December 4th 1937 may not seem an important date. There was not much going on in the world. Fatty Arbuckle was cleared of rape and the Marie Celeste was found adrift on the ocean without any crew.
But of more relevance to me the 4th December 1937 saw the first appearance of Desperate Dan and the comic that gave him life – the Dandy. So in 1987 Dan celebrated his 50th birthday.
He is the world’s strongest man, able to lift a cow with one hand; and his beard is so tough he has to shave with a blowtorch.
Apparently in the first years of life he was a sort of outlaw – a desperado, hence the handle ‘desperate’ – but after a short time he became as we all know him a much more friendly character on the right side of the law.
Desperate Dan resides in Cactusville, Texas and his favourite meal is cow pie, a huge meat pie with real cow horns sticking out of the crust. It is made by his Aunt Aggie who first appeared in the Dandy in 1939.
She was followed in 1945 by nephew Danny and niece Katy in 1957.
I remember an issue of the Dandy in which Dan asks Danny and Katy the quickest way around a hill. Danny goes over it and Katy goes round it. Dan goes straight through it, leaving a silhouette of himself in the hillside.
My mum would go out every Saturday morning to buy my Beano and Dandy; and sometimes Topper which did not have the same appeal although larger but not so many memorable characters apart from Jonah who like Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses sank more ships than he actually sailed in.
Jonah and the rest were my childhood companions; they live on today in the memories of old men like me. So here’s a roll call:
Korky the Kat, Bananaman, Beryl the Peril, Smasher, Keyhole Kate, Winker Watson, Corporal Clott, Hungry Horace, Dennis the Menace, Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx, The Bash Street Kids, Calamity James, Billy Whizz, Lord Snooty and his pals, Biffo the Bear, Colonel Blink and Little Plum.
‘Where are they now, the heroes of my furry-paged books and comics brighter than life which packed my ink-lined desk in days when BOP meant Boy’s Own Paper, where are they anyway?’ Thank you Adrian Mitchell for ‘Nostalgia – Now Threepence’ off frompublished by Pocket Poets 1963 – my daughter’s favourite book of poems.
But many live on in present day issues – the last and cosmic Yarooh! has not killed them. Some succeeded!
Now, 75 years since the Dandy was first published D C Thomson have announced that it will cease publication. Desperate Dan faces the final shoot out in Cactusville!
To contact John Barber: moc.r1508745596ebrab1508745596nhoj@1508745596tcatn1508745596oc1508745596