Entertainment & Arts

Judge Dredd writer John Wagner mourns The Dandy demise

Image caption John Wagner created Judge Dredd (left) after he left DC Thompson, which introduced Desperate Dan (right) to The Dandy

In an exclusive piece for BBC News Online, John Wagner, creator of the Judge Dredd comic strip, has paid tribute to The Dandy, which has announced it is to end its print run after 75 years.

The US-born, Scottish-raised writer began his career at the comic's publisher DC Thomson in Dundee.

One by one they've fallen, the comic icons of my youth. Hotspur, Victor, Hornet - discovered and eagerly devoured in the newsagents where I served as a paperboy.

All you customers, you never knew why your editions might look a little dog-eared, a little second hand, hurriedly thumbed through as I walked my route. Great characters, intelligent stories, from an industry so often and undeservedly derided then by the middle class press.

And later the girls' comics - for my taste even better than the boys' - Mandy, Judy, Diana and best of them all, Bunty, practically ripped from my sister's young hands before she could read a word.

I never dreamed then that one day I would start my journalistic career with the company that produced them, that canny outfit in Dundee where comic people in cramped offices laboured lovingly to create our weekly thrills, where quality was everything and 'good enough' was never good enough.

It was in Dundee that I got to know the younger publications - Topper and Beezer, and those two British institutions, The Dandy and The Beano. My roommate worked on Topper. Many a night I would lie awake trying to work out Beryl the Peril stories for him - always rejected out of hand. Clever, innocent fun.

Image caption It's the last chance for fans to get their hands on a print copy of The Dandy

Topper and Beezer are gone with all the rest, and sadly The Dandy is to join them - The Dandy of cow pie eating Desperate Dan, of Korky the Cat, Bananaman and Black Bob.

So important was the industry once to the city that a statue of Dan now stands on one of Dundee's main thoroughfares. Seventy-five years The Dandy has lived, Britain's longest-running comic, an important part of so many children's lives. At one point it sold over two million copies. It seemed impregnable. Though mountains may fall, The Dandy would still be there, one sure thing in a changing world.

How little we knew. Today, despite several mergers and a somewhat odd and desperate revamp to 'Dandy Xtreme', we hear that the comic is to go online only from its 75th birthday in December. In the days of computer games and multiple television channels it can no longer compete. One of the last victims in the slow death of mainstream British comics, its circulation has fallen below 8,000 copies.

And so from a once huge Dundee-based industry only The Beano will remain. With healthy sales (by today's standards) of 38,000, it is to be hoped that it will be with us for some years to come.

But for now let us turn our attention to the soon-to-be departed. Goodbye, dear Dandy. In the end few of us bought you, but millions will hear of your passing with regret. Some of us weaker souls may even shed a tear. I, for one.

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