Robot 6

The Dandy debate continues: a time of opportunity?

The U.K. comics scene continues its angst-ridden inner debate following news that The Dandy will cease print publication in December. For the living legend John Wagner, it’s a matter of regret close to shame that a comics institution of nearly 75 years will end on our watch. Others see the debate as hand-wringing — “pious sackcloth-and-ashes nonsense” to quote one U.K. comics writer on Facebook — that, between technological advances and the Darwinism of the newsstand, the kids have spoken: Comics are no longer the chosen literature of children, so move on. Publisher DC Thomson certainly seem to have — The Dandy‘s website now makes no mention of the print comic at all, linking purely to the Apple App store.

For some creators, the debate is more about spotting a widening hole in the market, and developing a product to fill that niche. So far, the following cartoonists have waded in on this theme:

  • Steve Beckett’s proposed homage title to classic U.K. kids’ comics Crumbs actually preceded the debate, but I’ve seen  one commentator seem to suggest it as something of a life boat recently.
  • Neil “Mo-Bot High” Cameron has blogged a lot recently on how resuscitating that former staple of the U.K. weekly comic market, girls’ comics, could itself be a stimulus for comics as a whole.
  • Sarah McIntyre has a career that straddles both comics and children’s books, and sees more unity between the two media as a way forward (and as a jobbing public librarian working in a building full of gorgeous, engaging, popular junior books, I can’t argue with her reasoning); Sarah also points out a new U.K. kids’ comic seeking finance via crowd-sourcing, LOAf.
  • Jamie Smart, a cornerstone of The Dandy‘s current artistic line-up, has used his Twitter feed and his blog to theorize on how to start a replacement title, and where to position it in the market – he even invokes the much-missed comic Oink! by name (the kids’ comic Charlie Brooker worked for, even after Brooker merrily hammered several nails into the notion of kids being interested in print comics).
  • Others on Twitter have pointed out that the current best U.K. comic for kids already in existence — The Phoenix — should be in newsagents, but isn’t, hampered instead by a subscription-only distribution model of their own choosing.


I can’t help notice that this debate is being conducted pretty much exclusively by adults, and at that, mainly by professional cartoonists. Surely the most obvious missing voice here is that of the proposed audience, children? And how do you tear the little buggers away from their Nintendo DSes long enough to survey them on the subject?



Here’s a small survey we did asking some kids (169 of them) about their comic reading habits, any use?

Good one. I’ll pass that along to the relevant authorities via Twitter.

I think it’s great that The Dandy’s closing has inspired so much thought and debate and even action about kids’ comics — a good silver lining to come out of a very sad event. But I’m not sure it’s useful to look at one business’s decision as somehow typical or prescriptive of a whole industry.

To this day, most people I meet who still remember Disney Adventures magazine say something to the effect of, “Well, that one failed.” Without insider knowledge, that’s all they see — not the fact that it was a highly successful product that happened to not satisfy the particular goals of that particular management at that particular time. Who knows what different management would have done with The Dandy? Different channels could have boosted circulation, different creative could have generated interest from a different audience, innovative marketing could have expanded awareness. Or maybe all those things were tried to no avail.

The point being, anyone can make a healthy go of it with the right smarts in the right market circumstances — the problem never was and never will be that kids are choosing their Nintendo DS over reading.

I actually make a comic with a team of people from all over the world stretching from United Kingdom all the way to New Zealand and USA!
The comic is called The Wizzo and we’ve become quite popular recently and have been told we’re going to be the future of comics.
A few professional artists including Dandy artist, Wayne Thompson and Marvel UK artist, Simon Williams have offered to draw guest strips for us and we’ve become well known with other comic creators.
Here were some reviews we received from comic reviewers and artists:

Finally, here is our website:

I hope you like what you see!
Hopefully we’re Britain’s answer for keeping the British comic industry alive!

– Harry Rickard

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