Wednesday, 15 August 2012

UK’s longest running magazine The Dandy faces closure

I was shocked this week to read that The Dandy, Britain’s longest-running children’s comic, is facing closure after nearly 75 years entertaining kids in the UK.

The comic, which features cult comic heroes like Desperate Dan, Bananaman, Beryl the Peril and Korky the Cat, has been a regular title on the magazine shelves in the local newsagents.

However, with sales dwindling to just 2,000 copies a week, publisher DC Thomson, who also owns the Beano, have refused to rule out closing the comic.

Blaming the decline in readership down to computer games, owners DC Thomson have suggested that if a closure was to happen, iconic character may venture across to sister comic the Beano.

It is certainly depressing, and for loyal Dandy readers, the thought of seeing their favourite comic printing one last issue is unconceivable.

The Dandy launched way back in 1937 at just 2p, and proved popular for children during the war. At its heyday, the Dandy was selling over two million copies per week.

It was at the beginning of the new millennium when I first got my hand on a Dandy. Having been given a Dandy annual (a regular occurrence in my Christmas stocking, even at the age of 19), I became hooked instantly on the characters. From Cuddles & Dimples to my favourite, Winker Watson, the comic strips made me laugh and I soon took out an early subscription. When it came to the weekend, I could not think of anything better to do then read my favourite comic.

It was in late 2004 however when things changed. Facing a slump in sales, the publishers changed the format. Out went the traditional newsprint and in came glossy magazine paper, together with new characters aimed at “bogey-loving” kids who loved “toilet humour.” The price also rocketed from around 70p to £1.20, which for a boy with limited pocket money, was too much.

It was here when I started to dislike the Dandy. The old characters were scaled back or re-branded, possibly to distinguish the comic from its archrival, the Beano, which continued with its traditional newsprint copy.

It seems I, like many others, soon left the Dandy. Not because there was a different magazine that I enjoyed instead, but because the focus had changed. It had tried to become too commercial, too mainstream. Later revamps focused on celebrity comic strips and competitions, seemingly shifting the focus from the comic strips and characters.

Maybe it’s not the Dandy’s fault. The birth of television, the internet and of course games consoles has all significantly dented the magazine market. It doesn’t help that prices have increased too. Although the Dandy is available to read online, kids would rather spend their spare time playing computer games for free then read an expensive comic.

DC Thomson says no decision has been made yet on the Dandy’s future, but with the current magazine market looking uncertain; it is highly likely that the Dandy will cease publishing. I’d like to think some of the iconic characters would move to the Beano, but with the Beano also struggling, it seems the future for kid’s comics remains a bleak, unstable one.

So yes, it is emotional and it will be a sad farewell to what was once my favourite comic. I’d like to hope the Dandy will still be around in years to come, but who knows. It’s had a good run no matter what happens, and bowing out on it’s 75th birthday would be poignant. At least I will have all my old Dandy comics and annuals under my bed to entertain me still, (or at least earn me a bob or two if it does shut down!)
Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

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