What do Harry Hill, Sir Bruce Forsyth, Holly Willoughby, Simon Cowell, One Direction, Jessie J, Andy Murray (and his mother Judy), David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson have in common? They all feature is The Beano's special 75th anniversary edition.
On the eve of the celebrity packed issue's publication, I speak with The Beano's editor-in-chief Mike Stirling about the secret of the iconic title's success, the lingering relevance of the household name characters and the admirable mastery of keeping stories' brilliance alive.
Q First, congratulations on keeping the many characters fresh and relevant. What is the secret of Dennis, Gnasher and other characters' appeal?
A I think the secret to keeping the characters relevant is that we move with the times, refreshing their stories for every new generation of menaces!
The Beano features characters with strong images -- Dennis, with his red and black jumper, shorts and spiky hair has been a constant and is a beacon for Beano fans. The Beano is also instantly associated with the key characteristics of Dennis -- anti-establishment, mischievous and funny. The punk rocker movement even adopted Dennis' look in the seventies (the first time Dennis appeared on the cover of The Beano).
Dennis' look has evolved constantly since he arrived in The Beano in 1951 -- it's a bit like Dr Who changing his appearance for viewers every so often!
In Beanotown kids rule, which is hugely appealing to the young and just as importantly, the young at heart!
Q I love that these one of a kind characters are on TV spreading the Beano mayhem to a new generation. I also like the style of animation. Would you know how the TV show came about and the production stayed so true to the original look?
A Nowadays we try to reach fans of The Beano in so many different ways, which helps reinforce the appeal of the core weekly comic. TV is one really fun way to do this.
We are very proud of the new series; we work on the scripts which helps guarantee their authenticity to the spirit of The Beano. Every single springboard, outline, script and animatic has been enhanced by our team. Most importantly, in this series, Dennis returns to his roots -- being a complete and utter menace.Our Dennis the Menace and Gnasher animation is one of the most popular shows on CBBC, having reached over 15 million viewers last year alone. It's a brilliant way for us to ensure a fresh generation becomes interested in the brand.
Q Something that intrigued both creatives and fans -- how do you/your team come up with so many great ideas/stories year after year? Can you comment on the challenge and how you rise to it so brilliantly?
A You flatter us -- don't be worried, we won't menace you!
There is 75 years of Beano heritage to contend with which can be daunting. However, The Beano team are constantly coming up with new ideas and for me, it's a real treat to work on The Beano every day.
Two of our star writers have worked at DC Thomson for nearly 60 years between them so if we come up with ideas that have been done before, they spot it immediately! We are inspired by everything; popular culture, the news and even everyday occurrences in the office. The best thing of all though is the constant ideas we receive from meeting our readers. Kids are the most creative people as they have no filtering system, so they see the absurdity in situations, which often leads to great comedy.
Q Are you a fan yourself? Who is your favourite character?
A Massively, so it's a dream job, I must admit. The Beano team are amazing -- their imagination and creativity is fantastic. They care so much and are the hardest working pranksters ever!
I think most people have probably enjoyed The Beano at some time in their lives. We enjoy the benefit of this whenever we embark upon a creative collaboration with an external partner. Everyone is always so eager to input ideas and already understand our characters so well.