National Library to stage Dandy exhibition ahead of digital switch

IT is the legendary comic that is finally about to call it a day after 75 years of entertaining the nation.

IT is the legendary comic that is finally about to call it a day after 75 years of entertaining the nation.

Now fans of The Dandy will be able to explore the origins of the famous comic in a new display at the National Library Scotland, which has been unveiled just weeks before the iconic title is due to go digital.

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Rarely-seen original storyboards and drawings from publisher DC Thomson’s archive in Dundee have been unearthed for a celebration of one of the world’s most successful comics at the Edinburgh attraction.

Visitors will be able to inspect second the front cover of the second ever edition, dating back to 1937, see how Desperate Dan’s look was based on the comic’s first editor, and relive classic characters like Black Bob and Korky the Cat.

The exhibition is also a rare chance to see up close the handiwork of the Dandy’s legendary cartoonist Dudley D Watkins, who worked on other titles like The Beano, The Beezer and The Topper, as well as the Oor Wullie and Broons strips, right up to his death in 1969.

Morris Heggie, The Dandy’s editor from 1986-2006, who is responsible for the official DC Thomson archive, said: “The exhibition takes people right from the very first issues in 1937 right up to the present day.

“Some of the original art boards and story boards have never really been out of the archive so this is a really opportunity to see them up close.

“The Dandy was the first comic to use that kind of homour when it appeared in 1937 and The Beano appeared a few months later and there was legendary rivalry between the staff who worked on the comics.

“It wasn’t until the 1950s that The Beano became more popular when it started to portray more rebellious characters. It still sells more than 50,000 while The Dandy is down to less than 10,000.”

The final edition of The Dandy is due to go on sale in the first week in December to coincide with the unveiling of a new digital version of the comic, although final details of the latter are being kept firmly under wraps.

It is changed days from the early 1950s when The Dandy was selling upwards of two million copies.

Mr Heggie added: “The Dandy did very well to survive as long as it did particularly, particularly since the 1980s when there were so many different threats, including children’s television and computer games.

“The original comics and annuals are hugely collectible. The first editions that are held in the DC Thomson archive are in pretty poor condition because the paper has deteriorated.

“The real value comes in the free gifts that were given away with the early issues. There’s one of the second ever editions on sale online at the moment for £6500, but the owner has the jumping frog that was given away with it.”

Andrew Martin, curator of modern Scottish collections at the National Library, said discussions on the exhibition had been underway before The Dandy’s demise was known about.

He added: “We are delighted to be working with DC Thomson to showcase the art and history of The Dandy as it celebrates its 75th anniversary. We really don’t have anything like this material in our collections and they haven’t really gone on display anywhere before.

“Its history 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 is at the National Library of Scotland until 3 February.