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My favorite comics growing up

When I was growing up there were no cartoons on the TV. There was no TV. But there were comics.

During the World War II, my favourite comics were not published every week, owing to shortage of newsprint; they were, in general, published every two weeks. Not all comics were on the same schedule, so of my favourite three, at least two of them came to the stores weekly. I do not remember how they got to me, but I’m thinking it was by the daily newspaper. In Alderholt, the village to which we had evacuated, they would have been left at Mrs. Bailey’s store at the bottom of our lane. Back home at 29 Little Lances Hill, Bitterne, after the war, it would have been by the deliverer of the Daily Herald, the left-wing newspaper to which Dad subscribed.

So, what were the three?

The Beano Comic, a British anthology comic magazine created by Scottish publishing company DC Thomson. An anthology magazine includes single or stories too short for individual publication and amalgamates them into an issue. Its first issue was published on 30 July 1938, and it became the world’s longest-running comic issued weekly, except during World War II, publishing its 4000th issue in August 2019. Popular and well-known comic strips and characters include Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, General Jumbo, The Bash Street Kids, Jack Flash, Ivy the Terrible, Jonah, Lord Snooty and His Pals, and Roger the Dodger. Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher, has been running since the beginning of Beano, whose million sales in one week came in December 1945. And the Beano is still being published today, albeit after several different publishers, it has changed a bit in format. Nevertheless, the cover page looks much the same as I remember.

The Dandy was a British children’s comic magazine published by the Dundee based publisher DC Thomson, as was The Beano. The first issue was printed in December 1937, making it the world’s third-longest running comic, after Il Giornalino (cover dated 1 October 1924) and Detective Comics (cover dated March 1937). One of the best selling comics in the UK, along with The Beano, The Dandy reached sales of two million a week in the 1950s. The final printed edition was issued on
4 December 2012, the comic’s 75th anniversary, after sales slumped to 8,000 a week.

Over its 75-year run hundreds of different comic strips have appeared in The Dandy, many of them for a very long time. The longest-running strips were Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat, who both appeared in the first issue, and both of which I remember well.

The Wizard was my favourite comic. The Wizard was launched as a weekly British story paper on 22 September 1922, also published by D. C. Thomson & Co.

During WWII, it became a fortnightly paper. I couldn’t wait until the next issue came, as I loved reading each story of Wilson. William Wilson was born in the village of Stayling in Yorkshire and claimed to be born on 1 November 1795. However, a document dated 11 March 1774 listed him as “clerk to the manor”. He was sufficiently old that when writing, he used an “f” instead of an “s”. His farmer father died in middle age, leaving Wilson £5,000. He studied medicine and biology in a number of countries around the world and determined not to die early as so many he knew had, he worked out a health and fitness regime and learned how to slow his heart right down, using a formula created by people who could live to over 200. He developed his will power and hardened his body by whole winters spent in the open. The first adventure introduced Wilson as a supreme athlete, who joins a race from out of the crowd and manages to record a three-minute mile (a feat likely never to be achieved – although one should never say never). That particular first story is imprinted on my mind and I can see it as well today as when I first read the 2+ page story. During WWII, he joined the RAF and became Squadron leader W. Wilson D.S.O., D.F.C. and bar, who had 25 victories to his name.

The character is depicted within stories as performing a number of improbable events. Wilson was seen in one strip becoming the first man to climb Everest, and another saw him captaining an England cricket team to The Ashes in Australia. Originally hailing from Yorkshire, and living in a cave on a diet of nuts and berries, Wilson exemplified British grit and the stiff upper lip.

There were times when my pocket money was spent on one other comic paper, The Hotspur, but it never became a favourite, although during WWII it alternated with The Wizard.

Thanks to The Dandy, The Beano and other D C Thomson comics which followed, Dundee gained a reputation as a major centre of the comics industry, and has been called the ‘comic capital of Britain’. Partly as a result of this legacy, the city is now home to the Scottish Centre for Comic Studies. The connection is also marked by bronze statues of Desperate Dan and The Beano character Minnie the Minx installed in the city’s High Street in 2001. Designed by Tony Morrow, the Desperate Dan statue, which also features his dog Dawg, is the most photographed of 120 pieces of public art in the city. In July 2001 the cover of The Dandy featured Dan visiting Dundee and encountering his statue. In December 2012 the University of Dundee held an exhibition in partnership with D C Thomson to mark the comic’s 75th anniversary.

Oh, those weekly reading adventures in my favourite three were something to which I so very much looked forward.

[I acknowledge much of the history in this particular Scribblings is from Wikipedia.]