A Brief History of 'The Beano', Scotland's Beloved Comic

The Beano | © Charles Dyer/Flickr
The Beano | © Charles Dyer/Flickr
Photo of Tori Chalmers
23 January 2017

When the word ‘Beano’ is uttered, thoughts of Dennis the Menace, Beryl the Peril and the Bash Street Kids spring to mind, along with glorious childhood memories and a hefty dose of nostalgia. More than just a comic, however, a legacy as long as Dennis’ misdemeanours sits amidst the witty puns, hilarious happenings and endearing characters.

First published on July 30, 1938, The Beano is one of the most popular and best selling comic strips to date and has appeared in over 3500 editions. The brainchild of DC Thomson, a publishing house based in Dundee responsible for producing over 200 million comics, magazines and newspapers annually, there’s no denying its status as a beloved pride and joy of Scotland.

Dennis The Menace And Gnasher

The Beano, which was initially pinned as a boys’ comic, is now regarded gender-neutral. From 1921 onward, DC Thompson gained appreciation for creating the ‘Big Five’, a series of popular story papers for boys. Riding on this success, the ‘Fun Section’ of the Scottish weekly newspaper The Sunday Post introduced the iconic strips Oor Wullie and The Broons by prolific artist Dudley Watkins. This welcomed response led to the birth of The Dandy and The Beano. Today, only five copies of the very first Beano issue remain, one of which was auctioned in 2004 for £12,400.

Vintage Comics | © Matt Brown/Flickr

A testament to the comic’s enduring success, the year 2000 saw the 3000th Beano issue. Diehard enthusiasts will note the great number of revamps over the years – some tiny, others significantly larger. Those with a discerning eye will also spy the occasional crossover between Beano characters, seeing as they all live in the fictional land of Beanotown.

The name ‘Beano’ is an English word that literally translates to ‘a grand old time’ or ‘a bean feast’ (an annual feast for workmen in the UK during the 19th century, courtesy of their bosses).

Throughout the years, a number of editors have taken the wheel at The Beano, the first being George Moonie in 1938. Craig Graham, the current editor, took the reins in 2012. In turn, the vast majority of the most famous Beano characters are the masterpieces of esteemed Scottish comic artists.

Beano Blast From The Past | © Sarah Joy/Flickr

When it comes to The Beano, anarchic humour reigns free. Look at Dennis, the despicable and disrespectful rogue with a serious distaste for authority; or Roger, with his dishonest tongue. With time, various tweaks have occurred in tandem with shifts in social trends.

To commemorate The Beano‘s 70th birthday, August 2, 2008 was declared Gnashional Menace Day. Children were sponsored to mimic Dennis and a special 40-page issue – guest edited by longtime Beano fan and Wallace and Gromit creator, Nick Park – was also published.

Unwavering in appeal, 2016 saw the arrival of beano.com, an online platform for kids (and grown-ups) to experience the enchanting nature of The Beano wherever they may go.

Dennis Gathering Wood For A Bonfire | © Epic Fireworks/Flickr

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