comic title

First Issue: 4th December 1937
Last Issue: 
Copyright: D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd
Genre: Humour (previously Adventure and Humour)
Incorporated Titles: Nutty (21/9/1985)
Hoot (1/11/1986)
Incorporated By:
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When D.C. Thomson's, The Dandy Comic, was released on the 4th December 1937, it broke the mould on the way comics were to appear forever more. Prior to The Dandy Comic, childrens comics were broadsheet in size and not very colourful. This is to take nothing away from their content, but when compared to The Dandy Comic, and later on, The Beano Comic and The Magic Comic, these broadsheets looked rather staid in comparison. Having said all that, the size wasn't exactly new. The story papers, which had been going for many years, were already tabloid size, it was just new to comics.

So, just what did The Dandy Comic have to offer. It's most notible difference was it's use of speech balloons instead of captions under the frame. This was seen as crude to tradionalist, but wonderful to children. Although The Dandy Comic is renowned for adopting this new way of telling a story, it was still very tentative in the early days. In fact, just 6 of the 28 pages of the first issues were exclusively using this radical new approach. But it was a start and as the years passed, more and more stories were using the speech balloons. Although, right up until 1975, The Dandy still had some solely captioned stories.

A character who was never in a story, but had an unbroken run of 23 years was the Dandy Bellboy. He used to appear next to The Dandy title on the front cover of each issue, and at the end of each text story, where he would let you know what would happen in the following issue. He was to last until October 1960. Other famous characters which appeared over the first couple of years were James Crighton's feline creation, Korky The Cat - who hardly spoke from 1937 to 1942, Desperate Dan and Our Gang (drawn by Dudley D. Watkins), Hungry Horace and Keyhole Kate (Both drawn By Allan Morley), Wig And Wam (by Sam Fair), Podge (by Roberts) and Freddy The Fearless Fly. Among the many artists that were involved with The Dandy in the early years, the most prominent were Dudley Dexter Watkins, Allan Morley, Sam Fair and John Mason. Because D.C. Thomson have always been a little bit reluctant to release these details, it is quite annoying that we don't know who were responsible for popular characters like Freddy The Fearless Fly, Hair Oil Hal and many, many others. After all, the only people I think will benefit from this knowledge are those of us who can still remember reading the comics when they originally appeared. The current generation of comic readers only have Beano, Dandy and 2000AD to remember. Give it another 20 years and who's going to care who the artists and writers of these great publications were.

The Dandy Bellboy, Korky The Cat, Keyhole Kate, Freddy The Fearless Fly, Podge, Desperate Dan, Hungry Horace.
Before The Dandy's second birthday, War had broken out across Europe. City children were evacuated to the country and rationing, including paper, was in force. In fact, it wasn't until two years into the war that both The Dandy and The Beano were affected. 6th September 1941 was the last weekly issue of The Dandy, and it wasn't to be published that way again until the 30th July 1949 issue. During this time, it alternated weekly publication with The Beano. The third of the D.C. Thomson funnies from this time, The Magic Comic, which started on the 22nd July 1939, lasted until 25th January 1941 (80 issues). It may have seemed strange to still produce comics in the face of aversity, but they proved their worth by brightening up the lives of the children that read them. After they were read, they nearly all made their way to the (now) dreaded salvage bag. Only a few escaped, and if you pocess a wartime comic or story paper, treasure it!

