originally wrote for The ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL
back around 2004, I thought readers might be interested in seeing
the follow-up I wrote for the planned subsequent issue which, along
with its predecessor, never actually materialized. (For a variety of
unexplained reasons.) Here it is as originally written, and as it
would have appeared in the ICJ.
DANDY and I'm going to continue with that topic (or at least the
topic of D.C. THOMSON) in this column.
At the time of writing, we haven't yet received your opinions
(if any) on the matter, so we'll have to consider them at a later date.
In the meantime, however, let's talk about what I think needs to
be done to inject new life into an ailing publication.
This might be a totally radical, highly controversial notion, but
why not try and make the stories funny, just for a start? When was
the last time you actually laughed (not merely smiled) at a DANDY
or BEANO comic strip? (Assuming that you still read either of
these titles, o venerated ICJ subscriber.)
Chances are it was at something by TOM PATERSON,
NICK BRENNAN or HUNT EMERSON. (And the editors
of both periodicals deserve a chocolate BLUE PETER badge for
having the smarts to acquire the services of these gentlemen.) Am I
right? Unfortunately, however, more could be done - such as hiring
LEO BAXENDALE as a scriptwriter for other artists to illustrate.
After all, it wouldn't hurt to ask. Has such a possibility even
been explored? If not, why not?
I'd absolutely love to see Tom Paterson draw DENNIS
magnificent. In fact, let's consider Dennis for a moment.
I'm lucky enough to own every Dennis The Menace book
tingly, gut-wrenchingly, rib-achingly funny. The stories were funny
to read and the art was funny to look at. (Think of Leo Baxendale's
WILLY The KID and you'll have an idea of what I mean.)
So how do the present-day Dennis books compare to those
new book over the last few years has been but a pale shadow of the
'classic' ones from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. As the reprints became
more recent, the transformation of Dennis from a surly, contemptu-
ous, unruly, roughly- rendered, magnificent menace into a smiling,
rounded, ever-so-slightly mischievous, cutesy, cuddly
little boy becomes increasingly obvious.
|Absolutely nothing wrong with the art by any|
means, but to me this simply isn't Dennis
I can relate to Dennis rebelling against authority in everyday situ-
ations, but flying around in a red and black striped 'Menace-mobile'
is a bit too much of a stretch of the imagination. The character just
isn't 'real' anymore - the strip has wandered too far from its
Decisions on the strip's direction are now made on the basis
on doing anything original. For example, take the introduction
of BEA - in what way is she significantly different to IVY
I fact, come to that, in what way is Ivy different to MINNIE
(Apart from being a girlie, that is.) Considering that Beryl is the
direct female equivalent of Dennis brings the similarities into
sharper focus. The philosophy of D.C. Thomson seems to
be 'imitate' - not 'originate'.
Take Dennis's pets. First there was GNASHER - then came
uniqueness. RASHER? A pig too far, I'm afraid. Would Dennis
really be allowed all these pets?
Dennis the Menace is a British icon - just as SUPERMAN
is an American one. When the MAN Of STEEL first appeared
he was unique, exciting, amazing! Then along came SUPERGIRL,
and - retroactively - SUPERBOY and SUPERBABY; not to mention
the BIZARROS (a whole planet of them) and thousands of potential
superbeings in the bottle city of KANDOR. Each new super-ad-
dition didn't open up unexplored vistas of creative opportunity;
rather it narrowed them until they withered on the vine.
Result? The strips became repetitive and boring.
Nowadays, writers seem to take the easy option. Have you
("Where are you going with that elephant, Dennis?") to ask a
question that could just as easily be asked by a friend, neigh-
bour, bystander or passerby?
This constant reminder to the reader that he's reading a
strip believable. (Even 'funny' strips require an element of reality
to accentuate the humour of the piece.) The inclusion of a 'reader's
voice' word balloon can sometimes be used to good result in certain
instances, but it loses it's ability to surprise, amuse and entertain
when it's resorted to as a matter of course rather than for a
specific and surreal effect.
Anyway, that's my feelings on the matter. Think I'm
we want your letters.
Next issue, Kid Robson examines the differences between
and the reality. Be here.
The Dandy is dead and The Beano seems to have improved
recently, but writers shouldn't get complacent. I can't remember
if I ever got around to writing the finished version of the subject
mentioned in the last paragraph, but I touched on it here. If
you're interested, click on the link and give it a read.