Desperate Dandy deserves to be dumped

The Dandy: New look for comic.
The Dandy: Best known for Desperate Dan, the title will be printed for the last time later this year.

Devil’s Advocate is a regular column assuming an alternate viewpoint on a topical subject of the week.

Being given the boot is never particularly nice, but there’s something about forced retirement that appears especially galling.

Not only are they shoving you out the door for perceived uselessness, but that opinion is borne out of the opinion that you’re soon to croak, and that you passed your sell-by date long ago.

The Dandy turns 75 later this year, and Scottish publisher DC Thomson has chosen to celebrate by ceasing printed publication, ending what was Britain's longest running comic. What an anniversary present!

I guess you can only imagine the pitiful birthday party that ought to follow: Desperate Dan devouring so much cow pie in a fit of depression that he ends up spewing over (and subsequently suffocating) Korky the Cat; Bananaman going on a massive banana liqueur binge, then being arrested for gross indecency after ripping off his lycra costume during an especially testing karaoke cover of My Way. Cartoon carnage littering the streets of Dundee, the city never to be the same again.

As it is we’ll have to make do with older generations waxing lyrical over their love of The Dandy, doing so before criticising the value of today’s entertainment in comparison. Of course, what these jaded commentators say will be complete rot, but still they’ll harp on as though we have a duty to listen to their inane recollections (likely only marginally less dull than the comic itself).

When people ask ‘What went wrong with The Dandy?’ to try and establish why circulation decreased from its peak of two million to below 7500, what they should be asking is what the comic did right.

It benefitted in its heyday from methods of dissemination that nowadays are antiquated, able to keep a grip on a healthy readership because of a lack of alternatives. It may seem charming in retrospect but its crass humour never had the cross appeal of something like The Simpsons or even The Beano, simply because its characters were never quite as good.

Instead of innovating, the comic instead jumped on the celebrity bandwagon, featuring the likes of Harry Hill and Cheryl Cole in their strips during its last few dying years, as though a lack of star names was the issue rather than a lack of quality.

It seems sad to say that The Dandy isn’t up to its job, but it’s not a sign of decay – instead it’s a positive thing for today’s society. Technology has seen the variety of entertainment on offer improve enormously, allowing children the most wonderful array of options. (How I would have loved even a fraction of them when I was younger.)

They can be engrossed in fully interactive computer games, solving complex puzzles as part of contests against their friends online, or find out more about any aspect of life and culture in an entertaining fashion, thanks to myriad resources that the internet has helped open up to all. They also have access to the best comic book writers that the world has had to offer. Why settle for a publication that has appeared increasingly desperate and hackneyed?

I would love to dearly cherish rose-tinted memories of my favourite comics and shows when I was young, but mainly I remember being jealous of the greater variety that was on offer to adults – as well as the fact that watching shows and reading publications not meant for children brought with it the amazing feeling that I wasn’t being talked down to.

So when anyone uses the example of The Dandy to complain that things aren’t good as they used to be, the reply should be that that’s because things are far better.

Indeed, what used to be the best of children’s entertainment – superheroes such as Batman and Superman, toys such as Transformers and G.I. Joe – has been elevated to the sort of level where their film adaptations can be enjoyed by all ages. Unfortunately, The Dandy thought it could regress into the warm comfort of days past rather than revelling in what the present has to offer.

Perhaps its move online may provide a saving grace, but it seems doubtful. It’s a shame to see the Dundee-based publication go to the wall for the sake of its employees, but let’s not kid ourselves that it was anything to be proud of.

[*] Follow Michael MacLennan on Twitter

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