A Desperately Happy Birthday
Shine yer spurs, put on yer best ten-gallon hat and ride on down to Harrisons for a cow pie because it’s the birthday of everyone’s favourite western desperado this Sunday. Yes, on December 4th The Dandy’s long time poster boy, Desperate Dan, will turn 79, and doesn’t he look good for his age?
Those who know their who’s who of Barton will know that for nearly 25 years the adventures of the rootinest tootinest cowboy in the Wild West were born right here in our Lincolnshire town. Ken Harrison is the man who can take credit for Dan’s youthful good looks and bulky figure. The freelance artist started drawing the comics in 1983 and kept right on going until 2007.
Just like his western hero, the Mr. Harrison had seemingly endless reserves of energy. He never tired during his 40-year career, drawing many of Britain’s best loved comic strips including Minnie the Minx, Korky the Kat, Harry and His Hippo, Oor Willie and The Broons. Indeed, the list goes on. Mr. Harrison will still be best remembered for his quarter century giving life to Desperate Dan and his antics though.
Desperate Dan has had quite a career himself, foiling the plans of hundreds of hundreds of shady characters and breaking beds, doors, and all manner of household objects on an almost daily basis. Not to mention eating too many of his favourite cow pies for anyone to count. He even met Paul McCartney in the last Dandy ever to be printed, nearly breaking the legendary singer and guitarist’s strumming hand during an overeager handshake. Indeed, Mr Harrison returned from retirement by popular demand to draw that meeting in the last Desperate Dan strip ever to be printed. Since then the Dandy and Desperate Dan’s strip have only been distributed in digital form.
The comic cowboy’s fans include actor Ricky Tomlinson and historian Dan Cruickshank as well as Macca himself, who realised a childhood dream when he got to meet his long-time hero, albeit in fictional form. In fact, Desperate Dan was voted the nation’s second favourite superhero in 2011, only beaten by Batman.
Perhaps many of the voters would agree with Ricky Tomlinson’s assessment in The Guardian that Dan “was big, fat, rough and ready, and he ate pies – but he had a good heart. He was super-duper.”
Fewer of Desperate Dan’s loving followers will be aware that, like the Caped Crusader, Dan has a dark side. In the years following his 1937 debut, Dan was a real Desperado; a crook and a cow hustler who used his immense strength to perform nasty deeds. Hustling must be a whole lot easier when you can lift a cow in each hand.
Thankfully though, the man turned to good and gradually became the hapless cowboy with a heart of gold that we know and love today, thanks largely to Mr. Harrison.