Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Dandy boy's blue as comic book classic draws to end

Classic: launch issue of Beano

When I was a boy, in the days when the world was a more black-and-white affair, one of my sinful pleasures in winter was to pull a sickie from school and take to bed for the day.

Whereupon I'd instruct my unsuspecting mother to bring me back, when she slipped out for the messages, a copy of The Dandy and The Beano.

I would nurse my feigned illness with the derring-dos of Desperate Dan from the Dandy and the much-preferred antics of the Beano's Dennis The Menace, The Bash Street Kids and The Numbskulls.

All innocent stuff, long before the notion of computer games, XBoxes, and the predatory perniciousness of the web. And behind all the wham-bam anarchy of some of the characters inhabiting the world of DC Thomson comics, there were underlying themes of family values and wholesome morals – the fact that Dennis' dad never had his slipper far from hand, all in the interest of instilling the code of right and wrong into his offspring, was not lost on my young mind.

And there was that other thing about The Beano's philosophy: simply put, you'd punish adults for imposing funless tasks on kids otherwise filled with joie de vivre.

In short, The Beano and its ilk taught me to enjoy being a kid and not be in a hurry to grow up, unlike so much of today's celeb-style mags aimed at pre-teens.

Today is the 75th anniversary of The Beano, whose sales, alas, two years ago merely numbered thousands, rather than the two million-plus back in my young days, which prompted The Dandy to go digital-only.

In this week's special anniversary issue, celebrity adults get The Beano treatment, when David Beckham's pretensions as a lingerie model and his incessant hair restylings are ridiculed. And Andy Murray – with mum Judy in tow – takes on a player more challenging than Novak Djokovic, namely Minnie the Minx.

The Beano's editor, Craig Graham, says: "We've been working hard to put together an extra-special issue, packed full of menacing pranks and jokes."

Once, in the summer of 1963, my mother took my brother and me to a church fete, which had the usual trappings of cake and sweet stalls and the inevitable tombola.

While my brother had a go at that, my eyes were drawn to a stall, manned by a woman who must have been a hundred if she was a day, full of comics and, in particular, Dell comics, with their dark, sinister, but exciting worlds of Batman and Superman. A large cardboard box caught my eye, chock-full of such tempting tomes.

"How much is that box of comics,'' I enquired of the lady. She peered down through her rimless spectacles on the edge of her nose to get the measure of me. "How much have you got, young man?" she said.

I proffered my opened small, sticky palm. "Just thruppence," I said.

"Well, then, thruppence it is.'' And she smiled, removing the eight-sided bronzed coin from my palm.

I grabbed the box with all my might and as fast as my legs could carry me to tell my brother of my good fortune.

Desperate Dan and Dennis were now the last thing on my mind. I was putting away foolish things and, though I didn't know it then, I was growing up.

Me and Superman had better things to do.

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