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REVIEW: The Beano – Issue 3703

September 22, 2013

The front cover to The Beano, Issue 3703. Artwork by Nigel Parkinson, colours by Nika. Front cover image originally from Wacky Comics.

Every now and then, there’s an issue of The Beano that’s so good that it makes you realise how much Craig Graham has saved the comic – whilst I’m not sure if this is one of those issues, I can say this issue is certainly a sight for sore eyes and couldn’t have come at a better time…

In this week’s issue, we see all of the previous celebrity/parody Funsize Funnies replaced by a mixture of spin-offs of Beano characters (yay!), parodies of TV shows and films (meh) and some utterly rubbish celebrity strips (boo!) – however, it is nice to see the end of atrocities such as ‘Celebrity Believe It or Not’, ‘Jose’s Back’ and ‘Simon’s Bowel’, it’s such a shame as the artists deserve so much better than drawing those terrible stories. We also see ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turkeys’ get replaced with a new humour-adventure strip by Steve Beckett, entitled ‘Mega Mega Mootants’ and see the return of two much-missed past things, namely Mike Pearse and Calamity James (in new strips). After spotting Mike Pearse’s artwork on ‘Fatty’s Kitchen Nightmares’, I suddenly felt a burst of happiness – he’s  been gone for far too long, it’s so great to see him back! Now get him back onto drawing us some new episodes of ‘BSK: Singled Out’ please, Beano!

Anyway, enough of me going on about how brilliant Mike Pearse and how much I’ve missed his work – let’s get onto reviewing this rather interesting issue!

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Calamity James returns on Page 13 by new artist, Les Stannage!

Calamity James returns on Page 13 by new artist, Les Stannage! Image from Wacky Comics.

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THE CONTENTS

PG 1: Front Cover by Nigel Parkinson
PG 2: Advert: The Beano Shop
PG 3: The Bash Street Burp by Nigel Parkinson
PG 4: Dennis the Menace and Gnasher by Nigel Parkinson and Nigel Auchterlounie
PG 7: Competition: Dennis and Gnasher’s Gnawesome Giveaways
PG 8: Top 10 Packed Lunch Pranks by Steve Beckett
PG 10: Ball Boy by Alexander Matthews
PG 11: Funsize Funnies #1:

  • Smiffy’s Top Tips by Paul Palmer – NEW!
  • One Direction, The Movie – The Bits They Left Out by Karl Dixon – NEW!
  • I Pity the School by Alexander Matthews (reprint)
  • The Incredible Skunk by Gary Boller – NEW!

PG 12: Advert: The Beano Shop
PG 13: Calamity James by Les Stannage – NEW!
PG 14: The Numskulls by Nigel Auchterlounie
PG 16: Puzzle: Plug Pulls the Plug by Stu Munro
PG 17: Will.i.am the Conqueror by Laura Howell
PG 18: The Bash Street Kids by David Sutherland
PG 20: The Beano Subscription Page
PG 21: Funsize Funnies #2:

  • Fatty’s Kitchen Nightmares by Mike Pearse – NEW!
  • Man VS. Wood by Nick Brennan – NEW!
  • Jessie’s J by Paul Palmer – NEW!
  • One Direction, The Movie – The Bits They Left Out by Karl Dixon

PG 22: Competition: The Entertainer
PG 23: Mega Mega Mootants by Steve Beckett – NEW!
PG 24: Super Menaces/Fun Kids
PG 26: Bananaman by Wayne Thompson and Nigel Auchterlounie
PG 28: The Greatest Mutt Movies Ever! by Laura Howell
PG 29: Billy Whizz by Wilbur Dawbarn
PG 30: Word on the Street by Les Stannage
PG 31: Funsize Funnies #2:

  • One Direction, The Movie – The Bits They Left Out by Karl Dixon
  • The Forsyth Saga – How Old is Bruce? by Wayne Thompson
  • Handy Murray by Paul Palmer
  • The Bone Ranger by Steve Beckett

PG 32: Roger the Dodger by Jamie Smart
PG 34: The Wrap-Up by Nigel Parkinson and Craig Graham
PG 35: Next Week in The Beano
PG 36: Minnie the Minx by Nigel Parkinson

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Mega Mega Mootants by Steve Beckett was new this week and replaced Dean Rankine’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turkeys’. Image from SJ Beckett Design.

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THE REVIEW

Not a fan of this week’s cover, I found the silver didn’t work well for me. It looked good on the robot but odd everywhere else where it was used. Dennis the Menace and Gnasher was very good as usual, very silly and witty in places – Nigel A is the best thing that ever happened to that comic strip! Steve Beckett was on top form with his artistry to go alongside the pranks, Steve is great at drawing Dennis and the rest of them – would like to see him do more of Dennis, not sure what though. The pranks are also good, harmless fun – I’ve always liked the creative prank pages in The Beano.

Ball Boy didn’t work for me this week. There’s a fine line between surreal humour and stupidity and I find this one was a little too stupid. It seems Ball Boy just needs an extra page at times, this one ended too abruptly. Things need to be explained better, it’s good to write silly stuff but in this story we never know why Ball Boy does these things like kicking a flaming rock – we just seem to be expected to find it funny because it’s weird and doesn’t make sense.

Smiffy’s Top Tips was good for what it was, Paul’s ‘Simply Smiffy’ series was good fun so I’m glad to see it back again under a new name. Karl’s one-off 1D parody is alright for a parody – it wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny but it was better than the previous celeb stories. Karl’s artwork also looks great in these stories, I much prefer Karl’s caricatures to Nigel Parkinson’s. I Pity the School was great, I loved it back then in The Dandy days and I loved it now. The Incredible Skunk features fantastic artwork by Gary Boller, yet its story is yet another fart gag – hardly original and funny now, is it?

Calamity James was on Page 13… Coincidence? Les Stannage has done a decent job at copying Tom’s style. Some of those panels look very nice – although the perspectives need work in places I found. I found it quite hard to believe sausages cost £140 and the roses cost £400 but hey, it works for the story. A good start for Calamity James, I look forward to more! The Numskulls was utterly hilarious, definitely my new favourite Numskulls story! The good thing about The Numskulls is that it does celebrities right and it works well, some very funny and silly moments in this week’s plus a very good ending. Easily one of my favourites this week!

Stu Munro does a wonderful job once again at his puzzle pages, I really want to see Stu draw Pup Parade now for the comic! Will.i.am the Conqueror is good, I must admit it. Laura’s artwork is magnificent as always and the stories are surprisingly very good, I don’t think there’s been one bad story yet – I must say, I am enjoying this series, celeb or not. The Bash Street Kids is on form again this week with a lot of the characters getting their turn in the spotlight this week rather than just a selected few, let’s hope BSK stays at this level from now on!

Fatty’s Kitchen Nightmares was alright, a little disappointed though as it’s by the brilliant Mike Pearse, yet isn’t very funny. But still, The Beano has got Mike Pearse back again and that is certainly good enough for me! :D Man VS. Wood is interesting, a strange choice for a parody but it was pretty good and silly. I’m glad to see Nick Brennan back again as well. Jessie’s J was such a predictable story, I even guessed it would be about Jessie J and a giant J and be drawn by Paul Palmer – it’s the sequel to Ashley’s Banjo! That said, a good start – rather silly, not great but at least the jokes were decent (even the pun!).

‘Mega Mega Mootants’ looks to be interesting, Steve’s artwork is looking top-notch currently! It seems like another Blundercats which is good, nice to see The Beano trying out some humour-adventure strips – although I’m not so happy with the jokes, they ruined the otherwise good story for me. Bananaman is brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Very funny and different, Wayne’s artwork is also at its absolute best in his Beano Bananaman stories – I love the European style, a lot like French comic strips (a style I adore!). Bananaman is at his best he’s ever been right now, I really hope he continues to be this brilliant.

‘The Greatest Mutt Movies Ever’ is a very nice feature. Lovely artwork by Laura, good parodies and beautiful colours – Laura has to be one of my favourite comic artists ever. Billy Whizz is quite good, although I’m not feeling in suspense about this story-arc – the drama doesn’t seem to be coming across too well, still Will Dawbarn’s artwork is looking just as fantastic as always. I wasn’t too keen on ‘Word on the Street’, I found the ‘GR7′ one quite funny but the others all seemed to be quite mean and doesn’t set a good example to kids at all, it basically says to be shallow and do something that is illegal – not sure about this feature at all!

The Forsyth Saga sucks. It just sucks. Moving on… Handy Murray is good as far as celebrity strips go – it works well in the amount of panels provided and was rather silly. Although hundreds of pounds for a rocket? Crikey, that’s a rather cheap rocket! The Bone Ranger is a good idea but doesn’t work at only three panels, it needs more space as this strip has potential but just doesn’t have the room to show it – still, Steve Beckett’s artwork was great as always.

Roger the Dodger was quite good this week, a lot of strong humour from Jamie – although everything did feel a little coincidental and began to collapse as soon as Dr. Weinstrom looks up Roger’s “illness” on the laptop, then it becomes a little too silly and weak, especially how Roger is caught out, “I just forgot my pencil case…”, really? Was that the best you could do? Also, “I trusted you, little girl.” – when else was Roger referred to as ‘a girl’ by Derek Demented? Still, I liked the dubstep joke and the rest of the first page very much.

The Wrap-Up was very good and just goes to show Craig is also a good scriptwriter. I loved how this week’s Wrap-Up linked in with both Dennis the Menace and Gnasher as well as The Bash Street Burp. The Wrap-Up pages are such brilliant ideas, although I do feel they should be on the back page as they end each issue rather well. The Next Week page looks interesting, must say I can’t identify the artists of the new strips but I’d guess ‘Not-so-Horrible Histories’ is by Andy Janes, although that’s just a guess. Not sure if Terry Deary deserves to be in The Beano after what he said in an interview about The Beano’s 75th Anniversary though

Finally Minnie the Minx and that’s just as brilliant as always. Minnie is so much better at one page, a simple idea with good writing behind it – one of the reasons why I really like Minnie the Minx.

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The Bone Ranger by Steve Beckett, started last week and parodies Disney’s ‘The Lone Ranger’. Image from SJ Beckett Design.

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ORDERING FROM BEST TO WORST

(‘One Direction, The Movie – The Bits They Left Out’ Parts 1, 2 & 3 are all counted as one)

1. The Numskulls/Bananaman
3. Minnie the Minx
4. Dennis the Menace and Gnasher/Wrap-Up
6. The Bash Street Kids
7. Will.i.am the Conqueror
8. I Pity the School
9. Roger the Dodger
10. Calamity James
11. Mega Mega Mootants
12. Smiffy’s Top Tips
13. Ball Boy
14. Billy Whizz
15. Jessie’s J/Handy Murray
17. Man VS. Wood
18. One Direction, The Movie – The Bits They Left Out/Fatty’s Kitchen Nightmares
20. The Incredible Skunk
21. The Bone Ranger
22. The Forsyth Saga

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‘Top 10 Packed Lunch Pranks’ is a very nice-looking double-spread feature in comic panels drawn fantastically by Steve Beckett. Image from SJ Beckett Design.

