Fiona McCade: Loss of comics is no laughing matter

Fiona McCade
Fiona McCade
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The first comic I ever got was Twinkle. Then I graduated to Pixie, but Pixie merged with June, so I ended up reading June and Pixie, but that was no problem because they were both great.

I don’t know how, but somehow Jinty then became the comic of choice, although it wasn’t so long before an amazing new oeuvre came on the scene called Lindy, and Lindy was amazing because it gave you a little gift every week, and the very first one was a tiny phial of perfume that smelt like Love Hearts dissolved in lemonade.

For a while, I was torn between my need for the literary stimulation of Jinty and the free plastic charm bracelets of Lindy, but, to my eternal relief, they soon merged and I was able to curl up and enjoy Jinty and Lindy – a match made in comic heaven, if ever there was one.

Next Tuesday, we say farewell to the Dandy – on its 75th anniversary, no less. At least, the print edition is disappearing. Technically, we’ll still be able read it online, but nothing on a screen can ever replace the sheer delight of the arrival of the Saturday morning comic. A comic in the hand is worth ten on the internet, and with the demise of the hard copy Dandy, I can’t help feeling that an era has passed.

It’s certainly getting more and more difficult to find children’s comics in the shops, and I reckon that’s bad news for future generations because I can honestly say that my first experience of reading for pleasure was in the pages of Twinkle, Pixie, et al.

The comics I loved used to have real stories in them. These were girls-own adventures, full of derring and one heck of a lot of do. There was just as much action and humour as in the boys’ comics and it fired my imagination.

I’d devour the Saturday weekly treat and then, inspired, I’d rush off and write and draw my own versions. OK, it wasn’t quite the Brontës, but it was a whole lot better and more creative than playing on a beeping DS all day.

As a child who was lucky enough to grow up in the Golden Age of the 70s, the weekly comic was as much a part of life as Angel Delight, Vesta paella and The Six Million Dollar Man.

I can live without my little boy being raised on every e-number under the sun, and his generation has some fairly good trashy telly of its own, but I am sad that he’ll probably never know the joy of a proper comic.

By “proper”, I don’t mean the sort of glossy magazine-type thing that the likes of the Dandy and the Beano slowly morphed into. Or those awful, teen-angst mags such as Jackie, full of fab pix of boy-bands and advice about intimate itching. No, I mean those glorious one- or two-colour paper comics, that cost pennies and took you to weird and wonderful places where goodies were goodies, baddies were baddies and if someone got hit, then the blow went “Thunk!” and people always screamed “Aaagh!” (or, for Look-In readers, “Aaarrrrggh!”).

I honestly believe that if someone had the sense to recreate a Golden Age comic or two, they’d see some decent sales, even if it was just sad old fortysomethings like me buying them, trying to persuade their kids that comics are the gateway to a whole world of art and literature.

But the thing is, they are. Or at least, they were. Now I think about it, my love of film probably came from reading comics because the strips are essentially storyboards. I went from Twinkle, to Jinty, to Gone With The Wind. In fact, there’s not as much difference between Beryl the Peril and Scarlett O’Hara as you might think.

Comics can play an important role in childhood. They can kick-start a love of words and pictures that will last a lifetime – and in the most enjoyable way possible. But perhaps most importantly of all, if the traditional British comic dies, how will we prepare our youngsters for the world of Viz?