Community Post #175 - Having a Beano

Discussion in 'Community Posts' started by Tyro D. Fox, Jul 29, 2020.

  1. Tyro D. Fox

    Tyro D. Fox Ho, hog, heg! I can does Game Dev thing, yes!
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    Oct 18, 2011
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    Community Post #175
    Having a Beano

    As per a lot of things, there's stuff that perculates to the surface and inspires whenever I watch Youtube. It does push me towards thinking of these little retrospectives and daft little articles that I've hammered into my own weird little platform for stuff that pops into my head.

    The one in particular relevant today refers to this tidbit a lot of American reviewers might bring up as a bit of wacky knowledge. Notably, AVGN when he mentions that Dennis the Menace has a 'British Twin' that rose up co-incidentally alongside the 'American' one.

    What I do find a little sad is that I rarely see anyone discuss that 'British Twin'. Because I was a big fan of comic books when I was a wee kit. Not Superhero Comics, which would be useful in Space Year 2020's Super Hero dominance, but 'humour' comics of The Beano and The Dandy. What felt like the Marvel and DC that mattered to me at the time. So, let's dig into this now ancient comic and actually explore that 'British Twin' a little. Along with his gross, disgusting or villainous friends.

    The Beano as a Whole

    Like everything you've heard about in Britain, The Beano is something that's somehow stayed relevant in the UK for so long, it could claim for a pension. For what it's like to read, imagine the 'funny pages' from a Newspaper but aimed at kids, for the entirety of a paper magazine. Almost all of it is about a titular character doing...a thing for that week, and hilarity ensues. Assumingly. I was reading comics regularly around 2003-ish to 2007 or 2008. I don't strongly remember but I do remember that it's when the comics still had most of the characters they're the most well known for in roughly their original characterisations and context. Even then.

    Y'see, anything that's lasted long enough to have an 80th anniversary, has had to morph and change with the times by revamping over and over whenever they feel they need to. The world morphs around them so they attempt to appeal to that. They've done so over and over and over again so try to appeal to new kids each time as a little thing they can spend their pocket money on to read and enjoy.

    Which isn't that weird in the UK. There are companies that make nothing but tea that are older. Like Tetley was founded in 1837 (Wikipedia), making them over 150. That's just how big names in the UK work, it seems.

    It is interesting to see who managed to stick around in the comic and who didn't. For one, the comic originally had cover stars like Biffo the Bear:


    I predict a FNAF-style game based around him will be made in 5...4...3...

    Apparently, he first appeared around 1948 but stuck around as a bit hitter for The Beano for many years while it...delighted UK kids all over? His design to modern sensibilities does seem creepy. Not only as it's clearly an over-drawn Mickey Mouse but the extra details in order to create the anthropomorphic effect are jarring. The teeth and those eyes are oddly detailed, suggesting that Biffo wants to eat me and can see me always rather than cheerfully smiling. Anthropomorphism is a lot harder to do well the closer to 'realism' you get and the drawn comics aren't entirely better.


    The face is odd but even weirder is that he has feet. Disney usually depict Mickey or Goofy with entirely black feet as suggesting that the fur stops around the top doesn't look right.

    As for his stories? Eh, honestly just think of anything you'd do with Mickey Mouse though far lesser stakes. Usually, it's just an exaggerated version of something mundane. So, he might be working in a theater selling tickets or just want a thick coat to protect himself from the cold.

    It's interesting to note that the jokes in The Beano haven't changed in all that time as most of the comics I ever remember reading from them are exactly like this: a lead up to a punchline. Usually a pun. Doesn't always work and is probably part of why I stopped reading them, apart from just getting older. When you notice they're using the same sort of jokes over and over, you start to get a little sick of them as they offer little else, admittedly. The point is silly fun, yes, but I remember it feeling samey even then which made particular and unusual comics stand out even more.

    There's other characters that were looooong gone before I started reading. I got into these comics by inheriting the collection of someone else as a gift from my late Grandmother. I turned up one day and they had a couple of bin bags worth of these things, complete with special issues like collected comics from the companies' past illustrated in there. There was Biffo and a very early Dennis in these collected books but you also had guys like Lord Snooty and General Jumbo.


