Copies were lounging provocatively on some newsagents counters first thing this morning, unaware of their illicit status, so the cat is well and truly out of the bag! The new Dandy is here to brighten everybody's lives every Wednesday morning from now on.
Desperate Dan is there, by Jamie Smart (he designed the new logo and the look of the pages), Korky the Cat is back! Bananaman is there, Wayne Thompson giving us another spin on the old nana, but the other characters are all new! there are brand new strips by brand new comics artists and brand new strips from the best of the current humour cartoonists too.
The Dandy's exciting relaunch was made possible when three people had the same idea at the same time. The Dandy editor, a Dandy cartoonist, and Harry Hill, a well-known TV comedian. These three all thought it would be a good idea to have Harry Hill somehow feature in what was then Dandy Xtreme. As I knew Harry and worked for the Dandy, I was the ideal choice to see if such a union could be made to happen.
So I asked Harry how he wanted to play it. "As long as I don't have to do anything, go ahead" he said. Usually, getting a big name endorsement takes time, effort and money, but we just got it in a five second phone call! "Will you be drawing it?" he asked. "Yes . . .unless..." "No, just asking. Someone else wanted to do a comic strip but they haven't come up with anything so it's all yours." Phew. close call!
At the urging of the Dandy editor, I drew up a rough sample (see right) which the 'top brass' at DC Thomson could see, and took it along a week or two later to show Harry. "Great" he said "you've got the tongue nicely! Now, how are we going to do this?" "Well, they thought maybe you could be Dandy Joke Editor, in charge of the joke page and that" At this point Harry's face fell. "Oh, but I thought we could have a comic strip." "Fine!" I said. "yes, like 'Harry Hill's Real-life Adventures in TV Land, where I go behind the scenes at all the TV shows, find out how they tick, and featuring Knitted Character of course. Like those old Les Dawson strips in the Look-in, Anything's possible." For someone who didn't want to be involved, he was getting in deep! "We'll discuss it again when the series has finished" "OK, Harry, I'll work something up".
So I told the Dandy editor that Harry was very keen, and I proceeded to wait until someone - Harry, or one of his writers, or a Dandy scriptwriter, or SOMEONE, wrote a script I could then draw.
After a few weeks of waiting it dawned on me that no-one was writing anything. As I felt the high-ups at DC Thomson would need something to whet their appetites, I took it upon myself to draw a two page Harry Hill strip along the lines Harry directed, as a kind of sampler for what a finished strip may look like. Using liberal smatterings of Harry Hill-isms, I sent the finsihed pages off to Harry and The Dandy. Imagine my surprise when they both loved it and proclaimed the script finished!! I added a byline to show Harry had input and had approved the final strip.
Well, initially the idea had been to feature Harry in a strip in Xtreme, starting in June. Once April had arrived, I realized this wouldn't happen.
The DC Thomson people had decided that this new direction of comic strip I had given them by accident, could well be the way to go in future for the Dandy as a whole, given massive encouragement by the editor, who had wanted the comic to be all-strips, all-funny, all the time anyway. And not only would Harry star in the comic, but it would be The Dandy again- no more Xtreme! Out with the old, in with the All-New! At one point even Desperate Dan was herded up and destined for the great ranch in the sky, but it was decided the Dandy needed to reassert itself as a comic again, and be proud of it's past. And that's chapter one!