August 17, 2012 7:49 AM   Subscribe

The Economist on the decline of British boy's comics as The Dandy ceases print publication. As it circles oblivion it risks joining the ranks of Whizzer and Chips, Buster, The Beezer and subversive late entry to the genre Oink. The days of the Great British girl's comic are sadly long passed. 
posted by Artw (70 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

I remember Cheeky Weekly. It's sad to see the end of these things.
posted by Myeral at 8:00 AM on August 17, 2012

I remember reading the Dandy and the Beezer as a kid.... shame they're gone, but not surprising.
posted by modernnomad at 8:00 AM on August 17, 2012

When we moved to London in 1976 for a year, nothing had prepared my 7-year-old mind
posted by scody at 8:07 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I learnt to read with the Dandy which Papa would buy every week, for himself, and which Mom would refuse to read out to me because it was a comic.
posted by infini at 8:09 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

(good lord, how did THAT happen?)

...nothing had quite prepared my 7-year-old mind for the culture shock in shifting from the Richie Rich and Archie & the Gang paradigm of comics to the Beano, Dandy, Bunty and Debbie. I loved those comics immediately, because it felt like they were guide books into British child culture and child life, even in a distorted form, and so in a weird way they helped make being in a new country feel slightly less alienating.
posted by scody at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I was 10 and my eldest brother died suddenly, my uncle went to the shops in the high street and bought one of every candy bar and every boy's comic available, including The Beezer and Buster. It took me days to read them all, and they helped me through a tough time.
posted by acheekymonkey at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2012 [16 favorites]

More comic book cover art.
posted by infini at 8:11 AM on August 17, 2012

I have a MASSIVE collection of paper Dandys and Beanos [and 2000ads] ; I used to have 10 times as many (I kept them all) but the paper wasn't really for long-term storage. I think I still have some 2000ADs from the 70s in my closet. I have long since passed on my Annuals to my daughter and nephews and the paper ones from the 90s are on a shelf in my daughter's room right now.

posted by NiteMayr at 8:11 AM on August 17, 2012

er, sorry scody, hope it wasn't anything I did, interjecting right there...
posted by infini at 8:12 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Grew up in the U.S., but my parents were British and my grandma lived in Cornwall. Every holiday, and any time my dad went home and came back, there were some Beanos, some Dandys, and some candy bars.
posted by feckless at 8:19 AM on August 17, 2012

Boo! I got the Dandy, my brother got the Beano. So now he's winning!

Interesting that Viz is still with us, but the style it is parodying is disappearing...
posted by alasdair at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Will manga (imported or home-grown) take over the gap left, or is it pushing the older styles out? I first noticed the explosion when I was in Britain, and then came back to Canada to find out it had exploded here too. It's so much broader based (and cheaper per page/minute reading) than DC/Marvel, and it seems to have become much more mainstream in kid's reading.
posted by jb at 8:27 AM on August 17, 2012

On newsagent shelves licensed stuff based on US cartoons are the most likely replacements, if it's replaced at all.
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on August 17, 2012

As a kid I read Whizzer and Chips (IIRC) and I am sad at their passing.
But it's 2000 AD I reallt care about as an adult.

There's a thing called Comics Britannia anyone in this thread should watch Ep1 and Ep2.
There is a third episode but it is apparently "too rude" for YouTube.
It was up there until recently. But the first ep deals with the Dandy et al and the second a bit of 2000AD.
posted by Mezentian at 8:31 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Leo Baxendale who did the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx is an out-and-out anarchist as I recall, ideal mentor for the nation's youth.
posted by Abiezer at 8:31 AM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh man, Oink!

I've still got a stack of old Oink's in the loft. It always struck me as having been the gateway drug for my adult Private Eye subscription and having just looked it up on Wikipedia, it was apparently written by some of the same people.

I spent my pocket money on The Beano rather than any of the girls' weeklies, since I found the recurring characters in Twinkle, etc deeply dull. At Christmas, though... At Christmas, the Bunty annual knocked the Beano annual into a cocked hat.

