Sunday, September 07, 2008
Beano original art for £9.50....sort of
For over twenty years D.C. Thomson have been producing annual hardback collections of classic Dandy / Beano reprint material. The format of some of the previous books have annoyed some fans because some of the old strips were re-coloured, redesigned, or presented incomplete. However, this year's compendium should delight every UK comic collector. Why? The Beano and The Dandy: Comics in the Classroom (R.R.P. £9.50) features scans of strips from the actual artwork, warts and all.
This is the next best thing to owning the original pages. The scans of decades-old artwork (from Thomson's finest: Dudley Watkins, Davy Law, Alan Morely, and Leo Baxendale) shows up all the inklines, margin notes, colour guides, whiteout corrections, paste ups etc. The only difference being the pages here are reproduced around A4 size whereas the original pages would have been drawn twice-up back then (a massive A2 size). Nevertheless, this is the closest most of us will get to owning a Dandy or Beano "original".
The whole book isn't like that unfortunately, as I suspect the "untidiness" of the pages might put off readers who don't appreciate original art. However, the rest of the book features pages scanned from the old comics, - yellowed paper and all. (Such as the first Winker Watson strip by Eric Roberts below.) A far more accurate way of showing what old Beano and Dandy comics looked like than "bleaching out" the flaws (which often destroys the finer line work too).
There are many great strips in this book, including the first and last episodes of the bizarre Our Teacher's A Walrus; a selection of 1960s Dennis the Menace strips; very early Leo Baxendale Bash Street Kids original art; the previously unpublished final Jocks and Geordies strip, and Biffo the Bear starting a cockfight to get out of school.
In keeping with the book's classroom theme, the overall design is one of a school scrapbook, with tape and paper clips added to the margins, along with ink blots. Whether or not today's kids will know what an ink blot is doesn't matter, as hopefully the high quality of the material within will keep readers of all ages completely absorbed.
The celebrations of The Beano's 70th Anniversary continue in a few weeks with the publication of a weighty 352 page coffee table book The History of The Beano: The Story So Far, compiled by ex-Dandy editor Morris Heggie. Available for pre-order now from Amazon.