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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Drawing Dennis: The Beano at 65
As a child, Barrie Appleby dreamed of drawing for the Beano. When he grew up, that dream became a reality. As the comic book turns 65, the cartoonist tells of giving shape to Dennis the Menace and Roger the Dodger.

Beano characters (image from DC Thomson)
A 65 whoopee cushion salute will mark the Beano's anniversary
Like most people I first came across the Beano as a kid. From the age of six, I read both it and Dandy religiously. It's just like a dream to work for these comics.

The reason I enjoy doing this is that I never changed - I still laugh at the same things I laughed at as a kid. It's a great pleasure to laugh as I work, interpreting a good gag from the scriptwriters.

I think the Beano still sells after all these years because it epitomises British humour - it's very surreal with a lot of slapstick, which goes right back to Charlie Chaplin.

It appeals to that anarchic side of kids, the side that enjoys seeing someone get one over on adults. If somebody's trousers fall down or they get kicked up the arse, kids love it. I loved it at that age; it was the same with my kids and now with my grandchildren.

Britain of yesteryear?

Beano certainly doesn't depict a sweet world, nor is it from a kinder, gentler time. When DC Thomson launched the comic, it was during the Depression - a far harsher and crueller world than we live in now.

Cover of the first Beano comic

It has changed with the times as it can't be too far from contemporary society. Yes the characters look much the same as they always have, but now there are TVs, microwaves and you don't get kids getting whacked with a slipper for being naughty.

I don't go along with the politically correct idea that you can't show any violence. While I'd never show gratuitous cruelty to animals, I would have a cat and dog going at it hammer and tongs. In the same way, I wouldn't show a child being smacked, but I would show damage being done to Dad by the kid.

Love of reading

I remember my father being very disparaging about comics. But I've always believed that a lot of kids will not read books but they will read comics.

Roger the Dodger, image from DC Thomson
Kids love to get one over on adults - that's one of the main themes of the stories
I read comics as a boy and it didn't stop me going on to read Beowulf in Old English. Comics are a good starting point, and that's why the Beano has even been used as a language teaching tool in Japan.

I came from what I guess would be called a deprived background. I grew up in the mining village of Grimethorpe - there wasn't a great deal of money around, my Dad worked down the pit, so we didn't have a great many books.

But I always had comics and these encouraged me to be a habitual reader. Comics didn't do me any harm as my father said they would.

I occasionally get into debates at the pub in my Suffolk village about who has the most important job. The farmers insist they do, as they grow food. But I make children laugh, and that must be one of the greatest jobs there is.


Add your comments, using the form below.

My British-born grandparents made sure they passed down an important part of their culture by giving out Beano Annuals every year. I grew up on Beanos and Dandys in 1970s Canada, and become one of my country's leading kids' cartoonists, writing and drawing for Chickadee magazines and annuals, and creating a weekly comic strip for the Toronto Star. I'm forever in debt to the lowbrow lessons gleaned from Dennis and his ilk.
Jay Stephens, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

I grew up in Britain during the war years, when the Dandy and Beano came out every other alternative week. To get a copy, one had to be a registered customer. To get an annual required a gold mine.
Hugh Jones, Canada

My father, Tom Williams, was a cartoonist for IPC (Whizzer & Chips) & DC Thomson (the Dandy, the Beano) from the 1970s through to his death last year. You can imagine what a privilege it was to have a father with such a fantastic job. It's such a pleasure to think of the generations of kids who grew up reading & enjoying his work.
Graeme Williams, UK

I clearly remember, aged 7, leaving the house each evening to issue a 'Gnashhowl' into the night, in the hope of bringing Gnasher back, when he disappeared for a short spell.
Nick Grant, UK

Aged 9 I realised the power and prestige my Beano collection afforded me. I rented them out to other pupils for a packet of sweets a comic (a far more important currency to us than sterling).
Al, UK

I will still read the Beano & always snap up any Beano annuals at jumble sales. I am three months younger than Dennis the Menace [age 52] who, with Minnie the Minx, were my role models until I was 11.
Sandra Scovell, UK

Our door-to-door breadman used to deliver me the Beano. I could not wait until Tuesday came and I got my "newspaper".
Dermot Devlin, Ireland

I had the Beano delivered to my door until I left home at 22. My brother and I adored it and I hope it will still appeal to children 65 years from now. I've got every copy from 1987 - could this become my pension?
Lisa Alexander, England

I still pronounce Gnasher "Ger-nasher" like when I was 6.
Mark, York

The fights my sister and I had over who would get to read it first would drive the folks mad. Now I'm off the tuck shop for a slap-up feed of a huge pile of mash potato with sausages sticking out!
Howard Tattum, UK

I agree totally with my brother. Woe betide if there was a free gift attached! It got so bad that the only way Mum could get us to eat shepherds pie was by putting a pair of horns and a tail on the top and calling it Cow Pie.
Olivia Tattum, UK

I was reading it in 1946 and am still reading my grandkids Beano today. Happy 65th birthday.
Tony Papworth, England

Haha, the Beano! I have many hidden away in boxes, from my many trips to England. They still make me laugh...
Pete, Canada

I've spent the past two years in Quebec, helping to teach English using the Beano comics. It's a good way to explore informal language and British culture and humour. I then asked them to create their own comic.
Terry Dawson, County Durham (ex England)

I read the Beano up until my 20s, and when I was at college it earned me the nickname - Penny Plug the Ugly Mug.
Penny Rose, UK

I have fond memories of putting each issue in a huge child-crushing black folder. Which comic had the Trigan Empire in it? I gave my kids some Beano annuals recently - off went the Playstation, total silence.
James Hazell, UK

Trigan Empire was in Look and Learn, a sort of early kids "how things work" mag. I used to read it in the school library. On the Beano, I used to read it on Sat mornings just before TISWAS started.
Mike Patching, UK

I used to read the Beano in school whilst hiding it in the middle of a French textbook. I felt like a proper Bash Street Kid.
Brian Anjo, Warrington

My son is 14 and loves the Beano. When we moved house some years ago, he told all the children around that he was called Dennis. When they came to play, I thought they had the wrong house.
Margaret Hall, UK

Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx were my greatest influence as a child - much to my mother's disdain. It's a healthy form of subversion, with a creative naughtiness that makes kids question authority.
Dan Brett, Kolkata, India

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