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Monday, 18 May 2009

Is The Dandy the World's Oldest Comic?

Mooching through some piles of old comics over the weekend, one of our readers noticed a 2007 issue of The Dandy (Issue 3007) proudly proclaimed the title was now a "record breaking longest running comic ever!"

Thanks to The Dandy's frequency change to a fortnightly title in recent years, in terms of number of issues The Beano has now claimed that title - and of course Commando, with eight issues a month, also beats its 2007 record. But The Dandy remains the UK's oldest comic... but is it also the world's oldest comic?

Surprisingly, in the UK, if you asked anyone what the most famous long-running UK comic was (even if they're not collectors) then the answer would most likely be The Beano. It's a question that's fooled many a TV quiz entrant down the years. In fact, it's DC Thomson's The Dandy (originally named The Dandy Comic, until June 1950), its first issue date 4th December 1937.

Commando, The Beano and The Dandy's have long beaten the previous "most issues" record holder, which was Comic Cuts, a title that ran for 3006 weekly issues, from 17th May 1890 until 12th September 1953. The Dandy is now at Number 3471, The Beano, still weekly, at Number 3483 - and Commando, first published in 1963, this month hit issue 4198 with Brotherhood Of Evil.

But what about age? Comic Cuts ran for 63 years and four months old before it merged with fellow Amalgamated Press title Knockout, itself merged with Valiant in 1963. In comparison, as well as running for more issues, The Dandy is now well into senior citizenship at 71 years, four years and two weeks old. While it may have more issues under its belt the weekly Beano, its first issue dated 30th July 1938, is younger -- currently 70 years, nine months and two weeks old.

However, in terms of sheer longevity, these two stalwart British comic titles are still younger than the longest running comic in the US: DC Comics Detective Comics first monthly issue is dated March 1937, making its current age 72 years and two months, while its nearest US rival is Action Comics, its first monthly issue dated June 1938 (and currently 70 years 11 months old).

Timewise then, Detective Comics is the longest running comic in the western world that we know of. But issue wise, with UK comics traditionally being weekly, The Beano holds the crown.

So The Dandy is the world's oldest longest-running comic? Well, we're pretty sure that The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, originally published in several languages in Europe in 1837, is no no longer in circulation, or Japan's Shiji no yukikai, first published in 1798. Britain's Boy's Own Paper, first published in 1891, is long gone, as is Australia's The Kookaburra, first published in 1931.

But here on downthetubes, we're well aware that countries whose comics heritage we're not as familiar with may yet lay claim to the crown of oldest ongoing title. We welcome any information readers of this article may have...

While the UK has beaten the US in terms of volume of issues, when it comes to first issue values those DC Comics still hold sway. UK comics generally aren't considered that collectable in the US, so prices of early Dandys and Beanos are a lot less than their respective US 'counterparts'. There are estimated to be only some 30 to 40 extant copies of each of these title's first issues in existence, so they don't come up for auction very often. A copy of The Beano Number 1 sold for £12,100 in 2004, and a copy of The Dandy #1 - complete with free gift - sold for £20,350.

In comparison, an original copy of Detective Comics #27 - the first to feature Batman - has previously sold for $1,470,000 (£968,363), while Detective Comics #1 has sold for $654,000 (£430823). But both have been pipped to the post by a copy of Action Comics #1 featuring Superman - which sold for a staggering $1,560,000, or £1,027,651. (More most-valued US comics here)


The History of Comics

Comic History Links

British Comics History: Comics UK Site
Includes superb 'family trees' of comics - find out which title merged with what and more...

Wikipedia: Manga

This piece last updated 21 May 2009. Special thanks to 'Ian' for initial research on this one, and more info from "Yumi")

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