16 June 2022
By Robert Kilconner
The Queen has had her fair share of compliments in this her Jubilee year but the assertion that she is “a better prankster than Minnie” is one of the odder ones. It is from the Beano of course, where the Jubilee issue included a six page spread in which Her Majesty outwitted Minnie the Minx, rode a dinosaur and rescued Beanotown from the custard monster. Not bad, really, for a lady of 96.
The Beano was launched in 1938, some 14 years before the Queen came to the throne and when she was about 12. We do not know whether she was one of its early readers or even a later one because when I used to read it in the 1970s it was attractive to a wide spectrum of age groups with plenty of jokes plainly aimed at the adult reader. Passed around, as it always was, in Cambridge mathematics lectures, the antics of the Bash Street kids proved a pleasant antidote to the rather dry rules of algebraic topology. With the Beano moving one way along the benches and The Times crossword moving the other it is surprising that we got any work done at all.
The Jubilee issue is the first which I have looked at for some time and because the pages about the Queen’s visit to Beanotown (which include a reference to Boris Johnson’s visit and how he obtained his “kicked by an ostrich” hairstyle) must have crowded other sections out, it is hardly fair to compare it with the golden age productions I remember. The Bash Street kids are still there, of course, as are Minnie the Minx, Dennis the Menace and Roger the Dodger. Some of the old favourites, however, seem to have disappeared without trace including, alas, the Three Bears. The high point of every issue was their attempt to steal food despite the vigilance of Mayor Orless (yes, you have got it). In a landscape crisscrossed by the coaches of the Sadler’s Wells Fargo ballet company they lived among jokes aimed at the more sophisticated reader. What a magazine it was and I am glad to see that it is still going although I suspect that in this age of correctness the humour is a little less free-flowing than it used to be.
There were other comics, of course, the nearest competitor probably being the Dandy in which Desperate Dan consumed prodigious amounts of cow pie. I imagine it still thrives and that Dan has not gone vegan but in extracting guffaws from young men in their 20s it was not quite in the Beano class. Like the Avengers TV series in the 60s and the Flook cartoons in the Daily Mail, the Beano represented a stylised, mocking, British form of humour which has now largely disappeared. Who can forget Mr Muckybrass standing for election in Flook under the slogan “where there’s muck there’s brass, vote for Muckybrass”? Most of us, that is the answer, because it is really a long time ago and humour, like manners, has changed.
Still, it is something to be featured in a cartoon series. Stephen Hawking appeared in The Simpsons, testimony to his pre-eminence and courage. The Queen now appears in the Beano. It is a great honour and she must be very pleased.
tile photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash