No more cow pies, no more bending a lamp-post to light a pipe…
Well, that’s not strictly true, but Desperate Dan will never be quite the same again. After 75 years serving as Britain’s longest-running children’s comic, The Dandy has faced a harsh economic truth and realised that its sales will never reach the heady heights of the postwar years, so it’s switching into cyberspace. The paper version will cease to exist. During its peak circulation in thc 1950s, the Dandy sold 2 million copies each week. This figure has dropped in recent years to around 8,000.
Which means that Beryl the Peril, Korky the Cat et al will now be animated for a more demanding generation. DC Thomson said the Dandy annual will continue to be printed, and the 2013 edition is already on the shelves. Meanwhile, the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury is hosting ‘The Dandy: 75 years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins’ exhibition until 24 December.
Although I really preferred American comics, I also took all the British comics because everyone else did. Dandy, Buster, Topper, Lion, Tiger, Eagle, Beezer and the rest were delivered every Wednesday, along with my parents’ broadsheet Daily Mail.
My favourite stories concerned The Steel Claw, a man with a metal hand who turned invisible (except for the hand) whenever he was electrocuted. The strip required its hero to walk into power cables at the same rate that normal people crossed the road. Archie the Robot was a dead ringer for the early version of Iron Man, but the comedic strips were always the best
I loved the artist Ken Reid (see columns passim), whose grotesque drawings got him into trouble, and of course Leo Baxendale, whose Bash St. Kids seem embedded in everything from ‘Please, Sir!’ to ‘Grange Hill’.
And perhaps 75 years is enough – what on earth would characters like Lord Snooty and his Pals mean to anyone now? They grew up and are running the country.