In an article in the Telegraph, picking up on a report in Scotland on Sunday, Kerr, who edited the Beano for 22 years, says key characters such as Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan in the Dandy had to be “toned down” during his tenure.
He stopped Dennis menacing the character Walter the Softy in the 1980s to avoid claims that the comic may have encouraged “gay bashing, and points to how cow-pie eating cowboy Desperate Dan was forced to go on a diet have his revolver was replaced by a water pisto.
Dennis routinely tormented soppy Walter, a bespectacled boy who spent his days sewing, picking flowers and holding tea parties for his teddy bear.
“The evidence is that the kids understand a comic is a comic and that it isn’t anything like real life,” he told the paper. “But the relationship between Dennis and Walter was always one that worried me.
“There were accusations from certain quarters that it was a little like gay-bashing. This obviously wasn’t the way we intended it to be perceived.
“We decided the best way to approach it was to make sure that even though he and Dennis didn’t get along, Walter was completely happy about who he was and a confident, likeable character in his own right.”
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Kerr conceded that other aspects of the Beano had been softened to avoid falling foul of liberal critics.
“The comic has certainly changed over the years to come in line with political correctness,” he said. “For example, every strip used to end with the rogue of the piece being punished in some way – usually a smack across the head or a slipper across the bottom.
“This sort of corporal punishment became outdated and eventually it was phased out.”
Now, Kerr argues the pendulum had now swung too far and he would welcome a return to the comic’s anti-establishment roots and there are already signs that the balance is slowly turning against PC culture in strips such as The Neds, which chronicled the misadventures of work-shy, Scottish ne’er-do-wells.
Kerr’s concerns about the comic are supported by the Campaign Against Political Correctness, publishers of The Politically Correct Scrapbooks.
“For 70 years the Beano has been read by children and they do not look at comics through politically correct eyes,” commented John Midgeley. “It’s a great shame that in recent years this national institution has been watered down to placate a tiny minority of humourless, do-gooding adults.”
DC Thomson has so far declined to comment.
• Read the full article on the Daily Telegraph web site
• Click here for the story in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper and here for the story in The Times.