The Beano is one of the most famous comics in history, and it’s now the longest-running comic in Britain, first published 77 years ago. I am a big fan of The Beano and was a regular reader for about a decade, and I’ll write more about my favourite characters in a future piece. But for now here’s a page-by-page review of an old issue that I found in a charity shop (No. 2396, 18 June 1988), which is just over a month before the biggest changes to The Beano in its history at that point, when a new design was brought in for the 50th anniversary in July 1988.
Page 1. This issue is interesting because the front cover is different than usual. It doesn’t feature a Dennis The Menace strip on the front, it features a montage of characters promoting the Scarborough Festival which was happening that month.
Page 2: Ivy The Terrible. A strip that had appeared in The Beano for a few years by this point and featured a mischievous small girl.
Page 3: Billy Whizz. He is of course the fastest boy in the world.
Pages 4 & 5: Minnie The Minx. One of the most established strips in The Beano, and was always amusing fun, with Minnie up to no good as ever. Drawn by Jim Petrie, yet another great comic strip artist.
Page 6: Lord Snooty. A character who had been round since the first issue, although he seemed to be falling out of favour by this point as his strip is only half a page. Desperate Dan also turns up rather oddly. The other half of the page is taken up by an advert for girls’ magazine Hi!, featuring competitions, photo stories, and a free gift of a badge with a member of Bros on it. Ooh, I hope I get the one of Ken!
Page 7: Ball Boy. A boy who of course loves his football and is always playing.
Page 8: Dennis The Menace’s Fan Club. There used to be letters on this page, but by this point they had been replaced by jokes, which is how it would stay for about a decade, with a T-shirt and poster for any that are published. Rather foolishly despite reading The Beano for years I never actually joined Dennis’s Fan Club (and Gnasher’s Fang Club), so I never got my two badges, membership card, club secrets and a smart club wallet like everyone else. What a plonker.
Pages 9 & 15: The Three Bears. Two strips in this issue; a new one, and a reprint of an old one as part ‘Old Masters”, the 50th anniversary celebrations that were beginning at this point.
Pages 10 & 11: The Bash Street Kids. Another classic strip, originally called “When The Bell Rings”. Needless to say, there’s a lot of chaos.
Page 12: Calamity James. He’s “the world’s unluckiest boy”, alongside his pet lemming Alexander. I did like this strip which was usually drawn by Tom Paterson in his terrifically outrageous style, only he doesn’t appear to have drawn this one.
Page 13: Pup Parade. Another half-page strip for the canine Bash Street Kids. By this point these strips were alternating with other long runners Little Plum and Biffo The Bear (just before he returned in the 90s and started giving us the silent treatment). There are also two adverts on this page, one for the Warlord Summer Special, and one for the Beano Summer Special, both 65p!
Page 14: The Germs. Another newer strip at the time, Jeremy Germ, Iris The Virus and Ugly Jack Bacteria irritate Ill Will.
Pages 16 & 17: Roger The Dodger. Another classic character, in this era he was joined by Joe The Crow, but he didn’t last long, although he remained in the first panel of the strip for years after. This is also another great piece of work by the late Robert Nixon.
Page 17: Roger The Dodger’s Dodge Clinic. A spin-off strip, where readers wrote to Roger with their problems and he suggested a dodge for them. It seems that if your letter was used you won a transistor radio and special scroll. I wonder how many people kept theirs.
Page 18: Number 13. A rather spooky strip featuring some creepy characters.
Page 19: Gnasher And Gnipper. Dennis’s two dogs get their own strip.
Page 20: Dennis The Menace And Gnasher. On the cover since 1974, this strip features all the usual fun really, with Walter being mocked at the Scarborough Festival and Dennis’s dad not standing for it. I like the way that all the dads in these strips at the time remind me of John Cleese, they’re all tall panicky men with a moustache and a greying combover hairstyle. What great fun.