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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Beano: 80 Years of Fun, The Box Set

You'll be hearing a lot about The Beano this week, and rightly so. It's the first British comic to celebrate 80 years of continuous publication, and most likely the only British comic that will ever reach that milestone. The actual anniversary is 26th July (the original publication day of The Beano No.1) although the official birthday is 30th July (the cover date of the first issue). 

You don't need to wait to celebrate though, because D.C. Thomson have just published a handsome limited box set full of Beano goodies that is available now from selected shops or directly from the publisher. Beano: 80 Years of Fun, The Box Set includes the 100 page bookazine I reviewed last month (which is available in shops on its own for £6.99) packaged with a whole lot more for £25. 

Within the slipcased box you'll find reprints of eight significant issues of The Beano. Naturally, there's the first issue, and we also have...

No.272 (1945): The first Beano to sell over a million copies.
No.452 (1951): The first to feature Dennis the Menace.
No.954 (1960): One of the first 'new look' issues to modernise it for the Sixties.
No.1768 (1976): The first to announce the Dennis the Menace Fan Club.
No.2280 (1986): One of the 'Gnasher is missing' issues that had nationwide publicity.
No.3052 (2001): The issue with Jim Petrie's final Minnie the Minx artwork.
No.3800 (2015): Record breaking issue number.

The reproduction of the comics is wonderful. The ones that were originally on newsprint have been reprinted on a nice matt paper with a 'yellowed' effect to look as authentic as possible. Printing is sharp and clear. The more recent ones are reprinted on a quality glossy stock. 

They're excellent facsimiles, although it should be noted that the racial stereotype character of 'Peanut' has been removed from the mastheads of Beano Nos.1 and 272. There have also been four pages removed from Beano No.1, one of which also featured Peanut. Should this have been done? I think so. We live in troubled times with the rise of far right groups, and anything to help minorities feel less demeaned has to be a good thing. Such minor edits won't lessen a reader's enjoyment of the comics themselves.

The selected comics are a great showcase of the high standard of creative talent that The Beano has always employed. My favourite issue from this set is the one from 1960 which includes pages by Leo Baxendale and, on the back page, Ken Reid's Jonah. You'll find other creative giants in these comics too, including Dudley Watkins, Robert Nixon, David Sutherland, Nigel Parkinson, and many more who have made The Beano the long-lasting comic it is.

Along with the 8 comics the box also contains perfect reproductions of a classic Gnasher Snapper free gift, and a replica Dennis the Menace Fan Club pack complete with badges. There are also four postcards using artwork from memorable Beano Book covers, and a huge A1 sized poster featuring every Beano character from the past 80 years! I don't know who drew the poster, but he/she has done a spectacular job. I was very pleased to see the characters from Super School included (a strip I drew for the Beano several years ago). 

As I already reviewed the 100 page bookazine the other week (see here) I won't go into too much detail again, except to say it gives background information on each of the reprinted comics, so is an essential asset to the box set. 

This truly is a superb collection and well worth the money. Collectors who have long been wishing for such comic facsimiles should be very pleased, and younger readers will enjoy the experience of seeing ephemera from the past. Check out your local WH Smith or bookshops to see if they have a copy in stock, or order one directly from D.C. Thomson at this link:


Steve said...

I know there was a facsimile issued in 2003, but don't know if that was complete. I know the last reissue (on the 70th anniversary or 75th?) was also four pages short.

Lew Stringer said...

I can't remember now but it's likely the 2003 reprint was also only 24 pages. The only full length reprint that comes to mind was the one in the 1970s or 1980s for the DC Thomson Firsts book. A different time then of course.

Bruce Laing said...

I have the facsimile of the No. 1 Beano, and it does have 24 pages.

SID said...

Sorry, Lew.

I think it's sad that DCT (and you) feel it's necessary not to include Peanut and similar contents. Of course for modern publications you wouldn't print such racial caricatures. But this book & reprints are historical documents representing a time where that sort of thing was part of life.

I suppose it depends on what audience they are aimed at.

I look forward to the day where there is no racism but still can acknowledge the fact that once there was.

Lew Stringer said...

I think that if it was an academic book on comics aimed squarely at historians then it'd be important to show how black people were demeaned in those days, but when it's something like this aimed at a family audience then it's fair not to offend a portion of those readers. Also, I think it's important for The Beano to protect itself, because if Peanut *had* been included you can be sure that certain areas of the media would seize upon it and condemn them for it, just as they did in 2006:

A case of damned if you do, damned if you don't, but it's sometimes best to put the considerations of others above the sanctity of a mere comic.

Peter Gray said...

I bought the WHSmiths not sure I want to buy it twice...doh!

Lew Stringer said...

You could always sell the spare bookazine at one of your stalls perhaps?

James Spiring said...

Maybe they should've substituted a page from issue 2, or an advert for issue 2 from another comic, to replace the Peanut feature page? There's nothing wrong with the other three pages they omitted.

Why'd they keep Peanut so long anyway? He lasted nine and a half years, but the art shows him eating a melon, which would obviously have been impossible once World War II started, as tropical fruits would've become impossible to obtain. It took Biffo's debut for him to get removed, with Big Eggo and then Dennis taking the spot. Dandy of course had no such trouble. Their Bellboy has no problems and lasted all the way to 1960, even showing up in 1997's 60th birthday issue (no Peanut in the Beano counterpart in 1998 of course).

