not the beano, not the dandy

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in 1969 or thereabouts the the world changed, and d. c. thomson began pitching for a more street-wise - or anyway less landlocked - market with eg buzz

but from c.1955 to c.1990, the dundee media empire had three other beano-esque weeklies:

the beezer
the topper

the beezer i have no surviving copies of: its most legendary strip was "the numskulls", and it wz fronted by "ginger" (more boring if possible that beano's "biffo the bear"); the tagline i remember best is "colonel blink: short-sighted gink", the only place i ever saw this word*

the topper, like the beezer, was A3 format: they were considered sister papers, like beano and dandy (and in fact eventually combined). it was fronted by mickey the monkey (a chimp, and again no improvement on biffo the fkn bear), and its best strips was - i always felt - "send for kelly", who was a kind of secret agent but very silly... and the VERY VERY GREAT beryl the peril (drawn by david law, with his brilliantly slapdash and energetic style) - the single copy i still own also has a story called "jiffy and the glyphs" which is about a boy and his magic egyptian wallpaper! (which features tiny figures which come to life when you speak the mystical word "ooyah!")

sparky started later than the others, and ended sooner (it was absorbed into the topper): it featured pansy potter the strongman's daughter, keyhole kate and hungry horace (all transferred from the dandy, to bulk up big-nameishness: kate's "thing" was looking through keyholes, though this rarely went anywhere remotely interesting), and an adventure strip called - paging d.perry! - invisible dick. it wz fronted by a character was actually called sparky, who seems to have fallen out of history a bit, possibly bcz he wz a JAW-DROPPINGLY OUTRAGEOUS RACIAL STEREOTYPE!! i'm sorely tempted to add "but in a good way" there - judging by the single copy i still have, there was no malice involved (any more than there is towards cats in korky the kat) and i also suspect if you showed him to an unsuspecting youngster today and said "this is sparky the martian" they wouldn't see through this ruse, so stylised and extreme is the caricature ---- basically, sparky is a watusi warrior, or similar, naked except for a kind of green skirt, bangles on ankles and wrists, and a strange red topknot... he is so black he's shiny, and he's obviously fun to draw as really (unlike anyone else in the strip, in an ordinary english urban setting) he's just a series of interlocking circles (cranium, nose, mouth, shoulders, chest, belly, arms as big bulge small bulge big bulge, ditto legs, then feet as heel, ball and five toes) (with the "shininess" as white circles out of the black) ; he's cheerful and helpful but gets into scrapes by not knowing english ways (but his english speech is as good as anyone else's)... i find him a bit of a puzzle really: the date on the comic is oct 26th 1968, so obviously dundee wz a bit behind the rad-pol curve here, but really he seems to me to be one kind of alien (comical outlander) struggling to be another kind of alien (like "the moonsters" on the back, classic little green men complete with aerials in their heads)

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 9 October 2004 10:17 (nineteen years ago) link

*(the american heritage dictionary of the english language has "gink: a man, especially one regarded as foolish or contemptible"

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 9 October 2004 10:18 (nineteen years ago) link

why where the kick-off characters all so weak? even leaving sparky aside, the best is the dandy's korky the kat, and he wz fairly lame: biffo, mickey and ginger were all terrible, but for years they were the front-cover draw!!

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 9 October 2004 10:33 (nineteen years ago) link

Did all these comics have good distribution all throughout the Britain or were they like those other great Scot comics institutions, the Broons and the Oor Wullie collections, where the further south you go in England the less likely you are to see them, or even meet anyone who has heard of them.

I vaguely remember seeing a documentary about DC Thomson in (I'm guessing) the late 80s and the entire company seemed to have been transported through time from the 50s - it was all uptight round-faced balding men in suits, except for one of the artists who wuz a green haired punker kinda girl. It was like cunningly realised parody.

Which of these comice was the Jocks and the Geordies in? That was always my favourite because of the lunatic idea that Newcastle had to have a fight w/Scotland every week.

Raw Patrick (Raw Patrick), Saturday, 9 October 2004 11:42 (nineteen years ago) link

well they had ok distribution in shrewsbury (ie the rural west midlands) in the late 60s, in the sense that i regularly saw them in village shops, so i'd say yes, it must have been generally pretty good "down south" (as a teen in the 70s i had to hunt all over town for some publications, like nme/sounds/zigzag, but these were all readily available - tho i considered myself a bit old for them by then)

(but the midlands is not totally the south, so maybe the flow dried up as you went further)

the company was indeed very extremely old-fashioned (anti-union; also anti-catholic hiring at one time); that said, some of its best - and most anarchic - artists-for-hire were probably oldish men by the 70s, who actually drew wilder than they looked in person (but they were shopfloor not management)

(since i posted this thread i've been rereading my sister's 1973 beryl the peril annual, all 60s strips collected two years after david law died suddenly - aged 63 apparently: i wish i cd find something to link to, bcz it wd get across why i think he's so terrific... hunting around i found that his 60s style, very thin and scratchy and angular and dynamic, is controversial!! this attitude is bonkers: he wz one of those artists who used an apparently unhelpful technical restriction [eg panels too crammed] to liberate himself from stodgy convention!!)

