The 75th Anniversary Beano Special – Issue 3695
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!
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
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
10. Meet the Grunts
11. Skanky Pigeon
12. Celebrity Oinkless
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…
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…
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.
- Harry Rickard