Happy birthday Beano! If you’ve never read it, here’s what you’ve missed…
1938: The first edition of the Beano appears, dated 30th July. The Dandy started the previous year. Stories include Big Eggo (the cover story centred on an ostrich), Pansy Potter: The Strongman’s Daughter and the more enduring Lord Snooty and his Pals which lasts into the 1990s.
There are only twelve copies of the first issue known to still be in existence.
1939 -1949: Due to paper rationing, the Beano and Dandy both appear on alternate weeks, rather than weekly.
1940: The first ever Beano Book. If you own one without a year on the front, it must be from between 1940 and 1965. If it’s called The Magic-Beano Book, it must be from between 1943 and 1950 (the regular comic was never called this). The one below is from 1948.
1940-43: Musso The Wop appears, the racist title of a strip mocking Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. The real leader was overthrown in 1943 and the strip ended.
1948: Biffo the Bear appears and immediately knocks Big Eggo off the front page. Eggo disappears forever in 1949.
1950s: Despite (or perhaps because of) the threat provided by TV and new comics like The Eagle, the Fifties is something of a golden age for The Beano with most of its most famous stories starting during this decade.
1951: Dennis the Menace appears, undoubtedly the comic’s most popular and famous story. By strange coincidence, a US strip with the same name about a similarly mischievous but blonde brat started in the same week. The American one was usually just called “Dennis” in the UK to avoid confusion. Cartoons and films of the US version started to appear in the UK after the Eighties.
Biffo remains on the front page. Dennis’s distinctive black and red jumper appear after a few weeks and Dennis’s friends Curly and Pie-Face as well as Softy Walter all appear from the early Fifties onward. Gnasher comes later.
1953: Three major stories Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx and Little Plum all begin. Little Plum (“your redskin chum”) ceases to appear regularly after 1998.
1954: The Bash Street Kids (initially called When The Bell Goes or When The Bell Rings) appears. There were initially a vague and often changing large group of pupils eventually settling down to a hardcore of eight: Danny, Sidney and Toots (brother and sister), Smiffy (stupid), Erbert (short sighted), Plug (ugly), Spotty (spotty and has a very long tie), Wilfred (face partly obscured by jumper) and Fatty (obese)
Cuthbert Cringeworthy (the teacher’s pet) first appears in the Bash Street Kids from 1972.
1955: The first Dennis the Menace book appears. It is available most years until 2010.
1959: The Three Bears, a Wild West take on the fairy tale featuring blunderbusses appears (until 2011).
1964: Billy Whizz races onto the page for the first time.
1966: The Beano Books have the dates on the cover from now on.
1968: Gnasher appears alongside Dennis the Menace for the first time.
1972: Babyface Finlayson – appears (on and off) from now into the 21st century.
1974: Dennis replaces Biffo the Bear on the cover after a twenty-seven year run. Biffo ceases to be in the comic regularly after 1986.
1975: The football-obsessed Ball Boy kicks off.
1976: The Dennis the Menace Fan Club begins.
1979: The Bash Street Kids book (just called The Bash Street Kids) starts appearing most years until 2010.
Rasher, Dennis’s pet pig gets a story of his own.
1980: Smudge (a bath-averse boy) appears in the comic, lasting into the 1990s.
1982: The first Beano Comic Libraries (small book-like comics with one long story in) appear.
1985: Ivy the Terrible, the Toddler Terror,. makes her first appearance.
1986: The terminally unlucky Calamity James arrives at The Beano.
Gnasher goes missing in a well-publicised story, only to return with a new puppy Gnipper who has one solitary tooth (a new story Gnasher and Gnipper appears). Gnasher is male. Who Gnipper’s mother is, is never explained.
1988: The comic is revamped for its 50th birthday. Extra pages appear and more colour is used. Many other British comics fold in the Eighties and Nineties (The Beezer, Topper, Buster, Whizzer and Chips). The Beano does well to survive.
1991: The comic’s oldest story Lord Snooty ceases to appear regularly. Some blame John Major’s “classless society.”
1993: The Beezer and Topper merge into The Beano. The Numskulls – who live inside and operate a human body – now appear in The Beano. The comic goes into full colour for the first time.
1994: A new look politically correct Bash Street Kids are unveiled. The new look is quickly abandoned after a fierce public backlash. Some suspect it is just a publicity stunt.
1996: A Dennis the Menace cartoon appears on TV. Voices include Billy Connolly and Hugh Laurie.
1998: Birth of Dennis the Menace’s sister Bea.
2002: The Beano Book becomes The Beano Annual.
2004: Dennis the Menace becomes the longest running strip in Beano history (it became the longest-running front page story in 2000). As of 2013, the most enduring strips are Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, Roger the Dodger, The Bash Street Kids followed by the previous longest-running story, Lord Snooty.
2007: The Dandy undergoes a dramatic and probably ultimately fatal revamp, becoming Dandy Xtreme.
2009: Another new TV series, Dennis and Gnasher begins. It continues until 2013.
2012: The Dandy ceases to appear in print and becomes The Dandy Online. Bananaman, the third longest running strip in The Dandy now appears in The Beano and Dandy Online.
2013: The Dandy Online formally ends. The Beano has another revamp for its 75th birthday.
2016: Beano Studios is launched. It is described as “a brand new multimedia Studios set up to create, curate and deliver mischievous entertainment for kids worldwide”.
2018: With weekly sales figures hitting an impressive 37,542, The Beano approaches its 80th birthday.
May there be many more!