    This guy was the longest running Beano comic character before Dennis over took him in 2004. Dennis the Menace really feels like the Nivana of the Beano with how many characters he's outcompeted.

    Lord Snooty is a little dull, in my opinion, as he's mostly cut from the same cloth as Biffo: a mostly innocent character that has a gimmick to tell jokes with. In this case, Snooty, or ' Lord Marmaduke of Bunkerton' just happens to be an Earl. What is that? It just means he's a British noble. Apparently it's derived from 'Jarl', like in Skyrim so sort of that level. Your important and expected to own things but your not as important as a Lord or a Duke and definitely not the Queen. UK Nobility structure isn't something we bother with either unless they're coming to the local nativity play so don't worry. But for the most part, he's a kid with wealth you wouldn't expect that has mundane adventures in his little hometown.

    A character that I thought was kinda neat and represents another facet of The Beano is General Jumbo. He's one of the characters with a distinct gimmick that's integral to his stories that is a little more fantastical or at least central to his character. Rather than playing off the mundane interacting with the odd, like Biffo or Snooty, General Jumbo has an army of remote controlled toy vehicles that he can command to do various things.


    While I get the mystique of someone with a radio-controlled army has gone now that it's actually a thing, it is pretty cute an idea for a comic.

    This is honestly my favourite of the older characters I only got to read one or two comics of. The idea of this tiny army following him around to do anything from rescue Father Christmas from a bear to fighting baddies with tiny planes and robot soldiers. That's pretty cute! I really think this could be pretty neat idea for a comic now, let alone then.

    I am trying to hold back the topical jokes I can make because they seem too easy. I hope you appreciate the internal hemorrhaging caused by that.

    The Menace Descends

    But this is how they were before Dennis. And Dennis is a different beast. Granted, he's not too different to Biffo in some respects, as it's usually just mundane adventures in a made up British town. The difference is that Dennis is a violent, antagonistic delinquent that would attack, prank and generally get up to mischief. My best summation is imagine if your school-yard bully got his own TV show about all the things he'd do: that is the British Dennis the Menace I remember.


    Behold, the face of true evil

    Dennis' whole thing is that he's the 'world's naughtiest boy', acting like the malevolent counter to the 'American' Dennis. That Dennis is kinda cute next to the kid that throws tomatoes at 'Softies', terrorises his neighbors and goes on elaborate adventures just for the fun of it. His first appearance has a gag about him needing to be collared instead of the dog, the whole mythos and universe around him didn't start until the late sixties almost, as far as I can read about it as this stuff is awkwardly archived. The clearest resource is Beano's Official Website where they've put up bits of older comics but trying to find information elsewhere is either limited or about his 'American Twin'.

    When I come into this, Dennis the Menace is an omnipresent character you would have heard about in the UK, possibly further. When I was reading, there was a TV series and Chessington World of Adventures (A British Theme Park) had dedicated part of the park to Beano characters entirely (complete with a live performance of a guy in a Dennis costume that tossed out t-shirts). Apparently, when it all closed down in 2009 they had a massive Custard Pie fight. That does sound neat though it's clear that cameras at the time couldn't handle that much desert-based chaos as the picture in the article I linked there is blurry as all hell.

    I remember going one year when Beanoland was around. The Chair-o-planes thing was terrifying looking but the place where you shot foam balls at each other was neat. Otherwise, sure? Why not. There are stupider things to put there.

    An honour reserved for only the best of UK children's entertainment, like Peppa Pig and Mr Blobby.
    Google that last one at your peril.

    I say this because Dennis really feels like the Nivana of this little bubble: once he turns up and got popular he wiped everything else that wasn't similar off the face of the comic. Not immediately, but slowly, we got more than one troublesome kid looking to raise hell if it would be good for a giggle.

    Where I came in, Dennis specifically was a kid (I think 10 but I don't think an age has been given). He has a dog named Gnasher; a spikey ball of wiry fur that has teeth that can chew through pretty much anything. He's a terrifying beast that adores his owner and acts as Dennis' sidekick. His parents are beleaguered, stressed out people that are probably hoping Dennis will grow up and become someone else's problem. Until you realise that Dennis' little Sister, Bea, is the exact same. There's Sargent Slipper and the Colonel, who exist to be annoyed with Dennis' antics. And then there's Walter...

