ONE OF the best things about writing and drawing for The Dandy is that you suddenly have access to 75 years worth of the comic’s history, like a great big toybox to play in, full to the brim with your favourite toys.
Having grown up reading The Dandy as a nipper, nothing delights me more than being able to squeeze in a classic character I remember fondly from my youth into the pages I draw for the comic today.
My first such experience of bringing old favourites out of retirement was with my take on Harry and his Hippo (above), a bonkers strip I’d loved as a kid and one which I was thrilled to bring back for two short runs in the present day. As I worked on their revival, I decided that Harry and his Hippo probably still hung out with some other classic characters, and so began a semi-regular habit of cramming in classic cameos into my strips wherever I could. Here, then, is a selection of the characters from the past I’ve snuck back into the comic…
Bully Beef and Chips
I had Bully Beef pop up a few times during Harry and his Hippo’s run, as I needed a bully and was too lazy to think of my own. Plus, Bully Beef is SUCH an iconic bully, how could I NOT use him?
Bananaman, Korky the Cat, Bully Beef and Chips (again!)
When Harry and his Hippo hit Dandytown Pool, I figured that a few other Dandy characters would be there too. So I put in a few of my favourites, such as the ones above and also these:
Beryl the Peril, Black Bob
I especially enjoyed cartoon-erizing (yes, that’s a real word) Back Bob, the Dandy Wonder Dog!
The Smasher, Dinah Mo, Brain Dwayne
The last of the classic cameos in Harry and his Hippo, as Harry’s classmates feature some familiar faces! And some familiar faeces.
Freddy the Fearless Fly, Hippo, Black Bob
When I got asked to draw some George vs Dragon for last year’s Dandy annual, I knew I wanted to do something a bit different, so drew a strip inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry. If you look at the borders in this strip, you’ll find a handful of characters from the past (not reaching back quite as far as 1066, mind).
Winker Watson (deceased)
To be brutally honest, I never much cared for that little Winker, even as a kid, so I got my revenge on Watson by killing him off in this scene from Boo! It’s canon now, he’s officially dead. FACT.
Desperate Dan (sort of)
AS our hero Boo drifts through a creepy old house, we see a portrait featuring one of Dan’s ancestors. This is also now canon.
Readers wondering whatever became of the marvellous metal boy found out the answer in this Springwatch mini-strip I did. Poor Brassneck had been dumped in a scrapyard. Charley probably got bored of him and replaced him with an iPhone, I expect.
Desperate Dan (for sure)
Dan desperately snuck into this crowd scene in one of my George vs Dragon stories. The crazy cowboy.
Beryl the Peril
Not so much a cameo as right in your face, here’s the perilous one in a mini-strip I drew for The Dandy’s Facebook page. Beryl has happily now returned to the weekly, under the pen of brilliant Steve Bright.
The Jocks and the Geordies, Mr. Meecher, Greedy Pigg, Bully Beef and Chips, Spotted Dick, Harry and his Hippo, Beryl the Peril, Korky the Cat
When Bad Grandad and Timmy went to Dandytown Pool, I once again made sure that some other classic characters were also there, including Harry and his Hippo, returning to the pool after their last disastrous visit. In related news, Bully Beef and Chips are now enjoying a return to the weekly comic, thanks to wondrous Wayne Thompson.
Smasher pops up again, this time in a Bad Grandad strip. He also seems to be restraining from any smashing, so maybe he’s a reformed character. Good for him!
There’s more classic cameos to come, because I never tire of popping some of these old faces into my strips. With 75 years of strips to choose from, I’m sure I won’t run out any time soon!
If YOU have a request for a character to sneak into a strip, let me know in the comments below, or tell me on Twitter. I’m @FantonEsquire. Let’s see who else we can revive as The Dandy heads towards its 75th birthday! YAAAAY!
“Ya can join today!” “What? YAAAAAAAYYYYY!”
And so ended the opening credits to one of the most influential TV shows of my young life, so influential in fact that I took Rolf up on his offer and DID indeed join his Cartoon Club, getting myself a badge, signed photo and a quarterly newsletter in return. Ah, happy days!
