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Thursday, 30 July, 1998, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Full of beans at 60
The Bash street kids
A bunch of rogues who continue to withstand the test of time
The comic that survived war-time paper shortages in its first decade has lived on to reach the ripe old age of 60.

But far from considering retirement, The BEANO - with its wild and wonderful collection of mad-cap characters - continues to attract a large and loyal following.

A recent survey showed it was still the favourite comic of boys in Britain aged nine to 15, selling 250,000 copies a week.

Tyrant Dennis the Menace has a fan club with a membership of 1.5 million with footballer Paul Gascoigne and Olympic champion Linford Christie among the honorary members.

Early days

The first issue of The BEANO was published by DC Thomson on 30 July 1938.

It was modelled on the style of its sister comic The Dandy with a mixture of strips, rip-roaring adventure yarns and prose stories.

Beano characters
In 1951 Dennis the Menace burst onto the scene, changing the face of British comics. He first appeared in a half-page black and white cartoon - his mum was still knitting his now-famous red and black jersey.

Dennis was the first of a steady stream of loveable rogues who rampaged through the comic, defying authority and adults in general.

A comic genius

The creator of some of these enduring characters was Leo Baxendale. He dreamed up Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street Kids in 1953.

As a boy with a strong talent for drawing, he vividly recalls seeing The BEANO for the first time in July 1938 aged seven.

"I was standing in the playground of St. Mary's Elementary school at Chorley in Lancashire. It was a brilliant summer's day. An older boy rushed up to me and shoved a comic into my hands saying 'Look at this!'" Mr Baxendale told BBC News online.

First front cover of Beano
First issue hatched with Bigg Eggo
He remembers being nonplussed by the comic featuring the ostrich Big Eggo on the cover. Fourteen years later he played a major role in transforming The BEANO's content.

He approached DC Thomson as a freelance artist in 1952 but was frustrated working within the bounds of the comic's content.

"There was a seven month struggle of will between us. Abruptly, in April 1953 , in a great burst of impatience I created Little Plum ... and they accepted it at once," he said.

Later that year Baxendale added Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street Kids to The BEANO regulars.

Enduring characters

Kids read Beano
Still a gripping read
The lasting appeal of the Bash Street Kids was illustrated in 1994 when attempts to give them a makeover was met with massive protest.

Plans to make the Kids politically correct and whisk them into the age of computer games prompted screams of "Cripes" from more than 2000 fans. The publishers even received a death threat before the characters were returned to their former glory.

From comic to CD-Romic

After a long career creating characters and drawing thousands of strips for The BEANO and numerous other publications, Leo Baxendale put his pencil down for good in 1992.

His last regular cartoon strip was ''I LOVE You Baby Basil!' for the Guardian newspaper which he stopped drawing because he suffered double vision.

Now he has taken the magazine comic concept into the 21st century by creating the World's first CD-Romic.

The buzz on Beano
"Down the Plughole" a CD-Romic based on Baby Basil was launched this month at an exhibition of his Beano drawings.

Produced by his youngest of five children, Mark, a lecturer in multimedia, it consists of a series of black and white drawings turned into about half an hour of video.

"There is a lot of contained energy in my past drawings and there is a great release of energy when they are vastly enlarged," Mr Baxendale said.

"It has been wonderful to take tiny figures and make them big and bold on the screen, and to write scenarios for them."

He has enough material to make a new CD Rom every year for the next 10 years.

It seems certain his low-tech but enduring comic characters Minnie and the Kids will be celebrating The BEANO's birthday number 70 by then.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC News
Take a trip through Beano's history
BBC News
The BBC's Paul Welsh: 'The first character drawn by computer'
See also:

30 Jul 98 | Features
Baxendale of Bash Street
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