The Beano Book 1989
Medium: comic, book
Year: 1988
Country: UK
Keywords: The Beano, UK kiddie comic
Format: 142 pages
Website category: Comics UK
Review date: 3 February 2021
It's surprisingly good. Even most of the weaker strips have raised their game. Roger the Dodger, No 13, Ivy the Terrible, Billy Whizz, Biffo the Bear and Ball Boy are all more readable than usual.
Dennis the Menace's granny briefly appears. (I want to say that grannies make all stories better.) There's even a mention of the slipper, although it's only a mention. (DC Thomson children's strips about naughty characters can be divided into two eras: the good stuff, and the modern era when no one gets punished.) We also meet lots of Dennis's pets. Gnasher introduces his rarely seen daughters, Gnatasha, Gnaomi, Gnanette, Gnorah and Gnancy. Seen from the postman's point of view, Gnasher and Gnipper are sinister. Little Monkey falls foul of Gnasher's fleas. Plus, of course, there's Rasher.
Minnie the Minx's mum goes on a diet and becomes a ravening beast. Baby Face Finlayson meets Little Plum, who'd vanished from the main Beano in 1986 but was still in the annuals. Billy Whizz gets a reasonably okay story about visiting Tibet, but this includes a disgracefully drawn map of Europe. There's also a Whizz-mouse. Meanwhile, Roger the Dodger's Dodge Clinics offer their services to other Beano characters and become, on occasion, quite good. (It occurred to me that you could make the character work by playing on his intelligence and building stories around that, although ideally of course you'd resurrect his original artist, Ken Reid.)
I still don't like Karate Sid, though, who's (a) not funny, (b) being loudly Chinese while practicing a Japanese martial art and (c) has dreadful art. Little Monkey's a waste of space too.
There are also some special strips. "Girls! Girls! Girls!" (16 pages) stars Minnie the Minx, Ivy the Terrible (who's been given an evil upgrade for the purposes of this story) and Toots from the Bash Street Kids. I'd never noticed that Toots had such bad hair. Anyway, their fathers order them to act more like girls. Naturally, they take this in horrible directions and it ends with the other Beano characters begging for Minnie, Ivy and Toots to be allowed to be tomboys again. I laughed at what they do with make-up.
"Let's Have A Party!" is the wackiest, though. It stars the Beano office staff, all drawn with what look like accurate likenesses. (They're not named, but I can recognise the editor as Euan Kerr, at least.) It's a daft story, but it's still fun just for the self-portrayals. The Boss Man's desk is a throne with a crown, for instance, while Kerr's first line of dialogue is, "Don't tell me they're working!" (Answer: "Don't be silly, we're writing invitations to our Christmas party.")
It's a lot better than I'd expected. It's making a middling Beano era look better than it was. Its best story is probably its last one, in which Cuthbert turns evil for an amusing reason and reverse-bullies the Bash Street Kids. (Note: this is nothing to do with Actually Evil Walter from the modern Beano, who's far less interesting.) Recommended.