocent words would turn a child’s face a deathly white, as that phrase only meant one thing – your favourite comic was about to fold and be absorbed into a more successful sister publication.
If news reports published today are to be believed, that horrifying phrase could be about to appear on the front cover of The Dandy, as DC Thomson are apparently considering closing down the country’s longest-running comic as it nears its 75th birthday.
As the news broke the internet exploded into Dandy-based chatter, with many many people expressing a sadness about the demise of one of the country’s most iconic comic titles. What was interesting about a lot of the internet chatter, however, was that it did seem to give us hints as to why The Dandy has been struggling for so long.
The most common response appeared to be ‘I didn’t even realise it was still going’, which suggests that maybe the ‘highly publicised’ revamp in October 2010 wasn’t quite as highly publicised as we thought. Indeed, I saw at least twice as many newspapers cover this latest story than the revamp story, and saw much more in the way of TV and radio coverage. Ah, where were they all when we needed them, eh? Ah yes, bemoaning the fact that Desperate Dan looked different, that’s where.
Clearly, the revamp hadn’t permeated the public consciousness at large, and it’s difficulty to find it in newsagents across the land certainly didn’t help to keep the comic in people’s minds either, sadly.
Another response was ‘£1.99? I remember when it was 2d/4 pence/ 35p, as if prices changing over the decades was solely perpetrated by villainous comics publishers. It may not be the cheapest, but I’d say it was great value for a comic full of comics!
Then there were a handful of voices saying that they weren’t surprised, as The Dandy was either a) too set in its ways and needed to evolve or b) had evolved too much and needed to somehow resurrect artists from the past to produce new strips as only then would it ever work again.
I think this muddled point gets us to one of the major factors in The Dandy’s decline, that of what I like to call ‘apathetic nostalgia’. This is where people firmly believe that comics should remain vacuum-sealed as they were thirty or forty years ago, and not meddled with AT ALL. This is so when they do chance upon them again, they can look at them with wistful eyes and see everything just as they left it as a child, sigh contentedly, and then move on without, y’know, actually supporting or buying the comic that they claim to love. But as long as it is THERE somewhere, a little bit of the confusing, modern world makes sense. No-one really takes much notice of it, but are reassured that it still exists.
The trouble is, kids’ comics aren’t here to comfort 40 year olds, or 50 year olds. They’re here to entertain children, which is why I thought it was a brilliantly bold move by DC Thomson to revamp The Dandy as they did in 2010. No-one’s disputing that what came before was excellent, but sometimes things need to change to reflect the world we live in or changing tastes. ‘Expect poison from the standing water,’ as William Blake once wrote. I think he preferred fizzy pop.
New artists, a rich variety of styles, brand new characters – encouraging the NEW and the MODERN is precisely what comics should be doing, and I applauded The Dandy for doing so (and not just because I was one of those ‘new artists’ afforded an opportunity to work on the comic!) Some may have seen it as a step too far, trampling over their childhood memories of the comic, but I can honestly say that everyone who worked on The Dandy came to it with boundless passion for the title and its heritage. We wanted to play in that playground we loved as kids, to make it fun and friendly and fresh, and we were all deeply proud of what we did. And judging from the feedback from the kids who read it, they were enjoying the ride too. I’m not saying everything was PERFECT, but it was all done with respect and affection, and we all wanted the comic to not only survive, but thrive.
So we’re all on the same side, essentially – we all love comics, and we all want to see them succeed. Clearly something’s gone awry for The Dandy to now be selling under 8,000 copies a week, and for the more traditional Beano to be on 38,000 a week while Moshi Monsters Magazine enjoys a monthly circulation of 170,000 a month – is it all over for traditional, strip-based comics? I’m really hoping not.
The news reports suggest DC Thomson haven’t made a firm decision as of yet. If that’s so, then maybe a large groundswell of support as we saw today might yet save it. Tomorrow, the next issue hits the shelves. Why not buy it, or buy it for your kids, or a niece or nephew or whomever? Put it in the hands of children, and let them see what they think. It may not be The Dandy you remember yourself, but it’s time to let the kids start forming their own bonds with comics THEY might love, and which they’ll remember fondly as they grow up.
Let’s act now before we lose The Dandy and then other titles further down the line. Comics are great, are fun, encourage literacy and sometimes feature pictures of monkeys wearing hats. What’s not to love?
Save the Dandy! Join in with the #savethedandy hashtag on Twitter, or by leaving messages of support on The Dandy’s Facebook page.