The Dandy bravely poked fun at the Allied enemies as early as 1940 with Sam Fair's creation of Addie And Hermy The Nasty Nazis, who usually had the pair partaking in a scam, only to get clobbered in the final frame. Sam was also responsible for Musso The Wop (He's A Big-A-Da-Flop) in the Beano. Desperate Dan also served his country well during the war, usually by punching Hitler out of Britain, so that he landed in Germany. Other stories which ran in The Dandy during the War were, Wild Man Of The Woods (1940) by Dundee born Sam Fair, Hair Oil Hal (1940), Jock McSwiper The Dandy Piper (1941), Grandma Jolly And Her Brolley, Peter Pye (1942) and Dick Whittington & His Cat (1943) by D.D.Watkins and Inky Poo The Cute Hindoo (1944) by John Mason and Danny Long Legs (1945). Issue dated 25th November 1944 saw the very first appearance of The Dandy Wonder Dog, Black Bob. He originally started life in text form, moved on to captioned text and finally became a strip story. Black Bob was also one of the very few characters from the comics to have his own annual, or as D.C. Thomson like to call them, book. Mainly because these character books were published every two years. Black Bob bowed (or bow-wowed) out on 24th July 1982. A fabulous run of over 37 years.

The Dandy can also lay claim to being the first British comic to have its very own Super-Hero. Issue #272 (dated 5th August 1944) gave us, The Amazing Mr X. Firmly based on Superman, our mild-mannered private enquiry agent, Len Manners, whipped off his spectacles, and whipped on his skin-tight black trousers, white top with the red 'X' on it and donned his black mask. He then flew off to save and help anyone in distress. Len only lasted for 14 issues and was replaced by Dudley Watkins', Danny Long Legs.

When the war ended in 1945, Britain, along with the rest of the world, started the long haul back to normality. Rationing was to last a further four years but the world of comics and story papers had a new subject to write about - War!

Addie And Hermy, Grandma Jolly (and her brolley), Desperate Dan, Hair Oil Hal, Jock McSwiper The Dandy Piper
As for The Dandy, it was joined by artists Bill Holroyd (1948) and Paddy Brennan (1949). Like many of D.C. Thomson's artists, Bill drew for both The Dandy and The Beano (and later The Topper and The Beezer). Bill was also the brother-in-law of fellow D.C. Thomson artist, Ken 'Roger The Dodger' Reid. Bill's Dandy work gave us Plum McDuff (1948), Wuzzy Wiz - Magic Is His Biz (1949), The Streakolight Express (1954), the great Screwy Driver (1955), Boy With Iron Hands (1959), Jo White And The 7 Dwarfs (1963), Brassneck (1964), Spunky And His Spider (1968) - could they still use a title like that in todays Dandy? and the colourful Jack Silver (1973). Bill retired in 1986 and sadly passed away on the 1st February 2000 at the wonderful old age of 80.

Paddy Brennan also worked on The Beano, Dandy, Topper, Beezer and even Cracker. His work for The Dandy included Sir Solomon Snoozer (1949), Rusty (1950) - a very firm favourite of mine, Fighting Forkbeard - The Sea Wolf From Long Ago (1951), Willie Willikin's Pobble (1952) - the unusual creature who could only say, "pobble", Lionheart Logans (1955), the very popular, Robin Hood (1958), Around The World In 80 Days (1959), Crackaway Twins (1960), Island Of Monsters (1969) and Ironhands (1971). Paddy's work schedule included many famous Beano stories like, Jimmy And His Magic Patch (1950), The Shipwrecked Circus (1951), Red Rory Of The Eagle (1952) and General Jumbo (1953). Paddy sadly passed away in the early 1980's.

On 17th June 1950, the title changed from The Dandy Comic to The Dandy. The Beano did likewise. This was simply because no-one ever refered to the publications by their full name. A bit like Battle Picture Weekly which was always called 'Battle'.

