Rumors have been flying that DC Thomson was considering shutting down The Dandy, and today the publisher confirmed the news, announcing it will cease print publication of the United Kingdom's longest-running comic following the Dec. 4 release of the 75th anniversary issue.
It's strictly a matter of numbers, with the magazine selling fewer than 8,000 copies each week. This may not be curtains for The Dandy, however: It appears the comic will continue in digital form, with chief executive Ellis Watson telling The Guardian that, "It's what comes online then that will set the tone for the next 75 years." Perhaps there The Dandy will find the larger audience it deserves. The website was taken down a few days ago to deter potential hackers, but the current incarnation invites visitors to leave their e-mails so they can be "the first to know," which implies there may be news in the future.
The Dandy writer Lew Stringer offered his reactions to The Dandy's possible demise, and urged people to pick up a copy of the comic, although he acknowledged that may not be easy to do, as many newsagents no longer carry it. Artist Jamie Smart had an article in The Guardian about why The Dandy is important, and he has more at his blog:
The last two years of The Dandy have been an absolute triumph for British comics, a confident love of sillyness, slapstick and mess. A great wave of ridiculous characters and stories, an unashamed love of all things absurd.
It also ushered in a host of new artists, fresh talent, being given their first break in the industry. It wanted to try new ideas, new things, giving us free reign to be as silly as we wanted. It was a playground.
Smart was interviewed by Al Jazeera about the possible demise of The Dandy, and SkyNews talked to historian Paul Gravett. Neill Cameron also urged readers to Save the Dandy, and he kicked in with his own Desperate Dan fanart.
I grew up reading The Dandy rather sporadically, as I spent part of my childhood in Ireland and Scotland, and when I was growing up, in the 1960s and 1970s, adults used to see my copies of The Dandy and say, "That looks just like it did when I was young." As late as the 1980s, friends and family would bring me back Beanos and Dandys from trips overseas, and they still hadn't changed much. But in the past few years the comic went through several redesigns, and the last one in particular seems to have drawn in an amazing array of comics talent. Like Nickelodeon magazine in the U.S., it carried quality work but never forgot that its primary audience was kids.
In fact, it's odd that The Dandy is shutting down in an otherwise good year for U.K. children's comics. This year saw the startup of a new children's comic, The Phoenix, as well as the digital Strip Magazine, which caters to slightly older readers, and several other projects. The Guardian followed up its initial reporting with a brief survey of children's comics in the U.K. Hopefully Desperate Dan and his pals will live on in the digital world, where talented creators like Smart will be able to find their natural audience, both young and old.