Publisher: DC Thomson
Publication Dates: 30 July 1938 – 10 June 1950
Number of Issues Published: 412 (#1 – #412)
Color: Colour cover; Black and White interior
Paper Stock: Newsprint
Publication Type: magazine
Numbering continues with The Beano (D.C. Thomson, 1950 series) #413
Information thanks to the Grand Comics Database
The comic first appeared on 30 July 1938, and was published weekly. During World War II, The Beano and The Dandy were published on alternating weeks because of paper and ink rationing. D. C. Thomson’s other publications also suffered, with the Oor Wullie and The Broons annuals falling victim to paper and ink shortages. Paper and ink supplies were fully restored shortly after the end of hostilities and weekly publication of The Beano and The Dandy resumed in 1949. In September 2009, The Beano’s 3,500th issue was published. The Beano is currently edited by Michael Stirling. Each issue is published on a Thursday, with the issue date being that of the following Saturday.
Its iconic characters, such as Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, The Bash Street Kids, The Numskulls, Roger the Dodger, Billy Whizz and Ball Boy, have become known to generations of British children. Earlier generations will remember other notable characters who have been phased out, such as Ivy the Terrible, Calamity James, The Three Bears and Pansy Potter. Some old characters, like Biffo the Bear, Lord Snooty, Baby Face Finlayson and Little Plum, have more recently made a return as “funsize” quarter-page strips.
The style of Beano humour has shifted noticeably over the years, though the longstanding tradition of anarchic humour has remained. For decades strips have appeared to glorify immoral behaviour, e.g. bullying (Dennis the Menace), dishonesty (Roger the Dodger) and even robbery (Baby Face Finlayson and The Three Bears). Although the readers’ sympathies are assumed to be with the miscreants, the latter are very often shown punished for their actions. Recent years have seen a rise in humour involving gross bodily functions, especially flatulence (which would have been taboo in children’s comics prior to the 1990s), while depictions of corporal punishment have declined. For example the literal slipper (Dennis the Menace’s father’s instrument of chastisement) has become the name of the local chief of police (Sergeant Slipper).
In the days of the British Empire, the comics were also distributed in some colonies. As they were sent by sea mail, they would go on sale some weeks after the date shown on the cover. They can still be found post-independence in these former territories.
In 1921, D. C. Thomson had first entered the field of boys’ story papers with Adventure. The success of this paper led to five further publications, The Rover and The Wizard in 1922, The Vanguard in 1924, The Skipper in 1930 and The Hotspur in 1933. Although The Vanguard folded in 1926, the others were a great triumph and became known as “The Big Five”; they ended Amalgamated Press’s near-monopoly of the British comic industry.
Another success was the Fun Section of D. C. Thomson’s Scottish weekly newspaper The Sunday Post, which included the two strips Oor Wullie and The Broons by lead artist Dudley Watkins, as well as other funnies and various puzzles and adventure stories. This gave R. D. Low, the head of children’s publications at D. C. Thomson at the time, the idea to create another Big Five, this time of comics intended for both boys and girls and consisting mainly of ‘funnies’ and more lighthearted adventure and text stories.
The first of these publications, The Dandy, commenced in 1937 and was followed by The Beano on 26 July 1938. A third paper, The Magic Comic, aimed at a slightly younger audience, followed in July 1939, but ceased publication in early 1941, due to paper rationing. Wartime shortages also prevented the New Big Five project from being completed.
The Beano comic takes its name from the English word beano which can be loosely interpreted as a good time.
The first edition of The Beano was dated 30 July 1938, and the 3000th issue was published in January 2000. There are only 12 known copies of the first issue in existence, and only 5 known copies of the second issue (not including facsimiles). The first issue’s cover could be found on the back of issue 2000.
A copy of this first issue sold for £12,100 on 16 March 2004, which was at the time thought to be the highest price ever paid for a British comic at an auction. The current highest price is £20,350, which was paid for the first issue of The Dandy on 7 September 2004. The Beano is now the longest-running weekly comic, since The Dandy became a fortnightly comic in 2007.
The Beano is so popular that it had its own section of the Chessington World of Adventures theme park, “Beanoland”. This opened in 2000 and survived for a decade before sponsorship was eventually lost. Most of the major Beanoland attractions remain in operation today but have been rethemed as “Wild Asia”.
