Column One: Things ain't so dandy for this tough old cowboy

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The Independent Online
The kids of today. Having goaded the once liberal Jack Straw into raging about child curfews and juvenile tagging, they have now driven poor old Desperate Dan into retirement.

After 60 years of appearing in every edition of the Dandy comic, he has been dropped because he is no longer "relevant" in the world of the modern youngster.

DC Thomson, the comic's publishers, admitted yesterday that the decision would perturb many parents who had grown up with Dan's tales of Cow Pies and Owl Hoot Juice and regarded him as a figure synonymous with a contented childhood.

But Agnes Wilson, of the D C Thomson's editorial management team, said: "We know the character is relevant to parents but we don't know how relevant he is to today's children." She added: "From time to time everybody reappraises the content of their magazines and comics. We wondered whether it was time to give him a rest."

The comic's editor, Morris Heggie, was yesterday sticking to the official Dandy line that Dan had gone happily of his own accord. "Dan was doing a bungee jump and struck an oil well with his mighty chin when the elastic broke," he said. "From his yacht, somewhere in the Bahamas, he has informed me that he is no longer desperate. So I'm looking for someone to fill his boots."

Desperate Dan - "The roughest, toughest cowboy in the West" - first appeared in the Dandy in the launch issue of 4 December 1937. He was inspired by celluloid cowboy heroes like Tom Mix, who were popular in the Thirties and who were also models for other cartoon figures like Buck Jones and Kit Carson who have preceded Dan into the sunset.

Dan's demise follows that of Korky the Cat, who recently lost his ever- present record in Dandy to be reduced to the status of a "now and again character". A similar fate has befallen Lord Snooty, once a regular of the sister comic Beano, which has also driven Big Eggo, the cartoon ostrich which once graced its cover, into extinction. The Dandy and the Beano both still sell in the region of 300,000 copies per issue, although that is a far cry from the million plus sales of the Fifties and Sixties.

DC Thomson is expecting some of these readers to mount a protest when Dan's departure becomes apparent with deliveries of the next issue. "We are waiting to see what reaction we get," said a company source.

Which might lead cynics to think that this whole affair is not unrelated to the recent publication of a new Christmas book, The Legend of Desperate Dan, which chronicles 60 years of the cowpoke's adventures.

Maybe this time the kids are not to blame after all. As a public relations company yesterday spread the news that Dan had gone, it seemed that even Cactusville, Texas, where Dan used to live with his Auntie Aggie, had succumbed to the world of hype.

- Ian Burrell