THE DANDY: 75 years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins

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From the 24th October to the 24th December this year London’s Cartoon Museum will be playing host to an exhibition celebrating the U.K.’s longest running comic The Dandy entitled THE DANDY: 75 years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins. The Cartoon Museum is situated on Little Russell Street, near to the British Museum. For more information on opening times, admission and the work of the museum check out their website here.

THE DANDY: 75 years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins

24th October – 24th December 2012

The Dandy is Britain’s longest‐running comic. For 75 years it has entertained and amused generations of British children. Some of its characters such as Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and Bananaman have become popular icons. Desperate Dan has given his name to a racehorse, been immortalised as a statue and even received a name‐check in a song by The Kinks. This exhibition looks at The Dandy from its birth in 1937 right up to its 75th birthday on 4 December 2012. It also looks forward as Dandy prepares to embark on a new digital adventure.

On 4 December 1937 Dundee publishers D. C. Thomson launched a new 28‐page title, The Dandy Comic. Priced at 2d it offered children a mixture of prose stories, jokes, competitions and knockabout comic strip stories with characters such as Korky the Cat, Keyhole Kate and, of course, Desperate Dan – the roughest, toughest cowboy in the world, whose trademark jaw was closely modelled on that of Albert Barnes, the comic’s first editor. So successful was the comic that in its first week it sold 481,895 copies.

During the war The Dandy was seen as so vital to public morale that, though reduced to 12 pages, it continued to appear fortnightly and never ceased publication. In every issue Desperate Dan and Korky the Kat outwitted the dastardly fascists with a combination of strength and guile, while ‘Addie and Hermy – The Nasty Nazis’, reduced Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering to greedy, incompetent fools.

The post‐war era saw a new golden age for comics. Fuelled by the baby boom, The Dandy’s circulation went from strength to strength, peaking on 22 April 1950, when it sold an astonishing 2,035,310 copies. Throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s new characters were introduced, such as Bully Beef and Chips, Winker Watson, Brassneck, the Jocks and the Geordies and Bananaman.

But there were also challenges. In 1969 the death of Dudley D. Watkins, the creator of Desperate Dan and many other Dandy characters, was a great loss. Rather than introduce a new artist, Albert Barnes decided to reprint Watkins’ strips.

The 1980s and ’90s saw some major changes. Albert Barnes finally retired in 1982, and two years later Desperate Dan ousted Korky from the cover. By 1986 The Beano was outselling The Dandy by two to one. It was time for a change of course. A softer drawing style toned down the violence, and the bullying and slippering of an earlier era gave way to a less robust approach in tune with contemporary society. In 1993 the comic went full colour, and on 10 July 1999 The Dandy became Britain’s longest‐running comic with 3007 issues.

In the last ten years the comic has experimented with a number of alternative formats: Desperate Dan was given a makeover in 2004; Dandy Xtreme appeared in 2007 with a number of TV and film tie‐ins. In 2010 the comic relaunched with Harry Hill as its new front man, and classic characters such as Bananaman and Desperate Dan were given a more contemporary look.

On 4 December 2012 The Dandy will celebrate its 75th birthday with a special final print issue. It will then enter a new era as it goes digital as Dandy. The exhibition will include some exclusive material from the new Dandy currently in development, which will combine some favourites from the comic’s great heritage with new material specially created for today’s younger generation.


© DC Thomson & Co. Limited

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