The Dandy Comic: 75 Years of Biff, Bangs and Banana Skins
24 October – 24 December, The Cartoon Museum.
The 4th December is the 75th Anniversary of DC Thomson of Dundee’s famous comic, The Dandy. The publishers have chosen this moment to bring the curtain down on the print edition and attempt to soldier on manfully online. Once enjoying a circulation in excess of two million, in the early 21st Century sales of this giant of a comic have of late reduced to a trickle. From its earliest days, The Dandy was an almost immediate success. It was considered so important to the public morale, that even in World War 2, the government encouraged continuity as DC Thomson delivered Desperate Dan and colleagues into our homes, albeit in a 12 page fortnightly edition.
I don’t think there’s anything the publishers could have done to halt the decline. There’s nothing much wrong with today’s Dandy. But Just as it and The Beano eclipsed earlier Victorian and Edwardian forms of comic, so too are they are now out of their time when children have a plethora of other compelling diversions to occupy them. Most are electronic and don’t involve reading at all.
So this exhibition is timely. If Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and Winker Watson were your weekly companions, you’ll love it. And even – as in my case – if they weren’t (I took Wham!, Smash! and occasionally Pow!), you’ll appreciate the talent of the comic artists and writers who produced this stuff week in and week out. In particular, I love the work of Desperate Dan himself’s creator, Dudley D Watkins (1909 – 1969). He also drew Our Gang and for the newspapers, the wonderful The Broons and Oor Wullie. There are many illustrators here represented, including the crew still working today. But the guiding spirit of the comic was the legendary Albert Barnes, who ran the comic for 45 years – from its inception until his death in 1982. One might suggest that with his passing, the comic’s end was simply a matter of time.
The Dandy harks back to an age when – apart from the long shorts – boys wore the exact same clothes as their dads, right down to the patterned sleeveless pullovers. Post war, pre-Beatles. So, all a bit sad and very nostalgic. This is a lovely show which features artwork of about a hundred cartoon strips dating from the earliest days in the 1930s right through to this century.
Next: trog, aka the wonderful Wally Fawkes 7 January – 10 March 2013