ray gower

Well-Known Member
Jun 5, 2001
This is unabashed, rose tinted, childhood appreciation!

Ask any British kid, from 11 to 70 to name a comic title it will either be the Beano or the Dandy.
Arguably, the best known British comic of all time and with its sister title 'The Dandy' longest continuous running comic title in the World. The Beano was first published in July 1938, Dandy in November 1937.

The reason for the success of the Dandy and Beano was due to its radical new approach to comics. It's physical size was small and practical when compared to Illustrated Chips, Funny Wonder and Jester. These traditional comics were steeped in history, but their format was becoming rather staid. The stories had a picture above some text narrative. The idea of this was to give children some literacy experience in what was still a largely illiterate United Kingdom. However, as the years passed, and education standards improved, D.C.Thomson realised that children were quite capable of looking at a picture and working out what was going on. There was no need for lines and lines of text when a couple of speech balloons would suffice. It was a gamble which paid off handsomely for David Couper Thomson.

Although the Beano of today is pure comic strip, back in 1938 it was very different indeed. The original 28 page issue had seven full text stories. These took up 10 of those 28 pages. There were also six stories in the traditional, narrative under picture format, with the remaining pages experiencing the radical speech balloons only format. In fact, even some of these stories had narrative under the picture.

Big Eggo, was on the very first Beano cover. He stayed there for 10 years, until 1948, when he was ousted by newcomer Biffo The Bear. Big Eggo then appeared inside the comic in black and white format, until his final appearance inpril 1949. However, although he never had his own strip after this, he still appeared on the front cover, standing next to the Beano title.

Lord Marmaduke of Bunkerton also made his first appearance in issue #1. Better known as Lord Snooty, he was the Earl of Bunkerton who would much rather play with his real pals from Ash Can Alley, than with his stuck up friends who visited him at Bunkerton Castle. Snooty, created by the great Dudley Dexter Watkins, had two sets of pals throughout his Beano career, in the beginning, his Ash Can Alley chums were Rosie, Hairpin Huggins, Sninny Lizzie, Scrapper Smith, Happy Hutton and Gertie The Goat. This lot had many adventures, including sorting out Adolf Hitler and the German army during WW2 and coming up against their bitter rivals, The Gasworks Gang. In 1949 it was all change for most of the original pals, and the Snooty strip was rested until 1951 This was when Hairpin Huggins, Happy Hutton, Skinny Lizzie and Gertie the Goat made a final appearance to say farewell to Snooty, Scrapper and Rosie. These remaining three were joined by Snitch & Snatch, Pongo The Dog, Polly and Mary The Mule. They were also joined by other Beano characters of the time. Big Fat Joe, Swanky Lanky Liz and Doubting Thomas.

During WW2 the Beano did its bit to boost morale amongst its readers. Lord Snooty and Pansy Potter were often seen giving the enemy a kick up the backside. While there were also special war time stories created by artist Sam Fair, Winken & Blinken and Musso The ***, which made sure that the enemy were made to look foolish. It also ensured that boys and girls helped the war effort by putting all their old comics into the salvage bin. Hence, the rather high prices now being paid for war time comics.

The history of current crop of major characters is nearly as old:

In 1951 Dennis The Menace, with his trade mark red and black striped jumper, billed as "The Worlds Wildest Boy", made his debut in a half page strip.
It's worth noting that the Americans claim that Hank Ketcham, a cartoonist from Seattle, invented Dennis five weeks before David Law. Ketcham's creation, which first appeared in a newspaper strip on 12th March 1951, became very popular. But, although this date is 5 days before the Beano cover date, it's worth remembering that the Beano, like every other comic, always came out five or six days before the date on the cover. The two characters were totally different in appearance but did possess the same behavioural patterns.

April 1953, brought us Roger The Dodger. The lad who had a book of wonderful job dodges. 1955 that old whipper-snapper, Grandpa, and 1958 Jonah (the nautical nightmare). All these characters enjoyed many years within the Beano and, of course, Roger is still going.

Another great artist who was to make a serious mark in comic world was Leo Baxendale. Leo brought Little Plum and Minnie The Minx in 1953. These two were soon followed by his most famous strip of all, When The Bell Rings in 1954. This story was to be later renamed, to its more recognised title of The Bash Street Kids. Leo was also responsible for The Three Bears on 6th June 1959 (#881).

During the 1974 they even managed to hint at their own flavour of Superhero- Billy the Cat and Katie, a brother and sister act that donned close fitting suits and jet helmets to take on rotters where ever they appeared. The series ran for five years.

Their most recent delve into this genre is with BannanaMan. the world's most inept superhero. All the powers are there. Just not the intelligence.
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