Goodbye, Desperate Dan

Reading & Writing

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.

7 comments on “Goodbye, Desperate Dan”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    I am not Desperate Dan, but I might be if I borrowed a lot of library books.
    The NYT “Home” section of 12/6/12* reports in “A Dark And Itchy Night” that Bedbugs reveal a taste for literature, turning up in library books!
    The bugs have found a new way to hitch in and out of beds via the spines of library books. (OMG maybe they could be trained to mark your page.)
    “As libraries are scrambling to deal with the problem, so are some book borrowers.” If a borrower finds he/she has bedbugs, they are to call the library first, then put the loaned item – including DVDs – into a sealed plastic bag and a librarian will meet them outside the building! This article had me itching within a minute.
    How will bedbugs effect the already staggering book business? Hopefully increase the sales of new books – good for authors, if not readers. This just confirms what I’ve always felt: a well-used library book may contain more than what’s on the printed page. I’ve found some things in some that I’d prefer not to have found. Still, I would read more library books if I was the sort to read straight through a book and since I don’t, I’ve paid too many fines.
    (*)12/12/12 is coming reserve your lottery tickets now. It’s got to be a lucky date as the old Mayans have the end of the world locked up later this month.

  2. Helen Martin says:

    We had word of bedbug infestations in our library and they borrowed (?) a sniffer dog who was trained to recognize (what? the presence of insects? feces?) but haven’t heard any more so I assume they have it in hand.

  3. Alan G says:

    Admin – you had them delivered? Some of us had to drag the dog half a mile to the newsagent.

  4. Reuben says:

    Titan Books did a Steel Claw collection a few years back, wish they’d reprint some more along with other characters from that period.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Alan – And it was up hill both ways in snow up to your hips and you had to dig the dog out three times.

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    GL!, Alan where did you live? Notice not asking how anyone knew the route you took. With such a leg to mush you certainly could take a pass on the treadmill for that day.

  7. Alan G says:

    Helen and Dan. I didn’t quite have to dig the dog out – although sometimes had to pick him up and carry him. (no way was I missing my 2000AD). He was an amazing mutt – very big and protective – and we were in the prowling grounds of the “Yorkshire Ripper”. We knew Mum was safe.

    And Helen? In the Pennines it’s a balmy day if the snow is just up to your hips…

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