The Dandy is dead. Long live The Dandy. Although it has called an end to the print edition of the 75-year-old kids' comic, publisher DC Thompson has shown that it's willing to embrace the digital age. While The Dandy will no longer be found in newsagents and supermarkets, an interactive iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android-friendly version of the British institution has been launched to appeal to an all-new generation.
It would be naive to think that the decision hasn't been influenced by diminishing sales and an upsurge in internet rivals for kids' pocket money. Unlike sister title The Beano, The Dandy has been suffering on the newsstand for a while, and has failed to grasp the attention of children more interested in Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters.
That's where the all-new Dandy comes in. Not content with just a digital, scanned version of the comic - as several other publishers put out - DC Thompson has crafted something that offers far more than print ever could. And in doing so it could well have found a magic formula that breathes new life into a brand that we've all grown up with.
The Dandy digital edition features familiar characters in new strips, but the storytelling element itself has changed. Coming in the form of an application for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android devices, you get a portal to launch either your downloaded comics or the many mini games that will be added as weeks go by. These are a prime example of the digital Dandy's newfound strength in interactivity. Why not offer a Bananaman strip, say, and a game to go with it? Indeed, make the game part of the strip itself, so readers feels they have contributed.
And, as this is a different medium, why not have the strips feature animated elements and, even, voice acting? For example, when issue 1 hits the stands, Desperate Dan will have a voice. Plus, because the screen of a tablet device or smartphone is nigh-on perfectly sized, it can show the strip frame by frame. It's important to allow the reader to move on to the next frame manually - especially as it's aimed at children with, perhaps, slower reading speed - but by doing this, there is no compromise on the art and a full-frame picture can tell a story better than a postage stamp-sized version ever could.
Blinky creator and artist Nick Brennan had to learn all new ways to create strips for the digital edition
Speaking of which, to help launch the new, improved Dandy, the team went back to a host of artists and creators from the comic's history to craft content to take it into its future. It's a nice move that pays instant dividends. For example, Desperate Dan finally reverts to his old, reassuring look. This is classic stuff in a modern setting, and we approve.
There will also be video shows and clips that feature anything from videogame reviews to celebrities trying to eat one of Dan's cow pies in as quick a time as possible. And there are plans to offer back issues of the comics too, with the last year's worth and a selection of older editions initially being offered for download on a trial basis. If that works, there's no reason, we were told by DC Thompson CEO Ellis Watson, not to delve into the entire back catalogue - the company has every single issue since it was launched on 4 December 1937, he said.
DC Thompson CEO Ellis Watson
In short, while we're naturally upset that The Dandy's print closure marks the end of a much-loved era, The Dandy digital edition feels like the start of an all-new one.
Head of digital David Bain also explained to Pocket-lint that lessons learnt here may benefit The Beano in years to come. However, it's unlikely that will disappear from news shelves anytime soon, but rather incorporate interactive elements in its own digital offerings.
This is just the beginning.
The Dandy digital edition issue 0 is now available to view on www.Dandy.com, with the app version coming soon. Issue 1, for example, will be available on iTunes and Google Play from next week. An individual issue will cost £1.49, while a 12-month subscription will be £29.99 (working out at around 59p per issue).
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