It's the posthumous 80th anniversary. The Dandy is dead, long live the Dandy. It's backpedalled from its Xtreme Xperimentation, bringing back old characters and trying to avoid anything that might frighten the fans. It's a different target audience. Xtreme was desperately trying to appeal to Da Yoof, but this is a nostalgia hit for anyone who remembers buying the weekly years ago.
Result: it's okay. Nothing wrong with it, if you skip the distressing bits. It's readable. There's nothing even half as interesting as Jamie Smart's Desperate Dan, but the upside is no Jak and Todd.
KORKY THE CAT (Hunt Emerson, 4 pages) = I worship at the feet of Hunt Emerson. These are the best Korky strips I've seen, simply because he drew them.
WINKER WATSON (Alan Ryan, 12 pages) = the art's good, but wrong. That's not Watson. In his lazy-looking way, Eric Roberts's original Watson was (for me) one of the most distinctive heroes in children's comics. Laid-back, eyes usually closed, a big dumb happy smile and a brain that could eat the world. I like Ryan's artwork, but he's not even trying to draw the character I remember, while the scripts are full of fake emails, pop stars, sat navs and "amazeballs!". That said, though, these stories are quite funny and this Watson is undeniably clever.
KEYHOLE KATE (5 pages), KID COPS (2 pages) and POSTMAN PRAT (2 pages) are all by Lew Stringer. I'm not wild about his art style, but there are some good ideas here. Keyhole Kate is distinctive, the Kid Cops definitely had potential and Postman Prat's okay
CORPORAL CLOTT (6 pages) and AGENT DOG 2 ZERO (8 pages) are quite funny. Clott's a great concept, actually, as an idiot in the army. (Other comic strips have gone there too, admittedly, but that doesn't diminish it.) His duvet made me laugh. After that, Agent Dog 2 Zero is capable of working as comedy for adults, not just children. It's capable of proper timing. It stars a cat that thinks it's a James Bond villain.
It's also nice to see golden oldies like GREEDY PIGG (6 pages) and BRASSNECK (6 pages). I still believe that Brassneck is funnier with realistic art (which this isn't), but in compensation they do a lot with his extensible limbs and neck. I also liked THE JOCKS AND THE GEORDIES (6 pages), who are more authentic than I'd have guessed, while also for once making the Geordies authentically Northern.
I HADN'T BEEN EXPECTING TO LIKE
BERYL THE PERIL (Steve Bright, 9 pages) = no, please, stop, I'm begging, no no no no. The book's endpaper has a big picture of everyone, in which Beryl has a tomato in her catapult. Oh, if only.
DESPERATE DAN (12 pages) and CUDDLES AND DIMPLES (6 pages) = I don't hate Nigel Parkinson, but these are clearly second-best versions of these characters. Also, bizarrely, Cuddles, Dimples and Beryl have all become sidekicks (at best) of their fathers. Evil, menacing comic strip characters have been toned down until there's almost nothing left. As a result, Beryl's dad is far more distinctive than her and stages daughter-pleasing stunts for Take Your Daughter To Work Day, while Cuddles and Dimples are barely even noticeable in some of their stories. Instead, you've got childish dad behaviour and barbed married-couple comments.
"Get out in the garden and play with your children!"
"Huh! So they're MY children now, are they?"
In other words, characters best remembered by middle-aged dads have been reinvented as comics about middle-aged dads. (Mum's also important in Cuddles and Dimples, mind you.) Oh, and this version of Desperate Dan is a superhero, clobbering giant Transformer train-robots.
The book's fine. I knew what to expect and I quite liked it. Bananaman's been nicked by the Beano, but there are still lots of characters from all eras. There's a 33-page multi-artist story about organising a celebration in Cactusville. Laura Howell draws BULLY BEEF AND CHIPS (4 pages). Wayne Thompson draws THE SMASHER (3 pages). Nick Brennan draws PINNY'S CRACKPOT CIRCUS (4 pages), BLINKY (3 pages) and FIDDLE O'DIDDLE (4 pages). The latter made me laugh with its retirement home for angry boxers.
It's not a bad collection. I was amused.