Eighty-years-old? Den­nis the Men­ace! Surely not! Yes, it’s true, The Beano, muchloved by chil­dren of sev­eral gen­er­a­tions, will be 80 years old on July 30, hav­ing first been pub­lished in 1938. Were you an avid Beano reader? Terry Red­head in­ves­ti­gates ...

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Can you be­lieve it? Den­nis the Men­ace is now 80 years old

It has made thou­sands of young­sters (and some not so young read­ers) chuckle for al­most 80 years. Were you a fan of The Beano? Or per­haps you pre­ferred The Dandy? Maybe your par­ents in­sisted you had some­thing a lit­tle more ed­u­ca­tional, like Look and Learn? For the girls, per­haps it was Bunty, Twin­kle or Jackie? Just what was it about comics that fas­ci­nated us all in our younger days? Can you re­mem­ber ea­gerly await­ing the weekly de­liv­ery of your favourite? Or per­haps you rushed to the newsagents and col­lected it your­self! There were so many comics, most en­joy­ing their hey­day from the 1950s to the 1990s. But it is The Beano which car­ries the man­tle as the long­est run­ning Bri­tish chil­dren’s comic. Pub­lished in Scot­land by D C Thom­son, the weekly cir­cu­la­tion of The Beano in April 1950 reached al­most two mil­lion. To­day, each is­sue is pub­lished on a Wed­nes­day but car­ries the is­sue date of the fol­low­ing Satur­day. it cur­rently sells around 30,000 copies each week. Its fa­mous char­ac­ters in­clude Den­nis the Men­ace and his dog Gnasher, Min­nie the Minx, The Bash Street Kids, The Num­skulls and Roger the Dodger. Over the years the style of the com­edy in the sto­ries has shifted, though the tra­di­tion of an­ar­chic hu­mour re­mains. For decades the strips glo­ri­fied be­hav­iour like naughty pranks and bul­ly­ing (Den­nis the Men­ace), dis­hon­esty (Roger the Dodger) and even rob­bery (Baby Face Fin­layson and The Three Bears). The sym­pa­thy of the reader was as­sumed to be with the mis­cre­ants like Den­nis, but most are usu­ally shown to be pun­ished for their ac­tions. Re­cently there has been a rise in hu­mour de­pict­ing bod­ily func­tions, es­pe­cially flat­u­lence, while de­pic­tions of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment have stopped. The slip­per, the in­stru­ment of pain meted out by Den­nis the Men­ace’s fa­ther, has be­come the name of the lo­cal po­lice chief, Sergeant Slip­per. It was back in 1921 that D C Thom­son first en­tered the field of­boys’ story pa­pers. Then in 1937 The Dandy was born, fol­lowed by The Beano the next year. The Beano ac­tu­ally took its name from the English word ‘beano’ which can be loosely in­ter­preted as a good time. There are only 12 copies of the first is­sue in ex­is­tence and only five known copies of the sec­ond is­sue. A copy of the first is­sue sold for £12,100 in 2004. A first is­sue of The Dandy was sold in Septem­ber 2004 for £20,350.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, The Beano and The Dandy were pub­lished on al­ter­nat­ing weeks be­cause of pa­per and ink ra­tioning. The 3,000th is­sue of the Beano was pub­lished in Jan­uary, 2000, and since The Dandy be­came a fort­nightly pub­li­ca­tion in 2007, The Beano has taken over as the long­est-run­ning weekly comic. In 2012, Royal Mail launched a spe­cial stamp col­lec­tion to cel­e­brate Bri­tain's rich comic book his­tory. The col­lec­tion fea­tured favourites in­clud­ing The Beano, The Dandy, Ea­gle, Top­per, Roy of the Rovers, Bunty, Buster, Valiant, Twin­kle and 2000 AD.

Des­per­ate Dan (The Dandy) and Min­nie the Minx (The Beano) cap­tured in stone in the cen­tre of Dundee, home of D C Thom­son.

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