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?