The Dandy comic recalled, as the new annual goes on sale

With the new The Dandy Annual 2024 now on sale, we look back at the end of weekly comic in 2012, which is not without some elements of mystery…

The last print issue of The Dandy, perhaps best known for strips such as “Beryl the Peril”, “Korky the Cat”, “Desperate Dan” and “Winker Watson”, was published on 4th December 2012, before going, briefly, digital. But news of its closure broke months earlier, in August 2012, to the dismay of fans.

The Dandy - Last Ever Issue

Launched in 1937, The Dandy was, like many similar comics, victim to declining circulation, but to their credit, Dundee-based publisher DC Thomson kept the title in print long enough to mark its 75th anniversary, publishing a special issue that included a reprint of the first-ever issue.

At its end, the title was selling 8000 copies a week, a far cry from the two million at its peak in the 1950s, other entertainment such as computer games cited as the reason for its end in print.

Despite outlasting other once-popular comics, including The Beezer and The Topper, a series of relaunches failed to regenerate The Dandy’s sales. In 2007, it was rebranded as Dandy Xtreme, a fortnightly version of the comic, hated by many fans.

In 2010 The Dandy team reinvented the comic again in style, introducing celebrity-themed strips starring celebrities such as Simon Cowell and Jeremy Clarkson, fronted by comedian Harry Hill. But sales weren’t great dropping by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2011. The revamp came too late to save the title.

Dandy Comic No 1 (1937). With original 4 page flyer for Dandy No 1 and No 2. (A mini comic in its own right).
Dandy Comic No 1 (1937). With original 4 page flyer for Dandy No 1 and No 2. (A mini comic in its own right). Via ComPal

Back in 2012, the company clearly had high hopes for the digital edition of The Dandy, which, unfortunately, proved over optimistic, lasting just thirteen issues before it closed, a title that, on reflection, came to screens perhaps too soon to reach an audience that today is very much glued to them.

The Dandy’s closure was part of a wider review of all DC Thomson titles at the time, reviews of titles and staffing that continue to this day in the face of declining circulations, the latest round of cuts to staff at the Dundee-based company clearly hampering their ability to continue some operations, such as the publication of digital editions of Commando on Amazon.

Jeremy Briggs was our principal reporter on the impending end to the title, delivering an insightful round up of national media coverage of the changes on their way in August 2012, after The Guardian broke the closure story.

DC Thomson seemed to have a strange guerrilla advertising campaign in mind as it planned the transition of The Dandy from physical to digital,

Looking back at the reports of the title’s closure, however, you have to wonder if DC Thomson didn’t, unfortunately, damage their own promotion attempts for the digital Dandy that was to take the title in “a different direction”, an opportunity to “innovate and develop”.

Shot in the foot?

For example, I recently came across an article published by the Daily Mail, published 16th August 2012. The report quotes a “livid” Ellis Watson, then chief executive of the company’s newspaper and magazine publishing operations, now chief business advisor to the First Minister of Scotland, as well as being a motivational speaker, who expressed annoyance at an internal “leak” of plans to close the title.

In fact, as Jeremy indicated, the news of the title’s planned closure seems to almost certainly come direct from senior management, working with Guardian reporters, just a few days earlier.

Mr Watson told the Daily Mail that as a result of the leaks, the company was taking The Dandy web site – – offline. Surely the worst possible decision that could have been made, when you are trying to encourage digital take up?

Even today, the original official web address for the comic – – takes you to a blank page on the DC Thomson webshop, with not even the current Dandy annual in evidence.

Was this a case of left hand not knowing what the right hand was up to, in terms of steering The Dandy in its digital direction? I’m sure there are, perhaps, some former DC Thomson folk out there who may recall events.

Back then, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that DC Thomson wasn’t as savvy about digital comics, although it’s come on in leaps and bounds since, with a treasure house of interactive entertainment for kids, as well as promoting the weekly comic itself. (A far cry from the years that you had to search really hard to find information on the latest issue!).

