Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Beano - 70 Years of Fun!

It was the above comic that really got me into comics. If it wasn't for this I wouldn't be sitting here writing this review. Instead I'd probably be playing video games, but instead, I hate them (seriously - I can't stand them). I had been buying the Beano weekly since March 2007, in fact I still have my first copy, but that was the only comic (along with The Dandy of course, but I never bought it) I'd ever heard of. Now, four years later this book has bought me almost 2000 comics, including the first two issues of Whizzer and Chips, 10 1960 Buster comics for a fiver (and others from 1961+), School Fun, Oink, Beezer, Sparky, Big Comic, Topper, Big One, Monster Fun, Nipper plus many more and has introduced me to some of Britains best characters such as Roger the Dodger, Dennis the Menace, Frankie Stein, Shiner, Uncle Pigg, Ivor Lott and Tony Broke, Lolly Pop, Cheeky, Flapper, James Pond (which had two completely seperae series, one as a human in Buster in the 60's and one as a frog in Nipper in the 80's) and thousands more. It introduced me to brilliant artists such as Nigel Parkinson, Lew Stringer, Andy Fanton, Wayne Thomson, James Turner, Terry Bave, Nigel Edwards and more, almost all of which are extremely friendly people! I even picked up my talent of drawing from copying what I saw in the comics. I wish everybody saw comics like the way I did, not just boring, still pictures on ripped, stapled paper. I don't understand why comics with gifts sell hundreds, if not thousands more copies. And so that is why I treasure this book, and have read it countless times.

It starts off with a nice, short introduction to the Beano, although everybody in Britain, and around the world, probably knows and loves it! "The fact that The Beano has reached it's 70th birthday is not simply a milestone in the comic's history - it is a milestone in BRITISH history, so nationally beloved is the title and its famous cartoon characters. Loord Snooty, Biffo the Bear, General Jumbo, Jonah, Dennis the Menace, Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx, The Bash Street Kids... the names roll off the tounge like some ledgendary football team. And ledgends they are, for there can be very few children, parents or grandparents in Britain today who are not familiar with the colourful world of The Beano."

So then we turn over the page and feast our eyes upon early issues of The Beano, starring Big Eggo - the wods most famous Ostrich drawn by postcard illustrator Reg Carter. Unfortunatly in 1948 it was decided that readers couldnt relate to this egg-hunting ostrich as he wans't humanoid, and so as a result he was replaced on the cover by Biffo the Bear. At first drawn By Dudley Watkins, who was discovered thanks to a drawing he did on the blackboard at school when the teacher was out of the room, Biffo appeared first appeared on issue #327, dated 24th January 1948. He was an instant hit, and remained on the cover until 1974.

Now, going back to the start of the book, we begin to learn about Lord Snooty. "In the early days the top cartoon strip was Lord Snooty, drawn by the talented Dudley D. Watkins. Snooty, the young Earl of Bunkerton, was a titled lord of the realm but for fun and true friendship, stole away over his castle wall to play with the ragged urchins on Ash Can Alley." To go with this short text, D.C Thomson present us with the first Lord Snooty from Beano No. 1!

"A lot of early Beano funnies were small, single gag strips, arranged three to a page." Very similar to a few pages in The Dandy at the moment (and back then as well), but instead of three to a page there's four, and instead of 6 boxes taking two rows there are 3 to 4 tkaing up just one. The examples given on these pages are the more well known strips such as 'Contary Mary', 'Hairy Dan' and 'Little Dead Eye Dick'.

Flipping over onto page eight, and we meet Pansy Potter for the first time. She was first introduced to the readers in an advert in Beano #20, which came with a 'Merry Christmas Mask'. I read online that none are known to be surviving, but I know that's not true as I saw one for sale (with the comic). I would have bought it but the seller wanted £1000. Hugh McNeil drew the first series of the strong man's daughter, and it was so popular it "became a household name"! Other artists were Sam Fair and Basil Blackaller, who was just 19 when he drew this strip I have scanned in below! The story lasted a very long time, in fact it didn't end until 1993!

World War Two broke out a year after The Beano's launch in September 1939. This eventually lead to paper rations in The Beano and Dandy, meaning that they had less pages and came out on alternate weeks. Of course, The Beano was hugely against the Nazi's and devoted many pages of comic strips to their defeat. They even included "Save Waste Paper" adverts in the comics - that is one of the reasons these comics are so rare and so much more collectable. The next few pages feature such stories and adverts, with Big Eggo putting a Nazi spy in an oven and Lord Snooty destroying Hitler's castle. I was absolutely amazed to find that if the Nazi's had invaded Britain the editors of both these papers would have been arrested!

We go on to the "Casulty of War" section, and they begin by telling us about "The third brother to the already super successful Dandy and Beano comics." The comic in question if of course, Magic. Launched on July 22nd 1939, the paper and ink shortages were just too hard to cope with and as a result it folded 80 issues later. There were two annuals, one in 1941 and one in 1942. The annuals then merged with the Beano books until 1950, hence the fact they were called The Magic-Beano book.

This section on Magic is only two pages long, and on the second page there is a comic strip showing how Magic was also against the Nazi's, when Peter Piper defeats a German spy loose with a machine gun by brining to life a picture on an advert for chocolates titles 'Charge of The Light Birgade'.

"You've read the comic, now read the book..." The Beano book first hit the shelves in September 1939, and is almost always referred to as 'The 1940 Beano Book". A reproduction of this annual was made several years ago, but was limited to just 2000 copies, and so when they do come on sale they sell for high prices, around £80 - £120 is average. The highest price for an original that I know of was the one handed into a charity shop in Scotland, and it sold for a massive £4,265.00 on!! This page also goes on to explain the reason behind the Magic-Beano book (as I just explained above) and has a Marmaduke Mean the Miser comic strip from an annual, although I'm not sure which one.

And I really like this poem, it's cool and catchy!
The Tiger Was Tickled
There was a young boy of Pekin
Who tickled a lean tiger's chin.
The tiger's now fat.
Can you wonder at that?
But where is that boy of Pekin?

Well, I've probably blabbered on enough for now and I've covered the comic very extensively so to read any more you'll have to grab a copy for yourself!

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