Other stories that appeared during the 1950's were, Tin Lizzie (1955) a text-narrated fantasy story about a robotic housemaid (metalmaid) called Tin Lizzie, whose common enemy was Brassribs, the Metalbutler and it's owner Frankie Don. Just Jimmy (1956) - who had taken over the back page and his stories concluded with someone saying, "Who's That?" or "What's That?" and the reply about poor old Jimmy would be, "Just Jimmy". Charlie The Chimp (1957) was a text-narrated two-page story about young Jack Marsden's pet chimp, Charlie, who often tried to help out but got into all sorts of problems. He never actually spoke, but took on human mannerisms like wearing clothes and sleeping in a proper bed. A nicely written story though. Hugh Morren's, The Smasher, made his debut in 1957 in a half page story. Back then, The Smasher had bright ginger hair which was soon to change to jet black. Young Dandy (1957) - was a text-narrated adventure story about Johnny Bain and his pet fawn, Young Dandy. There always seemed to be at least one animal adventure story in The Dandy. Other stories included Mystery Dick (1957), Robinson And His Dog Crusoe (1958) and Circus Boy (1959).
Black Bob, Wuzzy Wiz, Rusty, Poggle and Plum McDuff
By 1960 Robinson And His Dog Crusoe were on page 2, while Charlie The Chimp still had two pages of text narrated stories. In fact, 7 of The Dandy's 12 pages consisted of text narrated stories which included Ginger's Super Jeep, Young Dandy, The Boy With Iron Hands and Black Bob. Also in 1960 we saw the start of Dirty Dick and Ali Ha-Ha, then on the 12th November 1960 it was the beginning of the excellent Corporal Clott by David Law. Clott occupied the colourful centre pages and Law drew the strip so that you started reading the first panel of strip on the left page, crossed over the centre-line onto the right page, then continued by reading the first panel of the second row of strip. A bit unusal and sometimes annoying when the speech balloon was on the crease!

21st January 1961 was The Dandy's 1000th issue. 1963 was the beginning of the very popular and very long running Winker Watson, the third former from Greytowers School, also billed as The World's Wiliest Wangler. Sunny Boy - He's A Bright Spark (1963), was another character drawn by Martin. Martin also drew Robinson And His Dog Crusoe (1958), Mr Mutt (1959), Jammy Mr Sammy (1960), Greedy Pigg (1967), Claude Hopper (1971) and Desperate Dawg (1973). 1963 also saw the start of Ken Reid's colourful back page strip, entitled Big Head And Thick Head. These two friends pittd their brains and brawn to start trouble using their respective 'skills', only to end up with it backfiring on them.

In 1964 we saw the first appearance of Bill Holroyd's robotic schoolboy, Brassneck, and in 1968 it was his innocently named, Spunky And His Spider. The ever battling Bully Beef And Chips made their first appearance in 1969 and kept going right up until 1997. They replaced Big Head And Thick Head from the back cover. From the late 1980's the eyes of Bully Beef were clearly visible, wheresas in the early days they certainly were not, neither were his mothers who passed on her, errrrrr.... good looks to Bully. By the time Dandy went decimal Korky The Cat was still on the front cover, Desperate Dan was on page 3 and Whacko! - the medieval terrors, had a two-page spread. Claude Hopper, Dinah Mite and P.C. Big Ears had recently started and The Tricks Of Screwy Driver was enjoying its 16th year, although it never appeared in every issue during that time. 1973 saw the start of a two page strip called Robin Hood's Schooldays, which was a straight replacement for Whacko! We were also introduced to Jack Silver, who started life in two Red/Black/White pages before he replaced Corporal Clott on the colourful centre pages, Desperate Dawg - the canine version of Desperate Dan, Monkey Bizness and Sir Coward De Custard. The Castaway Kidds was a one page text-narrated adventure story about Jack and Jenny Kidd who had been shipwrecked onto a bare atlantic island. This story dealt with their survival and rescue attempts. A nicely written little story.

Issue 1771 (1/11/1975) saw a huge intake of new stories and a change to the title from just red writing with a black shadow to hap-hazard red writing and black shadow with centred white lettering contained within each letter. This issue gave away a free Korky The Cat mask to celebrate the introduction of 4 new stories namely, Peter's Pocket Grandpa - where grandpa was the victim of a gipsy curse, TomTin And Buster Brass - who were two home-made robots, one a cat, the other a dog, Rah-Rah Randall - where each frame had you cheering or booing within every frame and finally Izzy Skint (You Bet He Is!). Jack Silver took over the coloured centre pages from Corporal Clott. The end of 1975 also gave us the very popular and long-running, The Jocks And The Geordies, which was two pages of dum-gangland warfare, which had the added bonus of having no distinctive good guys and bad guys. So some weeks the Jocks won, some weeks the Geordies won and on other weeks they both lost!

