Thursday, 8 September 2011


Copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

If the reported current circulation figures of The DANDY are to be believed, the recent relaunch of Britain's longest running weekly comic must be considered a massive failure. Apparently, it's selling around half of what it did before it's massively-hyped 'reboot' back in 2010.

Of course, there are many reasons why comics today don't sell in the numbers they once did back in the '50s & '60s.  Publishers today would welcome the reduced circulation of the '70s with ecstatic glee should they ever find themselves in the fortunate position of being able to attain them.  One of the reasons for declining sales is increased competition from other things kids can now spend their pocket-money on, compounded by the fact that comics are no longer the cheapest form of entertainment available.  In fact, they've increased their prices far above the rate of inflation, year by year, for a almost a couple of decades.

Also, buying comics on a regular basis is a habit that needs to be developed and encouraged through the early stages of childhood, otherwise by the time children reach the age where they make their own decisions on what to buy, spending their dosh on comics isn't going to be their first choice.

Forgetting the spurious defence to the contrary currently expounded on some blogs, another reason for their fall from grace is that, in the main, they're not as entertaining as they used to be.  "But wait a minute!", you cry.  "Comics aren't aimed at your age group.  As long as the kids of today find them funny then they're doing their job!"  Rubbish!  The declining sales, even allowing for other contributory factors, puts paid to that nonsense.  And besides, if you feed sh*t to those who have never tasted steak, they're not going to know the difference, are they?  Still no excuse though, is it?

There are certain comics and strips - from before I was born, or before I was reading them, or that I didn't see until years after they were published (hence no nostalgic sentiment involved) - that I can sit down today and read (or re-read) and they are uproariously funny.  The only strip that I can think of, off the top of my head, in recent years, that is always worth reading, is TOM PATERSON's CALAMITY JAMES in The BEANO.  (I'm not sure if it's still in it - I'll have to check.)

There are a handful of artists who still produce solid, well-drawn, humorous work - but they're often let down by the banality of the scripts.  Dennis, with a menagerie of pets in tow (GNASHERGNIPPERRASHER, etc.), was regularly zooming about in some futuristic rocket-ship contraption not that long ago, rendering the strip far too surreal and divorced from what readers can relate to, to be as memorable as early Menace strips used to be.

Nowadays there seems to be a disturbing trend to go for an almost abstract style of art, in some misguided mission to appear 'up to date' and 'down with the kids'.  The Dandy in particular pursues this position, to the extent that the 'fix' has resulted in it being far more 'broken' than was previously the case.

Even balloon lettering has suffered from this approach.  Not too long ago, the Dandy editor defended the switch to upper and lower case lettering on the grounds that research (of which I'm dubious) seemed to suggest that children found it easier to read.  Let's just allow the possibility that it might be true for a moment.  In what way would that justify the hard-to-read, amateurish scrawl that defaces some of the strips?  To my mind, hard-to-read lettering is hard-to-read lettering - regardless of whatever case it's rendered in.  I'm quite sure that no research of any kind has ever led to the conclusion that badly rendered upper and lower case lettering was easier to read - for kids or anyone else.

Also, D.C. THOMSON would do well to make up their mind as to precisely what business they're in - comics or lucky bags.  I'm sure that those cover- mounted 'gifts' deter at least as many buyers as they attract - especially as they usually add £1 or more to the price.  If someone buys a comic for the toys, then they're not buying it for the comic, and that's the market Thomson's should be aiming for - the comic reader.

I could go on and on, but why flog a dead horse (or a dying Dandy)?  The fact is, despite the claims of those who defended and applauded the new direction (that'll be downwards then) of The Dandy, the evidence suggests that the treatment is killing the patient.  Let's just hope D.C. Thomson have some miracle cure up their sleeves before it's too late.


Feel free to comment and share your views on the matter.  Unlike one blog I could mention, you won't be patronized or insulted for not agreeing with me.  Nor will your comments be paraphrased and distorted for the sole purpose of taking a dig at you while petulantly denying you the right of reply.


Mr Straightman said...

Being an old man of 37, I used to by the Beano every week. My favourites were Pup Parade and the Bash Street Kids. I even went through a stage of clipping out Gordon Bell's Pup Parade strips and saving them in a scrapbook, because I loved them so much.
I used to buy the Dandy occasionally, but I always felt the annuals were better than the weekly comic. Even so, Jimmy Hughes had a big influence on my style, particularly in storytelling terms.

Do kids keep scrapbooks nowadays? I doubt it. But if they did, what would they be clipping out of the modern Dandy? Badly-drawn jokes about shit, puke and smelly socks? The mind boggles...

Kid said...

I doubt I'd have much of a problem with the content of The Dandy (or at least to the same extent) if it was called something else. I wouldn't buy it of course, 'cos it mainly sucks - but that would be the extent of my disapproval. The trouble with the current Dandy is simply that it's not The Dandy.

Anonymous said...

Kid you said somewhere about the lettering in the Dandy being poor, well guess what, they've improved it a little bit recently I see AND they brought back some old characters like Beryl the Peril and Bully Beef. They should employ you as a consultant. Wonder what they will do for the anniversary issue? Back to basics?

Kid said...

I'll take a look at an issue when I'm out at the shops. (Let's face it - some of the lettering could only improve as I doubt it could've got any worse.) Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

According to his facebook page a certain artist has been booted off Desperate Dan.Sources say Thomson have taken note of your criticisms and the online version of Dandy will appeal to readers old and new.Good work.

Kid said...

If true, let's hope he finds something to replace his missing income - a strip and publication to which his style is more suited.

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