Desperate Dan turns digital today as the Dandy celebrates its 75th anniversary by relaunching as an exclusively online publication.

Desperate Dan turns digital today as the Dandy celebrates its 75th anniversary by relaunching as an exclusively online publication.

Britain's longest-running comic will cease to be printed in its current paper format but will now be available to download online and as a smartphone and tablet app.

Dundee-based publisher DC Thomson announced in August that the weekly children's comic would make the transition into cyberspace, following dwindling sales to alternative entertainment from television and video games.

Coinciding with the launch, the last-ever printed issue also goes on sale this Tuesday.

Sir Paul cameo

The issue features a cameo from Sir Paul McCartney, who said in 1963 it was his ambition to appear in the comic.

The singer contacted the comic after the switch over was announced in August by letter.

"I hope it's not too late!" the former Beatle wrote.

"The Dandy was a favourite comic of mine when growing up in Liverpool and each week I would look forward to the exploits of Desperate Dan and his other comic book colleagues."

Sir Paul will be seen grimacing as Desperate Dan squeezes his fingers in a firm handshake, after which McCartney leads 50 of the comic's most famous characters in a sing-a-long of the Beatles' hit Hey Jude.

Old favourites

The website will feature old favourites Desperate Dan, Bananaman and Korky the Cat in new animated strips, featuring voice overs and sound effects.

Users will also be able to play interactive games, watch videos, and create and care for their very own virtual pet, the Dandy Dollop.

It's all about fun, humour, and a bit of mischief, a bit of pranking. David Bain

David Bain, the comic's head of digital development, said: "The Dandy is alive and well, and it's going to continue as usual. It's just as of next week it's going to be available online on a regular basis, with all the famous characters and scripts and storylines and humour, as well as games, goodies and interactivity.

"It's all about fun, humour and a bit of mischief, a bit of pranking.

"We've been quite deliberate in making sure there's very little if any educational value, with the exception of reading."

Talented animators

Ellis Watson, chief executive of DC Thomson said: "I appreciate it's almost a deliberately naive venture into the unknown for a publisher that's been cutting down trees for 75 years, squishing them flat and smearing ink all over them.

"We're not super slick, we're not Silicon Valley, but what we are is some pretty talented animators and story tellers that are really excited about seeing if we can introduce these wonderful characters to another couple of generations."

We are really excited about seeing if we can introduce these wonderful characters to another couple of generations. Ellis Watson, DC Thomson

Mr Ellis hopes the comic will continue to attract adults who read the Dandy throughout their childhood. "I'm still quite happy to sit on the train with my Financial Times reading my comics inside," he said.

The first online issue will be free of charge, with following issues being priced at £1.49.

A yearly subscription for the digital comic will be £29.99, while access to the website will be free.

Dwindling circulation

During its peak circulation in thc 1950s, the Dandy sold 2 million copies each week. This figure has dropped in recent years to around 8,000.

Discussing the latest, venture, comics expert Paul Gravett told Channel 4 News: "Unfortunately it was inevitable after the slightly embarrassing sales. There is hardly any magazine that could survive with such a small run.

I hope they survive, but if they have to rely on old characters... well, I hope they have new ideas. Paul Gravett, comics expert

"All power to them and I hope they survive, but if they have to rely on old characters... well I hope they have new ideas."

Dandy stories that have hit the headlines include Desperate Dan temporarily leaving the comic in order to run-off with the Spice Girls, the banning of cow pies because of mad cow disease, and Dan temporarily losing his gun and becoming "politically correct".

DC Thomson said the Dandy annual will continue to be printed, and the 2013 edition is already on the shelves.

The Cartoon Museum is hosting The Dandy: 75 years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins exhibition until 24 December.

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