The Beano may be of pensionable age at 75 years old, but the mischevious antics depicted in this Scottish childhood institution ensures that it’s hardly likely to reach for its bus pass anytime soon.
Since being established by Dundee-based publisher D.C. Thomson in 1938 (The Dandy was unveiled the year before), the Beano has been of Britain’s most popular comics. Its early issues are rare and highly valued - one copy of the first ever Beano published fetched £12,000 in 2004, a record for a British comic at the time.
But early issues were, perhaps unsurprisingly, markedly different from the contemporary Beano most children and adults will recognise and love.
The first character that readers ever saw was Big Eggo, an ostrich with an insatiable appetite for anything and everything - from World War II bombs to comedy anvils. Big Eggo regularly appeared on the cover for a decade until he was dethroned by Biffo the Bear. Lord Snooty was another character who featured prominently in the comic’s early days, but was dropped in the late 80s, although he has since made occassional comeback appearances. Lord Snooty was no longer considered to be a relatable character for many children; this probably mirrored a broader change in how children and adults perceived the notion of class.
The Beano as it is known now began to take shape in the early 50s with the introduction of Dennis the Menace - a mischevious, muddy-kneed, slingshot-carrying boy later accompanied by his equally cheeky dog Gnasher in 1968.
Other characters familiar to the Beano universe followed: Roger the Dodger in 1953; Minnie the Minx in the same year; and the Bash Street Kids in the mid 50s.
Most characters that have come since have revolved around this core cast who remain at the heartbeat of the Beano; Walter the Softy and Ivy The Terrible are two especially popular additions to the series; the former is effectively Dennis The Menace’s nemesis, depicted as a snooty and somewhat effeminite boy. Ivy, meanwhile, may be one of the youngest characters, but she’s also one of the most temperamental.
In recent years, a range of celebrities have appeared in special editions of the comics, ranging from Sir Alex Ferguson and David Beckham to Wimbledon champion Link to article, reaffirming the Beano’s long-running popularity.