It's the end. (DC Thomson valiantly tried to keep the magazine alive online as the Digital Dandy, but that didn't last long.) There would still be annuals and summer specials, but this is where the Dandy died as a weekly magazine.
It's big. It's proud. It's mostly reprints, but that's okay because it's showcasing the Dandy's history. It's a celebration of the comic's 75th anniversary. There's Dudley D. Watkins, Ken H. Harrison, David Law and the great Ken Reid, alongside new material from the likes of Jamie Smart, Nick Brennan, Andy Fanton, Wayne Thompson and Nigel Parkinson. Just the range of art styles makes it gorgeous to look at. You've got Xtreme styles alongside classic black-and-white or duotone strips.
It includes a reprint of the very first issue on authentic paper stock, although (as with modern reprints of The Beano #1) they've only reprinted 24 of its 28 pages. (The Two Brave Runaways would have provided inappropriate life lessons, while Wig and Wam's half-page involves tobacco and gunpowder.) That said, though, it's rather amazing to return to the days of straight adventure text stories in a tiny typeface. The missing pages are:
- 1. a two-page short story, "The Two Brave Runaways"
- 2. a page of JOKES AND JOKES AND JOKES
- 3. two half-page strips: "Wig and Wam the skookum twins" and "Podge"
The characters in the main magazine include:
(a) Paul McCartney. No, really. It's him, from the Beatles. He's a Dandy fan, apparently, and he jumped at the opportunity of seeing his likeness used here. He's the special guest at the Dandy party.
(b) Harry Hill, the comedian and TV presenter. He'd had a regular strip in the Dandy since 2010. The script's incoherent, but this might be Nigel Parkinson's best artwork. Was Harry Hill born to star in comics?
(c) plenty of stuff by Jamie Smart, who's the best thing in the magazine. He's brilliant. Every time I see his work, he makes me laugh even if the strip's just a one-panel non-sequitur that might not technically contain a joke. His sense of humour just chimes with mine.
(d) glorious old stuff including Brassneck (by Bill Holroyd), Corporal Clott (by David Law) and Winker Watson and Dirty Dick (both by Eric Roberts). Yes, that's right. The original artists. I'm still amazed that they dared revive a character called Dirty Dick. It's wonderful to see it all side by side, even when it's not actually that good. Peter's Pocket Grandad, for instance, is mediocre... but I revere it anyway for the naming overlap with Spider-Man's Peter Parker.
(e) modern versions of other characters, e.g. Korky the Cat, Strange Hill School, the Jocks and the Geordies and Bully Beef & Chips. Most of these are okay, although I usually prefer the originals. (Korky's strip is surprisingly good, though.)
(f) a few characters who can sod off, e.g. Kid Cops and the modern versions of Cuddles & Dimples and Beril the Peryl. They've also got a weird take on the Smasher. Oh, and there's also Ollie Fliptrik, "king of the SK8ers".
...and many, many more. There are lots of quarter-page strips, which in the UK is called newspaper format, which is another way of covering lots of characters. There's Aunt Aggie, Auntie Clockwise, Bananaman, Barney Boko, Beryl Bongo, Buck Wilson, Desperate Dan, Dragon, Freddy the Fearless Fly, Grockle, Hungry Horace, Invisible Dick, Jak, Jimmy Johnson, Keyhole Kate, Cat, Magic Mike, Mr. Brown, Nuke Noodle, Owen Goal, Pongo, Smarty Grandpa, etc.
Is it funny? Well, sometimes. I love Jamie Smart, but the rest of the magazine has a surprisingly low hit rate. That said, though, it's lovely to see all these different eras and art styles interleaved with each other. For UK readers of almost any possible age, you'll probably find something here nostalgic. (I'd been under the impression that I didn't read The Dandy when I was young, yet I'd still managed to absorb a lot of this stuff by osmosis.) I'm surprised that they couldn't find better examples of a lot of the strips they're reprinting, but I'm terribly fond of this Last Ever Issue.