The Beezer Book for boys and girls 1961
Medium: comic, book
Year: 1960
Keywords: UK kiddie comic
Format: 80 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 13 January 2021
The Beezer (called The Beezer and Topper in its last three years) was a British children's comic from D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd that ran from 1956 to 1993. It also published an annual from 1957 to 2003, outliving the magazine itself by a decade.
This is the fifth of those annuals and it's gorgeous. It's the kind of full colour book that makes you want to read it in gloves, because it's got no photos. Everything that today would be a photo is instead a painting. The filler articles are, literally, works of art. (What's more, even their text is cool. I was reading out bits aloud to Tomoko. They've got a double-page spread on Crufts, the international dog show, for instance. Apparently that was founded by a man called Charles Cruft who didn't himself own a dog. He was a cat person.)
Similarly, the comic strips are all in colour. (Not duotone.) There's even a non-comedic adventure strip called Showboat Circus that I didn't realise at first was telling a story, because it looked like another of those beautifully painted filler articles.
The strips aren't that great, though. Some I like, but they tend to be somewhere between "forgettable" and "I didn't mind it".
BABY CROCKETT (1956, Bill Ritchie) = a long-running strip that even crossed over into other magazines, but you'd never guess that from his strips here. He's a young child who does harmless childlike things. I don't mind him, but it's the kind of gentle humour that only sometimes could be said to have a joke.
POP, DICK AND HARRY (1956, Tom Bannister) = the only strip that ran in The Beezer from its first to its last issue. It's bland and at its worst can deliver a simple joke so poorly that it becomes unfunny.
THE BANANA BUNCH (1956, Leo Baxendale) = don't actually get a strip. Instead, they get a six-page short story, two detail-filled splash pages and a sequence of narrated musical panels. I haven't seen that format before. Anyway, they're a gang of children called Brainey, Dopey, Fatty, Tiny, Scruffy, etc. They seem okay.
WOOLLY WEST (1959, Bill Ritchie) = a dozy cowboy. His second strip here ends in quite a good pun.
COLONEL BLINK (1958, Tom Bannister) = a colonel who's so short-sighted that he's functionally blind. He drives a car from the Victorian era. This strip's actually okay. I laughed once.
GINGER (1956, Dudley D. Watkins) = the magazine's cover star. He reminded me of the Broons, which makes sense since Watkins created them too (and Oor Wullie). Again, it's gentle humour.
OH, CALAMITY! JANE (1956, Hugh Morren) = as with the Banana Bunch, only gets those comedy splash pages. She works well in them, though, since the format fits the character's one simple joke. (Jane innocently does something stupid. Chaos ensues.)
MIGUEL THE MATADOR (1959, Bob McGrath) = ees quite funny, eef you can take ze accents.
PUSS 'N' BUTCH (couldn't find anything by googling) = Tom and Jerry rip-off, but with a cat and a dog. Amusingly violent.
MERRY HOOD AND HIS ROBBIN MEN (1959, George Martin) = has the book's ugliest example of "this week's ending is rubbish, so let's tack on some lame wordplay." The best thing about this strip is its title.
THE MOONKIDS (couldn't find anything by googling) = they only get comedy splash pages, but they're great. They're little fat aliens who run wild, like Gremlins.
THE HILLYS AND THE BILLIES (1956, George Martin) = my favourite strip in the book. It's about two feuding groups, like the Jocks and the Geordies in The Dandy... but even more violent. "Let's get our guns loaded!" "Luv'ly bullets!" They also use dynamite. No one gets killed, but that's a stone-cold miracle.
At the same time, though, they're lovable.
The straight adventure stuff is fine. Six pages each, no problems. Pleasingly, Yellow-Eye manages to be set in India without being racist.
This annual is much less dense than its Beano contemporaries, but the production values are far higher. It's shorter and simpler. Its strips can be read more quickly. It's also quite nice.