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OVERALL THOUGHTS

A strong issue, with a few handicaps along the way! Stories such as ‘The Forsyth Saga’ bring this issue down slightly and then stories such as ‘The Bone Ranger’ and ‘The Incredible Skunk’ just make you think ‘You had potential here, Beano – don’t waste it!’. Luckily there are some absolutely fantastic stories in there as well to outweigh the cons such as Nigel Auchterlounie’s ‘The Numskulls’ and Wayne Thompson’s ‘Bananaman’, although I must admit, I was disappointed at Ball Boy, Billy Whizz and the new mini-strip ‘Fatty’s Kitchen Nightmares’ this week and I hope they improve next week.

I do feel The Beano needs to try and avoid using celebrities though, unless they can actually come up with a good idea for them. ‘The Numskulls’, ‘Danny Diddly O’Donoghue’ and ‘Will.i.am the Conqueror’ are good examples of how to write an entertaining and likeable celebrity strip, ‘The Forsyth Saga’ and the previous ‘Simon’s Bowel’ and ‘Ashley’s Banjo’ are good examples of how bad celebrity stories can be if they are not done correctly (i.e. Avoiding using gimmicks, unless they are done in a clever way (basically every celebrity Numskulls story so far), avoiding stupid twists like ‘Jessie’s J’, ‘Murs Attacks’, ‘High School Moozical’ and ‘Ashley’s Banjo’ and just write the celebrity like a normal character (like how Will.i.am is written in ‘Will.i.am the Conqueror’). That said, I find the parodies of TV/film are fine – ‘Coronation Bleat’, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turkeys’, ‘Watch-Hog’ and ‘Neigh-Bours’ were all very strong parodies because they weren’t actually featuring the celebrities in them (hence why ‘Justin Beaver’ was also very good back in the days of the 2011 Dandy). My final piece I wish to add to all of this is to never ever think ‘Celebrity Believe It or Not’ was a good idea.

Let’s hope The Beano manages to sort out these celebrities and return things back to normal, this issue was good – but it could have been a lot better had the 75th Anniversary Special never happened. Maybe then we may have still had Tricky Dicky, Big Time Charlie and the old Funsize Funnies…

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Be sure to get this week’s Beano for the return of Calamity James alone! Available in shops now across the country for only £2.00 – certainly worth the money!

That’s all for now, folks!

- Harry Rickard

The 75th Anniversary Beano Special – Issue 3695

July 24, 2013

I have returned to the land of WordPress to discuss and celebrate such a momentous occasion. Today, Britain’s most popular and best-known humour comic of all time finally reaches its 75th birthday without also announcing its demise. But is it the special issue we had all wished for? Did it have a Top 75 Countdown like the one we saw previously when The Dandy hit 75 years? Sadly, it did not – it contained a bunch of the same old celebrities we saw throughout 2010-11 in The Dandy, but was it any good? Actually, I’m surprised to admit for the most-part: yes!

So, without further ado – let’s begin this review!

The front cover, in the style of The Muppet Show. Artwork by Nigel Parkinson, colours by Nika.

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THE CONTENTS

PG 1: Front Cover by Nigel Parkinson

PG 2: Welcome to Beanotown by Wilbur Dawbarn

PG 4: The Great Beano Birthday Bash (Part 1) by Nigel Parkinson and Nigel Auchterlounie

PG 6: Dennis the Menace and Gnasher by Nigel Parkinson and Nigel Auchterlounie

PG 8: M.U.W.E by Nigel Parkinson

PG 9: Puzzle: The Million Pound Plop by Steve Beckett

PG 10: Harry Hill’s Stupendous Travelling Circus of Harry Hill Art by Harry Hill (with extra illustrations by Nigel Parkinson)

PG 11: Minnie the Minx by Nigel Parkinson

PG 12: Advert: Dennis the Menace and Gnasher Megazine

PG 13: Competition: Win the Ultimate Beano Bedroom

PG 14: The Numskulls by Nigel Auchterlounie

PG 16: The Bash Street Kids by David Sutherland and Nigel Auchterlounie

PG 18: Advert: The Beano Shop

PG 19: Billy Whizz by Wilbur Dawbarn

PG 20: Superstar Selection

PG 21: Interview: Zoom Rocks! / Skanky Pigeon by Zoom Rockman

PG 22: Advert: The Smurfs 2

PULLOUT: Turbo Battlerz

PG 24: Loopy Lookalikes (with illustrations by Paul Palmer)

PG 25: Meet the Grunts by Axel Scheffler and Philip Ardagh

PG 26: Ball Boy by Alexander Matthews

PG 27: Advert: Dennis the Menace and Gnasher TV Show

PG 28: The Great Beano Birthday Bash (Part 2) by Nigel Parkinson and Nigel Auchterlounie

PG 30: Bananaman by Wayne Thompson and Nigel Auchterlounie

PG 32: Advert: The Smurfs 2 (again)

PG 34: The Beano Subscription Page

PG 35: Celebrity Oinkless (with Alexander Hamstrong and Rasher Osman) by Lew Stringer

PG 36: Beano’s Crazy Fools

PG 37: Next Week in The Beano (The Numskulls, Turbo Battlerz)

PG 38: Advert: Birthday Celebration Gifts

PG 39: Interview: Meet the New Menace (Chris Johnson)

PG 40: Roger the Dodger by Jamie Smart

PG 42: The Great Beano Birthday Bash (Part 3) by Nigel Parkinson and Nigel Auchterlounie

PG 44: Advert: Dr. Martens (with Dennis the Menace and Gnasher) by Nigel Parkinson

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THE REVIEW

First of all, let’s get all the bad stuff out of the way and just ignore it. M.U.W.E, the adverts, the competition, Superstar Selection, Loopy Lookalikes and Beano’s Crazy Fools are all boring and should be ignored immediately. Blank those pages from your mind and now look at the rest of the comic and you’ll find, on the whole it is very good. Not as good as I was hoping – but still very good.