Earlier attempts to bring their archive to mobile phones foundered, too, back in 2008. Not because, as I discovered first hand while working for ROK Comics, pitching the idea of doing just that, of a lack of enthusiasm from the licensing team or their nascent digital team of one. It was because some senior management at the firm then simply didn’t “get” digital. That’s definitely changed, as evidenced by, and DC Thomson’s other online operations.

A New Annual Arrives

Despite the The Dandy‘s demise as a weekly comic and digital offering, Desperate Dan has certainly not eaten his last cow pie. The Dandy Annual continues to be published each year, the latest edition on sale today. DC Thomson also publish a Summer Special each year.

The Dandy Annual 2024 - Cover by Steve Bright
The Dandy Annual 2024 – Cover by Steve Bright

The Art and History of the Dandy: 75 Years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins by former Dandy editor Morris Heggie, who retired from the company in 2015, was launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2012 and after it closed, and the comic featured in exhibitions at the National Library of Scotland and London’s Cartoon Museum.

A bronze statue of Desperate Dan stands in Dundee city centre, alongside BEANO’s Minnie the Minx.

Dandy Annual 2024 - Desperate Dan Promo

The Dandy Annual 2024 is in shops now | ISBN 978-1845359065 (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)

Please note other retailers such as WHSmith are already selling the annual but Amazon is listing this and the BEANO annual as on sale 14th August

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Wonder Dan! When Cactusville’s most famous son is bitten by a radioactive mosquito, he develops superpowers… and an appetite for cow pie to match! It’s Desperate Dan like you’ve never seen him before! He’s joined in 112 hilarious pages by the rest of the Dandy crew – Cuddles and Dimples, Corporal Clott, Beryl the Peril and more of your faves!

Stretch those laughter muscles as The Dandy Annual returns for another side-splitting serving of jolly japes and crafty schemes!

The Art and History of the Dandy: 75 Years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins

The Art and History of the Dandy: 75 Years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins by Morris Heggie (Amazon UK Affiliate Link)

A chronicle of 75 years of the world’s longest-running comic, The Art and History of The Dandy is a beautiful gift book and treasury of everything that has made The Dandy so anarchic and special.

Read John Freeman’s review of this book here, published in 2012

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9 replies

  1. There was worse. The Digital Dandy ran twice for thirteen weeks.

    It’s accurate to say that the Digital Dandy wasn’t ready when it ran the first time, and had a lot of glitches. It was suspended on 29 March 2013.

    They ran it a second time (free for those who had subscribed first time round) from April with extra content, and had most of the issues fixed, plus some bells and whistles like sound in Desperate Dan, but it was killed off on 5 July 2013.

    My own opinion is that DC Thomson was too anxious to kill the Dandy off and cut their losses, and was relying too much the technology, which ultimately let them down. By July the momentum was gone, and Digital Dandy was no more.

    As for the 2010 Dandy… my take is that it was just too far gone. The traditional readers had disappeared when Dandy went Xtreme, and hadn’t come back. The gamers attracted by Dandy Xtreme disappeared when Dandy went normal, which was a terrible pity because the 2010 Dandy, give or take a few celebrities, was in my opinion the best it had been since before the 2005 relaunch, with wonderful new contributors.

    • Suppose the Dandy had been left running for 12 months longer. The Digital Dandy might have been fixed before it launched, and might have lasted more than 13 weeks.

    • Thanks for the extra information on the digital dates. I think that’s a very fair assessment of the comic’s last physical days.

      • With a product that crosses so many generations, always going to be tricky for the maker to know who to target with the future in mind. I think of it going the same way as VHS / CDs / DVDs / Polaroid etc, few companies cross eras with tech changes or cultural changes. Same as Doctor Who. Hard to keep everyone happy, hard to fit into the new world. If the baby boomer generation wasn’t so large and wealthy many of these products would have not lived as long as they have.

