Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Dandy Annual 2013

I didn't read much of the Dandy as a child. I had access to maybe half a dozen annuals and a handful of random issues but I didn't much like them. There was something about the characters, something lacking, which meant they didn't really click with me. Looking back now I suspect it's simply that they weren't as relatable as their counterparts in the Beano. A man with a dangerous addiction to pies and a humanoid cat with no discernible personality were no match for the simple premise of a boy and his dog causing mayhem.
I wasn't completely disinterested though. I enjoyed Winker Watson, from the decidedly simplistic, perhaps even crude, art style to the concept of the character it was a strip that offered something different to the likes of Desperate Dan. Beryl the Peril was mostly enjoyable too. Yes, she was essentially a female version of Dennis the Menace but as I pointed out above he was a character that appealed to me.
With the 2013 annual alleged to be the final printed annual of the Dandy's 75 year history I thought I'd get a copy. I was interested to see what approach the editorial team would take. Would they take the opportunity to revive all of their retired characters, dusting them off for one last outing? Would they go out all guns blazing, presenting us with a wealth of newly created personalities to hint at a world that could have been? Would they take the mildly metafictional and decidedly mature approach of presenting a title-wide apocalypse detailing the downfall of Dandy Town?
Sadly they did none of the above.

The Dandy Annual 2013 features, broadly speaking, exactly what you’d expect. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t come across as a celebration of the comic’s history. It feels more like things are being played safe. Considering what the future has in store for The Dandy that’s a real shame. There was no need to play it safe. The editorial team and writers could have gone out practically any way they wanted. Playing it safe is what brought them to this juncture in the first place.

Desperate Dan appears in several strips, all of which revolve around his love of pies. Winker Watson appears several times too, proving to be just as enjoyable as he was in the late-80s. His strips, drawn by the enigmatic Wilbur, are all two pagers featuring the young schoolboy getting one over on a fully grown man. It’s charming that such a concept is still deemed capable of entertaining kids.

Beryl the Peril remains quite enjoyable here. The strip featuring Beryl and her dad visiting a shoe shop is particularly funny. It begins with a picture of her father brandishing a slipper and a panel that reads “Cripes! Dad’s forgotten it’s the 21st century!” Never has a joke about parental abuse of children been so amusing.

The Bananaman stories are among the most solid. That’s predictable when you consider the character’s status as one of The Dandy’s most recognisable figures. The amount of backstory sketched into his enemies is impressive considering the meagre amount of space provided. It’s a very clever use of panels and naming.

Elsewhere there are characters like Peter’s Pocket Grandpa, the Badd Lads, the Banana Bunch, and Brassneck inoffensively propping up the page count. There’s also Keyhole Kate, a bizarre creation that I hadn’t ever come across before. Kate is a young girl obsessed with looking through keyholes. It’s clear that so flimsy a premise could (and probably did) become tiresome very quickly but it doesn’t here thanks to the way she’s written. It’s very subtly hinted that she’s a junkie who suffers from withdrawals should she go without looking through a keyhole for too long. It’s a ridiculous gimmick and so the natural thing to do is to drive it to an extreme. It works beautifully.

Not everything about the annual is positive. The Cuddles and Dimples strips made me hate the titular characters, which I can’t imagine was the intention. One of the strips (a Smasher story) is printed twice. This is presumably a mistake, but it’s a clumsy one that should have been avoided. I was also annoyed at the lack of contributions from Jamie Smart too. He was one of the highlights of the issue I bought last August and I was expecting something from him here. That he wasn’t featured at all is a great shame.

If this is the final ever Dandy Annual it should provide a decent insight into what the comic was about. But it was a missed opportunity. What could have been a celebration of the past 75 years was instead a perfunctory entry into a yearly tradition with little thought given over to the future or the past. As I said last August, it’s no wonder the title’s going under.

No comments:

Post a Comment