SALUTE TO THE BEANO
It’s vast selection of characters such as Dennis The Menace, Minnie The Minx, The Bash Street Kids and Billy Whizz to name a few, have entertained comic lovers for over 80 years. That length of time makes The Beano Britain’s longest running children’s comic, with the 4,000th issue being released in August of 2019.
Through a World War, 16 Prime Ministers and unforeseen tragedies of the 20th and into the 21st Century, The Beano has always been there to put a smile on the generations of children to divert their attention away from what was occurring around them. Created by publishing company D.C Thompson & CO. (Who incidently also founded the websites Friends Reunited & Find My Past) The Beano was created during a time when comic books were at one of their many heights. With American children finding their way over to Metropolis to meet Superman and a year after the Beano, in 1939, Gotham was the place to be to follow the adventures of Batman. The name was taken from the English word beano, a short form of the word bean-feast, which has the meaning: festive meal, or loosely "a good time.”
The first edition was read on 30th July 1938 at the selling of price of just 2p (£1.36 today) It proved an instant hit with a sales figure of 443,00 copies in it’s first week. By December 1945, 7 months after WWII ended, The Beano was selling up to an excess of 1 million copies. The images of those memorable characters seem to have never disappeared from our eyes or indeed our memories. Merchandising galore as accompanied many issues of the beloved comic with free gifts such as sweets, water pistols, glove puppets and more bring an additional form of entertainment.
Of the many characters, one spikey haired little boy stands supreme. Becoming what Mickey Mouse was to Disney. In fact animator Reg Carter who had originally published Mickey Mouse comics throughout the 1930s became on of The Beano’s first artists to contribute ideas.
That character is Dennis The Menace. He even having is own fan club which formed in 1976. Euan Kerr, an editor of The Beano for over 20 years, recalls the immense popularity of the fan club. "The club enrolled over 2000 new members every week, well into the 90s and there were similar numbers of letters and drawings." Also in the 90s, television came calling and over on Children’s BBC, The Adventures of Dennis & Gnasher often reached the Top 5 of that week’s CBBC viewing figures. Dennis was also at the forefront of Beano Land. A now defunct area located in Chessington World of Adventures. Opening from 2000 and lasting for a decade until sponsorship was lost. Dennis & Gnasher weren't always around to cause trouble however. The charity CLIC Sargent who support children and their families suffering from cancer, worked with The Beano to declare 2nd August 2008 Gnashional Menace Day. On this day kids would get sponsored to behave like Dennis. It was also to coincide with The Beano’s 70th Anniversary with a special 40-page issue guest edited by Nick Park – creator of Wallace & Gromit.
Dennis is also amongst the Top 5 longest running Beano comic strips behind characters Minnie the Minx, Bash Street Kids, Roger the Dodger and Lord Snooty. The characters along with others have also featured in a selection of crossovers with all living in the same town, by the name of: you guessed it… Beanotown. The Bash Street kids have also featured in parodies of other iconic comic strip images, such as the first edition’s of both Spider-Man & Superman.
It seems the popularity of The Beano is not ceasing to exist, and in these turbulent times, it seems a perfect escapism for all who need a brief fictional adventure in the never ending world of the British comic.