In the days when the evening’s TV viewing finished with the National Anthem followed by a disappearing white dot and children’s programmes were confined to Blue Peter, which in our house was Black-and-White Peter, comics brought comedy and colour to childhoods everywhere. Especially mine.
I was almost part of the fixtures and fittings at Edmunson’s Newsagent where I bought my daily Penny Arrow. Treacle toffee flavour for preference, banana split if not, but on no account would I accept spearmint which was the colour of my grandma’s false teeth and in my imagination tasted like Steradent, the pink liquid in a glass beside her bed where the teeth lived at night.
Tuesday was the first special day of the week, for a start it wasn’t Monday, the day furthest away from the weekend, which was and still is always a bonus, but secondly it was Dandy Day. My old alliterative friends Korky the Kat, Corporal Clott and best of all the cow-pie-eating Desperate Dan had me giggling all the way to school as I chewed my Penny Arrow. There was no question of me putting my comic in my pump bag to save it for home time, no no, I was scared the words might disappear from the page, the bright colours fade, or worse or all, the jokes lose their funniness and that would never do.
The characters lived in the hybrid British-Trans-Atlantic metropolis of Dandytown where cats played jokes on dogs, a hapless corporal had hare-brained schemes which never quite came off and Bully Beef, he of the mophead hairstyle and face-covering fringe always got their come-uppances from Chips the underdog. It was a lovely world where exclamations were always ‘eeeek!’ and anything that bounced went ‘boing’, children sniggered and the noises Desperate Dan made when he ate would have had him booted out of posh restaurants, if Dandytown ever had any.
But come Christmas, the time when the Summer Special, always printed in Full Colour and on shiny paper, rather than the newsprint of the weekly edition, has long since been discarded, the Dandy will have given its readers their last laugh. For the Dandy will be no more.
Sadly the writing has been on the wall for Britain’s oldest comic for years. At its most popular, it sold two million copies a week and was read by many more in dentists’ waiting rooms around the country. Numbers are now in the low thousands, children don’t read comics when they can play animations on computers. The static drawings and old-fashioned characters just don’t have the pulling power any more, I don’t suppose kids are interested in Penny Arrows either. By 2007, the circulation decline led to the comic being produced fortnightly, the end was in sight.
So at the age of 75, the Dandy will draw its last chuckle and disappear from the shelves at Edmunson’s to be replaced by, well nothing really. I find it sad, but that’s because it was part of my childhood and I loved it. But, hey, that’s long gone too and if I’m honest, I’ve not read a copy of the comic for years. Desperate Dan will live on, though, thanks to the magic of the interweb.
And while the Dandy will be gone, its younger-by-a-year rival the Beano lives on, so bring it on, Bash Street Kids! And there will still be fine jokes such as this:
Q.What happens when a lion runs into an express train at the station?
A. It’s the end of the lion…..