The red-headed Smasher,  Ginger Griffiths and his Super Jeep, Corporal Clott, Big Head And Thick Head, Chips And Bully Beef
Towards the end of the 1970's and beginning of the 1980's the previous generation of comic buyers had now become teenagers and started to disassociate themselves with childrens comics. They simply moved on with their lives (until 25 years later it seems). It's also worth mentioning that this previous generation were part of the 1960's baby boom and when the 1970's and 1980's came along, there literally were not the same amount of children around. Compound this with street-cred, early computers, skateboarding, rollerblading, frisbee's and television, it's not too difficult to see why the comic-reading pastime declined. Comic mergers were occuring on a very regular basis and The Dandy did not escape. On the 21st September 1985 (#2287), that's just 3 months shy of its 48th birthday, The Dandy was involved in it's first merger. Nutty had a reasonably successful run of 292 issues before it was forced to team up with it. Nutty carried over its mainstay character, star of TV, Bananaman, or Eric Whimp to his friends. Eric was an ordinary schoolboy until he munched on a banana, then he became super-hero Bananaman, who was Strong, Fearless.....and stupid! Yes, he was a very popular spoof super-hero who immediately moved onto the colourful centre pages. Nutty also carried over Peter Pest, who was just that, a proper little pest, and The Snobbs And The Slobbs, that very much used formula of rich people verses poor people, although, to give D.C. Thomson their due, this one was slightly different because the Slobbs were not very nice and really quite filthy. These three stories joined The Dandy regulars of Desperate Dan, who had been promoted to the front and back pages, Korky The Cat, had now moved inside, The Smasher was still going strong, as were The Jocks And The Geordies, Bully Beef And Chips (inside back cover), Mitch And His Mummy, Dinah Mo - the tomboy, The Burrd - half page story, Harry And The Hippo, Tom Tum - another half page story, Ham And Egghead - about a brainy and not so brainy boy and, of course, there was Dimples. At the time of this amalgamation, Cuddles, who was in Nutty, transferred over to D.C. Thomson's new comic of the time, Hoot. Dimples was to team up with Cuddles the following year when The Dandy was joined by Hoot.

On the 1st November 1986 (#2345), Hoot had run for just one year (53 issues) before it too succumbed to the pressures that be. It brought with it, Cuddles, who immediately teamed up with Dimples, in a strip entitled, Cuddles And Dimples. In these early days both Cuddles and Dimples had different parents, but as time went on, the two cuties became 'bruvs' and shared one set of parents. In fact, they became twins. The strip itself went on to become very popular and occasionly appeared on the front cover. I think it'll be a while before we see the end of these two. The only other story from Hoot was Strange Hill School, which had ordinary schoolboy Eddie Potter in a school of mummies, skeletons, werewolves and other horrors.

Percy Payne (from Growing  Paynes), Beryl The Peril, Owen Goal, Dimples And Cuddles, Blinky, Bananaman
The Dandy moved into the 1990's with those two lovelies along with Bananaman, Desperate Dan, Smasher, Dinah Mo, Korky The Cat, and the kits, Nip, Lip and Rrip as it's main characters. 1993 saw the first all-colour Dandy with Desperate Dan occupying the first three pages. Throughout this decade there was a fast turnover of characters in The Dandy but there were some pretty good ones included. A favourite of mine was, Growing Paynes, which was about little Percy Payne, who didn't want to be treated like a child and attempted to do things like an adult, usually resulting in either him getting embarassed or embarassing his parents. Blinky was another funny story about a young lad with extemely poor eyesight trying to get through life. The jokes were very fast flowing, not just in the final frame. Winker Watson also returned for the start of a very successful run and Beryl The Peril appeared some time in Autumn 1994 in a slighty different guise to how she looked back in her Topper days. As time went on she became unrecognisable from her former self and developed a more modern, laid back vocabulary. Still pretty funny though!

