December the 4th 1937, was a significant date in the world of children’s comics. It was the day when publishers, D.C.Thomson, launched The Dandy. Thomsons were already big in the Boys’ papers market, but this was their first foray into comics aimed at younger boys AND girls.
The new 28-page paper was printed on the same letterpress machines which produced the company’s newspapers and 4-colour was restricted to the covers with a few 2-colour pages inside. But the mix of text stories, picture stories, cartoon strips and jokes was an immediate hit with kids…and a companion paper, The Beano, was launched just over 6 months later on July 30th, 1938.
The humour in both comics was basic – the fun stemmed from the idiosyncratic and often larger than life characters which were carefully designed to allow readers to relate to and sympathise with them and laugh at the ridiculous scrapes they got into, all set against a recognisable background. The serious side of the papers was given over to text and picture adventure stories featuring strong and heroic personalities. Magic was acceptable.
Today The Beano and The Dandy are Britain’s leading comics, with legions of fans across the generations; as much a part of the British way of life as Fish ‘n’ Chips and the Union Jack. The Beano is an important brand in both the children’s and the adult collectors’ markets. The contents of the two comics, although created and edited by very different personalities, have always had a certain similarity – visually at least. This is mainly because many of the strip artists worked for both papers.
Dennis The Menace burst on to the pages of The Beano in 1951; although ‘burst’ is probably too strong a word. Dennis began life as a third-of-a-page mono strip – and he didn’t even have his famous hooped jumper. It was some weeks till he appeared in the now familiar hooped livery and a while after that before his popularity resulted in his promotion to full page. In 1954 he graduated to 4-colour on the back page.