Comic Memories – The Beano Video.

The Beano Video (1993)/The Beano Videostars (1994) video0001When it was announced in 1993 that a video would be released featuring famous characters from The Beano in animated form for the first time, I was really pleased. I had been reading The Beano for about three or four years by this point, and had got to know and enjoy some of the characters, so this was definitely something that I wanted as a Christmas present. vlcsnap-01448

The Beano Video was definitely one of the highlights of Christmas 1993 for me. I still remember when I watched the tape for the first time how odd it was seeing these characters finally coming to life. The characters that were featured were Dennis The Menace And Gnasher, Minnie The Minx, The Bash Street Kids, and The Three Bears. vlcsnap-01452

Lots of questions such as what would happen in the video and how would the characters sound were answered. There was some impressive voice talent on board, including Enn Reitel. Now if he is not a name you are familiar with, you will almost certainly know his voice. One thing that I have learned from watching vintage advert breaks on YouTube, is that he seemed to voice every third advert on British TV for about the last 35 years. He does has a good voice but it is remarkable just how often you do hear him flogging everything from corn flakes to cars. Other voice actors taking part included Kate Robbins and Susan Sheridan. vlcsnap-01451

Out of all of the stories featured, my favourite has to be “Space Case” featuring The Bash Street Kids, where a prank is played on the mortarboard-wearing teacher (voiced by Reitel) that an alien has invaded the school, but the teacher doesn’t believe them. “Piffle and poppycock, silly boy.” But then he sees the alien for himself, cue silly sound effects! It turns out it was actually Spotty all hang. How cheeky. Just how daft it all is still makes me laugh now over 20 years later. vlcsnap-01450

Such was the success of The Beano Video that a year later they did it all again, and in Christmas 1994 the sequel The Beano Videostars was released. This was an hour long video, featuring all the stars of the first one, plus Roger The Dodger and Ivy The Terrible appearing for the first time, and for me it was definitely as good as the first one. vlcsnap-01449

Although I’m sure that neither of these videos have ever been shown on TV, in 1996 Dennis The Menace would go on to have his own animated show on CBBC which was always great to watch too. These two videos are among some my favourite tapes that I had when I was younger, it was a great idea and seeing these classic comic characters finally on the screen was fantastic.

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Comic Memories – Classics From The Comics.

Classics From The Comics (1996-2010)

Classics From The Comics was a magazine published by DC Thomson which featured classic strips from their archive, which was published monthly and had 68 pages. Strips were mostly taken from the archives of The Beano, The Dandy, The Beezer, The Topper, plus some of their shorter-lived comics including Sparky, Nutty, Cracker and Buzz, and mostly ranged from the late-50s to the late-80s. The cover also featured original artwork of various characters which was usually drawn by Ken H Harrison. classic0001

There were definitely lots of retro laughs to be had. Although I read DC Thomson comics for about a decade when I was younger, one thing that I liked about Classics From The Comics was discovering characters from before my time or from the comics that I didn’t usually read. Another thing that I liked was that they sometimes included some front covers of classic comics which were always great to look at, great fun from back in the days when comics cost tuppence. classic0005

As well as all the big names such as Dennis The Menace and Korky The Cat, strips that I liked included Ginger who was a star in The Beezer and was originally drawn by Dudley D Watkins, who is regarded as one of the greatest British comic strip artists. I also enjoyed the adventures of The Topper‘s Mickey The Monkey and Pop, Dick and Harry. classic0006

One classic strip that I particularly liked and think deserves some credit was Danny’s Tranny, which appeared in The Topper in the 70s and 80s. It was about a boy called Danny Wilson (not the “Mary’s Prayer” group) who had a magical transistor radio, that when he pressed the buttons, could make incredible things happen, including making things bigger or smaller, or invisible. I just thought that this strip was a great idea well done and I was always pleased when a strip was reprinted in Classics From The Comicsclassic0004

One negative thing about Classics From The Comics was that there were PC cuts made to some strips, with children receiving “the slipper” being particularly targeted to be removed from history. I know that of course “it was alright in the 80s” and it wouldn’t be acceptable now, but I am unsure that pretending things never happened is a good idea. The majority of strips seemed to be published uncut though.

