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Monday, September 26, 2011

Sixty years of Menacing

For over 20 years D.C. Thomson published an annual "Golden Years" book collecting classic pages from The Dandy and The Beano. In recent years the format of the book has changed, and this year it's in the form of The Beano and The Dandy Celebrate Dennis the Menace. With the 60th anniversary of the World's Naughtiest Boy being the main focus of the hardback it has to be said there's not a lot of Dandy in this year's collection.

Readers looking for a thorough history of Dennis the Menace and his creators might find themselves a little short changed but this isn't intended to be an analytical insight into the character. Any accompanying text is lightweight and brief, and instead allows the strength of the strips themselves to carry the book.

Almost half of the book is taken up with reprints of classic 1950s/60s pages by Dennis' original artist Davy Law. With a masterful mixture of energy and subtlety Law's work demonstrates why it's still so highly regarded today. A couple of the early half-pagers are actually scanned from the original artwork which is a nice touch.

The shift in tone that comes with later post-Law strips in the book is quite startling when viewed within the confined time frame of this book. Although the strip continued to be superbly illustrated by some of the best talents in the business there's a visible editorial change to make the level of humour younger and perhaps more formulaic to appeal to changing tastes and new generations.

The popularity of Dennis outside of The Beano is also covered, including his annuals, the Robert Harrop figures, and the various cartoon series. The book even comes with two free gifts, - a 48 minute DVD of the old Dennis the Menace cartoons, and a full reprint of The Beano No.452 (March 17th 1951), the first issue to feature the Dennis strip. (No doubt greedy opportunists are even now plotting to sell that facsimile on eBay as an original.)

A handful of other strips are also included to show Dennis' influence on characters such as The Smasher and Bully Beef. All in all it's an excellent book for all ages. A nostalgic treat for older readers and a fun history lesson for younger ones.

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