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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Review: THE BEANO BOOK 1956 (Facsimile)

Cover art by James Crighton.
One of the books I treated myself to for Christmas was this facsimile of The Beano Book 1956 (originally published in 1955). As the original was published four years before I was born I'd never read it before so it was all new to me.
As most of you already know, you can order a facsimile of any Beano annual from 1940 to 2013 from D.C. Thomson and they're printed on demand:
https://shop.beano.com/awesome-gifts/classic-beano-gifts/personalised-beano-annual-from-your-year

I've bought a few of them before but this one intrigued me because it contains work by all the greats who were involved with the Beano at a high point in its history. The strips in this book would have been drawn in late 1954 so we have work by Leo Baxendale at the start of his career when his style was still developing...
Fascinating to see The Bash Street Kids when it was still called When The Bell Rings...
Ken Reid is well represented too. His style was more restrained on these early Roger the Dodger strips, and far from the manic outrageousness it would display ten years later on Frankie Stein for Wham!,  but it still displayed perfect craftsmanship...
Davy Law's Dennis the Menace is already in his full glory here, leading the charge for what would become the distinctive "mischievous kids" approach the Beano is famous for...
Other great artists are well represented too. Dudley Watkins on Lord Snooty, Ken Hunter on Wee Davie, and early work by Bill Holroyd on Nobby the Enchanted Bobby for example...
...and Jack Glass giving us a darker, more sinister look to The Iron Fish than the lighter approach that Sandy Calder brought to it in the late sixties. (I prefer Jack Glass' more dangerous looking version seen here to be honest.)
There are things here that wouldn't sit well in a comic of today. Bird Boy helping whale hunters to kill their prey isn't something you'd see in a modern Beano annual. Art by Paddy Brennan...
A new character for me was Hookey's Bust'em Book drawn by Charles Grigg before he developed more of his own distinctive style. The story is about a magic book that can spring its characters to life. (An idea re-used years later in Smash! with Charlie's Choice, but with a TV set instead of a book.)
It's interesting how many of the Beano adventure strips of the period had gimmicks simply explained as magic. Nobby the Enchanted Bobby had magic boots that could transform him, Hookey had his book, Jimmy's Magic Patch had a patch on his trousers that sent him back in time. Even the characters using science, such as The Iron Fish and General Jumbo, were using technology not yet invented. It all added to a fantastic sense of wonder that comics of the period contained and kids never questioned things like that because they knew that the impossible is great entertainment. 

These Beano annual facsimiles are excellent value and very well produced. Admittedly the binding is very tight so I couldn't lie the pages flat to scan (so you'll have to do with these camera snaps) but as they're print-on-demand it's necessary to have glued binding as stitched would be far too costly. The books are all scanned from the original annuals which means they also pick up any tanning from the old pages, but I'd much rather have that than over-saturated remastered pages that knock out half the fine lines. 

You're required to have the books personalised when you order them as they're intended as gifts, but you can type in any message you like. So rather than add a name you can just put "for collectors" or something. Or dedicate it to yourself if you like. (Update: I've been told you can just type 'none' and it'll be left blank.)

The books are produced by Signature Books under licence from D.C. Thomson, so I don't know how long that contract runs for. I'd like to see them do other old D.C. Thomson annuals too. The Dandy Book especially. Ideally, I'd like to see them do facsimiles on demand of any old D.C. Thomson comic, although in regards to comics post-1960s the production costs would probably make it cheaper to buy the actual back issues from eBay.

Anyway, I recommend these facsimile Beano annuals so catch a few while you can!
https://shop.beano.com/awesome-gifts/classic-beano-gifts/personalised-beano-annual-from-your-year

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9 comments:

Nutty Big D said...

It looks like it's only Beano book facsimile editions there, it would be good if Dandy/Topper/Beezer ones were also available

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, that's what I said Nutty. :)

Bruce Laing said...

I recently got hold the 1958 Beano Book, and looking to get another in the new year.

McSCOTTY said...

Surprised to see so many strips with the story text under the cartoons instead of in word balloons, especially Roger the Dodger. It looks like a great book though and I might get that.

Lew Stringer said...

There's one Roger story like that but there are others without text. There's also a Minnie all-prose story as well as comic strips. The book has an interesting mixture of formats.

Lew Stringer said...

I might buy the 1958 one next, Brian. I already have the 1957 one.
The 1959 one is very good. I had the original but sold it so I might get the reprint of that one at some point.

PhilEdBoyce said...

I was at a friend's last night for their baby's 1st birthday and afterwards we were sitting around and they put The Chase on. I'm not a huge fan (more of a Pointless person... hmm, that sounds wrong lol) but one of the quick fire questions was, "Which gang of kids was created by Leo Baxendale?". Of course I immediately answered and got it right, no one else had a clue, including the contestant, so I enjoyed a few seconds of smugness ;)

Unknown said...

I picked up an old copy of this annual in September, and it has a totally different cover, featuring a snow scene with various characters having a snowball fight. Anyone else heard of this? The interior is as standard, and there are blank pages inside the front and back covers. It appears professionally done. I would say original, but weird.
There was also a Dandy annual with the same mystery of a totally different front cover image, again featuring snow.
Both books are ACE though, a cracking read!
Any info welcome!
Sorry if I'm too close to the end of the blog deadline!
Dave B

Lew Stringer said...

Don't worry. You'll still be able to comment. I'm just not doing new posts.

Hmm. Dunno. Sounds like a bootleg but I couldn't say for sure. There were no snow scene covers on the 1950s Beano annuals.

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