Rolf’s Cartoon Club was unmissable viewing for my younger self, filled with cartooning tips, interviews with cartoonists and animators and a great mix of classic, Hollywood cartoons and other lesser known fare. It felt like half an hour dedicated especially to my interests, and I loved it. Rolf was like a gentle grandfatherly figure, except one who drew cartoons and made funny noises as he did so. He was awesome.
Rolf was a huge influence on my early cartooning days, not only from his Cartoon Club but also via his excellent books ‘Your Cartoon Time’ and ‘Your Animation Time’, fascinating, helpful guides showing youngsters like me how to draw and dispensing invaluable advice that I still find myself using to this very day. The cartooning seeds were already sown in my brain as a child, but Rolf helped them grow with his enthusiasm and insight, turning those seeds into strong, cartoony oaks (I may have stretched the metaphor a bit there, but you get my meaning).
So I was delighted so see Rolf receive the BAFTA Fellowship Award on Sunday, honouring the affable Australian’s contribution to television over the decades, ranging from Rolf’s Cartoon Time, his Cartoon Club, Animal Hospital and Rolf on Art (which I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the sniffy comments made by broadsheet columnists who seem to think that art was created solely for art critics).
Here’s Rolf accepting his well-deserved award in that warm, friendly manner which characterises all his work. Sadly, Rolfaroo couldn’t be there.
Congratulations, Rolf! And thanks for all the help.
IN AN attempt to add a bit of a variety to my seemingly endless stream of blog posts centred around my work for The Dandy, I thought I’d start throwing in some other bits and pieces here and there, sometimes comics related, but sometimes – like today – they’d be based around some of my other interests and fancies, such as comedy, writing, and books.
Happily, the book I thought I’d bring to your attention today ticks all three of those boxes. Hooray, job done! We can all knock off early.
What? Oh yeah, you’ll be wanting the review, then.
Mr. Lonely was a novel written by the late, legendary comedian Eric Morecambe, after his second heart attack made him consider slowing down and turning his talents from television performing to writing. It’s been out of print for about thirty-odd years, but was recently re-released by those fine folk at The Friday Project, giving Morecambe completists and fans (such as myself) a chance to finally read the novel.
The old axiom ‘write what you know’ holds very true with this book, as the novel centres around the misadventures of Sid Lewis, a working-class comic who starts off performing in the music halls and clubs, before landing a BBC gig that sees his career skyrocket. Sound familiar?
There is a lot more that will be familiar to fans of Morecambe and Wise throughout the book. The quips and gags can almost be heard in Morecambe’s voice (a man is described as looking ‘old enough to remember Madame Butterfly as a caterpillar’, another is described as talking ‘only to prove he’s alive’ for example). All that’s missing is a ‘wa-heeey!’, a turn to camera and some extensive glasses-waggling to punctuate them.
The jokes and occasional slapstick, along with a reference to Des O’Connor and a fleeting appearance from one of Morecambe and Wise’s producers, leave the reader in no doubt as to who the author is, but if you are expecting the book to bring you sunshine, then prepare yourself, dear reader.
For you see as well as being funny, the book doesn’t shy away from the darker side of showbiz, covering the trials and tribulations of working on the comedy circuit, performing to drunks in the dingiest dives imaginable. Sid himself is not an entirely sympathetic character either, cheating on his wife with a selection of girls he meets backstage or at Television Centre, and who is in possession of some attitudes that are, shall we say, less than politically correct . There’s also a fair amount of tragedy among the titters, all of which give the book a darker edge than one might have expected from a man who danced with Michael Aspel and who played piano badly with Andre Previn.
How much of the book’s content reflects an author who was increasingly disenchanted with the showbiz life we shall never really know, especially with so much of Morecambe’s DNA shot through the novel. Indeed, even Eric himself appears in one chapter!
However, perhaps that is to read too much into the novel. What we DO know is that the book is by turns tragic and comic, and throws a (sometimes) unforgiving light on the world of showbusiness. It’s a great read which maybe runs out of steam towards the end, in which some of the characters may be rather simply drawn and it’s possibly not for those who are easily offended, but overall I’d say it’s far from (wait for it…) ‘ruggish’. Ithankyew.
Now cue the song…