First off, the cover: I do have my problems with the cover such as there being no sign of the 75th Anniversary on it. No big ’75’, no big cake, only a small acknowledgement at the top above the title which no-one really reads. Regardless, the cover is still beautiful to look at and certainly is lively. There are a bunch of varied Beano characters including Lord Snooty, Big Eggo, Biffo, Bones from ‘Pup Parade’ and Little Plum (all of which sadly do not feature). As well as the Beano stars, you can also see a bunch of celebrities (does a Dalek really count as a celebrity?) with many stupid and irrelevant references to those celebrities being said such as “The Beano Artist would like to say sorry for my dress… just in case!”, “Strictly menacing!” and “This is not dope!”. Very typical of comics when they feature celebrities. And it comes as no surprise to us that inside these jokes are all made again with further jokes made about Brucie’s age, Simon Cowell’s grumpiness and Ant and Dec’s Geordie ways. How predictable. That said, the cover itself isn’t bad by any means. Nigel Parkinson clearly knows how to make a cover look attractive and appealing to the eye. It’s a piece you can look at for a while and keep spotting new things  – plus Nigel’s caricatures are very good, I certainly can’t fault them.

Inside we are greeted to a double-page spread of a map of Beanotown drawn by Wilbur Dawbarn. The idea is brilliant and it’s really interesting to see where everyone lives and what Beanotown looks like fully – I really hope stories from now on manage to stick to the Map of Beanotown as it works really well. There are some great references to places such as Number 13 where the likes of Boris, Frankie and Tiddles live; the bin where the Bash Street Pups live; and Bunkerton Castle, the home to Lord Snooty. I haven’t had enough time yet to look into it in more detail but it certainly is a very attractive piece and Will should be proud of it. It’s a shame we can’t see any of the characters on the map, but hey, it’s detailed enough! There’s also a very nice addition in the bottom right corner of the train carrying the celebrities to show the start of the long story we’re about to read. It’s worth picking up the issue for this double-page spread alone!

The Great Beano Birthday Bash is the proper start of the story and begins with the train on its way to Beanotown as seen on the Map of Beanotown. We immediately get a bunch of jokes about Brucie’s age, Will.i.am’s stage name and Harry Potter and suddenly we feel like we’ve time-travelled back to the 2011 Dandy. Luckily Dennis saves the day by splattering them all in their celebrity faces with tomatoes – good ol’ Den. David Beckham mentions he’d like to retire to Beanotown (which sounds like an awful idea as no doubt we’d then see a David Beckham comic strip each week from now on in The Beano!) and then onto Dennis the Menace and Gnasher to find a house for David Beckham…

Dennis of course, being the menace that he is, comes up with a crafty idea and soon we’re inside Walter’s house and Dennis is convincing David Beckham to move in. It’s a very funny story for the most-part and shows how well Nigel Auchterlounie can write Dennis the Menace. There’s even a hilarious moment with Dennis’ Dad where Dennis says you can’t change your appearance in a comic, not ever – next thing we see a confused Dennis’ dad asking the readers “What?”. It’s moments like this where the readers can really appreciate Nigel’s fantastic and witty writing and it works brilliantly. The ending is silly and works well for a Dennis story and overall, despite the celebrity inclusion – is far far better than when Dennis met Harry Hill earlier this year!

Next up is Steve Beckett’s puzzle page for the issue which also features celebrities. Sigh… It’s nothing special really, although Steve’s graphic design and artwork is as always. Other than that, not much to say.

Harry Hill’s Stupendous Travelling Circus of Harry Hill Art (jeez, it’s even longer than ‘Harry Hill’s Real-Life Adventures in TV Land’!) is quite a surprisingly good addition to the issue. Harry Hill draws a few classic Beano characters because “why not?” and it’s actually a very nice page to look at. Harry Hill is actually a decent artist and does a good job on Baby-Face Finlayson and Biffo the Bear among others. If we are to see more celebrities in the comic, I hope this is regular feature as it’s great to see a genuine celebrity Beano fan drawing characters from his childhood.

Minnie the Minx has Andy Murray and his mother feature and is actually a very decent story. The good thing about Andy Murray is aside from tennis, he doesn’t have a gimmick likes Simon’s trousers or Holly Willoughby’s dress controversy and this is definitely one of the better celebrity stories in the comic as it allows Minnie to still be a minx. It was a strong story and was only made even stronger by the beautiful colours. I assume the colours are by ‘RWI’ and they look fantastic. I still love painted comic strips.

The Numskulls is an odd addition. A complete revamp (again) of the little men who live in people’s bodies and this time it’s goodbye to Edd and hello to one-off celebrities. Oh joy. That said, I shouldn’t be so sarcastic as once again Nigel Auchterlounie manages to pull-off The Numskulls very well. Not as well as Jamie Smart did with The Digital Dandy’s version of The Numskulls (which I’d have much preferred to have seen in this issue) but still, a good version of The Numskulls which uses the celebrities quite well. There are a lot of jokes about Ant’s forehead, Dec’s height and Geordie dialect but it actually works very well because of the way it’s been written – it also helps that we’re told Ant’s Numskulls and Dec’s Numskulls hate one another – even if that doesn’t make too much sense in a way. It’s very odd to see Edd’s Numskulls in Dec’s head though with the same names and everything. I like the different coloured heads though, now they don’t look as weird as before! The story continues on in The Bash Street Kids and overall it’s actually a great comic strip – I’m so glad to see The Numskulls back at two pages again too.