Lew Stringer said...

I don't think Peanut was supposed to be set in Britain though, James. The way he was dressed was consistent with how black kids were depicted in American films set in the Deep South. Quite a few things in those early Beano and Dandy comics were inspired by American films.

Kevin Larkin said...

I received an e-mail from DC Thomson yesterday for a new version of what appears to be a re-launched Dennis The Menace Fan Club. Pretty much the same as the original, but the credit card style membership card (minus a corner bitten off by Gnasher!) has a foil panel to scratch off and reveal your membership number, which allows access to a secret area of the website. The big difference is the price : £9.99, rather than the 35p (?) it used to cost!

To be honest, I question the "popularity" of Dennis The Menace. I've never been a fan (every time I see a reprint of his first cover appearance, I remember how disappointed I was when I saw that Biffo had been sidelined... in favour of Dennis, of all people!), and looking back at the older annuals (mid-to-late 60s, early 70s) his presence is minimal : all the other characters - even minor ones like Punch And Jimmy - had far more pages. If page-count is anything to go by, it seemed like the true stars of The Beano were The Bash Street Kids... they were certainly my favourites. Maybe it was easier to have a single character like Dennis as a figurehead for the comic, rather than a group of nine (ten, if you count Cuthbert Cringeworthy!), so the publishers "bigged him up" and everyone accepted it.

Lew Stringer said...

I suppose Dennis had less pages in the Beano annuals because he had his own annual every other year. He's definitely the most popular character in the comic, but Bash Street Kids, Minnie, Roger, and Billy Whizz are up there too of course which is why they've been in the comic for so long.

Stevie.H said...

I would like to see other publishers do this sort of thing. Impressive.

Lew Stringer said...

It would be nice if Rebellion issued a selection of Fleetway reprints like this. I doubt they will though, as the old comics such as Cor!!, Monster Fun etc never made the same impact as the Beano.

Kevin Larkin said...

They DID make just as much of an impact, or else why would so many of us still remember them and wish for reprints now? The Beano - even then - had the prestige of being the second-longest running comic, and now the last man standing.

Lew Stringer said...

Cor!! only ran for four years. Monster Fun far less. Kids today have never heard of them, unlike the Beano which has been read by several generations over eight decades. I'm sure there's a few hundred collectors who would buy reprints of Cor!! etc but possibly not enough for Rebellion to take the risk. Time will tell though.

Kevin Larkin said...

The lifespan of comics like Cor!! and Monster Fun makes no difference : modern kids don't know of comics like them because, unlike The Beano, they haven't had them constantly rammed in their faces with annual reprints of old comics, exhibitions, and regular proclamations of some anniversary or other. I'm sure if Rebellion made as big a hoo-hah over some of the Fleetway comics they now own the rights to ("50th Anniversary Of Buster's First Issue!") they'd get just as much attention. As a kid of the early 1970s, I always got the impression from my contempories that The Beano and Dandy played second fiddle to all the Fleetway comics : far less of the people I knew read them because they were considered old-fashioned (as was apparent from the picture/text stories like Black Bob that was still running in The Dandy at the time).
I find it ironic that someone who writes a blog largely dealing with comics of the past, claims there's little demand for reprints of the funny Fleetway comics... at the same time as praising the Ken Reid anthology. Who, then, are you writing this blog for? Every time you mention one of the serious Rebellion reprints, there'll be comments from your readers hoping for similar editions featuring the funny characters. Little demand?
And here's where I bow out of posting comments on here : it irritates me that you have responded to every one of my posts - whether it be in praise of or against something - by contradicting whatever I've said. You can't possibly have the opposite opinion to every one of mine. You just want the last word on everything. (This is where you'll reply by saying "No I haven't, and no I don't"!)

Lew Stringer said...

That's your choice to leave, Kevin. I don't know why you're so irate when someone doesn't agree with you.

As for my p.o.v., I'm realistic enough to know this blog only caters to a niche market, Kevin. It doesn't matter if only 200 people read a post on Cor!!, but it does matter to a publisher if only 200 people buy a Cor!! reprint. Do you see the difference?

Rebellion have to be confident that enough people will support such ventures, and a handful of people online saying they'd buy one isn't enough. Maybe they'll risk it, maybe they won't. Time will tell. They're publishing Ken Reid's Creepy Creations later this year so presumably you'll be supporting that and hopefully that'll encourage them to try other humour material, but I think it's more likely to be selected strips than reprinting entire comics as the Beano has.

(Incidentally, I know you only used it as an example, but Rebellion can't reprint Buster No.1 as they only own the rights to some, not all, of the Buster characters.)

Lew Stringer said...

By the way, Kevin, I've just checked through your old comments and I have not contradicted every one of them, as you claim. You've posted some good comments to this blog so I don't know why you've suddenly taken offence because I disagreed with you today on the popularity of Cor!! and Monster Fun. But if you're of the opinion that I've always argued with you when I haven't that's up to you, and I've long given up worrying about odd reactions from people online so good luck with it.

Lew Stringer said...

Update: My comment about Rebellion not owning all the Buster characters was written before they did acquire the rest of Fleetway's back catalogue a few months later.

As for Kevin Larkin, I never heard from him again and still have no idea why he claimed I contridicted everything he said when I evidently didn't. Ironic that I ended up contradicting his final commentm but if people tell untruths about me I reserve the right to respond.

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