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 9 October 2004 12:06 (nineteen years ago) link

broons and oor wullie though i never saw or knew of till i wz a grown-up visiting scotland

the jocks and the geordies = the dandy i think (though several strips appeared in more than one over the years)

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 9 October 2004 12:13 (nineteen years ago) link

All the titles Mark talks about had full UK distribution, and were in all the newsagents all over England, certainly. I agree re Beryl - I desperately wish someone would put out good cheap reprint collections of loads of great old Law/Baxendale/Reid material, but DC Thomson have no interest in such things, sadly.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Sunday, 10 October 2004 11:04 (nineteen years ago) link

Yeah, it does seem unfortunate that there seems to be no chance of this stuff currently being reissued - and I think that the longer time passes the less likelyhood there is from a commercial standpoint. It's kinda strange, Dennis the Menace etc. seem to have little nostalgia value considering the amount of fame that they have in Britain. It's also odd how impossible it is to find even basic examples of the old classic strips on the internet - we're constantly told that everything's available somewhere now, but I suppose not.

Raw Patrick (Raw Patrick), Sunday, 10 October 2004 11:38 (nineteen years ago) link

b-but the DtM fanclub has 1.5 million members!! (that's a LOT of furry gnasher-badge with moving eyes!)

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 10 October 2004 11:40 (nineteen years ago) link

but it's a classic dead-media dynamic, isn't it? if UK comix-world splits into "modernists" (marvel/2000AD) and "traditionalists" (beano/broons), guess which kru is going to be allergic to the interweb?

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 10 October 2004 11:43 (nineteen years ago) link

as in: can you handle the NEW DANDY feat.MC Dissing Dan and the Glockin Bash Street Krew? (or something)

mark s (mark s), Sunday, 10 October 2004 11:51 (nineteen years ago) link

And as well as dead media -
traditionalists = casual
modernists = obsessives

(and sorry for constantly making this thread not about 'not the beano, not the dandy'. I think part of this is that hardly anyone can remember which character went with which comic, bar the comics flagship caharacters. Which kind've leads back to the difficulty of being an 'obsessive' about this stuff).

Raw Patrick (Raw Patrick), Sunday, 10 October 2004 16:07 (nineteen years ago) link

I had most of the eighties Beezer annuals - they were utterly formulaic, consisting mainly of variations on strips like Pop, Dick & Harry, Baby Crockett, Smiffy, The Badd Lads, Plug and Little Mo, over and over again for years. Although the odd rogue peculiarity did slip through, such as "OUR SHERIFF'S AN APE!"

I still have my Dad's 1962 Beezer Book which, despite some hilariously un-PC action strips, is a thing of beauty. There's a particularly gorgeous painted re-telling of the legend of King Arthur, and some great full-page Banana Bunch spreads by Leo Baxendale. Check out the 1969 book however, and the rot has clearly set in - the strips are already set in a pattern which will remain for about twenty years, and there's no Baxendale to be seen.

I also dug out a Topper Annual from the same era - and a more generic bunch of characters you've never laid eyes on(King Gussie? Postie Knox? Big Uggie? Who are these losers?)

There are a view oddities of note: "The Bustem Boys" - Hans and Fritz have adventures on an island with lots of wacky ethnic stereotypes - this appears to've escaped from Film Fun c. 1949. "Smart Art" - vaguely post-modern idea in that the character is aware that's he in a cartoon strip, and is constantly demanding the artist draw him things(it's a bit like "Duck Amok"). And there's the unexpected appearance of a non-Thompson strip, Ernie Bushmiller's "Nancy"(he's even famous enough to get his name at the top of the page).

There's also an actual David Law Beryl The Peril - hurrah!

Philip Alderman (Phil A), Monday, 11 October 2004 03:13 (nineteen years ago) link

i think the "bustem boys" is syndicated and non-thomson also: and way WAY old...

basically it is rudolph dirk's "the kantzenjammer kids" which began life in the 1890s

(aw, i always kinda liked "king gussie": he was a KING!ยก! to whom nothing much happened)

mark s (mark s), Monday, 11 October 2004 06:19 (nineteen years ago) link

Child-me used to enjoy the short-lived 80s NTB,NTD title Nutty which was conceived as something a bit more edgy than the rest of the DCT&Co stable. John Geering's Bananaman was the best thing in it obv (until insipid animated cartoon ruined it all) and was one of the strips hoovered up the Dandy after Nutty died in '85. Also liked The Wild Rovers (Pup Parade with added dog-catcher antagonist) and over-the-hedge class war The Snobbs and the Slobbs (also Geering I think).

robster (robster), Monday, 11 October 2004 06:54 (nineteen years ago) link

we shd do a ILC special on class-war strips in uk comix i think!!

mark s (mark s), Monday, 11 October 2004 06:57 (nineteen years ago) link

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