LFCC 2018: Celebrating 80 Years Of The Beano

by Olly MacNamee

It’s not just Superman celebrating 80 years in print, but over here in Britain, we’re celebrating the children’s weekly, The Beano, a perennial favourite with kids across the country and making Action Comics’ measly 1000 issue-run look paltry in comparison with its own 3,946 published issues come August 1st. Indeed, Monday 30th July was The Beano’s official 80th Birthday! So, happy Birthday from all of us here at Comicon.com HQ.
On board the panel, hosted by Tripwire’s Joel Meadows, were The Beano creators, Nigel Parkinson, ‘Cowgirl’ Emily McGorman-Bruce,  Henry Davies, Lew Stringer and Danny Pearson, all of whom are great ambassadors for this funny periodical, almost personifying the good humour and mildly anarchic strips that have been at the heart of this comic. No more than the double act of Henry Davies and Nigel Parkinson, who were a riot to watch as they fed off one another and kept the crowd smiling, if not all out laughing at times. 

All agreed that part of its continued success was its mix of core characters and more contemporary characters, too. Everyone knows Dennis The Menace and Minnie The Minx as much as they know Mickey Mouse or Mario over here in the UK. What was interesting is that The Beano still focus-groups readers who, also this year, recognised the biggest villain at that moment to be Donald Trump. Kids can be pretty canny sometimes. 
While everyone realised that The Beano would never reach the heights it once had in the 60s, when at one time it was alleged that it was only outsold by that other great work of fiction, The Bible, there has been a rise in sales recently thanks to a new Dennis The Menace cartoon, comic con appearances in the UK, and there was even an exclusive reveal that as well as a Dennis The Menace cartoon, there is soon to be a Minnie The Minx animated series, too, with more to come. I do hope that includes Bananaman, which I heard at the show from a very reliable source had stalled as a feature film. Maybe animation will be the salvation of on elf my all time favourite British cartoon strips. 

The Beano, like Tom & Jerry and so many other cartoons of yesteryear, had once reveled in slapstick, cartoon violence, but in more recent times, this has been toned down. Maybe as a result of modern social pressures – and often from people who clearly do not read the comic, and cling to the ‘Magic Bullet’ theory of media effects – but nonetheless, there were people on the panel who missed this. After all, I read The Beano as a kid, and I haven’t turned into a thug with catapults and pocket rockets in my arsenal. But others felt that this encouraged creators to find other ways to create humour and not just through slapstick of this nature. Plus, as one panelist remarked, if you want violence in your comics, there’s plenty out there to pick up!
Talking about her induction onto The Beano, McGorman-Bruce told us how she had sacrificed going to see Guns and Roses so she could finish her inaugural strip for the comic, she wanted the job that much!
A perennial favourite amongst the readers is Dennis The Menace’s pet pig, Rasher, who hasn’t been seen for a while now. Apparently, Rasher was invented because staff writer Ian Gray’s second wife loved pigs, asking why Dennis couldn’t have a pet pig if he already had a pet dog called, Gnasher. And so it came to pass.
The final word, shared by all the panelist was a plea of sorts. Many, many British weeklies have gone under and we shouldn’t allow that to happen to this great comic. Not of we want to celebrate its centenary in another twenty years. Thankfully, with animation, a relaunched fan club an interactive website and app, this won’t happen.
Here’s to the next twenty years!
You can buy the 80th Anniversary boxset of The Beano, featuring facsimile editions of key issues at WH Smiths or online here (in the UK). The beans artist, Lew Stringer, gives it a great review on his blog here.
Or, subscribe and save moolah on each and every issue and have it pop through your letterbox every weekend.
There’s lots of different ways to enjoy this great British comic.

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