Tuesday, April 17, 2012

This week in... 1950!

The Beano comic that went on sale 62 years ago this week is a very significant issue in the comics history. Issue #405, dated 22nd April 1950, sold almost two million copies - making it the highest selling issue to date! The exact number is 1,974,072! Yet despite this, I've only ever seen one up for sale - which is the copy you see above that I purchased from eBay.

The cover star is Biffo the Bear, who took over from Big Eggo two years earlier, and was to last there for several decades, before Dennis the Menace took over in 1974! Big Eggo can still be seen on the cover though, up on the left hand side of the logo! In this issue the nation's favourite bear wants to capture a frog to keep as a pet, and ends up winning a coconut! As always it was drawn By Dudley Watkins, who signed his work as D.D.W. (his middle name was Dexter). He was one of the few artists to be able to sign his work, but now of course they all can! Dudley didn't always sign his Biffo stories as D.D.W though, in Biffo's first ever cover story (on issue #327) he signed it simply as 'Dudley Watkins'.

In the early years of The Beano, and other comics as well from around the 1920's - 1950's, there were several comic strips on one page. There is only one page like this in this issue, but often in comics it was common, and a centre spread was used for as many as 10 strips! This page has 3 stories, all of which began in the very first Beano from 1938! Have - A - Go Joe at the top, followed by Maxy's Taxi and The Magic Lollipops!

Text stories were common in comics, and sometimes appeared more than actual strips themselves! By the '50's they were losing out though, and by the '60's the were all gone (although The Phoenix has a text feature every week, which is mostly sections from newly released novels). In this comic there are two text stories - Deep-Sea Danny's Iron Fish and shown here The Boy With The Wonder Horse. As you can see, the second page was shared with a strip cartoon called Little Dead-Eye Dick, a kid who has a gun! Definatly something that wouldn't be allowed today.

Deep-Sea Danny's Iron Fish also shared a page with a short comic strip. This one is a suprisingly Desperate Dan like character - DANGER! Len at Work!

Strip cartoons with text underneath the panels were also a common feature, sometimes speech bubbles wouldn't be included so to understand the story you've got to read the text underneath, or simply guess! One thing I love about these strips is that the story can be so much different between what is said in the speech bubbles and what is said underneath! Again, there are two examples in this issue, The Runaway Robinsons and The Daring Deeds of Sinbad The Sailor, seen below.

The back page starred the incredibly popular Pansy Potter, who by this time had become Pansy Potter in Wonderland! This time Pansy tries to win a slap up feed by awakening the princess, but ends up knocking herself out - a rare event for somebody of such strength!

Even though the sales may not be as impressive as they were back in 1950, the Beano is still selling around 40,000 copies a week!

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