Anxious to repeat the success of their comic, The Dandy, Scottish publishing house DC Thomson introduced The Beano just 35 weeks later in July 1938. It was practically a replica of the first comic and, again, proved a great success.
It is now the longest-running British children’s comic.
The front cover originally presented ‘Big Eggo’ drawn by Dudley Dexter Watkins, who also drew The Beano’s first star, ‘Lord Snooty’ of Bunkerton Castle. The young Earl of Bunkerton was a titled lord of the realm but for fun and true friendship, he stole away over his castle wall to play with the ragged urchins in Ash Can Alley.
A lot of early Beano funnies were small single gag strips arranged three to a page. This format produced a busy layout which continued into the early 1950s. Text stories also originally made up a big part of the comic. In the first years, 10 out of the 28 pages were full text. As tastes changed, these same adventure stories would be retold in pictures.
During World War II, The Beano switched to fortnightly publication to save paper, alternating weekly with The Dandy. Illustrating the great British ability to laugh in the face of adversity, The Beano continued to serve up jokes and stories, laced with a large helping of patriotism as the comic’s characters tackled the Nazis in highly-imaginative ways.
Documents found after the war revealed that, along with the editors of some national British newspapers, the editors of The Beano and The Dandy would have been arrested had Hitler’s forces invaded Britain.
By the 1980s, sales of the weekly comic began to slip, although the sales of annuals held steady, and in many cases actually increased.
The comic became full colour in 1993.
- The Bash Street Kids – Smiffy, Plug, Danny and the other ageless reprobates of Bash Street High School
- Biffo the Bear – a walking, talking, big-eared furball who graced the cover from 1948 to 1974
- Big Eggo – Watched over by cute little Peanut, original cover star Big Eggo the ostrich fronted The Beano for the first 10 years
- Billy The Cat – “Catch him if you can!” Billy was the last new adventure strip character to appear in The Beano. he debuted in 1967
- Billy Whizz
- Danny on a Dolphin
- Dennis the Menace – the crown prince of British comicdom, Dennis arrived on 17 March 1951 and was the first cartoon strip by DC Thomson staff artist David Law. Dennis was lumbered with his lifelong foe Walter the Softy from the beginning but was later joined by his pet dog, Gnasher (an Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound), in 1968, and eventually by his pet pig, Rasher
- General Jumbo – a schoolboy general with a miniature remote-controlled army and airforce
- The Iron Fish – the incredible mechanical swordfish invented by Professor Gray and piloted by his son, Danny
- Jonah – the unluckiest sailor in the world
- Little Plum, Your Redskin Chum – by modern standards a grotesquely stereotyped Native American boy, Little Plum first appeared in a small double-line strip. The scheming bears who battled with Plum were so popular that they got their own page – well, three of them did (see “The Three Bears” below)
- Lord Snooty and his Pals – The adventures of Lord Marmaduke Bunkerton (aka Lord Snooty) who wore a Lord Fauntleroy suit without explanation
- Minnie The Minx
- The Nibblers
- Pansy Potter the Strong Man’s Daughter – The strong-arm girl was drawn by three different artists – Hugh McNeil, Basil Blackaller and Sam Fair – and Pansy became a household name
- Pup Parade – with the Bash Street Dogs
- The Q Bikes
- Red Rory of The Eagles – This young Jacobite hero fought his highland cause for many years, appearing in 13 series of the story
- Roger the Dodger – a youthful eleven-year-old who was the author of volume after volume of homemade ‘Dodge Books’ and diaries of every trick he had ever played to avoid getting out of an unpleasant situation (from going to the barber to shopping with his mother)
- The Three Bears