Happy Birthday, Beano! 75 Years Young!

75th Anniversary issue of The Beano

Today marks the release of the 75th anniversary issue of The Beano – the longest running comic in Britain (if not the world) – and celebrations large and small are happening around the country.

The 75th anniversary issue is crammed with a mix of regular strips and celebrity guests (none of them as famous as Dennis the Menace and Gnasher, of course), while fans and creators are marking the day with postings and comments on the comic.

On the comic’s official site, there’s a posting of Beano fan and poet Henry Raby‘s Last Train Outta Beanotown, the final poem in his solo show all about growing up, Letter To The Man (from the boy). You can watch it here.

“Henry’s a big fan of The Beano and has a complete Beano annual collection dating back to the 1953,” notes the site. “We think Henry should be called  the Beano Comic Poet Laureate!”

Beano contributor Lew Stringer has a posting of The Beano comic cover by Dudley Watkins – No.1138, May 9th 1964 – that had the most impact on him as a youngster. Head over to his blog to find out what’s on it.

The Beano's oldest fan Jim Andison with former editor and Beano historian Morris Heggie
The Beano‘s oldest fan Jim Andison with former editor and Beano historian Morris Heggie
The Beano's oldest fan Jim Andison with his wife in The Beano's Dundee office
The Beano‘s oldest fan Jim Andison with his wife in The Beano‘s Dundee office

The mainstream media might be saturated with stories about a woman having a baby this morning, but there are plenty of newspapers and others who haven’t forgotten it’s an important day for DC Thomson’s flagship humour title. The BBC has an item on Jimmy Andison, possibly The Beano‘s oldest fan at 91 – who’s been reading it since Issue One, when it first appeared on 30th July 1938. He regularly calls the offices of DC Thomson in Dundee to suggest ideas – and was rewarded with a personalised card from the team on his 91st birthday – and was thrilled to be invited to the comic’s head office in Dundee. The comic’s also featured a strip with Jim to mark his last birthday, his wife presenting him with a copy of The Beano and quipping “At least he’s easy to buy for!”

As we reported yesterday, The Daily Telegraph has a video featuring Nigel Parkinson drawing a page of Dennis the Menace in under two minutes (which he points out on his blog was speeded up slightly). Nigel has been drawing Dennis since 1998 and drew the cover of the 75th Anniversary issue.

David Beckham in the 75th anniversary issue of The Beano

The Sun marks the day with a story titled “Beano it Like Beckham”, noting the footballer’s appearance in the anniversary issue along with Alex Ferguson along with tennis ace Andy Murray, Harry Hill, Sir Bruce Forsyth and Simon Cowell — who gets pelted with eggs — and 007 hunk Daniel Craig, who is likened to the ugly Bash Street Kid Plug. The celebrity angle to the anniversary is of course picked up by other news outlets, including ITV, the BBC , The Times, and the Daily Mail.

Several celebrities and creatives in other fields have begun to post their memories of The Beano via Twitter, including DJ Mike Read with a picture of him with The Proclaimers and Dennis the Menace, while sound designer, musician and writer Jim Carey reminds us his photo-audio film asking if Dennis the Menace is the godfather of punk is part of the London South Bank Beanotown extravaganza; and cartoonist Jake Goretski recalls the thing he most remembers about the #Beano “was how the club badges were described on mail order form: ‘furry badge with rolling eyes’ (Gnasher).”

The Guardian has trumped the PR stories with an interview last week with Beano editor-in-chief Mike Stirling, “the man who wields the power of life and death over Dennis the Menace and Co”. (Earlier this year The Guardian also posted a gallery of its staff’s Top 20 Beano covers).

The article notes that tweaking The Beano to reflect the times is in part a key to the comic’s ongoing success – DC Thomson’s team mindful of the departure of stablemate The Dandy last year from news stands, whose total revamps, sadly, didn’t save the title from declining sales (Although there is a Dandy Summer Special on sale now, folks!). But at its core is the Beano‘s simple philosophy that it’s maintained since the 1950s: punish adults for imposing funless tasks on kids otherwise filled with joie de vivre. “That’s why Walter is Dennis the Menace’s nemesis,” explains Mike. “He strangles all the fun out of everything. He doesn’t want to be a kid, he wants to be a grownup and he’s always snitching on kids who are having fun.”

And the key to keeping The Beano popular? “We’ve got to do what they do on Doctor Who,” says Mike, “regenerate regularly so the Beano means something to the new generation of kids. But we’ve also got to make sure the whole family gets something from it.”

And there are changes afoot, as George Shiers reports over at Wacky Comics. Regular contributors Barry Appleby, Dave Eastbury and Barry Glennard will sadly be leaving the title’s roster, but Jamie Smart will take over on Roger the Dodger, The Numskulls are back and will be taking a look at the insides of celebrity’s heads, and Ball Boy will get a new look.

But will we ever see the return of Iron Fish? (Unlikely). Pansy Potter, the Strongman’s Daughter? (Possibly – Mike Stirling doesn’t rule out the reappearance of any classic characters).

And come on – how about a little space for Desperate Dan? Yes, we know he’s a Dandy character… but we miss him! (But then, we also miss Spoofer McGraw from Sparky, I-Spy, Peter’s Pipes and plenty of other great characters of yesteryear).

Happy birthday, Beano!

• Beano Official web site: www.beano.com

• The Beano‘s publisher DC Thomson has recreated Beanotown, the fictional home of Dennis the Menace and friends, at London’s Southbank Centre. Visitors  candownload the Beano’s iPrank app free, play Table Dennis at the Beano Social Club, eat at the Beano Breville Bar, and create a comic masterpiece at the Beano Studios. The free exhibition will run until 8th September 2013

• You can see and read more from Henry Raby on Twitter @HenryRabyPoetry and facebook.com/henryrabypoetry

Wacky Comics has a three-part visual guide to 75 years of The Beano that starts here

Peter Gray has posted snapshots of some of his favourite Beano strips down the years

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.