Friday, 9 November 2012


Images copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Browsing through the comics section of my local WHS this afternoon, my eyes spied the latest issue of The BEANO.  Something about it looked different, so picking it up, I perused its contents.  Looks good, I thought, so I decided to buy it, along with its companion paper, the desperately doomed DANDY.  (Which didn't look so good, it has to be honestly said.)  I was surprised to see that The Beano's 'new look' also came with a new price - £2.

Let's explore that for a mo.  The Beano has 36 pages;  forgetting for a sec that around 14 of them are a mixture of ads, games & puzzle pages, that works out at a little over 5 pence per page, which is pretty good value.  It's still good value at just over 9 pence for each of the 22 pages of actual strip cartoons, but obviously the first option is the better of the two.  That's to say it's good value 'relatively speaking' - whether the public perceives it as such is open to question.

The Beano raising its price by a quarter is worrying 'though. (I presume the comic was still £1.50 last week, but it's been a while since I bought it.)  50 pence is quite a steep rise, especially in one go.  Comics normally only do this when circulation is falling - it's a way of compensating for the loss of revenue from declining sales.  We'll have to wait and see whether the increase will scare off even more buyers.  You'd think D.C. THOMSON would seek to entice The Dandy's 7,000 readers by combining it with The Beano when the former expires in a few weeks, but it seems not, apparently.

Also, after coming under fire not that long ago for describing cover-mounted toys as 'gifts' when the regular price was increased to pay for them, you'd think that Thomson's would take greater care to avoid misleading advertising.  '2 Huge Posters' shouts the cover blurb, but it's actually only one double-sided poster.  Is there a difference?  Yes, there is.  Two posters would be two separate posters which could be displayed simultaneously.  As only one side can be seen at a time, it should have been described as what it was - a double-sided poster.  A subtle distinction admittedly, but an important one.  Any siblings hoping for a poster each were doomed to bitter disappointment.

So, let's look at a couple of Beano pages.  First one up (above) is CALAMITY JAMES, as drawn by TOM PATERSON.  Well drawn, well composed, and not only funny to read, but also to look at.  It may be a reprint for all I know, but regardless, quality is quality.

Next up is MINNIE The MINX, drawn by KEN H. HARRISON, the only artist since the legendary DUDLEY D. WATKINS to do justice to Oor WULLIE & The BROONS.  Nice simple layouts, clear storytelling, immaculately illustrated - what more can I say?  Now, however, let's look at the other side of the coin.

I have to admit that The DANDY logo has been improved by the addition of the white border on the inside of the letters, but the overall shape is still somewhat lacking.  Some apologists for the comic's failure have blamed its imminent demise on kids being unable to find it in shops, but in every WHS I've been in, it's always placed right next to The Beano.  We'll just have to put that lame excuse down to bitterness on the part of those who promoted themselves as the comic's saviours, but instead hastened it to its doom on a grease-wheeled skateboard.

And here's one of the reasons why.  Artwork which is stiff and flat, minimalist layout (look at the 'classroom' - then recall the work that LEO BAXENDALE put into The BASH STREET KIDS and The SWOTS The BLOTS), too many panels consisting of talking heads, and poor perspective.  (In the first pic, teacher looks as if he's floating above the pupils.)  This is the standard of art I'd expect to see in a fanzine produced by a 14 year old.  (Which probably explains why someone who lurks around my site is such a big fan of this 'style' that he tries to emulate it.)  But it gets worse.  Look below.

Sigh!  Horse poo mountain indeed.  That covers it.  Sadly, nothing more need be said.


However, I'll say something anyway.  I've said it before, but it bears repeating.  Look at the awful lettering font used in the above two pages.  The Dandy editor justified its use by saying that kids found it easier to read than upper case.  I'm not convinced, but even if it were true, it would surely only apply to neatly rendered upper and lower case, not a spidery scrawl.  Also, upper and lower case is a style that has traditionally been associated with nursery comics in Britain.  (TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR, etc.)  Perhaps this is one of the reasons that comics have long been seen in this country as being fit only for children.  Upper case is not only easier to read (in my opinion), it also makes a page seem less juvenile.  Something to consider perhaps?


Mr Straightman said...

