A Brief History Of The Beano

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The Beano, published by DC Thomson and Co (a Dundee based publishing firm), is a comic of nearly 1 million readers set mostly in Beanotown. The town is not on any maps (partly due to it not existing in the real world), but it can be found at www.beanotown.com


The Beano was born on the 30 July, 1938 a very different creature to what it is now. An ostrich called Big Eggo was the front page star, and the comic only cost 2d. The central composition was also different. While the modern Beano is entirely based on comic strips, the early Beano had stories told with pictures with text beneath explaining what was going on, and stories told only with text. It also lacked many of the characters that are synonymous with it now, Dennis, Rodger and Minnie only arriving in the golden years of the 1950s.

A few months before The Beano came its sister paper, The Dandy, and a year after another sister, The Magic comic. Due to the Second World War however, only two of these were to survive. The war meant that comics had to use fewer pages, by printed in lesser numbers and less often. This meant that the Beano and Dandy were made smaller, only available to those who pre-ordered them, and were only printed on alternate weeks. They provided a vital service in the war, warning children to leave alone things like mines on beaches and printing stories to outline the difference between Nazis and normal Germans and so teaching children not to demonize people based on nationality. They also pictured the enemy leaders as bungling fools, such as in The Beano strip, Musso the Wop and in the many times that Lord Snooty and pals went to give the Fuhrer a piece of their mind.

The 1950s is thought to be the golden age of The Beano as so many of the most popular and long running characters were created then, such as Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, Rodger the Dodger and the characters that would eventually become known as The Bash Street Kids, whose original incarnation was a basically identical story called When The Bell Rings.

As well as it's regular characters, the Beano also had it's supply of irregulars, who popped in every so often for one off-stories. These were usually less cartoony, the characters looking more realistic and detailed, and the stories themselves were often more serious. These stories included General Jumbo and The Iron Fish. A more recent example would be Billy The Cat.

Beano trivia

The comic had given birth to a number of spin-offs, such as a yearly annual, summer specials, collectable figurines, playing cards, t-shirts, and a limited edition computer game. The comic has been going strong for over 60 years now, and with a little bit of luck, will go for a further 60 and more besides. There is also a Bronze statue of the character Minnie The Minx in Dundee town centre.

The Beano Campaign - Smarties did a promotion with the children's comic The Beano, which resulted in a great advertising poster displayed at bus stops depicting a crafty Dennis the Menace and Gnasher making use of a trip-wire and fishing net to get hold of Walter the Softie's Smarties. The naughty duo managed to trip Walter up so that his Smarties flew neatly out of the tube in an arc to be elegantly caught by the outstretched fishing net. The comic scene was captioned with the brilliant slogan: 'Someone's after your Smarties!'

A recent survey in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland showed that the Beano was still the most popular comic among eleven year olds. If a similar survey was carried out among comic collectors, I am sure that the results would be the same - with Beano at the top of the list, closely followed by Dandy. At their peak in the mid 1950s their circulation was said to be over two million copies per week each. If each copy was read only by two or three children, the total readership was staggering. One of the reasons for the scarcity of early copies in the better grades of condition is that very few survived their readers' attention - an indication of their popularity at the time.

A copy of issue 1 sold at auction September 1995 for £4,200 representing the highest price paid for a British comic. As there have been no further sales recorded at this price, it must be considered a one-off sale price rather than a "going rate". Having said that, the company responsible for the auction has stated that there were several serious bidders over the £3,000 mark. The position of this Guide is healthy caution.

Issue 1660 (11 May, 1974 was accidentally mis-numbered 1659)

At the time of writing there have been two video incarnations of the Beano comic that adapted to this medium while still retaining the comic strip 'feel' and a cartoon made for CBBC about the adventures of Dennis The Menace and his dog, Gnasher. Many of the regulars from the comic (Mum and Dad, Sergeant Slipper and Walter The Softy most notably) were re-introduced to this new medium, while others were added (such as Nog, a shape-shifting space alien whom Dennis befriends and Captain Trout, a Captain Nemo-like figure searching for the whale that ate his father). The series ran from 1996 (series one) to 1998 (series 2). There are no plans for a new series for the foreseeable future, although the stories were retold in comic format for the spin-off Beano Super Stars series.

The Dennis Fan Club: the Dennis and Gnasher Fan(g) club ran from 1976 to 1998 when it was replaced by the Beano Club, a move which coincided with the revamping of the comic itself. Two celebrities who joined it's ranks were Simon Palmer* in 1988 and Mark Hamill *in 1979.

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