The Beano album just had the same stuff as the rest of the year, but the Bunty used the extra space to tell additional one-off stories that were longer and more involved than their usual stuff, including some ghost stories that were pretty darn creepy for your average seven or eight year old.

I remember one in particular about a mistreated servant girl in a Victorian household. She found an abandoned dollhouse in the attic with dolls that looked exactly like the members of family she worked for. She'd take out her aggression on the dolls and then horrible things would happen to her employers. Except one day she lets a candle get to close to her voodoo dollhouse and the actual house she's in burns down.

More exciting than the Bash Street Kids, that one!
posted by the latin mouse at 8:32 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

hope it wasn't anything I did, interjecting right there...

Ha! No, it was me being mysteriously incompetent in some way.
posted by scody at 8:34 AM on August 17, 2012

Beano is still going though, right?
posted by Talez at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2012

Splundig Vur Thrigg from the Squaxx dek Thargo
posted by Damienmce at 8:36 AM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

hope it wasn't anything I did, interjecting right there...

Ha! No, it was me being mysteriously incompetent in some way.

I was typing and when I hit publish, found myself in between your comment some how - must have taken too long musing on my comment to notice the first one
posted by infini at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2012

For at least twenty years I was haunted & mystified by the memory of a weird hardcover comic I had read in my tiny hometown's library when I was little. It was written in English, but half the words didn't make any damn sense at the time ("Pong balls? Like ping-pong balls? But they smell? Wha? Are these bad kids all related, and their last name is Geordie?"), and the drawing was all over the place, and printed in blue(?) and white. I can't remember how I recently - finally - figured it out, either by coming across a reference to Peter's Pocket Grandpa or Jocks & Geordies, but anyway, goddamn you, Dandy, for bedeviling me for two decades.

Side note: If anyone has a collection of the annuals and knows which one featured a sleepwalking Peter's Pocket Grandpa story, a possibly racist Ricky the Rickshaw boy tale, and a girl's story about a young lady visiting (Inheriting?) a ranch and taking a frontier shower using a metal bucket with holes punched in the bottom (Made a big impression on precocious, but horribly repressed young me), let me know.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I write for 2000ad occasionally so mentioning them in FPPs approaches a dodgy self-linking area, but yes, they are going pretty strong at the moment, running material that's as strong as any from the classic era. They just launched on iPad which is hopefully going to snag them a few extra readers - if you've got one I strongly recommend downloading the app and grabbing the free 69 page sampler to see what they are up to these days.
posted by Artw at 8:51 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interestingly Pat Mills, John Wagner et al all came out of British girl's comics, so Battle, Action and eventually 2000AD actually owe quite a debt to them.
posted by Artw at 8:56 AM on August 17, 2012

Sean Phillips had some pages of his early girl comics work on his blog, but all I'm finding right now is this page from his first pro job.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:01 AM on August 17, 2012

When I was a kid, The Dandy was rubbish. Korky the Kat? Dinah Mo? Winker Watson? Proper bob.

However, now that I have a 4 year old of my own, I was surprised to find out the new Dandy is actually really good. Is a shame its time has gone. Online doesn't count for young kids. They need something they can drag around with them and stick in a bag or read on the car etc.

A side effect of having a four year-old is that I've dug out all my old Beezer, Whizzer and Chips and Beano Annuals, which were second-hand when I was a kid. Is amusing to see someone in 2012 learn to read from kids comic annuals circa 1980, which were out-of-date even then. Although Mustapha Millions is going to come in handy when I explain Premier League football to him.

