The Dandy Comic #1
Medium: comic
Year: 1937
Country: UK
Keywords: The Dandy, UK kiddie comic
Format: 28 pages
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 1 February 2021
I preferred it to The Beano #1, actually. It's weirder and less racist.
The first two pages have Korky the Cat, Desperate Dan and Keyhole Kate, all of whom were still going in the 21st century. None of them resemble their modern equivalents, though. Korky the Cat feels like a 1920s silent cartoon in print form. He's also barely anthropomorphised, coming across almost as a real cat. (He wants to steal a fish.) Keyhole Kate's a nasty sneak who gets herself in trouble. Desperate Dan's an outlaw (hence the name) who'd been going to whack someone for selling him a dodgy horse.
Yes, the Hal Roach comic film series from 1922-44. (It's credited to MGM, at this point still just the distributors, but they'd soon buy the Our Gang production unit outright.) It sounds like one of the more interesting silent comedy series and I must watch some of them one day... but I don't think this story really works. The format doesn't fit. You've got good illustrations above dense blocks of tiny writing that stop your eye from wandering upwards. This was the standard mode for this era's comic strips in the UK, though. The Dandy was unusual in introducing word balloons.
It also feels odd that there's a fat reward for catching two tramps.
Betty Brook and her crippled brother Jack are orphans, living miserable existences with their bullying Aunt Mary. "She said I was a useless mouth to feed - and that I would always be useless!" sobs Jack. What should they do? Tell someone in authority? Nope. Contact some kind of 1930s equivalent of social services? No, they run away from home!
Oh, and Jack can mesmerise animals.
Our heroes spend all their money on a single bus trip, so they've got nowhere to sleep. It's dark and freezing. They didn't think this through, did they? What should they do? Answer: beg in the street! (Betty also sings.) A famous, rich saviour appears to whisk them away to London and luxury... but our heroes don't see him, so they don't get rescued and will have to stay on the streets.
"Next Friday in The Dandy, read how Betty and Jack are forced to run away again." (And then probably, within a few weeks, become acquainted with petty crime, prison, prostitution and being fished dead out of the river.)
That's a porn genre, you know.
Yes, I realise that old UK children's comics were innuendo-blind... but were the creators really so innocent as not to see undertones in what they were writing and drawing? The term “dick” has been used to mean "penis" since the 19th century and possibly earlier, incidentally.
Dick is playing with his ball when he bumps into someone very hard. Have a sniff of my queer liquid! The rest of the story involves getting a cop arrested so he can't interfere with Dick's games. (Homosexuality wasn't decriminalised in the UK until 1967.)
Oh, and the cop's superior was behind a tree, looking at "funny bits".
Some stories I quite like. "Red Hoof" is an animal rescue story that makes you care, with a laudable final message. "Lost on the Mountain of Fear" made me wonder if mountain castaway stories are more interesting than their desert island equivalents. "The Magic Sword" is like a medieval cross between Hamlet and King Herod, with King Jask being so evil that he'll order the parent's death as well as the child's. "When the West was Wild" is quite a good ep.1, making you want to see how the story continues.
On the other hand, "The Tricks of Tommy" is the adventures of a repellent little shit who drives someone out of their grocery business. He also tricks other children into getting beaten. (Don't people know about Tommy's magic voice impersonation ability?)
Buck Wilson the singing cowboy and Wee Tusky the elephant are sort of okay.
Funnier than I expected.
Ma - "Why are you rolling the dustbin about?"
Billy - "To amuse baby."
Ma - "Where's baby?"
Billy - "In the dustbin."
The third-of-a-page throwaways are a waste of time. "Barney Boko", "Sammy and his Sister" and "Hungry Horace"... uh, no. "Freddy the Fearless Fly"... this is just rubbish, isn't it? "Magic Mike and his Magic Shop"... slightly less pointless? "Smarty Grandpa" is okay, though.
"Jimmy and his Grockle" is quite cool. A pet dragon!
"Bamboo Town" is just odd. Animals in the jungle have a Bamboo Town where they imitate all the most everyday aspects of humans' Western society.
In short, I enjoyed it. It's quite interesting. It's very much a time capsule, but it stands up to rereading today.