Desperately Seeking Dan

Christmas 1943 issue of The Beano published by D C Thomson, Dundee, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 2007 with an NFA grant of £145

Despite Dundee being home to such iconic popular characters as Desperate Dan and Dennis the Menace, not a single Beano or Dandy was to be found in the museum collection. In fact we didn’t have anything at all to represent D C Thomson, the company behind journalism in Dundee’s ‘3 Js’; jute, jam and journalism.

2008-5 

With responsibility for selecting objects for The Making of Modern Dundee in the redeveloped McManus Gallery, I set about filling this gap and found a Christmas 1943 issue of the Beano on ebay. With a cartoon on the front cover showing the Beano office and the old printing presses, it was a gift to interpretation!  It also contains some fascinating wartime propaganda. Cartoonist Dudley Watkins, who was responsible for Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty and His Pals, frequently lampooned both Hitler and Mussolini in episodes which saw them outwitted and humiliated by his characters. This issue carries an appeal to readers to help the war effort by recycling their comic: ‘To Adolf, here’s wishing you a terrible Xmas and a worse New Year. All our readers are saving all their waste paper to make sure you’re beaten in 1944’.

Through discussions with staff at NFA I knew I would have to move fast in order to receive financial support. I contacted the seller and he agreed to take the comic to a curator at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery who had kindly agreed to help with condition checking. I was now ready to bid. I had a good idea of how much other comics had sold for and managed to buy ours for just under our top price. Bidding in the final moments was nerve racking but we won.

The seller posted our Beano immediately and we were able to prepare it for display alongside other items from D C Thomson and a typewriter on loan from National Museums Scotland. The display has captured the interest of young and old and our Learning and Access team have used the idea of a comic strip to introduce schools groups to the gallery, helping to bring social and industrial themes to life for children.

My next challenge is to update the display and rest our Beano to prevent light damage – so I am now on the lookout for an interesting and aged Dandy!

Rhona Rodger
Curator (Social History)
Leisure and Culture Dundee
http://www.leisureandculturedundee.com/

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