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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

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 23, 2013 09:38

    Interesting review, the spot colour they’re including on the covers is an effort directed at making The Beano Stand out amongst the jumble typical on the shelves of Smiths and Tesco, honestly though, I preferred the four colour version I’ve seen and I think that would’ve worked better. The problem is though is that those establishments take no effort with placement, the one vendor I did see making an excellent effort, Sainsbury’s, didn’t stock The Beano.

    I quite liked Ball Boy although the script could’ve done with some tidying, generally it seems things are moving in the right direction. Still some work to do, they missed a real opportunity with the robot story, the scribbles in the Bash St. Burp just didn’t exploit the potential. I quite like the idea of The Burp, it would be a good device to create continuity, like they did here, but it needs more effort putting into it. Right now they need to sort the out the problems with placement, if I were at DCT I’d be recruiting every one could to sneak The Beano to front of the stack in Tescos, relatives, old girl friends, anyone who owed my a favour. If they can get a decent circulation going, the placement problems should ease. The other thing that needs attention is layout, I know they’re going for lively informal look but it’s not well executed, a top notch layout artist could do wonders to transform the general look.

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