No 92: THE DANDY; PETER YORK ON ADS

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The Independent Culture
DC THOMPSON, the family-owned, Dundee-based, private comic-and- magazine publisher, has managed to stay both universal and reclusive for decades. Each generation of under-eights still sees the Dandy or Beano, amazingly archaic-looking comics on archaic-looking coarse newsprint drawn by very young men; generations of women somewhere still read the People's Friend, a title of some vintage. But Thompsons have remained reclusive, even secretive in their corporate ways. They've hardly been great television advertisers, and their extraordinary range of durable cartoon characters - Korky the Cat, Lord Snooty and His Pals, the Bash Street Kids - don't appear to be around in film animation or "character merchandising" deals. They seem like between-the-wars exhibits (though the inventors of Viz were clearly brought up on Beano and Dandy).

So it's rather startling to see the Dandy on TV, even if for only 10 seconds. The fragment features a very animated Desperate Dan (the bristly blue-jeaned bruiser who eats Cow Pies), drawn very brightly coloured, bashing his way through a group of ... American footballers, with the full kit and face masks. Now this is vaguely disconcerting, because the original Dan, one remembers, wherever he came from, didn't use the symbols of modern urban America. The voiceover is American too - hardly a gangsta-rap sound or sentiments, but American none the less. And there's a give-away: not a folded-brown-paper device guaranteed to make a loud bang, but a sweetie bar: Refreshers, the new sherbet innovation of the Fifties. "It's fun to keep the Dandy handy," says our American host.

What next? Will Dandy approach the world of Beavis and Butt-Head, with full-tilt marketing, music and merchandise? Will the characters sign up for Toon-Town epics with intimations of grown-up sex? Will Lord Snooty turn into Jamie Blandford?

! Video supplied by Tellex Commercials.

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