        Would be interesting to have data for readership by age, would even dcthomson have that data with any accuracy.

        The older generation always think because they loved it then other must have something wrong with them if they don’t. But new generations want their own thing regardless of quality, who buys their parents generation music?

        Even if Dandy was still weekly who would be buying and in what numbers. DC thomson can milk us older people for a long time, but not forever. These things come and go. Great products die, even more great products never sell. The market doesn’t account for quality, taste and kids just being kids 😛

        My nephew reads the Beano but because I give it them, from one generation to another. I doubt they would find or buy it of their own making. How many of the young reading Beano or Dandy in the last 20 years come under the same hood.

  2. I known the beano is very digital now and done quite well. However now I even get a weekly email telling me about the current edition. I tend to think it’s more a sign of how the beano is struggling too, feels like a reminder to go buy email.

    Digital / everything is just too competitive so many books, games, videos to watch etc. Only really great products or with great marketing or great viral stuff does a product become mainstream now. Seems more tv shows than atoms in universe to me 😛 People sure are watching a lot of TV……. How anyone finds the time amazes me.

    Dandy was given to my 2 year older brother and Beano to me as kids. Which of course meant I needed to read Dandy and see what was deemed too “risky” for my younger eyes.

    I always found the Dandy hit and miss though, it’s best better than the Beano but it’s worst strips unreadable. For example I think Winker Watson when done well is some of the best entertainment around, better than most “adult” stuff of today’s world.

    Me with the Beano kept reading it well into my late teens and now again as a 42 year old (when read copies go to my nephews), whilst my brother didn’t read the Dandy for long. Beano today for me is better than ever, I doubt people who say otherwise actually read it week in and out or with an open mind.

    The products are still great (Beano weekly etc and Dandy Summer special and annual) but the competition these days is crazy and every generation wants their own new thing, so I understand why these things fail. The Beano to still be around in 2023 just shows how amazing it has always been. Hopefully it will be around another decade or two to keep me entertained and give me something happy to go to even in those darkest of life moments.

    Thanks to anyone reading who worked on these works of art 🙂

  3. Fascinating Article. Given that DC Thomson have now got to grips with Digital, I wish they would create a archive of the treasure trove of comics they have so we can now access them. Something like Marvel. The digital only content from 2012-13 is now lost and inaccessible on the secondhand market, so it would be great if they relaunched that in conjunction with the Beano site or something. Also the 2010-12 comics are hard to obtain on the second hand market so again, it would make sense to re print these.

    Also, why don’t they consider doing facismile copies of some of their comics most landmark issues, like the 1st, 100th, 1000th issues? Or release a free comic day version of all kinds as tasters to see how consumers respond?

    The Phoenix has modest sales, surely a Dandy relaunch could replicate that model? Monster Fun comics have had some success going bi-monthly to monthly, another idea surely worth exploring. Would give a major boost to the comic industry and give new artists and writers a opportunity to hone their craft.

    I think DC Thomson should at least explore these possibilities which could galvanize the industry, and I think the public at large would welcome the comic back. So long as they reduce the celebs.

    • The Phoenix has modest sales, suggesting that there isn’t that great a market; we don’t actually have figures for Monster Fun, just that there are enough subscribers to go monthly; and DCThomson has just made a pile of people redundant so they don’t have the resources to do more than business as usual, let alone run a warehouse, now that Amazon handles annuals for them.

      The public basically ignored the 2010 Dandy, which as I said was a great pity because of its sheer quality, so I don’t think there exists the market for it to come back. An Annual in a Christmas stocking is very different from a newsstand comic that WHSmith charge you to display (by far the worst suspects – it is cheaper to post individual subscriptions to readers than to display the Beano in WHSmith!)