Other stories which appeared during the 1990's were Cowrin' Wolf (1995) - who was always after chickens from the farm yard (similar to Foxy from The Topper). Tik And Tak - who were two 'helpers' of the Dandy editor. Oliver Twister (1994)- who was able to call upon many people (like the artist) to twist a story around from chaos to control. Carrot The Parrot (1994) - used to give the family cat a hard time until the final couple of frames when he got his comeuppence. Brain Duane - the child scientist whose ideas didn't always conclude as intended. Molly (1992) - the spoilt little girl who always wanted her own way (and you thought Fuss Pot was selfish). Sneaker (1996) - who used cunning to get his own way. Jock The Rapper (1995) - was an excellent two-pager where the dialogue was completly written in rhyme about an adventure that was very funny. Euro School (1994) - was similar to the 1970's TV show 'Mind Your Langauge' which relied on national stereotyping and mis-pronouciation of certain words for its humour. First Class (1994) - a schoolroom strip of two boys against two girls. Hector Spectre - a comical horror strip. Owen Goal (1998) - about a football mad lad who used his football skills to get him out of trouble. Jak (1997) - a mischievous little lad. There was also the occasional guest appearance from old stars like Puss 'n Boots (Sparky), Foxy (Topper), Keyhole Kate (Dandy) and Jonah (Beano) as well as a page called, 'Classic Cuts' (throughout 1997) which had some old time stories from The Dandy like, Tin Lizzie, Podge and Granny.

Issue dated 25th February 1995 (#2779) had Bananaman challenging Desperate Dan for the coveted front cover spot. It was resolved in the next issue (which I don't have) but five issues later I see that Dan is still on the cover. So I assume that the Cactusville lad won (hooray!). In 1998 the first adventure story, for a very long time, appeared in The Dandy about a roaring tale of jolly fearless children. The story I have is entitled, "The Barge Of The Light Brigade". I don't know how long these went on for. By 2000, Cuddles And Dimples had a short spell on the front page, Korky The Cat was still going, Blinky was two pages long, as was Jak. Beryl The Peril was now completly transformed into the 'new' Beryl and had two pages as well. Eddie Potter At Strange Hill School made a return and a new story was in place entitled, P5 - another classroom saga which includes amongst its pupils two twins called Noel and Liam! Corporal Clott even made a guest appearance during this year with a newly drawn strip. 2001 saw the time travelling strip, Auntie Clockwise - who was Pandora and her niece Kate. January 2002 saw the start of Ollie Fliptrik and his gang, who were the cool dudes on the skateboards.

The changing face of the Dandy.

From here on up to 2004 sales of the Dandy were declining to a dangerous level. It had fallen well behind Beano in the ratings and for a worrying while, it looked as though the longest running comic was either going to merge with Beano, become a monthly or simply end! But D.C.Thomson had other ideas. They had decided to completely revamp their old title and bring it right in to the 21st century. They spent a lot of money on market research and concluded that the 7-11 age group had moved away from the slapstick type humour of traditional comics and prefered the humour that's associated with the Simpsons cartoon series and the Naked Gun type movies. They also liked free-gifts with every issue and not just the occasional one, and more importantly, they didn't like ALL the old characters. The outcome was a comic with glossy pages, an increase in page count from 32 to 44; funnier stories with a lot of 'background humour'; some new characters; more pages for each story and the loss of some of the old favourites like Korky The Cat, Beryl The Peril, Brain Duane and Winker Watson. A big risk was taken with the price increase from 70p to £1.20, but it seemed to work. In fact it worked so well that the Beano will soon follow suit.

So well done Dandy. You rode that torrid wave of the 1980's and 1990's and have set the standards yet again, just like you did back in 1937. Congratualtions on a long life. You may have past retirement age, but just like the characters in your comics, you just don't seem to age! Long may it continue.
Brown Line

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