No, Kid, we're wrong. Completely and utterly one hundred percent wrong. Not only that, we're wretched scabby vultures and parasites for not cheering on a bold move in British comics. *shakes head in despair*

Christopher Sobieniak said...

It is a shame to see it all go away like that.

Kid said...

A suicide move in British comics, more like.


As you say, Chris, an utter shame.

Anonymous said...

Comparing relatevely new cartoonists to some who have been working for over 30 years is a little mean spirited isn't it?

Andy and Jamie's work goes down well with children. Their stories are funny. Who knows what they'll be capable of in 30 years time?

Kid said...

Mean-spirited? All I'm doing is comparing good with bad. Leo Baxendale hasn't worked in comics for nearly 40 years, so I'm referring to examples of his work which go back almost to the start of his career. There are lots of young artists around who are actually good, so age has nothing to do with it.

Despite suggestions from some quarters to the contrary, there is nothing personal in my remarks - my observations are based solely on the quality of the work. Andy and Jamie's work may go down well with a limited and ever-decreasing number of children, but just because some kids like spam is no reason to deny them steak.

If they're both smart, they'd look at how better artists do things and try to learn from them.

Anonymous said...

Saying that someone draws like a fourteen year old IS mean spirited. Such remarks seem to come naturally to you without you being aware of it. Still, it's your blog so....

Kid said...

Describing someone who draws like a 14 year old as drawing like a 14 year old is simply calling it like it is. So, despite your attempts to impose a motivation onto me that bears no relation to the facts, you'll forgive me if I prefer to stick to reality. Your negative interpretation of my remarks actually reveals quite a mean-spirited outlook on your part.

Dougie said...

That classroom looks as spartan as some of the rooms in Elgin Academy.

I wondered if the spidery font is a response to the kind of advice I got in training: that certain fonts -like Comic Sans, for instance- are easier for dyslexic kids to read. But even if that is the intention, it's unappealing.

Kid said...

Dougie, the Dandy editor justified the use of earlier, far messier fonts, by saying that research seemed to suggest that ALL kids found u&l case easier to read. However, I'm not convinced, and here's why.

U&l case lettering has far more curves and squiggles than upper case alone, and therefore carries the potential for being much more confusing - not just for dyslexics, but for everyone. There's a reason why most forms request people to fill them in in block capitals - they're far more uniform and easier to read.

Anonymous said...

I think Desperate Dan and Secret Agent sir are well written, well drawn, and appealing to children.

Kid said...

And you're perfectly entitled to your opinion. But remember the old saying: "A sparrow looks beautiful 'til it stands next to a peacock."

spleenal said...

"block capitals - they're far more uniform and easier to read." Dyslexia is an umbrella term for a host of different issues. Some experience problems with high contrast (black and white). Others with right a dominant right brain hemisphere have issues with shape. An innate ability to mirror and rotate becomes hard to control. M's become W's, p's become q's etc. As recognizing individual letters become a problem dyslexics fall back on shape recognition of entire words. This "trick" starts to fail once the child gets past year three in school as they are introduced to more and more words with similar silhouettes.

uniform is a problem to dyslexics. It encourages the ability to mirror and rotate. Upper case words have more similar silhouettes than lower case words. So are harder to read. (for those with issues)

Hand writing being less constructed than a font (the "o" wont fit perfectly into a "p" or "qdgcb") forces dyslexics to abandon silhouette recognition in favor of actual reading.

The two examples you showed seem to use hand lettering which is actually good for those with issues. I know it's weird and counter intuitive. But so are brains. :)

Kid said...

What you're overlooking 'though, is that The Dandy isn't being produced exclusively for dyslexics - who surely only consist of a minority who buy the comic.

The editor's justification of the use of upper and lower case was that some studies seemed to indicate that ALL kids found it easier to read, which I consider dubious.

Having said that, however, I have no problem with the NEAT u&l case fonts used in The Beano, but the ones in the two Dandy strips I showed are ugly scrawls which are difficult to read. (Except for dyslexics perhaps, if what you say is accurate.)

That's the trouble with this bloody country - always pandering to minorities at the expense of those who DON'T have 'issues'.

Spok said...

You have issues.

Kid said...

Yeah - back-issues - of The Dandy, Beano, Topper, Beezer, and a whole host of other comics.

(This from someone calling himself Spok who has nothing better to do than comment on 7 month old posts. Keep taking the medicine.)

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