The longest-running comic in the UK, The Beano, reached a milestone with last week’s issue, celebrating its 85th birthday.

The first issue of The Beano was published in July 1938, a few weeks after Action Comics #1 in the USA where Superman made his debut, but since it is published weekly there have been many more issues with almost 4200 over the years, and at its peak selling close to two million copies a week.

There are only 30 known existing copies of the first edition of The Beano and one of those tuppenny comics fetched £15,000 at auction just last year.

The front cover and comic strip of this special birthday issue was specially drawn by regular Beano artist, Nigel Parkinson.

It sees a string of celebrities including Harry Styles, Ant and Dec, Sir David Attenborough and even the King and Queen, chosen by a nationwide poll of kids aged seven to 14, assist the Beanotown kids in stopping nasty Mayor Brown from carving his own face into Mount Beano for the birthday celebrations.


Paul Trimble pictured holding The Beano 85th birthday edition and one of his issues from the early 1970s.

Paul Trimble pictured holding The Beano 85th birthday edition and one of his issues from the early 1970s.


Many of the Beano characters will be known and recognised by generations of kids with Dennis the Menace first appearing 72 years ago, in 1951, and is still causing havoc every week with his pet dog Gnasher. Other favourites over the years have included Minnie the Minx, Roger the Dodger, the Bash Street Kids and Billy Whizz.

As a child I was a voracious reader and comics were a firm favourite. I began to read The Beano, and every other comic I could get my hands on, in the late 1960s.

Every Monday I would work up the courage to ask my dad for “comic money” and excitedly make my way across to Armstrong’s Newsagent to make my selections from the dozens and dozens of comics that were published at the time with The Beano always the first pick.

At this time of year the oversized Summer Special was much anticipated and taken off to read at the beach, while in December the Christmas issue was always especially prized and there was always the hope that The Beano Annual would be wrapped under the tree to be savoured on Christmas morning.

Over the years as my comic reading changed and evolved, I’d always keep an eye on The Beano and, years later, I was able to introduce my own kids in turn to it, reading to them in bed brought back such magical memories.

When we launched the Enniskillen ComicFest, the annual festival of sequential art and storytelling, back in 2016 I knew that an important part of our lineup of comic creators would be some of The Beano artists and over the years we’ve been able to host Nigel Parkinson, Laura Howell, Lew Stringer, Hunt Emerson and colourist Nika Nartova multiple times and the response from visitors to the Convention has been huge each time. The Beano is simply the comic that unites us all.

To thank Blake’s of the Hollow for their support for ComicFest over the years the organising committee presented a framed original Dennis and Gnasher illustration by Nigel Parkinson to the manager of Blakes, Mark Edwards, and it is now on display in one of the booths, a unique feature in Enniskillen. At this year’s ComicFest at the start of June Nigel was able to visit Blake’s to see his artwork on display, and sample a pint of Guinness.


The Beano artist Nigel Parkinson pictured with his Blakes of the Hollow cartoon in situ.

The Beano artist Nigel Parkinson pictured with his Blake's of the Hollow cartoon in situ.


An adult can look at today’s Beano and say it’s not the same as they remember but that’s the way it should be, every generation should have their own Beano aimed at eight year olds- that’s who it belongs to. The Beano never grows old, and readers should never be too old for mischief!

Nigel Parkinson (Artist: Lord Snooty, the Bash Street Kids, Dennis and Gnasher)


Dennis the Menace and Gnasher by Nigel Parkinson. (C) D C Thomson & Co Ltd.

Dennis the Menace and Gnasher by Nigel Parkinson. (C) D C Thomson & Co Ltd.


Being a cartoonist is a solitary job – I draw for Beano every week, and it means drawing every single day, all by myself.

It’s a really great job, I get to bring life to the mischief of Dennis & Gnasher and others and what could be better!


The Bash Street Kids by Nigel Parkinson. (C) D C Thomson & Co Ltd.

The Bash Street Kids by Nigel Parkinson. (C) D C Thomson & Co Ltd.


And then on weekends I meet fans of all ages – while still drawing every day – at conventions and festival all over the country! And Enniskillen is an especially nice event we always look forward to, the atmosphere is second to none and we’re always so warmly well-looked after by Paul Trimble and his family and colleagues in such a lovely town with it’s own uniquely welcoming personality, it’s a real high point of the year and long may it continue to be so!


Laura Howell (Artist: Les Pretend, Tricky Dicky, Minnie The Minx)

When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I work for the Beano, there's still a tiny part of me that feels like I'm lying, because it just seems so unlikely. Surely drawing comics isn't an actual job that real people have? Even though as a child I devoured comics and drew obsessively, I never imagined that one day I would spend seventeen years (and counting!) drawing funny pictures for one of my favourites. It's a real privilege to say I play a small part in creating a genuine British icon week after week, and events like the Enniskillen ComicFest allow me to meet the kids who love it as much as I did when I was their age. Its their enthusiasm that will keep it running all the way to its 100th birthday and beyond – and I'm sure some of them will one day be doing my job with the same level of amazement that I still have!


Hunt Emerson (Artist: The Three Bears, Little Plum, Make Me A Menace!)

Like all British kids of my generation I grew up reading comics. There were lots of them back then but the leader of the pack was The Beano. And it is still the leader. I've worked for the Beano for 85 years or something - I mean 15 years! and it's always been fun.

As for Enniskillen - it's a great town to have a comics festival, and the Festival bursts with energy and creativity!


Lew Stringer (Artist: Big Eggo, Ellis's Great Escapes, Pup Parade)

Like many kids I grew up on the Beano in the 1960s and one of my favourite strips was Pup Parade, featuring the canine versions of the Bash Street Kids. Years later it was an honour to be asked to write and draw new Pup Parade stories for the comic. It's also been a pleasure to work on other classic Beano characters such as Biffo the Bear, Lord Snooty, and the Beano's original cover star Big Eggo. They're such strong and well defined characters that they still appeal to a modern audience. Being one of the guests at the Enniskillen Comic Fest a few times confirmed that Beano characters are still popular with all ages. The Festival attracts a lot of people to Enniskillen enthusiastic about comic art and the event is very friendly and a joy to attend.