    It's been brought to my attention that he looks like a young Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP and Leader of the House of Commons here in the UK at the time of writing. I cannot unsee it now and that is going to keep me laughing for a while.

    Walter the Softy is Dennis' I would call him an 'antagonist' but honestly, Dennis attacks him without provocation simply because he sees Walter playing with soft toys in his garden. Or skipping. Or picking flowers. Or something else that doesn't constitute a true 'Menace'. Walter is the antithesis of Dennis: a boy that is nice, delicate and wouldn't hurt a fly. He's stated to be very good scholastically and pretty much seems to be the ideal other parents wished Dennis was.

    This gets muddied as there's around two or three versions of Walter that have morphed over time that seem to make the whole thing feel less like the 'Normal' and 'Cool' main character beating on the terrified kid next door that usually did nothing, seem like the absolute correct thing to do. Walter is supposed to be snobby and unpleasant to actually know but it doesn't come across when all he seems to do is just innocently go off in his own little world.

    The original version of Walter seems to be just 'Inverse-Dennis' with the extra addition that Walter would plot and scheme back. So, Malfoy. Like, he'd try to embarrass his nemesis or get him into trouble by telling on him. Originally, he was a spoiled brat and snob, so you can get behind Dennis throwing tomatoes at him in retaliation a bit more. Again, Malfoy. This is like around 50's or 60's comics. This guy is a bit more of an antagonist, from what I can find. Apparently, it was a bit of a fight back and forth. The 'Menaces' vs the 'Softies', I guess. It's actually kind of hard to get hold of actual comics to check through for this era. One side is all about anarchic fun, the other is the worst guys you know in a sort of super league.

    Weirdly, from what I can read, Walter starts getting increasingly pathetic over time. Why? I have no idea. Best guess is that readers responded to it? And it starts getting to Mr Burns from The Simpsons levels, with him bursting into tears due to moths, birds or harsh breezes. He starts to dress more effeminately, with gags around him skipping about, often dressed in pink outfits or having soft, pretty things like rabbits or bunnies on his clothing.


    I don't have any context for this. For all you know, Walter built a giant robot and unleashed it on the rest of the cast. That would have been an issue to remember.

    To add to his characterisation in this time, he starts to grow more afraid and intimidated by Dennis. Again, I'm not sure why as it really starts pushing the idea of Dennis being an out-and-out bully when he turns up to antagonise someone that doesn't often fight back and is actively terrified. Especially with the implication that your supposed to be on Dennis' side, the cool kid that's just thrown a soot bomb or whatever at the weakling that can't defend himself. You get an uncomfortable skew that only gets more uncomfortable with age.

    The issue I have with this should be obvious. It affects me more now than then as I was pretty nonplussed as a kid. Why? Look, I'm a bi, let's say 'questioning', self-called 'Weirdo'. I don't consider myself particularly masculine exactly and I'm not sure I want to be. I was the kid that was smart, tried to throw himself into his school work enough to care about it (especially when I got to pick what I got to learn about later on) and generally did well. I was massively nerdy and was never overly cautious about covering up my interests. I was bullied numerous times by guys that certainly liked to swagger around with their own sense of masculinity because I stood out. And I sit here in 2020, where I have not only done some growing but some exploration on what the flying *squee!* my brain actually wants to do with itself. Not the whole plan but some of it. I can't say what I'm doing but I too have plenty of soft toys and I'm currently writing this on a site dedicated to the fandom built up around what is perceived as a TV show for young girls.

    So, when I think back on what I used to read often, I now see a lot of myself in this version of Walter. Yes, he still acts like an arse occasionally, maybe. But when you realise something that seems like a bad faith parody and attack on the sort of person you have grown to be that's been hiding in something that was a facet of your life for a long while, you get annoyed and maybe a little scandalised by it. This is the sort of stuff I was expecting from the 50's and 60's comics, not the ones from around 1990 and early 2000's! Especially how its around this time that this stuff starts to move into an era where it looks surprisingly out of date.

