Students studying on the MDes in Comics & Graphic Novels programme at the University of Dundee have been working with the comic team on the Beano to produce art based on scripts featuring classic characters such as The Bash Street Kids, Bananaman and Minnie the Minx.
The project is part of the Comics Production module, and fulfils the ‘live’ brief aspect of the course. The university has developed a close working relationship with publisher, DC Thomson Media, over the last few years, and this project grew out of an initial class which was provided by the Beano’s Design Editor Leon Strachan. This was to look at the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how comics are put together on a weekly schedule.
Phillip Vaughan, Senior Lecturer and Programme Director approached Beano Editor John Anderson last year to discuss working with the long-running comic on a live project set by the team.
“We are very lucky, geographically, to have one of the biggest comics publishers in the UK on our doorstep,” says Phillip, “and I wanted to build upon the strong relationship we have developed over the years. The project takes three existing scripts, and lets the students reimagine them, whilst retaining the essence of the characters.”
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Phil and the students on this project and hopefully play a small part in helping to shape future comic talent,” John commented. “The quality of the work was so high that the small part in question was often simply telling the students how brilliant their work was!”
Claire Bartlett, who is Content Editor on the Beano, added, “It has been a real delight to work with such talented students who each brought their own unique take on some of our beloved characters. I’m sure each of them has a bright future in which ever creative endeavour they set out on.”
The students worked closely with John Anderson and Claire Bartlett.
“Because of our close proximity to DC Thomson’s Meadowside HQ, John and Claire were able to visit the students in their studios and offer some guidance on the development of their reinterpretations of these scripts,” says Phillip.
Luckily, the Coronavirus Pandemic crisis and Lockdown has not compromised the outcomes. While the final ‘Crit’ of work was supposed to take place in ‘Beano Towers’ this week, the presentations were conducted online via Microsoft Teams instead.
“The use of technology, from a production point of view, as well as a presentation tool, has highlighted how students, and indeed the industry have embraced new technologies, driving the comics medium forward,” Philip feels. “In the UK, we have been lucky that the print comics industry has survived relatively unscathed, with the subscription model being seen as the way forward, as well as comics like the Beano still readily available in supermarkets.
“In many ways the UK set-up has avoided the disruption to publications seen in the US,” he added, “where Diamond controlled most of the distribution network. This has not been the case here, and the great thing is that freelancers are still getting work.”
Chris Murray, Professor of Comic Studies at the University of Dundee adds, “Comics Studies at the University of Dundee has a longstanding relationship with DC Thomson. Our students benefit enormously from these interactions with comics professionals, and working with them on a live project is always very productive, and a lot of fun!”
Beano No. 4033 is on sale now in open supermarkets and newsagents and you can subscribe online. Check out Bananaman, as he ditches his cape to try and find a “normal” job – and Gnasher and Gnipper have to cope with a cat invasion!
• For more information about University of Dundee comics courses please visit: www.dundee.ac.uk/subjects/comics
• As part of the course, the students also work on a Production Blog to chart the development of their work over the semester. Here’s an example, from Canadian student Nick Johnston
All characters © D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.