Other parents tend to look a bit confused as he runs around talking of playing a wheeze on people etc.
posted by Hartster at 9:03 AM on August 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

I read The Beano from the age of about three (when I was old enough to hold the paper as well as read it) to about eight when Smash Hits started to appeal more. I was a tomboy, so while I liked the paper dolls in Twinkle, I much prefered naughty Minnie and Dennis to the girls of Bunty and Mandy. My mum used ot make me Desperate Dan juice (I'd turn my back, and she would combine whatever fizzy drinks were in the cupboard) and his favourite cow pies (a regular steak pie with pastry horns and tail). I was even a member of the Beano club, complete with secret code wallet and a googly-eyed Gnasher badge. I don't know if the Dandy had one. Although I liked Desperate Dan, the Beano had the Bash Street Kids, and therefore was the best one.

Superhero comics were never really a thing for kids here - the only people I knew who bought Superman, Spider-Man and the like were adult collectors, though the recent films might have changed this. So what are three to seven year olds doing now that means they aren't buying comics? There's all-day kids TV now, video games, maybe internet as well. My young nephews in the 90s never read the Beano or Dandy - it looked old-fashioned in a way that appealed to me greately but put them off.
posted by mippy at 9:05 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

The weirdest girl comic was Misty, which was before my time. Supernatural stories that would actually probably sell really well today now young girls like all that werevampire occult stuff. But at that time, even teenage magazines had graphic stories or 'photostories' where real people were photographed and given speech bubbles. I'm 30 so I haven't read teen magazines in a while - do they still do this? Now I have an urge ot make one with a digital camera.

My SO tweeted to 2000AD and was called 'earthlet' in his response. It made him ridiculously happy.
posted by mippy at 9:09 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't remember how I recently - finally - figured it out, either by coming across a reference to Peter's Pocket Grandpa or Jocks & Geordies

We holidayed in Scotland as a child. I was terrified of being mistaken for a Geordie (not that I knew what one was or sounded like) in case they took umbrage and beat me out of town.
posted by mippy at 9:11 AM on August 17, 2012

Wasn't Oink aimed at an older market, kind of a competitor to Viz? Marc Riley off of the radio used to write for it.
posted by mippy at 9:12 AM on August 17, 2012

It was maybe aimed a little older, but not by too much - it was like Viz for kids.
posted by Artw at 9:13 AM on August 17, 2012

Growing up in Canada, one would occasionally come across a Beano or Dandy, which I found extremely odd. However, we would also sometimes get old Eagle annuals, which included Dan Dare and a number of other science fiction stories. These tended to have art that was far beyond the quality of American comics at the time.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:14 AM on August 17, 2012

UK webcomics sensation John Allison on boy's comics, then and now.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:18 AM on August 17, 2012

it was like Viz for kids.


Atomms, old fruit, and check your spelling
posted by infini at 9:26 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wasn't Oink aimed at an older market, kind of a competitor to Viz?

I suppose my son would have been about 7 or 8 when Oink first hit the newsagents counter. He never had a problem with any of the content.

Oink is the only comic from his childhood he thinks of fondly.

Also, no love for another subversive Baxendale-heavy enterprise from my childhood -- Wham, Smash, etc. not only had the best of Baxendale's post-Beano work, but also reprinted Golden Age Marvel strips (usually in pitiful black and white, but still...)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:32 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I might be thinking of Smut. That always looked like Viz with the heart and brain removed.
posted by mippy at 9:37 AM on August 17, 2012

I was even a member of the Beano club, complete with secret code wallet and a googly-eyed Gnasher badge. I don't know if the Dandy had one.

Why, yes, it did - Desperate Dan's Pie-Eater's club. Not sure why I joined that one despite being solidly in the Beano-camp..
posted by anagrama at 9:39 AM on August 17, 2012

the Economist article points to one thing that didn't exist when I was a kid - social gaming. Videogames were about, although the relative cost of them meant that not every kid had a console (we would go to each other's houses to play). These days, though, Moshi Monsters is a license to print money. Club Penguin is pretty big too, but the sheer number of Moshi products is astonishing. It's no surprise the magazine is outselling the titles about when I was a kid.
posted by mippy at 9:40 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The actual proper Viz knockoffs were always about half as smart and kind of crappy. I may include Loaded in this category.
posted by Artw at 9:42 AM on August 17, 2012

Every Christmas, we'd get annuals from our ex-pat parents.
When we'd visit the relatives, I probably spent half my allowance on comics*.