One of the more positive things about Classics From The Comics though was that in later issues there were some more features, including puzzles, and competitions to win prizes. There were also some profiles about some of the artists who worked on the strips. I was pleased about this because they deserve credit for their work, and I particularly enjoyed the one on the late Jim Petrie, one of my favourite artists who brilliantly drew Minnie The Minx for 40 years. They also expanded the range of comics that they featured strips from, even including the long-gone boys’ comics Victor and Hotspur for a while. classic0003

Just as I felt Classics From The Comics was taking an upward turn in its content though, it abruptly closed in 2010 after 175 issues and 14 years. This was disappointing, but there is still the occasional annual published featuring archive material. I hope that DC Thomson will continue to occasionally go through their archive, as they have now published strips of some of Britain’s favourite comic characters for over 80 years. classic0002

Comic Memories – Big Comic Fortnightly.

Big Comic Fortnightly (1988-1995)

This will be a piece looking at all the additional fortnightly/monthly/annually comics released by Fleetway along with the weekly ones that I have already reviewed. Big Comic Fortnightly launched in June 1988, promising to offer readers big value. 52 pages of fun for 35p, wow, what a bargain! bcf0001

Although actually it wasn’t that much of a bargain as it first seemed, as all of the strips in Big Comic Fortnightly were reprints from Fleetway’s range of comics including Cor!!, Jackpot, and Whoopee, most of which had long since closed by the time Big Comic Fortnightly had launched. Also, in March 1989, Fleetway launched Funny Fortnightly, which was almost exactly the same really with its reprints, and again it was 52 pages for 35p. funny0001

Also around this time there were a few other monthly comics from Fleetway, including The Best Of Buster, The Best Of Whoopee, and The Best Of Whizzer And Chips. Again, these only consisted of reprints from the archive, but there was also the occasional free gift given away and competition. Although I used to read it fairly regularly, unfortunately I now only have one issue of Big Comic Fortnightly in my collection, I didn’t keep all of my comics from when I was younger because I am daft. diary0001

For me, it is a shame that the Fleetway characters haven’t entered the public consciousness like the majority of DC Thomson ones have, most of which continue to this day. There was a great range of characters, including Faceache, Odd Ball, X-Ray Specs, and many others, and I do feel that any of them could match Dennis The Menace and co. for how much they enhanced my childhood with their adventures. There were also lots of great artists who drew the strips, including Tom “acting daft ‘cos he’s in a comic” Paterson, the terrific talent behind lots of strips including Sweeny Toddler, and others including the great Ken Reid and Robert Nixon, and I feel they really do deserve more appraisal for their work. faceache0001

By the mid-90s though, Fleetway’s fortunes were beginning to fade. All of the monthly comics closed, and the annuals came to an end too. By the end of their lifetimes Big Comic Fortnightly and Funny Fortnightly (which had doubled in price by this point) had both been relaunched as Big Comic Monthly (now with 100 pages) and Funny Monthly, a sure sign that they were beginning to run out of steam, and indeed they had both closed by 1995. Where now for the mighty Pongo Snodgrass? odd0001

There was one last attempt to keep the monthly comics going, with The Best Of Buster relaunching as Buster Classics, and all the others being merged into one as Big Value Comic. This comic even featured a few pages in colour and everything, plus for the first time an original strip, but it had closed by 1996, leaving only Buster, which was a fortnightly comic by this point and also full of reprints, to struggle on until the end of the decade which was a very unsatisfactory ending for this era of comics.

Comic Memories – Beano And Dandy Comic Libraries.

I have already written on here about most of the comics that I used to read when I was younger now, so I decided that I should start to write about any comics variations and spin-offs that I used to enjoy too. I was thinking about sharing some memories of annuals, when I remembered the collection of Comic Libraries that were released by The Beano and The Dandy throughout the 80s and 90s.

