Beano Annual 2019
Medium: comic, book
Year: 2018
Keywords: The Beano, UK kiddie comic
Format: 110 pages
Website category: Other
Review date: 8 February 2021
This book can piss off. Theoretically it's okay and occasionally I even liked it, but yeeeeeeargh. Things to hate about it include:
1. JJ FREEWHEELING FREESTYLE FUN and RUBI'S SCREWTOP SCIENCE
Imagine you're the 21st century editor of a magazine with inadequate representation of women and minorities. Quick, commission some new strips to make up for that! Female, female, wheelchair, black. Hurrah! Obviously, you can't possibly have negative portrayals of those women and minorities, so... no no no no, hang on.
Why are these people in the Beano? Seriously. Traditionally, children's comic strip characters are monsters. They're vile, stupid, smelly, thieving, bullying and possibly insane. That's why they're funny. These two, on the other hand, are as bland as a cardboard sandwich with no bread. Rubi is a scientist who's not mad and has no character traits. JJ likes to go jogging and keep herself fit with healthy exercise.
What. The. Holy. Fiddle?
2. WALTER
Walter the Softy is now evil. "All I wanted to do was take over the world and rule it with an iron fist! Would that be so bad?" This reboot was presumably done to justify Dennis's bullying of him and I have some sympathy for the editor logic... but it's rubbish. The original Walter was funny. I genuinely like the character. This Walter is nothing.
3. DENNIS THE MENACE'S DAD
Dennis the Menace (1980s) is the dad of Dennis the Menace (2018). It just feels wrong. Theoretically, I can see the gag behind a wild young tearaway growing up to be a middle-aged dad with a paunch. To me, though, it feels disrespectful to the character. Dad-Dennis is a butt monkey. He's got no brains, no cleverness and no mischief. He likes boring things. He's outwitted by his son, a third-rate Dennis who barely even counts as naughty. "The world's wildest boy" says the blatantly lying strip banner.
That said, the strips do fairly well at deceptively treading water and finding generic, non-naughty things for this latest Dennis to do... but making 1980s Dennis his dad feels to me like including a superior version of the character in order to piss on him.
4. THE NUMSKULLS
How can you mess up the Numskulls? It shouldn't be possible... but they've done it. The strip's oddly philosophical conceit, obviously, is that tiny men live inside your body and do a bad job of controlling you. The original Beezer Numskulls were Alf, Fred, Luggy, Snitch, Brainy and Blinky. They were great. This one is effectively the Brainy Show, with a purple Brainy who wears square glasses and is annoying. Not funny-annoying, where you love him because he's a dipstick, but annoying-annoying where you want to drown him and the artist in a toilet.
5. NO CALAMITY JAMES
...unless you count a couple of cameos. Sob.
6. LOOK RELEVANT 'N' YOOF WE-R, CHECKITAAAAD
Dennis plays video games. Roger plays video games. Minnie the Minx gets a stand-up routine about YouTube.
7. I CAN'T TAKE IT, I JUST CAN'T TAKE IT
Why are Roger's dodges so rubbish? Winker Watson would eat him alive. Mind you, I liked the time-travelling story where a utopia sends Roger crazy because he's got no problems to out-think, plus the moment where he crosses the line into "actually criminal". (In disguise, he tries to swindle a stranger out of money.)
Gnasher and Gnipper can fuck off, too. Their sardonic, self-aware thought bubble "dialogue" made me think of Garfield. (I like Garfield, but the two styles don't fit.)
Oh, and the art's bleah too. Strips by their regular artists are fine, but there's a lot of sludge here.
8. OKAY, THERE IS SOME GOOD STUFF TOO
Doctor Whoops is a 27-ish page time travelling crossover with enjoyable cameos (Big Eggo, Jonah, Pup Parade, Lord Snooty, Calamity James, the original Numskulls) and a few good mini-episodes. It also has Evil Walter and extremely unremarkable artwork, but never mind. Its take on Snooty is mildly interesting. The Bash Street Kids meet Plug's uncle, become pirates and un-sink a ship.
It occurs to me that Bananaman could be argued to fill the "straight adventure" slot that the original Beano used to have. His strips are conventional little four-page superhero stories, except comedic.
New Dennis has a different granny, but that makes sense. Technically, she's 1980s Dennis's mum... and I can sort of see it. They have the same hair.
Yes, I'm overreacting. It's not that bad really. I'm being needled by things that wouldn't bother a lot of readers. A lot of this works and Natsuki enjoyed it. Nonetheless, personally, I look at something like J.J and... please, stop, it's just sad. Rubi's Screwtop Science? Give me Franken Fran. (No, give Beanotown to Franken Fran. I'd pay to see that.)
"Where's the TV? And the tablet? And the video games?"