The Beano is the second oldest ongoing comic book in the world, beaten only by Action Comics by a matter of weeks. This week's edition, issue #4062, is getting a special insert pullout section dubbed BeanOLD, and aimed at adults with a satirical, political bent. This won't be in the manner of the adult Viz Comic with over-the-top sexuality, language and taste issues, rather it describes the subject matter and characters targeted.
The main story will see the parents take the lead Sandra and Dennis Sr Menace, parents of Beano mainstay Dennis, as his dad gets a new job in the Elf Service, having lost his job courtesy of the dastardly Wilbur Brown, father of Walter the Softy. While other strips will include versions of real-life figures Captain Tom Moore, Marcus Rashford, who visit Beanotown to receive honorary MBEs (Member of the Beano Elf-service) for their efforts this year. While in town they save Christmas by rumbling Wilbur Brown and Walter Softy's plan to steal all of the Christmas presents. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson then lands in town and helps Wilbur Brown stage his getaway, with help from his recently departed chief aide Dominic Cummings as their getaway driver.
Mike Stirling, the editorial director of Beano Studios, hopes kids as well as adults will enjoy it. "We just wanted to cheer everyone up. One thing we noticed was that our readers were feeling a bit sorry for the adults in their lives." Apparently, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings have been huge subjects for the average 10-year-old, he said, with kids describing Cummings as one who "broke all the rules. He got corona and got his kids to their grandparents … you've got to stick to the rules even if they are your own rules."
Stirling states "Although our characters are always really naughty and misbehave, our readers are very moral. When our kid characters break the rules there's always a consequence for doing so."
"We've formed our very own Gnational Elf Service to help spread laughs and keep the nation smiling this winter. We love bringing kids laughs every week but 2020 has been so tough, that for the first time in 82 years we've created a comic that kids can give to adults to share some much-needed Beano LOLZ."
Boris Johnson is a fan of the Beano and Tintin, and there have been reports of him reading hardcover versions of both when in hospital earlier this year. BeanOLD also includes an appearance from environmental activist Greta Thunberg, to offers Dennis's dad advice on how to grow his own Christmas tree, as well as a cameo from the Dandy's Desperate Dan, marking the first time the character has appeared in a comic for eight years. Tom Hardy also makes a guest appearance as Dennis' mum's celebrity crush and Christmas present wish.
Sales have been reduced to a modest 40,000 a week in recent years but lockdowns have increased rather than decreased sales. Stirling states "We could all benefit from thinking a wee bit more like kids. I would say that because I get to do it every day, but I really think it is a powerful thing … the optimism, hope and moral worldview that kids always have."
Looks like I'll be adding it to my supermarket order for tomorrow to join Phoenix Comics Weekly and 2000AD…