    At worst here, in Space Year 2020, this version of Walter is just bafflingly weird at best, annoying at worst. I don't know what to do with the implied insult with over 10 years in the wind up but look at it and kinda giggle thinking at how much of a train wreck it would be if Walter ever slid back. Today, Walter is back to being a geeky, spoiled brat apparently. To quote Beano editor Mike Stirling, Walter is now described as a boy that "strangles the fun out of everything. He doesn't want to be a kid, he wants to be a grownup and is always snitching on kids who are having fun" which sounds like a more fitting villain even if the effeminate elements aren't gone entirely.

    I am really trying not to write too many jokes that'll date this too badly but that cardboard box can't help but make me think of this being a photo of Tory MPs in school, complete with David Cameron leading the meeting to defeat their nemesis.

    There's other characters in the comic too but, and let's be honest, a lot of them are very similar to Dennis. Much like Nivana, when they landed, a lot of imitators came along. I wasn't the biggest fan of Dennis even as a kid, I preferred other characters but he was always the first bit of every issue and always on the cover, so yes: I remember him decently. The rest, you can probably tell how much I remember liking them by how short I make their descriptions. Some did have some weird or interesting stuff to talk about though, but most really feel like Dennis clones.


    What if Dennis was a baby.

    From when I was reading, this was most of her jokes

    Minnie The Minx

    What if Dennis was a girl.

    Ah, but she does have a hat.

    Roger the Dodger

    I would say 'What if Dennis was a con-man' but he's a little more about clever tricks and such that allows him to sneak around stuff. He's supposed to be more slick, using his head and whatever's handy to get out of homework or parents punishments or whatever. I remember him being one of my favourites, like a British Bugs Bunny. In fact, one of his comics is the only one I still have. I have no idea why.

    Lots of tricking people into doing things for you and being as lazy as possible. I can get behind that.

    Ivy the Terrible

    What if Dennis was 3 years old. I'm serious, they did this alot. Ivy didn't have a pet though.

    With her...Fisher-Price Wire Cutters. For snipping toys out of packaging?

    The Bash Street Kids

    What if Dennis was an entire class of kids. Sort of. Instead of parents, it's Teacher that they antagonise to get out of school, its a group of kids with a single trait to define them with their own Walter called Cuthbert, who looked identical to the Teacher. They got a lot of mileage out of their dinner lady being a terrible cook, who's dishes appear to constitute some form of biological warfare. Notable characters are Plug, the ugliest kid in the world; Fatty, who you can probably guess and Smiffy, who is so stupid he doesn't seem to have any idea what's going on around him. Alongside Dennis, they're the only ones to ever get their own cartoon though I've never seen it.


    I can still name all of them even now. Right to left: Teacher, Spotty, Danny, Smiffy, Sidney, Plug, Fatty, 'Erbert, The Nightmare Monster of Dreams No One Ever Mentioned but ate Dotty that one time.

    They are the stars of my favourite issue of the whole lot where they finally ask Teacher to teach them stuff they want to know about and he uses this as a chance to get a little revenge, where he takes their suggestions for a spin. All of them. In the same day for a big school trip. First, a chocolate factory where they eat enough sweets to make them sick, then demolition derby race straight after where they get knocked around in the school bus, terrified enough to consider Maths a bastion of safety. Fondly remember it as it was clearly written and drawn by someone entirely different that turns up once then vanishes by next week. Like a comic making ghost or something.

    The Numskulls

    You know that trope where a show will try to personify parts of the body, usually imagining the human body as a giant machine that little people will run around in and operate, suggesting you have no free will and is just a vessel for these tiny creatures that control your every thought and action? Numskulls is that. Little men control a guy, the jokes deriving from the actual reason for weird body quirks. Or body based puns. It was fine. A cute idea, mostly harmless.


    Just ignore the existential nightmare of being slave to these tiny ant-men and move on.

    Calamity James

    This was a weird comic in comparison. James is the unluckiest guy in the world, and seems to believe that things traditionally unlucky (crossing a black cat, walking under ladders, the number 13) are actually lucky despite the universe appearing to want to annihilate this kid. Him and his pet lemming would go on odd little adventures. They genuinely range from simply trying to enjoy a day at the beach to being trapped on the homeworld of evil slime people where his chronic unluckiness foils their plans simply by causing further destruction due to the wake that follows him always.

