The Beano Annual 2012

Two things you need to know before we launch into this discussion of The Beano’s 2012 Annual: firstly, that the Dennis The Menace artist has shifted to a new guy, whose art looks a little like Cameron Stewart’s work. Secondly, that The Beano have drastically overestimated the entertainment value of a new strip called “Ratz”.

Actually, here’s a third thing. The Beano is a British comic first published in 1951. Aimed at kids, the comic is anarchic and madcap, showcasing the riotous qualities of any good British kid. Featuring characters like Ivy the Terrible, Minnie The Minx, Billy Whizz and Roger The Dodger, the Beano tells kids important moral lessons about the importance of not doing your homework, not having baths, getting out of going to school and eating lots and lots of chips. From the gross adventures of Calamity James to the chaos of The Bash Street Kids, The Beano sets a bad example for Britain to be proud of.

Every year, at Christmas, the publishers release an annual. An easy stocking filler, purchase of the annual is tradition and/or law in Britain, and keeps kids entertained while they wait for Granddad to wake up and put his dressing gown on.

So, does this year’s annual continue the tradition of hi-jinks and mayhem? Yes! It sure does. The Beano is exactly what you should be buying for yourself this Christmas. While there are only two Dennis stories in the issue (scandalous!) there are more than enough other distractions here. Ivy the Terrible makes a few brief appearances, but her stories come to excellent payoffs, while The Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx provide more highlights. I’d forgotten how often the adults team-up with the kids at Christmas, and its tremendous fun to see Minnie build a snow-mobile and cause chaos with her dad and teacher laughing in the back seat. The art seems to have changed since last I picked up an issue, but retains the vintage charm that made the stories more than just a Dennis the Menace spinoff.

The Numskulls turn up a few times – but Les Pretend and Roger the Dodger only show up once each. However, that’s made up by several welcome comics from Tom Paterson, a writer/artist who has been the undisputed star of the Beano for decades. When Paterson is allowed to draw in the Calamity James style – as he does here twice, for CJ and for ‘Fred’s Bed’, each panel becomes a race to cram as many throwaway gags as possible into the space. Paterson usually chucks at least three into each panel, making his strips the most re-readable of the lot, here. He also tends to go for a lot of gross sight-gags, which is massively enjoyable. His four or five strips in the Annual are the undisputed highlights here, and keep things racing along merrily.

Billy Whizz reappears for a simple story, while the food loving 3 Bears also show up memorably. Every page switches the art style around considerably, but offers some great gags which throw back to the good ol’ days whilst keeping a sense of the contemporary about them. The Beano has always offered the reader a chance to go back to their childhood, be vulgar, and lob about some anarchy. The 2012 issue shows no signs of that ending anytime soon. What a joy.


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