Dennis the Menace, Gnasher, Walter the Softy, Minnie the Minx, the Bash Street Kids, Calamity James, potentially problematic Native American Little Plum and tons of other characters: in its 82 years, weekly comic the Beano has brought a cast of hundreds to millions of kids’ breakfast tables. It’s a staple of British popular culture, partly a throwback to a simpler era, but also not afraid to move with the times in its themes and humour. The world’s longest-running comic has influenced everything from Carry On films to Vic ’n’ Bob and The Mighty Boosh, and it’s still going strong in the twenty-first century, after more than 4,000 issues.
Now the Beano (it uncomfortably rebranded to just ‘Beano’ a while back, which for the purposes of this story we will not be acknowledging) is getting a whole show devoted to its legacy, artwork and influence at Somerset House. ‘Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules’ will present the work of some of the comic’s most celebrated artists and writers, including the genius Leo Baxendale, alongside contributions from some big-name contemporary artists, such as the genuinely funny Bedwyr Williams and Hardeep Pandhal, and scabrous YBA Sarah Lucas, to examine the often unacknowledged influence that British comics have had on UK fine art.
Somerset House’s Tintin show a few years back was great, and this Beano exhibition promises an opportunity to look at a real mainstay of popular publishing, as well as to hopefully check out some of the comic’s less fêted creations, including ‘Betty’s Grandad’, ‘Sticky Willie’, ‘Hairy Hugh and His Cockatoo’, ‘Hooky’s Magic Bowler Hat’ and ‘Musso the Wop’ (about Mussolini, apparently).
Weekly magazines: NOT dead.
‘Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules’ is at Somerset House, Oct 21 2021-Mar 6 2022. Tickets go on sale in the summer. Sign up for advance notifications here.
That massive closed Debenhams on Oxford Street could become a new art gallery.
Meanwhile, it’s blossom season. Check it out here.