'The Dandy' treasures display

Cor blimey!!! 'The Dandy' makes a splash at the National Library

Rarely seen original art work from the heyday of 'The Dandy' — Britain's longest running comic — goes on show at the National Library of Scotland (NLS) from tomorrow (Wednesday, November 21).

'The Dandy', which is 75 years old next month, is one of the world's most successful comics and was selling two million copies at its peak in 1950.

The treasures display at NLS celebrates the art and history of the comic and its famous characters such as Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and Black Bob. It also tells the story of how the strips are put together and how 'The Dandy' has changed over time.

It comes as the final printed issue of 'The Dandy' is due to be published on 4 December and the comic moves into a new phase of its existence as an online publication.

The display has been put together in partnership with the publisher of 'The Dandy', D C Thomson. The highlights include original story boards drawn by Dudley D Watkins, the cartoon pioneer and creator of Desperate Dan. He modelled Dan on the first 'Dandy' editor, square chinned Albert Barnes. In the comic strip, Dan is seen trying to cut his nails on tram lines, with welding equipment and a meat slicer — a series of images that would likely horrify many parents today.

Homage is also paid to another of the great illustrators of 'The Dandy', Jack Prout, who drew the popular Black Bob series which ran from 1944 to 1982. Shortly before his retirement, Prout became the owner of a Border collie like the one he had been drawing for decades. Staff at D C Thomson could not resist the opportunity for some fun and decided the dog would need to be responsible for its owner, rather than the other way round. They drew up a spoof 'artist' licence for the dog and 'signed' it with the collie's paw print. The original is part of the NLS display.

Morris Heggie, the 'Dandy' editor from 1986-2006, has worked closely with NLS in selecting the material for the display. 'People will get the chance to see a superb collection of original art boards as well as rare and unusual items from 'The Dandy' archive. It takes people from the first issues in 1937 right up to the present day, including a collection of covers down the years.'

During the Second World War,'The Dandy' even became a propaganda vehicle, with Desperate Dan making fun out of Hitler by stopping all his warships with a magnet or shooting down his planes with a pea shooter. Paper shortages meant it could be published only once a fortnight, but it still sold between 600,000 and 800,000 copies.

'It has been said that the editors of 'The Dandy' and 'The Beano' were on a list of enemies of the Third Reich for the way they way they poked fun at Hitler and the Nazis during the war but I’ve never seen any evidence,' added Morris.

Andrew Martin, Curator of Modern Scottish Collections at NLS, said: 'We are delighted to be working with D C Thomson to showcase the art and history of "The Dandy" as it celebrates its 75th anniversary. The history of 'The Dandy' is a fascinating part of our social history as well as being a great Scottish publishing story.

'Creating fun for children was a very grown-up business, and what shines through in the display is the high level of creativity, skill and imagination involved in keeping generations of children chuckling and chortling.'

'The art and history of "The Dandy"' runs until 3 February at the NLS on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Entry is free.

20 November 2012

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