AMITIAE - Sunday 2 December 2012

The End of a Long Era in Comics - Dandy now Digital-only: A Look at the iOS App

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Back in the 1950s and 60s, when television was less of a force and the Internet had not even been thought of, many households would have news publications delivered daily. My grandparents had the Herald (his) and the Daily Mirror (hers) when they were real newspapers. At my family home, we also had comics. Each week there were deliveries of the Beano, Dandy and the Eagle. This was not an indication of any affluence, this was a different era.

I was reminded of these comics by an item on the Independent (Paul Calahan) concerning the end of a paper version of the Dandy. As from this week, it is digital only. After a quick look in the iTunes App Store, I downloaded the Dandy app and installed it on the iPhone and the iPad.


Dandy opened on the iPhone with a list of downloadable editions, confirming the nature of the app as a content-delivery vehicle. Most of the issues shown were priced at $0.99, but I tried one of three that were marked as free.

The iPhone (as has been mentioned before) is a little small for reading. I can manage a single page of an ebook, but the nature of a comic is to have several panels on each page, so even in the single-page view, this was not easy on my eyes. In some ways I feel that this is nit-picking: the app works fine; content can be downloaded and displayed; and it is possible to view using a larger (external) display.


This app is really designed for the iPad where it opened with a different start page and then displayed a Welcome screen. There were three on-page options (Register, Latest Edition, My Editions) as well as four icons at the bottom of the screen: Welcome, Editions, Subscriptions, and Help (?). On the iPhone, beneath the opening list were 4 icons: Editions, My Downloads, Subscriptions, and Help (?).

The Help icon on both devices showed details of how the app was designed to work, but was far more nicely set out on the iPad. With both devices, Editions showed issues of Dandy back to 5 November 2011. Again, all were priced at $0.99 apart from the same 3 free editions. On the iPad I selected a different free issue to have a look.


The Comic

Content is . . . . Well, it's a comic. The colours are bright, the text balloons are easy to read and the action (Phuth!, Bwoom, Thok!, Whump!) is perfect for the imagination. Story lines, dialogue and characterization are to be subjectively interpreted. The comic has certainly changed since the days of my grey flannel shorts and schoolboy cap. Only two characters from those days are still in Dandy: Beryl (formerly Beryl the Peril) and Desperate Dan, whose square jaw and moustache have suffered a little from time, but the cow pie still exists.

Dandy Dandy

On the iPad even a double-page view in portrait mode was fairly readable, but single page (or double page in landscape mode) was quite good. Single page in landscape mode was wasted with the black space either side of the display.


Some of the pages in the free issue I downloaded on the iPad did not load. It had taken a while to come down anyway. I had to wait while spinning gear wheels did their stuff. It may have been the difficulty accessing an old version, so I made an in-app purchase of the latest issue which did download fast.

The first few pages of the purchased issue appeared on screen instantly with the later pages (12 - 36) loading within a second or two after I had scrolled to the page. When I tried the free download again, it was still not cooperating. The free issue (12 Nov) on the iPhone was fine, and when I downloaded that to the iPad there were no problems.


A famous comic from an equally famous publishing house is now digital only, confirming the significant switch that has taken place in publishing over the last year or two. In the late 1960s I worked in wholesale news distribution in London. At times these comics were hot items, with some print runs totally sold out.

As well as Dandy, D. C. Thomson has an app for the stable-mate, Beano. The list of in-app purchases for this indicate that this has been available online for a while longer. However there is no app for the Eagle, which has long ceased publication and which was synonymous with Dan Dare (there is rumoured to be a Dan Dare movie in the works). The comic influenced many other comic book writers, as well as being the first publisher for works by artists like Gerald Scarfe and David Hockney.

Now the expense of materials and distribution, along with the high retail cost of the product have forced the publishers into a massive rethink. The unit cost of the digital version is lower ($0.99 for a single digital issue of Dandy, as compared to the £1.99 for the print version - just under 100 baht). Print circulation was just under 8,000 per issue, although the number of online subscriptions and purchases is higher.

Economics, even without changing reading habits, make the change to digital distribution inevitable for all but specialist publications. Some, like Condé Nast have already responded well to this new paradigm. I tried The New Yorker Magazine for a while, as well as the UK Motor Sport, but it was hard for me to find the time to sit down and enjoy these, as good as they are.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

information Tag information Tag

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page