Desperate News: Dan's Eaten His Last Cow Pie
Byline: by Peter Cunningham
DESPERATE Dan may have eaten his last cow pie. The news that Scottish publisher DC Thompson is reviewing its options regarding the future publication of the comic The Dandy is ominous for those of us for whom a world without Desperate Dan will not be the same.
At its peak in the Fifties, The Dandy sold more than 2million copies a week. This has shrunk to a current reported weekly circulation of around 8,000.
I was a Beano rather than a Dandy reader. I had graduated to comics from the somewhat twee world of Enid Blyton, where everyone was wholesome and nice. Comics, refreshingly, offered a world ruled by glorious anarchy.
My friend, up the road in Tramore, Co. Waterford, was a Dandy man and because of this had proprietorial feelings about Desperate Dan. I felt slightly cheated, since I was stuck with Korky, an anthropomorphic cat, and Dennis the Menace, a hooligan in a red-and-white jersey.
Nonetheless I developed a strong attachment to Korky, who looked very like the cat on my mother's packets of Craven A cigarettes.
As luck would have it, my Dandy friend was also a big fan of Roger the Dodger, who spent his life avoiding household chores and homework.
And as the home for Roger was the Beano, we began to swap comics; so, as my friend broke his sides at Roger's latest dodges, my young eyes became enlarged at the antics of Dan, the world's strongest man, who ate gigantic cow pies and shaved every morning with a blow-torch and chisel. my friend st me he te ry nd Looking back on those days, I am struck by how quickly we became avid readers. A lifelong habit of reading was established from the age of six or seven. m me dof erin cssh We seamlessly entered and understood the different genres within each comic, were plunged into Cactusville in the Wild West where Desperate Dan lived and into Bash Street School in Beanotown, home of the Bash Street Kids.
me The format of how stories worked was laid down in our young heads and each week, when the latest copy ed ds py of the comic arrived, we eagerly ly re-entered what we thought of as our exciting secret world. as THE summit of excitement was reached at Christmas when comic annuals appeared - new stories reproduced on glossy pages sweetly redolent of glue and bound between hard covers.
The popular appeal of a character was confirmed if he or she had an annual to themselves - as was the case with Dennis the Menace (not be confused with the slightly more ironic US character of the same name) and Beryl the Peril.
The comic strip is an important art form. It brings instant narrative reality to the reader, in a way which written narrative cannot.
When we see a panel, in a comic strip, of Desperate Dan or Superman bound in chains and suspended upside-down over a boiling cauldron, we instantly recognise the character and understand his predicament.
Description is unnecessary. Dialogue, usually but not always, appears within a bubble coming from the character's mouth, and must, by definition - because of the space restraints - be brief and to the point.
Comic strip panels carry narrative forward at high speed without need of literary convention. Scenes change quickly. The good comic-strip artist employs rapid zoom, in and out, getting across to the reader the wider panorama in which the story is set. For a child, this intense and immediate conveying of a story was irresistible.
The idea of presenting a story in pictures and words in the form we know as comics has a dignified history.
In France and Belgium, the format is called bandes dessinees - literally, drawn strips. This description gives no indication of the subject matter unlike 'comics' or 'funnies,' which imply a humorous content.
The Adventures of Tintin, for example, began in Belgium in 1929 and has become an enduring classic read by all ages. In album form it has sold more than 200 million copies. …