Desperate Dan, Bananaman, The Jocks and The Geordies.
I guess they're now just another part of my childhood memories of the UK.

Sad though.

*The other half on sweeties and crisps, naturally
posted by madajb at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2012

As a tomboy I didn't like the girl comics, but enjoyed Beano and Whizzer and Chips. I had totally forgotten about this part of my childhood! Now I'm sad I can't buy some for my sons :(
posted by Joh at 9:55 AM on August 17, 2012

I didn't realize the girl's magazines were gone . My grandmother would buy Bunty and Judy all year and then send them in a Christmas package with crackers and sweeties. She would throw in a Beano for good measure.

And when we went with my Mum to spend the summer with the relatives in Blackpool every few years one of the great joys was to walk to the newsagent, pick a comic and a Flake and go devour both.

I still have some annuals I should dig out. Talk about helping one feel even more aged ...
posted by Isadorady at 10:00 AM on August 17, 2012

I still miss The Four Mary's.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:01 AM on August 17, 2012

Just glancing at some of the artwork -

was Don Martin the only inspiration British comic artists had?
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2012

The weirdest girl comic was Misty, which was before my time. Supernatural stories that would actually probably sell really well today now young girls like all that werevampire occult stuff.

There was also Spellbound, a similar ghosts/witches/vampires comic for girls, which ran a little bit before Misty.
posted by scody at 10:14 AM on August 17, 2012

I was a Beano kid and never liked the Dandy for some reason... before 'growing up' and moving on to Warlord, 2000AD etc. But back then all kids read comics, no so much now, mores the pity.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2012

My sister got Mandy from our aunt in Scotland. I got Look and Learn, which included the awesome Trigan Empire.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:38 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Forgetting not Wham! The Funniest Comic in the World (1964-1966), first home of Grimly Fiendish, teh Rottenest Crook in the World.

(Yes, we've seem him before, but also since.)
posted by BWA at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Happily, we never got girls' comics, but instead had Beano, Dandy, Eagle, 2000AD, and a couple of issues of Oink. I never understood Oink, being far too young, and Eagle looked boring. But there was a time when I actually read a fair bit of 2000AD.

I seem to recall a time when the Dandy was subtitled "and Beezer", or am I misremembering this?
posted by Jehan at 11:58 AM on August 17, 2012

And in the city where it's printed (which has a statue of Desperate Dan in the city centre) unemployment has hit a 14 year high. Interesting that the DC Thomson owned papers (Dundee Courier and Evening Telegraph) have nary a thing to say about the news on the Dandy, not even to put a positive spin on it.

(Count me as another vote for 'always preferred The Beano' btw)
posted by Coobeastie at 12:04 PM on August 17, 2012

Long time coming, but how long for Beano?
posted by mdoar at 12:32 PM on August 17, 2012

Jehan, you might be thinking of Topper. After it merged with Beezer it was released for a while as Beezer And Topper until that too was eaten by a larger comic. (The Beano, I think.)
posted by the latin mouse at 2:04 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The girls comics were so weird, they were always about some poor orphan who is forced to live in the attic/ stables/ greenhouse and horribly mistreated by her aunt/ grandmother/ godparents and their horrible spoiled children. Despite which she is a total Mary Sue and usually has some kind of amazing ability (which is why they all hate her of course). I could never figure out why our heroine spent all her time weeping and winning peoples hearts and minds through her selfless actions instead of burning the place to the ground. Or, y'know, calling the police.
posted by fshgrl at 2:21 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

It used to be standard practise to launch a new comic alongside a old one, with similar styles of stories - new comics always sold well. Then when sales started to fall off merge the two together. Then wait awhile and do it again.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:23 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hatch, Match and Dispatch.
posted by Artw at 2:32 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Goodness, I remember Oink. I don't think it was for older children - I read it when I was 9 or 10. Someone on the guestbook on the linked site remembers the free flexidisc:
Mum's nagging drives me looney, my sister is a witch, my little brother tells tales on me and my father's far from rich. There's only one thing in my life, that helps me get along, it's when I think of Uncle Pig and sing the oink oink song...
Agree girls' comics had some weird stuff. I remember one long-running series where the heroine was an orphan who took her dead cat everywhere, including to bed with her.