      I think their choice to focus on the Beano brand was the right one, because it is so well established and has never ceased publication, but I believe that by no means have they abandoned the Dandy IP and there are background plans to use it in the future. The early issues are so far removed from the present day that I don’t think they would even consider producing facsimiles themselves, but they are quite amenable to approaches by credible independent publishers seeking licences to reprint from the archives provided they are willing to take the full risk of publishing and, like Rebellion, it’s not something already in the works.

      All I can say is that I didn’t download the digital Dandy, but I got reading all thirteen of the relaunched editions before they disappeared. We were all refunded for the remainder of our subscriptions, and its editor left DCThomson some years ago.

      • “The Phoenix has modest sales, suggesting that there isn’t that great a market”

        No, I’m not suggesting that. I don’t know the exact sales figures they have but it’s going to be less than the beanos. I think what the Phoenix is doing is brilliant considering they don’t have much media exposure or advertising. What I’m saying is it is the model they use has proven to be sustainable for them for the past decade, so if the Dandy were to come back it would be worth exploring what the phoenix does. Not to replicate them exactly, but use what works as a baseline and look to improve upon it. With the Dandy as a bigger brand, it could make the model even more successful. Re monster fun, true we don’t have figures but they’re clearly going in the right direction if they’re expanding the content of the comic, and it also proves a comic that had stopped publishing can come back into a new era and be successful. So that has to be a positive.

        I also take your point re the DC Thomson redunancies, I’m not saying do all these ventures at the same time. Test the water. Producing a digital only archive for the public to access isn’t going to need warehouse space. Same with a print on demand service for those who want hard copies.

        “The public basically ignored the 2010 Dandy, which as I said was a great pity because of its sheer quality, so I don’t think there exists the market for it to come back.”

        Well, we are living a new era now. 2023 is different to 2012. I’ve read about the issues with dandy revamps from the Xtreme to the final version. But now with a 10 year gap, the dandy annual still thriving, I think there may be more of an appetite for it to come back than you think. I don’t mean to return as it was re 2012 with the over reliance of celebs, but something more akin to the quality content the annuals produce each year.

        “I believe that by no means have they abandoned the Dandy IP and there are background plans to use it in the future.”

        This sounds interesting, intriguing and exciting! Do you work for DC or have some inside knowledge? Just curious as it would be so awesome to see something new in the works.

        “The early issues are so far removed from the present day that I don’t think they would even consider producing facsimiles themselves”

        I don’t think that really matters. They still do the combined gift book with archived content each year which must be doing well. They also did those favourites of the forties/focus on the fifties books in the early 2000s which also must have done well.

        Marvel frequently produce facsimilies and masterworks compilations from bygone eras, Archie comics produce best of the decade type books. IDW produced Popeye comics from the classic eras, so I can’t see why the Dandy, Beano, Beezer and Topper type facismiles or best of versions wouldn’t do well. I think there is one Best of Beezer annual that came out around 10 years ago, That comic also has so much quality material that could be mined to produce new content. Would love to see a best of Colonel Blink book for example. DC could be innovative and produce pocket book versions to go with the Beano comic as advertisers for example. They could get creative and survey their current readership to see how they’d feel about a new comic returning or something to gauge interest.

        “All I can say is that I didn’t download the digital Dandy, but I got reading all thirteen of the relaunched editions before they disappeared. “

        That’s a real shame. I’d prefer to have kept the content than have money refunded. What did you think of them out of curiosity? Would be great if DC launched the material even on the Beano site making them available so we can read them and enjoy.

  4. To add to my other comment, just curious, was all those digital dandy issues downloadable so all customers could receive them before the dandy went offline. or did all those subscribers lose access forever? Were they re compensated if so? Would to love to read and access those issues if I could.

    Also worth adding the last 3 Dandy annuals imo have been far more entertaining than the Beano. At one point the 2022 annual was higher ranked than the beano in the best seller list. So there is still a appetite for it. Pity DC Thomson doesn’t take notice.

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