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Friday, 3 August 2007

It’s Just Not The Same As When I Were A Lad…

ChampionSo the new look Dandy Xtreme is in the shops and from the outside it now looks rather like all the rest of those biweekly comic magazines aimed at kids in mid to late primary school. As much as we may mourn the passing of the more traditional weekly format, D C Thomson publishes the title to make a profit and they obviously consider that the Dandy should go with the flow of this modern biweekly format of pictures, features, comic strips and "free" gifts.

We perhaps look down on these sort of modern comic magazines because we see them as being less than those we read as children - less stories, more colour pictures filling up the pages, and the titles somehow prostituting themselves with the lure of at least one gift every single issue. My young nephew gets Doctor Who Adventures and I do make a point of looking at it when I get the chance and, like so many other old Doctor Who Weekly readers, I don't think much of it. But then it isn’t aimed at me, it is aimed at him and he likes it.

What to us is the traditional British weekly comic full of picture strips with speech balloons really only gained its dominance after the Second World War and in particular in the early Fifties. Before that what we would think of as the weekly British adventure comics were the story papers. They had pages upon pages of text stories with a couple of spot illustrations per story, and maybe a couple of pages of comic strip to break up the monotony of the solid text. Even the more visual humour titles had text stories in them.

I wonder if back in 1950 there were long standing readers of Amalgamated Press' The Champion or D C Thomson's The Hotspur story papers who looked at the new titles appearing on the newsagent's racks and despaired about this new picture strip format? After all a copy of The Champion with all its text would take quite some time to read through. The copy of a picture strip comic that may be physically larger and be on sale for the same price would just not take as long to read. Time-wise, they provided less entertainment for the same money.

Could it be that the older readers of The Champion, which in 1950 had been in existence for 28 years with characters like footballer Danny Roberts or pilot Rockfist Rogan, looked at the first copy of The Eagle which cost the same amount, three old pence, and wondered why anyone would be taken in by the gloss and colour and some bloke with dodgy eyebrows called Dan Dare?


Lew Stringer said...

You make a valid point John, and it's one I've also mentioned several times to other UK comic fans.

When I was a little kid I remember my Grandad telling me he used to read Illustrated Chips when he was a boy. So when Whizzer & Chips came out I naturally showed him that "Chips was back". He looked through it but said with a smile "It's not what I'd call a proper comic".

Thing is, British comics adapt to reflect the society around them. They always have. What people consider "proper comics" are usually the style of comics they read as a child.

The Victorian "Illustrated Chips" my Grandad read as a nipper had 8 tabloid pages, four of which were taken up with text stories / material.

Yet no one doubts they were comics. :)


John Freeman said...

Nice points about Jeremy's article and how comics adapt - and should.

Talking to newsagents locally some say older kids just aren't interested in comics like the Beano (a bit of a generalisation) but snap up the 'gossip' mags. So maybe there's a model there for a new approach...

Richard Lilley said...

I'm now 64, and we had The Champion reserved at the newsagent every Friday. This was in Australia, yet we loved the Colwyn Dane, Rockfist Rogan, Ginger Nutt characters and it was a great tragedy to me when The Champion suddenly announced that it was ceasing publication. They urged us to buy, I think it was Lion, the next week, but as Lew Stringer suggests, it was very slick, and didn't have the meaty articles that we had to READ. I think we cancelled our reservation for it after one week.

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