Also, Roy of the Rovers comic.
posted by paduasoy at 3:21 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was always weirded out by the art style on Desparate Dan, for some reason. When I was of an age to read these things I went with a comic called Jackpot, and later one called Nutty (from whence Bananaman originally sprang).

The best part about Jackpot (I'm sure they weren't the only comics that did this) were adventure strips that would have clues put in the panels a la Encyclopaedia Brown, and all the clues would add up to solve some central mystery. Count Mysto's Maze and the Perils of Pauline were some that I vaguely recall. I wonder if I can dig some up online. To teh googles!
posted by Sparx at 3:55 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

@Alvy Ampersand and others:

For questions about British comics, the comics UK forum is the place to go.

Or just browse and drown in nostalgia.

posted by EnterTheStory at 5:30 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

They just need to market this to international markets. I'm sure plenty of North American hipsters would be all over these as curios. The various grotesque styles definitely resembles that of R. Crumb, too. Sell them in eBook libraries and you can revitalize this art form.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:14 AM on August 18, 2012

...but back in 1981 we were glued to the adventures of Diving Belle in the comic Jinty and Penny. That's the one where school champion Belle McBane vows never to dive again after her father is lost at sea, but a mystic Gypsy persuades her to train in secret, leading to Belle diving off an oil rig and finding her father, who's trapped in a bathyscope with only an hour's worth of oxygen left. Phew!

posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on August 18, 2012

I loved the girls comics-in the sixties there were always plucky Victorian heroines who rescued orphans mixed in with stories about "dollybirds" making their way to "Swinging London".
The boys comics always seemed a little crude and definitely proved the inferiority of boys to me, although I did enjoy the silliness at times.
I just remember thinking how superior the English ones were to the comics I got in the U.S, although I did learn to draw fabulous fashion from Milly the Model.
posted by Isadorady at 11:01 AM on August 18, 2012

Disabilng injury and Gypsies were both clearly more pressing day to day concerns back then.
posted by Artw at 11:48 AM on August 18, 2012

Charlie Brooker's first job was as a writer and cartoonist for Oink!.
posted by unliteral at 12:08 AM on August 19, 2012

"Dad, do you know your Dandy's not going to be printed anymore?"

"Frist! Your father was telling me this ages ago, that people aren't reading it anymore so its closing"

/infini slinks out of parent's room, abashed
posted by infini at 12:32 AM on August 19, 2012

From the pages of Misty... The Sentinels (posts in reverse order, scroll down for the start)
posted by Artw at 3:40 PM on August 22, 2012

We read the Dandy and Beano each week: Whizzer and Chips and Beezer annuals. We had a pile of Roy of the Rovers and Bunty/Judy from somewhere: I liked the Bunty/Judy more. The re-re-re-launched Eagle too. But, of course, what I really really wanted from about 11 onwards was 2000AD. Crisis, too, and Revolver briefly.

Oh, and the marvellous Starblazer, which I still have a box of in the attic.

It's odd, given "comics" now so much means "Marvel and DC" and my wife can even discuss the Avengers, how I actually spent most of life reading British comics. It's thanks to Nemesis the Warlock that I'm here, not Free Republic. Although it's almost thanks to Torquemada, Grand Master of Termight, that I'm in the National Front. Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!

Sadly, I don't hold out much hope for the new Judge Dredd film...
posted by alasdair at 6:12 AM on August 26, 2012

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