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Friday, October 22, 2010

Comic Cuts - 22 October 2010

Some actual news for a change...

The Dandy undergoes a major refit this Wednesday. Out goes Dandy Xtreme with its uncomfortable mix of features and comics... in comes The Dandy with wall-to-wall comic strips, a lot of new characters and a drop in price by a whole pound to £1.50. This can only be seen as a last ditch attempt to save the title as it approaches its 73rd birthday in December.

Sales of Dandy have been collapsing for some years, shedding 23,000 (61%) readers in four years...

E-2007__33,396* (-10.7%)
L-2007__28,550 (-14.5%)
E-2008__23,869 (-16.4%)
L-2008__26,694 (+11.8%)
E-2009__20,403 (-23.6%)
L-2009__18,938 (-7.2%)
E-2010__14,355 (-24.2%)
* These figures are my own estimates based on DCT figures for combined circulation with Beano and their readership.

Apart from a brief blip in 2008, the sales of Dandy Xtreme, with its higher price and fortnightly schedule, have been falling ever since the relaunch in August 2007. The latest (Jan-Jul 2010) figures peg current sales at around 14,000 which, for most companies, would mean the axe for a title. I suspect that being grouped with the more successful Beano and being printed in-house makes the title sustainable, although the massive revamp proves, to my mind, that 14,000 is as low as Thomson will allow the title to go.

The shake-up at Dandy follows the cancellation of Classics from the Comics, the last issue of which was released on 13 October.

The new-look Dandy is still under wraps as I write this but a few new characters have been teased across the web. Lew Stringer has put up a teaser pic, deliberately blurred and labeled "blurP", which led a number of people to conclude that he was drawing a new strip called "Blurp". Not so, says Lew, who has admitted that, in fact, he's drawing two new characters for Dandy.

Nigel Parkinson has revealed a little more over on his blog:
It's almost entirely comic strips. And the strips are mostly brand-new. There are pages by people new to The Dandy and by people new to comics ... The new Dandy has been a dream of the editor's for a couple of years. All new strips, all funny. But making it happen was nigh-on impossible with the cautious nature of the economy and publishing these last two years. Until the editor had an idea.
__What was needed was something so unusual, so daring, so big, so appealing, that all the other components would slot into place naturally. So he asked me if I could help, by circumventing the usual red tape and long negotiations that would normally surround such a big step and often prove so daunting that proposed projects never see daylight. I was sceptical, but I made The Phone Call. And it took 5 seconds to make it happen!
All very cryptic. Parkinson also confirms that the new Dandy will be available "every week from now on!"

Other new strips that will be appearing include Alexander Matthews' "Robot on the Run", which he announced on his blog back in September...

And Andy Fanton has a strip called "George vs Dragon", which, he says, reworks the Saint George and the Dragon tale as a slapstick, Wile E. Coyote-esque farce".

The dandified Dandy also gets a new logo care of Jamie Smart, who is said to be taking over the "Desperate Dan" strip...

Guess we'll just have to wait until Wednesday to see what it's like. Meanwhile you can now follow Dandy on Facebook and Twitter. Luddite that I am, that's Bear Alley's first ever link to Facebook or Twitter in 1,820 posts.

This week has also seen the announcement that the Christmas issue of Book and Magazine Collector will be its last. 328 issues is an astonishing run and it will be missed as it was one of the few magazines that gave comics a fair amount of space. I had my first ever paid article published in B&MC #18 way back in 1985, a piece on Hank Janson co-written with Bill Lofts for which we split the £70 cheque. I was writing for them fairly regularly in 1991-92 and would have written more had the magazine not changed direction—the new policy boiling down to "no articles about things we think our readers have never heard of"—leaving two or three pieces unpublished (one was on the publisher Scion Ltd. but I can't recall what the others were about); Bill Lofts told me he had six features spiked at the same time.

The latest issue (December 2010, #327) should be out now and features a David Ashford piece on old Martin & Read comics as well as a piece by Peter Doig & Michael Holmes on penny bloods and penny dreadfuls, an issue I'll certainly pick up. (And, as you can see from the cover scan above, I did!)

Reynolds & Hearn may have slipped away (see Comic Cuts, 24 September 2010) but there's good news for followers of the Century 21 reprints. Marcus Hearn has set up a new company, Signum Books, and is relaunching the series in 2011. Signum's first book, From Thunderbirds to Pterodactyls, the autobiography of actor Shane (Scott Tracy) Rimmer, will be launched this weekend at Fanderson's TV21 convention. Signum Books will be distributed by Titan Books.

Talking of which... Titan Books will also be distributing another series worth watching out for: Hard Case Crime, the American publisher of hardboiled crime novels who went into hiatus a while back after problems with their previous distributor, Dorchester Publishing.

And that's about all I have time for. I've spent a good chunk of the week writing meta data for some pictures I'm going to be posting over at the Look and Learn website, which I'll link to once they appear. I meant to post a disc off last weekend but got carried away and instead of pulling together 300 images (my target) I overshot and the folder currently has 437. The L&L picture library now has over 217,000 images... not bad when you think that five years ago it was just a gleam in the eye of the owner.

Today's random scan...

Sorting through DVDs—I've put about 750 of them in nice slipcases and dumped the plastic boxes to save some space—I stumbled across the following freebie tucked away in a copy of Withnail and I—a repro of the Ralph Steadman poster image. It took five folds to get it into the box and no poster survives folding well, but I hate to see anything go to waste so it went onto the scanner. More kipple that needs somewhere to live.

Have a good week, y'all. (Yes, I finally finished work on the Wells Fargo and Pony Express book!)


  1. Hello Steve

    I've been expecting the B&MC to close.You can't carry on with a subscription offer of £9.99 and a cover price of £3.50. It's still a shock. I shall miss David Ashford articles and the sales pages.I wish all the staff the best luck. They were very caring to subscribers.

    The Dandy. How things have changed with artists being allowed to be credited for their work.

    Years ago I did illustrated the Princess Robin strip for D.C.Thompson. I had fun hiding my signature in the strip.

    Good luck Dandy.

  2. Hi Kolvorok,

    Tell us more about "Princess Robin". I've not followed many D. C. Thomson titles for years - Commando being the exception - so I don't even know where "Princess Robin" appeared.

    And I'm guessing... Jeff Hawke fan?

  3. Very surprised that B&MC is about to close - although it has been difficult finding copies in the last few years. There have been some superb articles over the years but so many top and popular (not always the same!) writers have yet to appear such as Sue Townsend, Mike Wilks, William Horwood, Christopher Matthew and so on.Too many obscure and/ or uncollectable authors were featured in recent years. I remember some superb articles such as those on Rev W Awdry, Rupert Bear, Richard Adams and many articles on comic illustrators. B&MC RIP.

  4. What I liked about B&MC was that the articles were reasonably substantial and usually well-illustrated. I suspect that the main reason for its closure is not the quality of the features but the steady decline in advertising revenue as many dealers find it easier and cheaper to sell their books online.

  5. What a coincidence!
    Last night I was in a mood that said "Don't blob in front of the box" so I decided it was time to open my mint copy of "Deadly Beloved" by Max Allen Collins (not to be confused with a certain "campy, sexy, spooky film" of the same name!). I loved the Ms. Tree series in comic form and read some of MAC's stuff before. This was great reminder of how he engages the reader with his characters. Simple easy to read mysteries!