The Bash Street Kids begins with an explanation about Bash Street School and Beano High for some reason (hang on, where was Beano High on the Map of Beanotown, eh? ;)) and then we’re into the story and it’s immediately obvious Nigel Auchterlounie wrote the story and it is very funny. It’s silly and it works perfectly with The Numskulls. It’s also really good to see David Sutherland is still drawing the Bash Street Kids as he draws them perfectly here.

Billy Whizz has a new title this which looks far better than the previous one, now that Will has improved drawing Billy Whizz even more – it was a good idea to do a new title and it does look a lot more lively. I also like how the tagline is in green rather than red. Now there isn’t so much red and white and it looks good. The story itself isn’t great, it’s just a Billy Whizz story which slowly gets taken over by Jessie J however, for the most-part, it works quite well and I like the silliness of the hairs/eyelashes. An idea which would only ever work in comics! Will Dawbarn also draws Minnie and Wilfred in this story and they also look really good. I’d love to see a double-page spread like the Dandy Annual 2013 one but with a bunch of Beano characters past and present by Will again just to see how well he draws all of the characters.

Zoom Rockman’s interview is interesting and it’s nice to hear he started off the same way as I did. There are a few tips I wouldn’t give which he does and vice-versa but it’s all down to how you learned. Zoom has certainly done very well for himself and I congratulate him for finally reaching his dream, if you’re reading Zoom, well done! Skanky Pigeon is a black and white mini-strip and I would recommend Zoom to consider computer colours for his Beano work as it is such a privilege to be in there that you should probably try and make your work look as good as you can possibly make it. The story itself is a little gross and I wasn’t a huge fan of the toilet humour, if you are reading this Zoom, I recommend using Alfie’s Alien, Moon Lab 7 or Brian the Snail instead as they stood out for me when I read The Zoom #6 (which is sadly my only issue of the comic). I would say if Zoom can be in The Beano that they should consider more young artists as it certainly makes publicity – I know I for certain would definitely be absolutely honoured to draw a series for The Beano!

Turbo Battlerz is the gift for this special issue and is actually a really cool little gift. You get little cut-outs of two Beano characters and a trading card for each with artwork by Nigel Parkinson. I don’t know if they’re random but I imagine not. I got Plug and Bananaman and they’re both stood on my shelf right now as I liked them so much – they’re simple, yet far nicer than most of those plastic gifts we get in comics every now and again.

Meet the Grunts is the obscure new comic strip this week as it is the only story which doesn’t include celebrities nor have an interview to go with it. Axel Scheffler, best-known for his artwork in ‘The Gruffalo’ and ‘Room on the Broom’ teams up with Philip Ardagh for this new series and it’s very odd. The story is basically The Snobbs and the Slobbs (from Nutty) but just ‘The Slobbs’ and it works well – however, there is a huge problem with the story. It’s in brown and white and it looks really odd in the comic. The biggest joke is the bottom line which reads “Use your imagination to colour The Grunts and send them to us! … Gnasher will print his faves!”, now isn’t that the worst excuse you’ve ever heard for why a comic strip isn’t coloured? Thing is, Axel Scheffler’s work looks lovely coloured – why is it in this strange brown and white? Also, “Visit: http://www.meetthegrunts.com”. Wait, is this a paid comic strip or not? So then I had a look into it and found this: http://www.meetthegrunts.com/ – so why is that picture in colour yet the comic strip isn’t?! Again, why? So The Grunts is a series of books by Ardagh and Scheffler and now it’s in The Beano but isn’t coloured fully? WHY?!

Next up is Ball Boy and my goodness is this one a shock. Alexander Matthews has replaced Dave Eastbury to become the fourth artist to draw the football-mad character and what a redesign Ball Boy has received! Ball Boy now instead of looking like a cute, little kid in a European art-style is now a guy with a jutting chin, a long nose and Nuke Noodle hair – oh, and he has his red and black football strip again. After trying to get used to this strange new Ball Boy and trying to figure out how old he now is, it’s time to read the actual comic strip – and it’s actually one of my favourite stories in this very odd issue! We have classic Alexander Matthews humour from the kick-off (pun intended) and it’s incredibly silly (we also see Calamity James in one panel and realise immediately that Calamity James should definitely be drawn by Alexander Matthews if he ever comes out of reprints). The wonderful thing about Alexander’s style of writing is that David Beckham (who features in this strip) is treated like a normal character who just has a lot of money and is good at football rather than there being countless jokes made about his hair and about Victoria Beckham. Walter also features as the referee because “why not?” and then enter the surreality and then before we know it, it’s all over. The humour is perfect as usual and it is far better than most of Dave Eastbury’s Ball Boy stories – but I really wish the design of Ball Boy could have been kept somewhat closer to the original so he’s still recognisable.

Back to The Great Beano Birthday Bash and immediately we have another joke about Brucie and his “Nice to see you nice!”. Dennis says a witty line which made me laugh and then we have a massive outburst from Dennis spouting about Facebook, BBM, Skype, Twitter etc. which came as a shock but didn’t really feel out of place as it didn’t feel at all shoehorned. After jokes about latte, Daniel Craig and an odd obsession about One Direction from Minnie and Toots (which felt incredibly out-of-character but ah well), Eric comes in and announces he can find One Direction – and then suddenly we realise Bananaman isn’t going to be a reprint this issue! The story flows really well from before, but I do wonder if Ant and Dec are back to normal by the time we see them here!

