Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Dandy Re-Boot!

Well it's been an eventful few months for the British comic. Back in August we saw the launch of the 'mature reader' title CLiNT. In September it was announced that another comic aimed at the same audience - STRIP - was scheduled for release early next year (I'll no doubt blog that a little nearer the time). But what about the kids? There is still precious little for the people that comics were originally invented for.

The Dandy is Britain's longest running comic - first published in 1937 (actually it's not far away from being the world's longest running comic). It's had it's fair share of ups and downs over the last 70 odd years, but mostly 'downs' in recent years to be honest (and that's not just the readership). By far the worst change to this distinguished title was back in 2007, when in a desperate attempt to win new punters, the whole format of the comic was changed. Gone were almost all of the comic strips, and in were articles on computer games, pop bands, films, toys etc etc. The name was changed to Dandy Xtreme, and for the first time in the Dandy's history it stopped being a weekly comic.
Fortnight-by-fortnight, month-by-month, the word 'Dandy' got smaller and smaller on the cover, and the word 'Xtreme' got bigger and bigger. It was simply awful.

Despite keeping the issue number running, the publishers (DC Thompson) seemed hell bent on disowning the historic title, in favour of a funky new mag for kids. So paranoid were they of referring to the 'old' Dandy that they chose to ignore two major milestones - the 70th birthday in 2007, and the 3500th issue (earlier this year). But sales of Dandy Xtreme have been plummeting quicker than ever, and there have been many rumours than this grand old tradition was about to bite the dust (or at best, be merged with the Beano).

Then came the news earlier this month that all big kids like me wanted to hear - The Dandy was not heading for the scrap heap, it was to be relaunched as a proper kids comic once again. Yesterday the first issue came out - I say first, it was actually issue number 3508, but you get my drift! - and have to say it looks great!

Of course, there are a number of things that will no doubt annoy traditional comic fans - but just like my review of CLiNT, I think these deviations from the expected norm are a smart move. There are obviously not enough traditional British comic fans out there, otherwise it wouldn't be an (almost) extinct medium. So the 'all new' Dandy has gone for a bit of a TV\popular culture feel in an attempt to attract a new young readership (the cover alone boasts no less than 4 TV related strips). The big coup has to be the inclusion of a Harry Hill comic strip, which is written by Harry himself and the TV Burp team. Other strips poke fun at the X-Factor, Cheryl Cole, Simon Cowell (a whole page devoted to a 'young Simon' strip!), Top Gear, Deal or No Deal, eBay, iPods, Meerkats and Wayne Rooney. All adding to the familiarity that might just interest today's kids. Next weeks issue promises (amongst other things) laughs at the expense of TV chefs, Ant and Dec (and their mum Cheryl Cole!), Alan Sugar and Eastenders (CSI: Walford!).

In keeping with just about ever kids TV programme these days, there are plenty of stories with references to bodily functions to keep the wee ones sniggering (The Phantom Pharter, The Bogies, Count Snotula), and a few risque bits and bobs that may still shock nan (although I have to say that the inclusion of both 'Postman Prat' and the 'Shao Lin Punks' did make me smile!).

There are still a couple of old favourites, all be it in a very different style.... Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat are both original characters that started in the comic way back in 1937, so it's nice to see a little nod to the past.

(note the masthead on the new re-booted Dandy is much closer to that of the original 1937 style, rather than the one I remember from the 70's and 80's)

All in all, the new Dandy has got a great feel to it, and really reminded me of classic 70's title Krazy comic with it mad-cap and supposedly 'anarchic' feel. The best thing of all though was that it's wall-to-wall strips, every page, not a single advert inside which in this day and age is brilliant.

And if that's not enough to tempt the child inside you to buy a copy, how about the fact that it's come down in price?!! The hefty £2.50 price tag of Dandy Xtreme, now a much more palatable £1.50.... oh, and it's back to being a weekly title again too!

Hats off to DC Thompson for pulling out all the stops on this relaunch (and in the middle of a recession too). I really hope they pick up a large new readership. My excuse it that I'm buying them for my son to read when he's old enough, but I guess we'll have to see what happens when he really is old enough! (perhaps I'd better buy 2 copies?!)

The Cow Pies are on me!



Mondo said...

I'm off to Forbidden Planet collecting Clint 3 and other stuff today - so will grab a copy then. Reckon my youngest will love it. If only they could reboot or reprint at least the old Fleetway classics.

PS Has anyone ever investigated what killed off kids comics?

Piley said...

It's fresh as a daisy Mondo, I think they have got their audience spot on. Am sure mini-Mondo will like it (let me know what you think).

What killed of kids comics? What a great question! Am hoping Dave Whit pops by, as I'm sure he can give us the lowdown.

My take is that there was so much less for kids to do back in the day. The decline of comics (mid 80s onwards) matches the rise of computers\games machines\mobile phones etc etc. I just think kids found other hobbies.


Heff said...

I never understand why people choose to fuck with a formula that WORKS.

mrs mondo said...

Update on whether or not the youngest mondo loved it or not...yes he did!! Devoured the whole thing at bed time, and at one point yelled out 'they've got Postman Prat...instead of Pat. Do you get it mum?" (yes I do, thank you).

