4th December 1937. Comic Cuts.
It was Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe from the profits of his Daily Mail, who published Comic Cuts in the late 19thc, heralding the era of the strip cartoon comic.
The comic was the bane of all ‘do-gooder’ teachers, thinking it reduced the literacy of the young, but ignoring that it showed reading could be fun.
The golden age of comics saw the issue Today in December 1937 of D.C. Thomson’s ‘Dandy’ complete with ‘free express whistler’.
Dandy was to be followed the next July by its companion Beano with the cover character, Eggo the Ostrich.(1)
Both sold at 2d featuring anarchic characters against authority-the local bobbie and schoolmaster-with ‘toffs’ satirised, in the Beano, as Lord Snooty.
In 1974 Biffo the Bear gave way to Dennis the Menace on the front page of the Beano, with his famous sidekick Gnasher, (an Abyssinian wire-haired ‘tripe-hound’), whose main occupation appeared to be bullying Walter ‘Prince of the Softies’.(2)
Comics were in their heyday inter-war, through to the 1950.s, when times were more astringent for most kids, the characters though later criticized for bullying, dishonesty and sometimes robbery, but all getting their just deserts in the end.
Then though the local Bobby was seen as obtuse and the mortar-boarded teacher too strict, they often engineered their own downfall.
Poverty then was often part of the social landscape, but through comic characters, kids developed a self-identification and a cement of a rough and ready ‘self-esteem’, of toughness, togetherness and mutual regard, a barrier against authority and the ‘Toffs’.
Comic titles from their inception proliferated, many with limited survival, unlike Dandy and Beano, and two from the D.C. Thomson stable which folded early were Topper and Beezer.(3)
In 2000, Denis Gifford, Britain’s foremost collector and historian of comics died. He had amassed more than 20,000 comics in his life, which included the first Dandy.
He recalled that on returning home after being evacuated in the war, he was distraught to find his comic cupboard empty: his mother pleaded innocence.
Dandy with its speech-balloons, had a circulation of 2 million in the 1950.s, by its demise in 2012 it was down to 8,000. Beano continues in print and digital.
The Author had the first copy of Eagle, but later disposed of, along with his Radio Fun collection, but wishing in maturity, he had laid up his ‘treasures where moth and rust can corrupt’.
(1) The First Beano was sold for £17,3000 in 2015.
(2) Denis first appeared in issue 452 in March 1951.
(3) Topper (7.12.1953). Beezer (21.1.1956).
wikipedia/First Eagle/Pic of 1st Copy.(see left).
dailymail.co.uk. Nich Enoch. 16.8.2012. Comic’s last Edition/Pic of First Dandy.
mirror.co.uk. First Beano. Louie Smith. 14.9.2015.