Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dennis the Menace at 60

Amidst all the bad news and deaths of famous people of late - the most recent being that of screen legend Liz Taylor today - I missed news the other day of the 60th birthday of someone who is not only still going strong, but who never grows old. I refer of course to Dennis the Menace, who first graced the pages of the Beano 60 years ago.

When I was a kid Thursday was a big day: it was the day that the Beano (a mere 2d in those days) slipped through the letter box. I would avidly follow the latest adventures of Dennis, Roger the Dodger, Minnie the Minx, Lord Snooty and his pals, Biffo the Bear, Little Plum and the rest. My favourite strip was The Bash Street Kids (known as When the Bell Rings when it first appeared) as the anarchic antics appealed to my rebellious spirit. Like the other characters, they were stuck eternally in a long lost era of teachers with mortar boards, angry fathers with slippers and decidedly non-PC attitudes. But it was Roger the Dodger was I really wanted to emulate, and I think I have succeeded more or less over the years.

The Dandy had Desperate Dan, Keyhole Kate and Korky the Cat, the Beezer had the Banana Bunch and the Topper had Beryl the Peril, but, good though they were, none of them could hold a candle to the Beano. It was a true work of art. Original 50s copies fetch a small fortune these days, and I always regret the day my mum threw my collection away. In an era when there was little of interest to kids on TV, comics were a central part of growing up, and the Beano held pride of place. There were others of course: Wizard, Rover, Hotspur, Radio Fun for example, all of which had a certain appeal, but for sheer juvenile amusement nothing could touch the Beano of the 1950s.

Later on I graduated to the Eagle, with Dan Dare and the Mekon, and Express Weekly, and they filled a gap for slightly older kids who today would be working feverishly on their Nintendos or Play Stations. They are long gone but the Beano continues, as does the Dandy, and long may they last. I would be interested in any comments on memories of the comics of old - especially your favourite characters.


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