CBBC Memories – Dennis The Menace.

Dennis The Menace (CBBC, 1996-1998)

This is a CBBC cartoon from the 90s that I was going to review a while ago, but I ended up doing something different when I discovered the show that preceded this one that was shown on The Children’s Channel (which featured puppetry instead of animation) in the early-90s on YouTube, so I decided to review that instead. But I feel that it’s now time to look back at this one.

Dennis The Menace first appeared in comic The Beano in 1951 (by a rather strange coincidence a character with the same name was launched in America at almost exactly the same time). He really was a troublesome ruffian, and along with his famous red and black jumper he had a punk hairstyle and attitude about 25 years before such things actually existed. In 1968 he was joined by his loyal pet dog Gnasher. In 1974 he replaced Biffo The Bear on the cover, where he remains to this day. Biffo was reported to be rather miffed. vlcsnap-00290

I started to read The Beano around the 1988/1989 mark, which was when I first met Dennis And Gnasher, along with all the other characters, including Dennis’s long-suffering parents, his friends including Pie-Face, and his enemies including Walter. I also enjoyed the spin-offs including the annuals and Comic Libraries, but I never joined the fan club though. The less said about his much-publicised 1991 redesign the better though. vlcsnap-00299

1993 was a rather significant year for Dennis and The Beano itself, which went full colour. His appearance changed somewhat, and I felt that the Dennis that I had got to know for the past few years had gone. Despite all this, I still very much looked forward to the release of The Beano Video at the end this year, when for the first time, several characters would be animated in various sketches. It did well enough for there to be a sequel released the following year. vlcsnap-00297

By 1996 Dennis got his own cartoon show on CBBC (which was also frequently plugged in The Beano). Again, all the familiar characters from the strip featured, along with a few newcomers including The Colonel and Sergeant Slipper. Hugh Laurie was among the celebrities who voiced guest characters. I do remember really enjoying these shows, although by the second series in 1998 I was in my teens and I had left behind The Beano and CBBC behind somewhat for the next younger generation of viewers to enjoy. There was much change in this year too, as Dennis gained a younger sister called Bea. vlcsnap-00335

Some episodes of Dennis The Menace were released on VHS, and there were also several repeats of the TV show on CBBC and digital channel Fox Kids into the 2000s. The Beano is still going, and in more recent years, over 65 years on from his debut, Dennis remains the master of mischief, and returned to the CBBC Channel for a new series of cartoons including Dennis And Gnasher Unleashed which was computer-generated. dennis0001dennis0002

The YouTube Files – The Dennis The Menace And Gnasher Show.

The Dennis The Menace And Gnasher Show (The Children’s Channel, 1990-1991)

I was having a think recently about what Children’s BBC programmes I remember watching that I still haven’t reviewed yet. One of them that came to mind was when comic character Dennis The Menace had his own cartoon show on CBBC which launched in 1996 and ran for many years which I liked. It was then that I remembered that in an old copy of The Beano from December 1990 there was an advert for an earlier show featuring Dennis on The Children’s Channel. Never having seen this, I wondered if any of this was on YouTube, and I was delighted to find that there was, so credit goes to John Oddy for uploading this. dennis

The Children’s Channel was one of the earliest satellite channels to launch in Britain, coming on air as early as 1984, and it closed in 1998, by which point it had been renamed simply TCC. When Dennis came to the channel in the early-90s the amount of homes that could receive TCC in this country would still be fairly small, I certainly didn’t have access to it. I’m also fairly sure that this was the first attempt to bring an animated version of Dennis to the screen, predating even the release of the first Beano Video by a few years. vlcsnap-00110

Now this is my era of Dennis. I’m not entirely sure when I first read The Beano, but it might be as early as January 1989, and I was a regular reader for about a decade. I was pleased to note that Dennis looks exactly how he did in the comic at the time, and when he was given a design overhaul sometime in 1993 things were never the same for me. This was also around the same time that The Beano went up to 30p, how scandalous. vlcsnap-00109

Dennis The Menace is a character that first appeared in The Beano in 1951, he was promoted to the cover in 1974, he has also appeared in lots of spin-off books and annuals, and he remains the cover star to this day, so it seems right that he would be the one given his own chance to appear in a TV show. This wasn’t a cartoon though, it involved puppetry, with all the characters appearing in front of animated backgrounds. I’m not sure how many episodes were made but most of them seem to be only five minutes long. vlcsnap-00119

Lots of other characters from the Dennis strip appear in the show. We also meet Dennis’s trusty dog Gnasher, and his parents appear too. How did they ever put up with him. Also appearing is Dennis’s rival Walter The Softy. I’m not sure if any of the stories were based on strips that appeared in The Beano but either way there were a lot of enjoyable moments. One thing that did strike me as being odd though is that Dennis appears to be voiced by an adult. I’m not sure who they are but it’s definitely not a boy doing the voice. vlcsnap-00117

Either way, it was a real delight to finally see some of these shows, they were very good and I feel that they could easily have got on to CBBC or CITV and they would have been enjoyed by a much bigger audience. There’s just one thing that still bugs me… why did I never join Dennis’s Fan Club? I would’ve been sent two badges and everything. Honestly, there’s a regret of mine.

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 – 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