Comic Libraries were 68-page A6 books that were extended stories featuring various characters from The Beano and The Dandy. The series launched in 1982 and there were two stories released every month, originally priced at 20p, meaning that by the time Comic Libraries ended in 1997 over 340 stories had been released for both comics. These stories were not in full colour, some of the pages featured a red tint on them and that was it. library0001

I don’t have a big collection of Comic Libraries myself but looking back just about all of the major characters of the time were given their own adventure, including Winker Watson, Cuddles and Dimples, Bananaman, Dennis The Menace and many others. Occasionally characters from other DC Thomson comics such as The Beezer took part too including Baby Crockett. winker0001

One thing that I liked about the Comic Libraries were the special spin-offs. There was also the Beano Puzzle Book series, where various characters set challenges such as wordsearches and crosswords. And there was the Dandy Cartoon Book series, which featured short strips with lots of characters. These were released less frequently than the Comic Libraries series but there were still almost 90 editions published of both and they were very enjoyable. I remember that The Beano and The Dandy also occasionally gave one of these away as a free gift. Every time some new Comic Libraries were released they were frequently advertised in both comics. library0002

By 1997 Comic Libraries were relaunched as a new series called Beano Fun-Size and Dandy Fun-Size. These carried on in the usual way with extended stories, although the pages still weren’t in full colour. By the end of the run though the stories were mostly reprints and as sales fell the series ended in 2010, meaning no more pocket sized fun for us. funsize0001

Comic Memories – Whoopee!

My final look at a classic comic for now, Whoopee! was published by Fleetway for 11 years from March 1974 to March 1985, at which point it merged with Whizzer And Chips. Once again this page-by-page review will be based on a charity shop find (13 November 1982) so here’s the strips that you would find in this issue.

Pages 1 & 32: Snack-Man. The cover star in this era is clearly based on the video game character Pac-Man. He’s a circle-shaped thing who likes to eat anything he can. who0001

Pages 2 & 3: Mustapha Million. The rich boy character that has turned up before in one of these reviews.

Pages 4 & 5: Stage School. A group of children who want to get into show business. Yet another strip drawn by the prolific Robert Nixon.

Page 6: Toy Boy. Another strip that I’m sure already turned up in another comic about a boy who loves his toys. who0002

Page 7: Beaky. A rather pesky bird who causes trouble.

Page 8: Sweeny Toddler. Another great strip from Tom Paterson. who0003

Page 9: A competition to win various sporting prizes including snooker tables, table tennis sets, and a Bullseye board game!

Page 10: Teacher’s Pets. A teacher whose class at school is full of animals.

Page 11: Calculator Kid. A boy with a pocket calculator who could talk. This was impressive in 1982, honest. Another good one from Terry Bave.

Pages 12 & 13: Robot Granny. The story of a granny with superhuman powers. Page 13 also features an advert for Roy Of The Rovers where your dream could come true and you could win tickets to the Milk Cup Final!

Page 14: Bookworm. A bespectacled boy who is really into his books. who0004

Page 15: Chip. A little like Calculator Kid, this strip features a boy who is friends with the modern technology of a talking microchip.

Pages 16 & 17: The Bumpkin Billionaires. Another outing for the rich family in the centre pages.

Page 18: Tom Horror’s World. A boy who is always trying to invent things. A great strip drawn by the talented Ken Reid in his distinctive style. who0005

Page 19: Smiler. A half-page strip of a boy with a smile for every occasion, just like Faceache had hundreds of faces. “Moggy rescue service beam”. “Squidged beam”. “What goes up… beam” are among his classics. The other half of the page features an advert for the 1983 Big Daddy Annual.

Pages 20 & 21: Kids Of Class Five. A more serious episodic strip featuring children at a school.

Page 22: Whoopee! Winners. The letters page, with £1 and a T-shirt won for every letter published.

Page 23: Smile-In. The jokes page, with the same prizes on offer for a published joke. Needless to say, they make Smiler smile.

Page 24: Little Ed. The boy who wants to be an editor.

Page 25: Paddywack. Another silly half-page strip. The other half of the page features the prize winners of a recent competition who all receive a Bullseye board game!

Pages 26 & 27: Frankie Stein. The crazy monster who comes to life. Again drawn by Robert Nixon, was there nothing he couldn’t do? who0006

Pages 28 & 29: Lolly Pop. A rich father who was always irritating his son Archie. Another strip by Sid Burgon who was another star artist from this era.

