Monday, 30 October 2017

Halloween with Tricky Dicky

It's time for something SPOOOOOOKY for all Hallow's eve. Presenting Dandy Comic Library #64 from 1985: Tricky Dicky's Hallowe'en Horrors! Which in spite of that front cover, was drawn by original strip artist John Dallas.

Hallowe'en is a time for pranks and japes and horror-movie-themed dressing up. But let's remind ourselves of some old traditions. Murdering pagans and carving lanterns. As you can see from the cover image above, there was a time when pumpkins were not in such plentiful supply round these parts so the British tradition was to hollow out turnips and swedes. A thing I had genuinely forgotten until I started writing this today.

Anyway, a little mini history lesson: Tricky Dicky is a name belonging to three different UK comics characters. The first being this chap from IPC/Fleetway's Cor! who appeared regularly from 1970 to 1973: 
Essentially a rip-off of Beano's Roger the Dodger, this Dicky used pranks to get out of doing work or avoiding some other unpleasant happening. 
He was created by Cyril Gwyn Price although he died soon after the strip started so other artists took over almost immediately. Inevitably the schemes would fail and Dicky would usually receive some old-school punishment.
Look! A slipper!

The second Tricky Dicky (we'll get to him in a minute) was a pure prankster. He pranked for the joy of pranking and leads us to the third:
This Dicky, created in 2013 by Laura Howell, is regarded as the same character as the second (I said we'll get to him, just wait, can't you?) but I believe the personality differences and complete change of design mark him as a totally separate entity. 
This Dicky still loves to prank but tends to be more even-handed with who deserves punishment. Usually his teacher, Mr Throbb. 

In the current, continuity-filled Beano, he goes to the same school as the other menaces of Beanotown and staff room scenes can often be seen with Throbb taking coffee with Dennis' Miss Creecher and the Bash Street Kids' Teacher (he doesn't have a name, we just call him Teacher).

This Dicky also has a regular practical jokes page where he shows the reader how to fool their friends.
Have a look at the Beano's Tricky Dicky page here if you want more. It taught me that Dicky's dad owns Beanotown's joke shop, which at least answers a major question I've always had about him. Where does he get those wonderful toys?

It has also just occurred to me that maybe we have another Dennis the Menace scenario here and this Dicky is the son of the Tricky Dicky with which I grew up.

Also: quick passing mention of a character called Tricky Dicky who appeared in the first series of comics-inspired childrens' ITV series Zzzap! in 1993.
A private eye-type with no face, he is otherwise irrelevant to us.

The Tricky Dicky we care about here was created in 1977 for DC Thomson's The Topper and drawn by John Dallas. He became the cover star in 1979, usurping Danny's Tranny (stop it) and before being deposed himself by Beryl the Peril (also at this point drawn by Dallas) in 1986. He survived in Topper to the very end, even after it was merged into The Beezer in 1991 and that finally breathed its last in 1993.

He still popped up every now and then in The Beano, eventually having a "guest star" strip in 1999. This was one of a series of "pilot" strips that ran where readers could vote on which characters got to become regulars (The Three Bears won).

But never mind all that: It's 1985 and Tricky Dicky has woken up very happy. Why, you ask?
Which means Dicky gets to do a full day's work of pranking! 

I've just checked: 31st October 1985 was a Thursday, so he probably should have been in school. It may have been half-term in Beanotown though, so benefit of the doubt. 
First off, he offers to help Mum put out the washing. Which involves an elaborate ghost prop.
I often wondered where Dicky got these amazing props from. Most of them involve complex design that seem beyond the ken of even the canniest schoolboy. There must be a genius joke shop proprietor in town.
Dashing into the garden he encounters Dad, who is pondering how to keep birds off of his freshly-planted seeds. 

Our hero offers a scary scarecrow he happens to have in his big ol' case o' tricks.
It's a dracula!
The unexpected movement, speech and reaction to what the scarecrow heard frightens Dad off. Again, a very elaborate prop.

TD then goes off to the park.
"Topper chum" (remember this is a Dandy Comic Library, nice of them to acknowledge the source for these characters) Beryl the Peril was created in 1953 by David Law, less than two years after he created Dennis the Menace. She appeared in issue #1 of The Topper and every issue since. She survived the end of The Beezer and Topper, transferring to The Dandy in 1993. At this point in her existence her artist is also John Dallas.

Anyway, here she is on the hunt for a pumpkin for Hallowe'en (left it a bit late, there, haven't you?). Dicky offers her one from the ol' case o' tricks but Beryl thinks that it's too small.

Dicky insists that it's a grower, not a shower.
However it keeps on growing.
Beryl goes off to get the park keeper to throw Dicky out. But the evidence has been minimised.
Two things here: 

One: Not like Beryl to be a grass. Snitches get stitches, Beryl!