I’ve thumbed through the whole thing and laughed out loud (esp at ‘What’s in Cheryl (Coles) hair today?’ The intro page has that lovely fun-but-cosy feel and I think they’ve made a great go of the whole thing. Perfect cover, too. I think the references to many a well-known tv personality and kids technology are relevant and a good move which will hook the kiddies (& adults) back in quickly. But like any form of media - be it comic, film, tv, book etc - strong characters and good plot-lines (even in a kids comic!) still count, regardless of whether or not the characters are based on celebrities. A case in point is that our kids still love nosing through old Dandy/Beano annuals from decades ago (courtesy of Mr Mondo) and still snigger in the same way as their dad did, at all the crazy carry-on’s and quirky characters. Its easy to underestimate what kids will embrace, so i hope they keep up the good work with some fun, original characters that the kids can grow to love, as well as all the celebrity mickey-taking.

Piley said...

Heff - you have a thriving comic industry, ours is all but dead. They have messed with the Dandy a few times over the years. Each time trying to make it more 'trendy' for kids, usually without road-testing it to see what they want. Every time they have just made it worse. THIS TIME though they have done an incredible amount of research, and the effort that has gone into rejuvinating this comic is stunning. We'll have to wait and see if it works.

Mrs M - Brilliant! Thanks for the update. Delighted Mini Mondo 2 enjoyed it. Just the right balance isn't it? I too found a few bits to chuckle at, and would like to think that as a child I would have been roaring at it, like I did with all my much loved titles. I love the fact that at last there is a proper 'old style' comic for todays kids to enjoy once again. Lets hope it picks up a new (large) readership and continues. Who knows, maybe more titles will come along??


Cocktails said...

I was never a huge fan of the Dandy for some reason (I much preferred the Beano), but I really do hope that this works. Your description of its dire days in 'down with kids' land sound positively embarrassing.

And is Whizzer and Chips still around I naively ask?!

Piley said...

ahhh, dear old Whizzer and Chips! (I have you down as a Chip-ite Cocktails!)

It was one of the last ones to die, but die it did some 20 years ago in 1990, after a 21 year stint and over 1000 issues. Officially it 'merged' with Buster comic (along with no fewer that THIRTEEN other British comics that had also merged with Buster in previous years!).

Buster lasted another 10 years, finally biting the dust in 2000, just 4 months short of its 40th birthday (over 2000 issues).


Cocktails said...

1990! That makes me feel like my younger brother and I were freaks reading an ailing comic in its late 80s deaththrows! I remember really enjoying it. Oh well.

And Buster yes, I'd forgotten about Buster. It wasn't as popular in our household. I've no idea why. Children are just so damned arbitary aren't they?!

Dave Whit said...

Mondo asked the question of what killed off kids comics in this country. Well I was going to string a few words together, but then decided to just use the words of Graham Kibble-White, the author of 'The Ultimate Book of British Comics.

In the book he said ‘What caused the comic-reading audience to fall away over the Eighties and Nineties isn’t clear, but there are a few doorsteps upon which the blame has traditionally been laid: television, home video, computer games – pretty much every other media really. Whatever the reason, somewhere around the mid-Eighties it seemed adolescence was brought forward by half-a-decade, with eight-year-olds becoming more concerned about their own image than whether or not Winker Watson’s latest wheeze would raise the ire of Mr.Creep. Allegiances were now sworn to pop groups, rather than the Whizz-kids or the Chip-ites, and you didn’t stay up late shining a torch under the bed covers at a copy of Champ, when you could be sneaking a look at the Young Ones on telly instead.’

Personally I'd add that kids' comics of the 80s and 90s were poorly drawn and unimaginative generally, but that of course never gets mentioned in the history books.

Lastly Piley, - The Dandy DID become fortnightly between the years 1941 to 1949, although this time it wasn't to do with falling sales, but rather the consequences of wartime and post-war paper rationing regulations.

Cheers P

1000MB said...

Im 13 and an avid classic comic reader I just bought 5 Dandy annuals from the 80s from ebay and I stay up late reading them. I have over 20 annuals. I feel the new comics are just to new everything is done of the computer so if they do a mistake they can just edit it out and the paper is all glossy. I love seeing the comics in monochrome colours and the nice paper they used. Even the new Dandy I still think is just a bit gross. Im sorry if you dont agree.

Piley said...

Hi 1000mb, and thanks very much for your comment.

I couldn't agree with you more actually! The new Dandy is a little 'low rent', and almost every story seems to revolve around, bogies, farts and poo!

When I was your age, there were 20 or more proper comics to chose from every week. But kids fell out of love with comics (and instead chose video games, computers, dvds etc... none of these were around in our childhood days), and now all that is left is the Dandy and the Beano. But if the bogies and other bodily functions are the difference between this grand old tradition folding or keeping going, then I'll live with it. But it'll never be the 'classic' that it once was.

You are also right that the care and artwork that went into comics back then was superb. Alas we will never see this again.

Delighted to hear you are enjoying old copies of the Dandy, and hope you'll continue to investigate and enjoy lots more comics from days gone by - check out titles like Buster, Wizzer and Chips, Whoopee, Krazy, Cor, Beezer, Topper.


1000MB said...

I have actually got a beezer ,topper and sparky aswell. Last night my Dad actually mentioned Whizzer and Chips as he had it as a boy and I looked it up and it look quite cool! Im actually starting a website about old classic comics. Thanks for replying!

Mike Hobart said...

Agree with everything you said about The Dandy. I used to be a regular reader and was unhappy with their Xtreme look, so was pleased to discover the new Dandy was a lot like the old one. I live in Australia so some of the pop culture references probably go over my head, but I understand enough of them to get a laugh every week. Long may she wave!