Page 30: Cheeky. A funny strip about a boy who was rather cheeky not too surprisingly. He also had a comic of his own from 1977 to 1980. who0007

Page 31: Whoopee! It’s Quiz Time. A quick game featuring some questions about what happened in some of the strips in the issue. Were you taking any notice of what happened?

Comic Memories – The Dandy.

The Dandy was a comic that was published by DC Thomson and ran for 75 years from 1937 to 2012. It’s still rather odd to think that it’s not around any more, and the final decade or so of its life was rather grim with endless relaunches and plummeting sales. I do remember enjoying the comic for many years in the 90s though and I’ll write more about my favourite memories soon. Again the issue I’m going to review is a charity shop find (No. 2181, 10 September 1983) so here are the strips in the 20 pages.

Page 1: Korky The Cat. Korky was one of the longest-running characters in The Dandy, appearing on the cover from the first issue until 1984 when he was replaced by Desperate Dan. The story on the cover appears to be a promotion to win a T-shirt. dandy0001

Page 2: The Smasher. A boy who is always causing chaos by breaking things and being accident-prone. I remember the later version by which point the strip was just called Smasher.

Page 3: Harry And His Hippo. A boy called Harry who indeed has a pet hippo, just casually walking around as if it’s the norm which it seems to be in these type of comics.

Pages 4 & 5: Whacko! The tale of a knight who is the teacher of a chaotic class which begins “In the days of old when kids were bold/And monkeys chewed tobacco/The only master of this school/Was armour-clad Sir Whacko!”.

Page 6: Micky The Mouth. He’s “the boy with the loudest voice in the world”, which is a help and a hindrance, with the strip concluding with Micky sneezing so loudly it blows the front door off his house.

Page 7: The Burrd. The adventures of a rather crazy bird. dandy0002

Page 8: Izzy Skint. “He always is” apparently, a penniless boy who thinks of schemes to still achieve things, like using a ladder to look over a fence and watch a football match. “Just wait till I get my hands on him!”-type fun ensues.

Page 9: Tom Tum. A half-page strip with a rather tubby boy who likes to slurp any food he can. The other half of the page features an advert for the “smashing extra-long comic adventures” Dandy Comic Libraries No. 9 and No. 10.

Pages 10 & 11: Desperate Dan. A double-page story for one of the longest-serving characters and the one that I always remember being on the cover when I read The Dandy. It seems that The Dandy did have some long-runners but not as many that endured as The Beano, and there seem to be a lot more short-lived strips, I must admit I don’t remember seeing too many in this issue before, they must have all come and gone in the mid-80s, but this means that there are a lot of characters that even if they weren’t a big success were still enjoyable, and I’ll be revealing more about many favourite characters soon.

Page 12: The Desperate Dan Pie-Eaters’ Club. The letters page and the equivalent of The Dennis The Menace Fan Club. The star letter receives the prize of a futuristic Casio (Pyramid Game) watch! Again I didn’t join this club rather foolishly. dandy0003

Pages 13 & 14: The Jocks And The Geordies. A strip featuring two groups always battling one another, sort of a Scotland v England or North v South thing.

Page 15: The Tricks Of Screwy Driver. Another half-page strip with a boy who always has a trick up his sleeve. The other half of the page is a plug for the Beano Book 1984.

Pages 16 & 17: Brassneck. A boy called Charley Brand and his best friend who was a robot! Now this one I do like. dandy0004

Page 18: Desperate Dawg. A bit like Desperate Dan, but with a dog. That’s all there is to say about that one really.

Page 19: Dinah Mo. Another character in the Minnie The Minx/Beryl The Peril mould who did last into the 90s. dandy0005

Page 20: Bully Beef And Chips. Another one of the longer-running strips, Bully Beef was always really horrible, and according to this picture he is also a distant relative of Nelson Muntz. dandy0006

Comic Memories – The Beano.

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. beano0001

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. beano0002

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. beano0003

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. beano0004

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! beano0005

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. beano0006

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. beano0007