On 19 March 2012 The Royal Mail launched a special stamp collection to celebrate Britain’s rich comic book history. The collection featured The Beano, The Dandy, Eagle, The Topper, Roy of the Rovers, Bunty, Buster, Valiant, Twinkle and 2000 AD.
The original editor was George Moonie, 1938–1959, followed by Harold Cramond, 1959-84. Euan Kerr was editor from 1984 until he handed over to Alan Digby in early 2006. Alan had been Beano Chief Sub Editor when Euan first became editor, and later edited The Beezer. Euan has returned to edit BeanoMAX as of issue 2 (see below). Following the retirement of Euan Kerr, Alan Digby took over as Editor-in-Chief of both titles. Digby retired in 2011, leaving Michael Stirling as the new editor. Currently the latest editor of The Beano is Craig Graham who joined The Beano once The Dandy announced its closure. Upon his arrival as editor he has made many changes to The Beano and has already revamped The Beano twice despite only becoming editor in August 2012.
A number of strips in the comic have run for a very long time. The top five longest running Beano comic strips are, in descending order, Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, Bash Street Kids, Roger the Dodger, and then the last holder of the title before Dennis, Lord Snooty. Dennis the Menace’s famous red and black jersey had formed the colours of a few of the Beano characters’ clothes (Minnie the Minx has the same, although the placement of the stripes is a bit different; Ball Boy’s was a vertical red and black; Roger the Dodger has a chessboard design top, and Danny (from the Bash Street Kids) has a similar cap), but they have changed for Minnie and Ball Boy (Minnie at one point had a red and yellow top and Ball Boy’s strip is now black and blue).
There are frequent fictional crossovers between Beano characters, with most of the characters living in the fictional Beanotown. Many of the comic strips in The Dandy are drawn by the same artists, and crossovers between the two comics also occur occasionally. Quite often, one comic will make a tongue-in-cheek jibe at the other (e.g., a character meeting an elderly lady, and stating that she’s “older than the jokes in The Dandy”). In the strips, it is expressed that the two towns are rivals with each other and before The Dandy did a drastic format change they had an embassy in Beanotown which many of the town’s citizens attempted to overrun, but failed (the embassy had no existence in The Beano). This rivalry inspired the spin-off computer game Beanotown Racing, in which various characters from both comics could be raced around points in Beanotown, including the Embassy. The game was given a large amount of advance publicity in the comics, with story lines often revolving how the characters each acquired his/her vehicle.
Occasionally there are longer than usual strips for example a strip of sixteen pages rather than the usual two pages. These longer strips include The Bash Street Kids Adventures written and drawn by Kev F Sutherland which since 2004 have featured parodies of famous comic strip images, including Amazing Fantasy’s first Spider-Man cover, Action Comics’ first Superman cover, and most recently the cover of X Men #100.
During the 1980s, The Beano ran a ‘Readers’ Request’ feature where readers could request for a particular comic strip to feature in the Beano. This led to the return of dropped characters, including Little Plum, Baby Face Finlayson and The McTickles, but also led to the introduction of new strips such as Little Monkey.
Reader polls started to appear in the 1990s, allowing the readers to rate the strips in the comic. These polls have been quite influential, as they indicate which strips the readers like best, and strips that have performed poorly in these polls were usually dropped.
On a number of occasions the Beano has allowed its readers to vote for which new strips they want to appear in the comic. This usually consists of three new comic strips being run for a number of weeks and the readers can vote on which strips they prefer and the one that receives the most votes stays in the Beano. Readers have been able to cast their votes via telephone, or more recently via the Beano website.
The first such vote occurred in 1995 with Vic Volcano emerging as the winner. In the 1997 competition, two new strips were added permanently, with Tim Traveller winning and Crazy for Daisy the runner-up. By the early 2000s, these competitions were named Comic Idol (in reference to Pop Idol). In the 2004 competition, the margin between winner Joe Jitsu and runner-up Colin the Vet was 1%, so both strips were added to the comic.
The most recent incarnation in 2010 featured three new strips, Meebo and Zuky, Home Invasion, and Uh oh Si Co!. Meebo and Zuky won, with Home Invasion finishing as runner-up, though only Meebo and Zuky were added to the comic. In 2011 the Dandy did a similar competition where readers voted for their favourite out of four strips, entitled Strictly Come Laughing (a reference to Strictly Come Dancing).