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.
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!