Two: Was there a time that park keepers wielded such authority? I know it's a trope of UK humour comics (Tom Paterson's The Park in Jackpot and Buster soon made the Parkie the central character for instance) but I never saw such a being in real life at any point in my childhood. 

Maybe it was one of those things that used to be commonplace but by the 1980s seldom seen. Like milkmen now.

Anyway, TD is away and has found new victims, a trio of wannabe witches.
They dance around the cauldron, misquoting Shakespeare and...
These props are still pretty amazing but then when the weird sisters take TD's offer of some brooms...
Seriously, what is powering them?

We then get a cutaway to this observer:
No idea. He's there for exactly one panel and never referred to again.

He looks a *bit* like Patrick Moore (astronomer and then TV regular) but that is largely context-based, I think. He should at least have a monocle.

Out of the park and on to the high street.
I'm guessing "Halloween Horror" is the movie playing but it could also be a mini horror festival.
At which point the usher grabs Dicky, immediately throws him out and contacts the police.

jk, he lets Dicky go in and bother the paying customers.
Time to reach into the ol' case o' tricks.
And that guy thought he was definitely on for an over-the-jumper fumble.

Get 'im!
I do love this guy's reaction:
We get a glimpse of the movie in question at this point:
It's a Frankingstein!
The usher (or manager) finally does what he should have from the start and gets TD to leave. He runs out, pulling one more prank on the way:
The ice cream, it seems, are on a ferromagnetic tray.
Those people did nothing to deserve this, but then, life is chaotic and unfair.
Again, you've left it a bit late. There will be a queue.

TD decides to offer the boys costumes from the ol' case o' tricks. They accept. They are idiots.

They then take off their clothes behind a bush in the park.
I'll spare you this one: There's itching powder in the costume. Quite a low-concept prank at this point.

Next kid is dressed as a dracula.
Again, this somehow has the power of flight. Dicky remote controls him around like a model plane before smashing his face into an iron street lamp.
Stop laughing and call an ambulance, you monster!

Talking of monsters...
Two points: 

One: It's Frankingstein. 

Two: You're mixing your Victorian Gothic literature. Potion was for Mr Hyde.

Dicky pulls off his mask.
Not really, this isn't a Twilight Zone-type curse, he just put on two masks at once. Like I said: idiots.
What!? The owner of the joke shop!?  It's made clear here that they have never met before so...
Dicky gets revenge for the boot up the bum by offloading a bunch of his remaining pranks in the joke shop.
Maybe Dicky designs and makes these things himself. Maybe he moved to Beanotown as an adult to set up the best joke shop in town. And now passes that pranking knowledge to his offspring, TDjr.

Never mind that now, Dicky wants to bother an estate agent. I know that feeling.
Dicky, in old man disguise like the Harbinger of Doom trope from horror movies. Of course, he is ignored.

Dicky sneaks in the back door and...
Again, a bit low-tech compared to what has come before...
THAT'S more like it!

No idea how he rigged that up.
WHAT!? There was a g-g-g-ghost there all the time!

Let's dash off to the Waxworks Museum. Nothing scary has ever happened in one of them!
Barking up the wrong tree there girls...
(Remember when Minnie the Minx thought Boy George was soppy?)
It took me a couple of reads to understand that panel. I thought at first it was 80s puppet duck Orville and some other character.

Then I realised it was a play on Torville and Dean, at this time still riding high on their Olympic success the previous winter. Why they couldn't just call them their real name, I don't know, especially after the Boy George bit.

Anyway, Dicky drives their waxwork around like a toy car, knocking them down.
It turns out that Dicky is famous enough to have his own model in this museum. Which makes it more odd that anyone would trust him at any time, but whatever.
TD manages to scare them by appearing in two places at once (even though they know at least one of them is a model, but whatever).
They leap out into another humour comic trope...
Fresh laid concrete!

Which sets instantly.
Anyway, Dicky had enormous fun on Hallowe'en...

Dicky runs into the funfair and hides in the Ghost Train (we're sort-of bringing it back to Hallowe'en).
However, it turns out more intense than he thought.
Especially when Dad colludes with the travelling folk who run the fair to keep him in there.
One: It's skellington.

Sorry, I meant boys and girls.


  1. 1. Smashing a bottle in woodlands park, offerton in the mid eighties (we made our own fun in the olden days), got me and my friend chased by the parkie. The local kids joined in. We were marched to the parkie's office where we were ticked off. There was still a working boat pond and lido at this point, hence the need for a parkie.

    2. I have a milkman.

    3. THE THREE BEARS!!!!?

    1. Ah. Do they still happen in larger parks?

      Yes, the Three Bears.