There’s a sight for sore eyes as we turn over the page. No longer must we see John Geering’s blatant reprints but instead we’re greeted by the work of previous ‘Nanaman artist, Wayne Thompson! Hooray! Bananaman has been somewhat redesigned from his previous adventures in The Dandy looking even more like something taken straight out of Cartoon Network. The story is silly (because it’s written by Nigel Auchterlounie) and there’s some good jokes about social media. One Direction do absolutely nothing throughout the whole story except be plot devices and it’s worth noting they’re not even One Direction. Apart from Harry Styles, I couldn’t figure out who the rest were meant to be – I’m guessing the darker-skinned one is Zayn Malik but there isn’t even a blonde one – there’s a black-haired one with blonde highlights though so I’m guessing that’s supposed to be Niall Horan? Why do I even care about this? I’m no One Direction fan! Heh-heh… not at all…

Onto Celebrity Oinkless which features Rasher as Richard Osman and Alexander Hamstrong (Alexander Armstrong obviously) and is basically Pointless with celebrities with pig puns at the end and barring the top one with Matt Smith, the rest aren’t very good. Sadly Alexander Hamstrong mentions at the bottom that we’ll see him and Rasher next time, so it looks like this is to replace Rasher which is not a good thing at all. Rasher was clever and original, this is just really dull. Sorry Lew but I was not a fan and really hope we’ll see ‘Rasher’ soon rather than more of ‘Celebrity Oinkless’.

On the Next Week page, we’re told we meet Will.i.am’s Numskulls which is very saddening to see. It looks like The Beano has given up using original characters because celebrities already have loads of jokes about them. Also we’re told his Numskulls are “dope” which according to Urban Dictionary also means ‘drugs’. Oh.

Roger the Dodger has also had a change of artist from Barrie Appleby to Jamie Smart and I’m not sure what to think of it yet (although I for one loved it). The artwork looks like any other Jamie Smart comic strip so it looks great – but I’m not sure if Jamie was the best choice. What I (among many others) think is that iconic characters (in this case Dennis, Gnasher, Minnie, The Bash Street Kids and Roger) need to remain somewhat the same so all of the audience can still recognise that character and know who they are. When a character is completely redesigned without being relaunched (like Tricky Dicky), that character becomes completely unrecognisable (like Alexander Matthews’ Ball Boy), whilst Jamie’s Roger is still recognisable – some may think he still looks completely different to the previous incarnation of Roger (which we only saw last week remember). Jamie Smart, whilst having a style I absolutely love – works far better when dealing with either relaunches or completely new and original characters (such as Pre-Skool Prime Minister and My Dad’s a Doofus) as it means the haters have nothing to compare his work to. When Jamie took over Desperate Dan, the character had changed a lot from his previous design (which was actually Dudley Watkins reprints!) and as many regard Dudley’s Desperate Dan as the greatest (which I highly disagree with), it is difficult to follow up from him unless you keep the design similar (like Ken Harrison or David Parkins) but Jamie’s was so different (and whilst being brilliant) was compared to previous Dans and many older readers hated it and then refused to buy The Dandy because of it. I do worry if the same will happen here with Jamie’s Roger the Dodger and it’s for this reason I feel Jamie would have been better-suited to either the relaunch of The Numskulls (if it was the same as The Digital Dandy Numskulls) or a completely original and new story rather than having to battle with nostalgists again. That said, Jamie said he doesn’t care about nostalgists  any more so I suppose if the haters start hating, he won’t actually be affected by it. Needless to say, the actual story is very good and is a clever and complex dodge which is very silly and full of typical Jamie humour and I for one loved it and would say along with Ball Boy, it was one of the best stories in this issue. I for one really like Jamie’s Roger but I’m not sure if others will.

Finally we reach the end of ‘The Great Beano Birthday Bash’ with an absolutely wonderful double-page spread by Nigel Parkinson with colours by Nika – this is a picture which I’d love to have on a big poster as it really is a brilliantly-drawn piece for the 75th anniversary full of crazy detail and action! I was particularly happy to see Ivy the Terrible in the picture as I really miss having her in the comic. It’s a shame not to see Big Time Charlie though despite Tricky Dicky appearing, also sad not to see Les Pretend, Gnipper nor Big Eggo who have all done far more for The Beano than those celebrities have ever done, but regardless it is a lovely way to end the comic and is definitely one of my favourite pieces I’ve ever seen by Nigel Parkinson.

On the back page, it’s a very odd Dr. Martens advertisement with artwork by Nigel Parkinson featuring Dennis the Menace with two characters who it feels like Dennis and Gnasher have known for a long time yet all we know are their names. Who are they? Are they real people? I’d imagine so! Still, it’s a whole lot better than those one-eyed creeps from that big sporting event last year.

—-

ORDERING FROM BEST TO WORST:

(The Great Beano Birthday Bash Parts 1, 2 & 3 all count as one story)

1. Ball Boy

2. Roger the Dodger

3. The Great Beano Birthday Bash

4. Minnie the Minx

5. The Numskulls

6. The Bash Street Kids

7. Dennis the Menace and Gnasher

8. Billy Whizz

9. Bananaman

10. Meet the Grunts

11. Skanky Pigeon

12. Celebrity Oinkless

13. M.U.W.E.

—-

OVERALL

The Beano 75th Anniversary Special was nothing like I had hoped it would be and I was very disappointed at first to hear what the comic would contain. I’m still not entirely happy. There are many page-wasters and things I couldn’t care less about and the celebrity content really is far too high, it would be far better had it been… 0% full of them? That said, it is a strong issue once you remove all the things I said to ignore – you’re left with a comic which whilst being a lot worse than it could have been, still manages to be a very entertaining read and thanks to the writing of Nigel Auchterlounie and Jamie Smart, turns out a lot better than it could have.

