Comics have entertained children and adults alike since the 1800s but none evoke so many memories of weekly laughs as the Beano and, especially the most famous of all British comic characters, The Beano’s “Dennis the Menace”.
When its older sibling, The Dandy, was released first on 4th December 1937 it changed the rules of the comic. The Beano followed shortly after on 30th July 1938.
What made these papers different from the others on the market was that, while they still included some of the trusted methods of text stories, they also used humour strips that relied on individual pictures and speech balloons to entertain the reader. The very style we still know and love today.
In March 1951, the comic world would be changed forever when “the world's naughtiest boy" was sketched on the back of a cigarette packet, and the comic's editor George Moonie heard a music hall song with the chorus "I'm Dennis the Menace from Venice". He immediately ordered a character to fit the same name and, courtesy of artist Davey Law, on the 17th March 1951 (issue #452), 70 years ago today, Dennis the Menace was born!
But it wasn’t until 25th August 1951 that Dennis gained his famous stripy jumper becoming the menace we all know and love to this day.
Why do I write this? Well, we all have our favourite bit of print, be it a print of art, a book, or something else. For me it’s the Beano, and especially Dennis the Menace. I loved the Beano as a child and held onto my comics, as many others have, as I grew up. The Beano in its heyday had a weekly print run of over 2 million - by far the most popular comic in the UK - so its mark on the printed world is firmly set. Having recently trawled my collection, I have compiled a near complete compendium of Dennis’s antics and I have loved and laughed at 70 years of comic humour, amazing art, and history, while doing it.
It made me think about how its publisher, D.C Thomson, has kept the comic and its characters fresh, engaging and relevant for all this time. As part of a business with a history in print, I can see as I revisit the comics, the changes made as new equipment was bought in and colour was added, wider web presses introduced for more pages, and the inevitable errors that go with fast moving print production at this scale. The Beano, and in particular Dennis, has had his own TV series, a long run of books, special editions, interactive content and a web presence that keeps visitors coming back for more.
It is however with the advent of personalisation in print, the ability to print anything on demand, and most recently “hyper personalisation”, that the dream of appearing in your own Beano has become a reality. There’s no better way to engage a child than for them to see themselves in a story, read about their own adventures, in their own version of it. With over 80 years of printed history in the archives too, the opportunities to tap into these resources and create new revenue is endless, especially with a potential client list spanning 90 years! We are very proud of, and passionate about, all the brands we work with but the Beano holds a very special place in my heart.
So, if you’re a secret Beano reader and wear your club badges on the inside of your jacket, I’d love to hear from you about your tales and memories of it, your dusty loft collection and your views on classic prints or modern takes on character art. Until then, Menaces forever!