    What is also striking about the comic is the art style. The others are quite simple and smooth lined but Calamity James is drawn with as much additional and gratuitous detail as possible. Everything has extra stuff attached to make it look additionally dilapidated or disgusting. Imagine an entire comic of Spongebob close up shots. A truly lurid style that does manage to sell the supposed misery that it must be being James.

    Les Pretend

    It's debatable whether this kid is doing it for fun or whether he has a tenuous grip on reality but Les Pretend pics something and pretends to be that thing regardless of the trouble it causes. He will keep going with the schtick like he's a wrestler refusing to break kayfabe regardless of the chaos he might make. I kinda liked this one.

    Ball Boy

    He is a football enthusiast that plays football. That's kind of it.

    Billy Whizz

    I have to admit, I kinda forgot he was in there. The idea is that it's a boy that can run stupidly fast. He likes to run and is incapable of slowing down in any way shape or form. Suppose it's like Sonic the Hedgehog on his down time. It was all right. Some fun joke, mostly OK.


    I need to stop

    That is most of what I can remember from reading these things though it seems like I could witter on for an age on this stuff. Like the big book collections they still do every year. A Beano annual, which is a big book of special comics reserved just for this collection, generally released yearly, was a perennial christmas present for a number of years. I would eventually get rid of the collection of comics I had when I stopped reading them. The annuals went with them, of which there's a few other weird bits I turned up while revisiting this.

    Like there was a thing for a while with evil Beano robots that wanted to capture Dennis that where badly 3D rendered.


    Anyone else get Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave vibes from this?

    Other odd stuff? There was a recent comic where Dennis' Dad, who's new design actually makes him look like his son rather some balding guy with a toothbrush mustache that I remember, is revealed to actually be a earlier incarnation of Dennis the Menace grown up and accidentally having sired Dennis Junior. Specifically, they suggest it was Dennis of the 70's apparently though it's not entirely clear but I do enjoy the idea of Dennis growing up only for his kid to be exactly the same as he was.

    Though the thought that the Dennis I grew up reading about is canonically only 10 years older than I might be is an odd feeling I don't know what to do with.

    I also found out that The Beano is now the longest running comic of it's type, now that it's friendly rival The Dandy stopped publication in 2013. I've also been looking up some of the newer Dennis comics on the site, looking at the ones the company wants to show off. The best foot forwards, immortalised on the site and they're pretty good. Not amazing but I found them pretty cute. They are better than most of the ones I remember from when I was reading. They've got more recognisable jokes or some fun, farcical logic that gets a chuckle from me. I can't help but relate to the fact that all the characters appear more interested in playing video games or spend forever on their phones. That seems the most notable addition to any of the characters I listed above.

    So, I guess The Beano is in an OK place. I am somewhat tempted to look over a copy of what the Beano looks like now. I've heard they have Minecraft and Nintendo game stuff in there, which seems off though I appreciate that Dennis plays loads of video games himself as well, which seems appropriate for this day and age. That said, the anarchic spirit their mascot exhumes seems to still be there in some manner.

    In 2018, The Beano Offices issued a cease-and-desist letter against Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, demanding he stop masquerading as Walter Brown the Softy. In a genuine letter to the man who is currently most well known for this photograph:

    This was memed to death

    The Beano accused Rees-Mogg of not only impersonating on their character, infringing on their intellectual property, but also 'snootiness', 'bullish behaviour with peers and stopping others from having fun' as well as 'insistence to remind others of his father's successful career'.

    For those unaware, the Tory party have a well-founded history with their members coming from rich and influential families; many of the key members of government today having come from the sort of schools and universities that you think of when you think of the sort of education that you could only get in England (hint; think Hogwarts without the magic). Jacob here being the son of Baron Rees-Mogg, who's CV has plenty of highfalutin titles like Editor of The Times Newspaper (1967 - 1981) and High Sheriff of Somerset. To me, this is amazing and I never would have ever expected The Beano to actually threaten legal action, even jokingly. What is this universe? What act of madness lead us all here?

    That said, they do appear to have a case, and he's not changed since so I guess we'll hear from that court case soon?
    #1 Tyro D. Fox, Jul 29, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2020

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