It is worth mentioning the change of speech bubbles and the case which has now become the old font from last week and before then but upper-case once again in circular speech bubbles. I’m not quite sure why they decided to change it but it does still look good and the upper-case certainly feels more “comicky”.

Overall, the comic could have been far better – I suggested on The Unofficial Beano Forum that I thought ‘The Great Beano Birthday Bash’ would have worked far better had the passengers on the train had been classic Beano characters coming from the Beano Retirement Home to celebrate the special occasion with that current cast (with Big Time Charlie included, even if he is new and original). The comic could have removed all of the celebrity rubbish and instead have had comic strips of old Beano faves and the current cast, I’d have loved to have seen something like Big Time Charlie accidentally ruining the party and then by a stroke of luck, everything going well again – or a Tricky Dicky story with “Terminator” determined to find out who Tricky Dicky actually is and try to demolish the party to see who gets revenge on him, only for everyone at the party to turn against him. Heck, you could even have had him escape and then have it continue in the Big Time Charlie story with Charlie saving the day with his clumsiness and get revenge on Terminator unaware only to be accused of being Tricky Dicky. Charlie could then jump crush Terminator into the ground and then the party could resume again… Yes, I may be technically writing a fan-fic but hey, it works far better than celebrities doesn’t it? Maybe I should make my own fan-made Beano 75th Anniversary Special… Now there’s an idea for the holidays…

*Ahem*

Anyway, I’m going off-track now which means it’s probably time end the review! So overall, I’d give the Beano 75th Anniversary Special an…

8/10

It could have been a lot better, but given that it went down the celebrity route, it handled it better than The Dandy ever did.

Be sure to buy a copy of The Beano 75th Anniversary Special whilst it’s on sale – it’s only £2.50 and it’s certainly a good read so you’ll probably like it – regardless of the celebrities!

Anyway, until the next blog post.

Goodbye chums!

- Harry Rickard

Finally returned.

April 17, 2013

*stretches fingers* 

Hello again my non-existing fans, how are you today? Good, I am glad to hear that. How am I you ask? I’m doing well, thank you – although it does seem my blog has been collected layers upon layers of dust as of late. So here I am to sweep the piles of dust away which were slowly taking over my website and now, settled in my computer chair with my hot cup of tea and a fitting music track playing quietly in the background, I can now announce that I have returned with many new points to discuss, but firstly:

Remember my humour comic, The Wizzo? Yeah, that one I seemed very passionate about and all? Yes, well, Issue 4 still hasn’t come out and for this I deeply apologise. Call it bad timing, unprofessional or simply call it life, in fact, call it the most difficult time of my life so far. Yes, the GCSEs certainly do whisk you away from your comfortable spot among the things you enjoy most and then place you in what I like to call a reality-check where the world doesn’t care if you can recognise a comic artist’s style in The Beano by its line-work and colours and cares more about those funny little letters which will forever be linked to you, like a ball and chain and will depend on how your life turns out – and if I’m entirely honest, I’d rather not get a bunch of low grades and have to spend the rest of my life roaming around Poundland, wearily explaining to young “jokers” that everything in the shop costs £1.00 so they can stop asking how much said item costs with that smug grin across their blemished faces.

To summarise, The Wizzo has been put on a hiatus for many reasons which I will explain in a later blog post if I have any free time. But The Wizzo will return this year, in fact I may even be considering rebooting the comic and starting at Issue 1 so people can stop asking for that mess of an issue. But hey, more on that later…

I once again apologise for not being so consistent in my blog updates, I hope you can understand why and I promise every single one of you readers that once these GCSEs are over and when I’m not working at wherever my first proper job will be, I will be using my blog, my deviantART and even YouTube more than ever. And as for The Wizzo? Like I said, more on that later.

- Harry Rickard

A suitable shoutout for Faye White’s new art blog!

December 29, 2012

Faye's Blog Header

I have the honour to know one of the greatest young artists there is currently – and amazingly, she’s only 14-years-old! If you hadn’t already guessed by the title of this blog post, I am talking about fellow Wizzo artist and good friend of mine, Faye White!

I’ve known Faye personally for a long time now and over the past few years have managed to really begin to appreciate her artwork a lot more – so much so she is now part of The Wizzo – thank goodness! 

Faye has now made a WordPress blog after seeing mine and being inspired (woo!) so here’s a blog post to simply give her her first shoutout – seriously, check out her website – her artwork is AMAZING! Check it out below:

http://feishiro.wordpress.com/

Oh, and I designed her that blog header you see at the top if this post too – not sure if she’ll use it but there it is for all of you lot anyway, (heh, you lot… there’s probably only two of you…)!

So yeah, be sure to check out her blog and make sure you follow so you can see more of her amazing art talents! 

Until the next blog post, see ya chaps!

- Harry Rickard

Comic Recommendations: RAISING AMY by Stephen White

December 29, 2012

A new series of blog posts for me as I share with you a range of comic books, graphic novels and webcomics which I would recommend anyone to read – beginning with the wonderful ‘Raising Amy’ comic book by Stephen White (Stref) – a 250-strip-filled comic book about a toddler called Amy who is best described as a “Scottish ginger nutcase” who also wields many weapons in her tiny hands. Below is my review on this comic book:

Raising Amy is available to buy online and I would certainly recommend to any comic fan looking for many laughs.

I got Raising Amy as a surprise Christmas present and was very pleased to have seen it when I tore it out of the Christmassy wrapping paper that surrounded it. I’m awful when it comes to buying small-press comic books – I just forget and never pick them up and end up regretting it. So to see Raising Amy inside that wrapping paper was a lovely surprise!

