Did You Know?
- Beano, Dandy and Other Comics
The Dundee-based publishing company D C Thomson is best known for producing The Dundee Courier, The Evening Telegraph and The Sunday Post newspapers. Its success made it one of the "Three Js", the traditional summary of Dundee industry ('jam, jute and journalism'). While its newspapers form a major part of its business it has long been associated with producing popular comic books for youngsters. D. C. Thomson's first boys' story paper was with Adventure in 1921. The success of this paper led to five further publications, The Rover and The Wizard in 1922, The Vanguard in 1924, The Skipper in 1930 and The Hotspur in 1933. Although The Vanguard folded in 1926, the others were a great triumph and became known as "The Big Five". The company also introduced popular picture strips into its Sunday Post newspaper with such characters as "Oor Wullie" (with his catch phrases of "Jings", "Crivvens", "Braw" and "Help ma Boab") and "The Broons".
Then came the "Dandy" (Britain's longest running comic) and the "Beano" (still a major seller). Statues have been erected in Dundee to celebrate Desperate Dan and his dog and Minnie the Minx which were spawned by these publications and in March 2012, the Royal Mail issued a set of postage stamps to mark the 75th anniversary of the first edition of the "Dandy" later in 2012. The stamps incorporated illustrations from other famous of the D C Thomson comics such as Bunty, Twinkle, and Topper (see below), as well as a few other rival comics (such as Eagle, 2000AD, Tiger and Valiant) that have come and, in some cases, gone. The Royal Mail publicity for the stamps commented "The Dandy, celebrating its 75th birthday this year, and The Beano, which will do likewise next year, are almost British institutions and it feels appropriate to celebrate these comics and their characters."
The first issue of the Dandy was printed in December 1937 and it is the world's third longest running comic. There have been over 3,500 issues (during World War II, The Beano and The Dandy were published on alternating weeks because of paper and ink rationing). The longest running strips were Desperate Dan and Korky the Cat who both started in the comic's first issue. Desperate Dan's lantern jaw is said to be based on the comic's early editor Albert Barnes.
There is an online site for Dandy.
The Beano was first published on 30 July 1938. The Beano's main characters over the years have been Dennis the Menace (who didn't appear until 1951), Minnie the Minx, Bash Street Kids, Roger, the Dodger and Lord Snooty. In the 1950s sales of the Beano topped 2 million a week, distributed across the UK and although the number of copies has fallen from their peak, the Beano remains the UK's biggest selling comic. There have been over 3,500 issues. The Beano takes its name from the English word beano which can be loosely interpreted as "a good time" (a "bean feast" was an annual feast given to workmen by their employers in 19th century England).
There is an online site for Beano.
Bunty was aimed at young girls and was first published in January 1958 and lasted until 2001 after 2,249 issues. It featured characters such as the Four Marys, Second-Hand Sue, Moira the Swimming Marvel, Moira Kent (an aspiring ballerina) and Lorna Drake. It also included letters pages, competitions, featured readers, puzzle pages, promotions, next-week previews or advertisements. The back page, initially featured a cut-out doll and paper clothes, which eventually gave way to a wall-poster. "The Four Marys" was the longest story the comic ran, appearing from its creation in 1958 to its end in 2001, centred around four young teenagers who lived in a girls-only boarding school. When the strip started, public boarding schools were common, but as time went on, they became less accessible to Bunty's general audience.
Twinkle was aimed at young girls and was introduced by Twinkle herself and featured comic strips, dress-up dolls, a Twinkle Club letters page, and puzzles. Among the most popular comic strips were Nurse Nancy, Jenny Wren, Witch Winkle, Polly's Magic Paintbox, Goldilocks and her Three Bears, My Baby Brother, The Three Pennys, Patsy Panda, Patty Pickle, Sally Sweet, Molly and her Dollies and Dandy Lion. It was published from January 1968 to 1999 (1612 issues).
Topper was launched in 1953, with a larger than normal paper size. Although Mickey the Monkey was on the cover of the first issue, it was Beryl the Peril (a female counterpart of Dennis the Menace in the Beano) who became the main character in this comic. During its lifetime (from 1953 to 1990), it absorbed comics such as Buzz and Sparky and reduced in size to the more normal A4 dimensions. In 1990 it merged with the Beezer to form "The Beezer and Topper" ("two comics in one!") which continued to 1993.
Other Popular Comics
I still remember the excitement leading up to the launch of the Eagle comic in April 1950. The first edition of 900,000 copies was a sell-out thanks to heavy advertising beforehand. Dan Dare - Pilot of the Future was soon a firm favourite. Published by the Hulton Press, it had 20 pages, many in full colour and initially was printed on better quality paper than its rivals at the time. The detailed cut-out drawings in the centre pages illustrated how anything from a jet engine to an aircraft carrier was designed and worked. And there were fun cartoons too, with Captain Pugwash a firm favourite who later came back from the dead in a UK TV series. Sales reached a million at its peak but it fell into decline in the 1960s and merged with the Lion in 1969. The Eagle flew again on its own in 1969 but only survived for another 11 years.
2000AD, published by IPC Magazines, styled itself as "The Galaxy's Greatest Comic" and was launched in 1977 and is still being published after more than 1,750 issues later. to benefit from an interest in science fiction after the Star Wars films increased interest in the genre. Initially is had a series of Dan Dare adventures (see above in the section on Eagle etc) but it was a zero-tolerance future-cop Judge Dredd that became the star. The comic is still popular and is available not only on the news-stand but in digital form as well.
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