I started and finished reading it on Boxing Day and it certainly killed a few hours of my time – I was lost inside this insane world where toddlers create trouble worse than Dennis the Menace ever had and everything  had a surreal quality to it. And I loved it.

—-

If there was a way to describe Raising Amy in a nutshell, I would certainly say the following:

Raising Amy is everything a humour comic book should be, it contains the surreality and humour of something which closely resembles Calvin and Hobbes however includes that familiar British twist in the humour which allows me to relate to the storylines far better. This clever way of writing when accompanied with the simple yet wonderful illustrations supplied also by Stephen White allows the comic book to flow and become a joy to read.

—-

One thing I really do enjoy in comic strips is the breaking of the fourth wall as it allows the artist to be a little more creative in their storylines and can allow them to be lazy and still create laughs when done right! Below are a few of my favourite examples of the silly stories which break the fourth wall:

—-

My only small problem with the comic book (and I mean very small) is the sudden change of font – however, I’m glad it does change as I felt the size of the font was slightly distracting – although I felt it did suit the comic strip better. But as I said, a very small problem which does not affect the quality of writing or art in any way whatsoever.

Another funny thing about the comic book is its mini-arc inside about Amy’s babysitter, Flower and “Love-Sick Dick”, the obsessed stalker who follows Flower everywhere. This makes up for some very silly storylines and also allows both to mix when Dick follows Flower to Amy’s house! There are also other silly story-arcs such as Amy’s obsession with eating worms, Amy’s chemistry set and my favourite, the monsters under Amy’s bed. All are very funny and full of perfect comic humour both modern and traditional!

—-

Overall, a wonderful read which I would gladly read over and over again timeless amounts – Stephen’s simplistic art style allows the characters to take centre-stage and make every story clear, quick and witty without overcomplicating the reader. Every story managed to make me chuckle and each in their own right deserve to be commended for their geniosity and originality. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it from start to finish and I would certainly recommend it to any comic lover of any age.

The Final Exit

December 7, 2012

Hello my wonderful pals! How are you all today? Good? Glad to hear it! 

Today’s blog post is a little special as it’s yet another one of my Creative Writing stories for an upcoming assessment (this time being a draft) – following the lovely feedback I received from many kind people from good friends to new blog fans – I’m so grateful for your support. So, here’s another treat for you all – or a nightmare – it depends if you like my writing…

Anyway, the theme this time was ‘conflict’ so here’s a little story for you all – not as quirky as ‘Chords’ but hopefully just as enjoyable!

You probably just want me to share with you the story, right? Well, here you go then you impatient lot, enjoy!

—-

The Final Exit

An original story by Harry Rickard

*CHING!*

“Oh god.” I thought. “How’d I get into this mess?”

I jumped to the side as the giant serrated blade crashed down to the ground once again. The sword came down again and missed me by inches as I aimlessly rolled across the war ground as the weapon violently thrashed the ground once more.
I grabbed my puny blade from the ground – pulled on my even punier helmet and stumbled towards the giant man grasping the death-trap in his mighty fists.
I ducked suddenly as the colossal weapon hurtled towards me – this man was thirsty for blood. My blood.
I ducked and darted around the vast arena – my opponent thundering after me – his hooves penetrating the ground beneath him with every forceful thud. He let out a mighty roar and as he did so, I felt myself quivering – fixed to the ground, unable to move in fear.
“Man up!” I told myself in exasperation, “You’ve trained months and months for this moment – now hold that blade with pride and destroy that foul beast.”
I clenched my sword and stared angrily at my opponent who was now hurtling towards me like a loose cannonball. His eyes were filled with cold fire as he roared once more. This man was insane; to take him on was stupid! And yet here I was. Oh god, I am a fool.
I closed my eyes and hoped it would all be over quickly – there I was, fixed to a spot which was soon to have my blood spilled over it.
This was it, my last performance – the final exit. Oh, and what a way to die – being completely lacerated by a murderous sword-wielding madman.

I opened my eyes briefly and as I did so, I suddenly felt an applause of wind fill the arena – my hair danced with the breeze and suddenly loud noises came from above. Thunder. Dark grey billowing clouds with jagged weapons to accompany it.
As crashes came from above and rumbles overflowed the ground we stood on, painted with the blood of the once-living – I felt a new form of anger erupt inside me. I let out a mighty roar as the lightning crashed into the ground violently. The rain began to tumble and sprayed my reddened face. My opponent suddenly stopped in shock as the lightning bolts smashed into the dirt that lay around him – I saw my chance and hurtled towards him, my eyes full of murder and my blade waiting to meet its contact.
I pounced into the air and as I did, the storm suddenly died out as a sea of grass looked upon me – I swung back my sword and thrashed it forward – the weapon hurtled towards my opponent – straight into his skull.

The sword smacked him violently on the head as he let out a massive cry of defeat. I had won! My opponent who I once feared was dead and I was triumphant. I looked down upon him, lifeless on the ground – his blood spilled across the dirt beneath him. Then the storms came again – this time louder, the thunder clapped and my opponent awoke from his never-ending sleep and then arose the rest of the fallen – we all dropped our swords and bowed as the theatre was filled with the sounds of hearty applause.

—-

And that’s that! I hope you enjoyed it – if you did, why not leave a comment about your thoughts, like the post and follow for hopefully more creative writing pieces!

But until then, bye chaps!

- Harry Rickard

My Shaving Experience

November 25, 2012

 

 

This actually happened. :c

Still, it made a neat little comic strip! Hope you like laughing at my first world problems!

The bleeding obviously wasn’t as bad as it looks here – I guess you could say it was a close SHAVE!

If you liked it – please let me know in the comments below and I’ll make more to share with you all!

Until then, farewell, chums!

- Harry Rickard

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