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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 7:28 pm 
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Perhaps they're non-copyrighted characters? Or maybe it's just a coincidence.

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 8:57 pm 
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beanowed wrote:
Perhaps they're non-copyrighted characters?

Even if they are, they wouldn't have been in 1937!

I'm beginning to regret mentioning Weary Willie and Tired Tim now...

Staying with the Dandy for the moment, I'm currently working my way through the Art and History of same. It recounts how Black Bob was created not through a sudden strike of inspiration, or a desire to do something new and original, but because Lassie Come Home had just cleaned up at the cinema and Albert Barnes decided he wanted in on the fad. Admittedly this is just about the worst possible reason for creating a comic strip you could care to name, but Bob was undoubtedly a classic in his own right and proved to be quite the success story, running for forty years.

Who he was a success with was another matter. The Just Dandy programme had an interview with someone who said he always skipped it. Did a strip originally created because intelligent dogs were the bee's knees for a brief time in the 1940s really deserve to keep running into the 1980s, long after the culture which had originally propelled it to success had passed, just because the editor liked it? To an eight-year-old at the time of the strip's passing (by the impatient hand of the comic's second-ever editor), it was just a story about a dog, with no cultural context to pin it to, and nothing to give it appeal beyond its own merits - which were, seemingly, unspectacular. (Sure, Jack Prout's artwork was great, but mediocre artwork can do a lot less harm to a great story than great artwork can do good to a mediocre story, and I'm pretty sure I've written about that before as well.)

The strips like Bob which really don't last are those which were originally created specifically to reflect the culture of their times, as opposed to those created because someone had a good idea. Stories about stuck-up toffee-nosed posh boys harbouring secret desires to fraternise with the scruffy working-class chums loitering in the nearby alley - yes, make amusing political asides all you like, but that was still far more grounded in the reality that a child would recognise in the 1930s than it is today. Mickey Mouse hasn't been on TV or the big screen for years, so that's Biffo's major inspiration gone too, together with the fact that slightly weird-looking anthropomorphic talking animals were considered old hat in Enid Blyton's day.

Design secondary to comedy? Absolutely. Take Biffo. That was a sharply limited premise even when it was created (although later strips introduced a few recurring motifs, like zookeeping and cricket, which helped the scripts along a bit), but in theory there's no reason why the character couldn't be used as a hook for some absolutely splendid yarns. On that note, my favourite incarnation of the character was the 1990s Sid Burgon 'silent movie' era - the jokes were subtle yet imaginative (all the more so for the self-imposed prohibition on dialogue), and the strip worked brilliantly as an all-purpose comedy spot, with the sole distinguishing feature that the title character looked a bit strange.

But is there any good reason, really, why those exact same scripts couldn't have been taken and handed to a different character, one who wasn't a "classic" from an era their target audience was far too young to remember, one with exactly the same amount of comedy potential who acts in exactly the same way and gets into exactly the same situations - except he doesn't look slightly like another cartoon character from eighty years ago, for no better reason than to trigger a smile of recognition from people who aren't supposed to be reading it anyway? It's not just irrelevant, it's downright alienating, if only to a very small, marginal extent.

But this does come back to the question of who exactly the Beano thinks its target audience is. You could very well say that it's to celebrate the 75th anniversary with a few classics, but they certainly haven't made that clear - the clear impression given out by issue #3666, which reintroduces Biffo with a picture on the cover labelled, "NEW! Biffo the Bear", is that it's a bona fide new character, which just raises the question of why he looks so old-fashioned, and why the spot couldn't have been filled with something different which would undoubtedly have taken a few minutes to create and wouldn't have had to lug the weight of history around. You can't just expect a kid to recognise Biffo, and it looks rather as if they were hoping they wouldn't.

Yes, you can write good scripts with bad characters. But when it's a choice between that and writing the same scripts with good characters, it reveals a lot about the comic's priorities to see which way they've gone.

(Aside: In practice, the script they actually came up with for Biffo this week was awful.)

Basically, what I'm saying, in a roundabout way, is...
LewStringer wrote:
I think most kids will just accept them as weird-but-friendly looking characters as long as the strips amuse them.

...Why settle for that when you could just trim out the middle part and focus on creating comics for kids that amuse them?

Comics shouldn't come down just to making the best of a bad job. The best reason for stuffing the Beano full of 'classics' would be to present them as museum-pieces (perhaps in a similar manner to Retro Beano, or that 'Guest Star' feature they did around the turn of the century) to celebrate the 75th anniversary, but from the perspective of one who doesn't recognise them already and might not even know there's an anniversary going on, it doesn't appear as if that's what they're up to at all.

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:44 pm 
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Bravo, Swirly. Lots of interesting points there - I agree with you entirely.

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:46 pm 
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Yeah, they need to stick that 75 years logo from the cover of the 2013 annual (altered to update Dennis's face) onto the covers of all the issues up to 3715 (that should be the Christmas 2013 issue, if I did my maths right). They did something like that for the 50th anniversary, where for a few months, the Beano, Dandy and their comic libraries had a Dandy Beano 50 logo on them.

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:44 am 
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swirlythingy wrote:
beanowed wrote:
Perhaps they're non-copyrighted characters?

Even if they are, they wouldn't have been in 1937!

I'm beginning to regret mentioning Weary Willie and Tired Tim now...


I think the characters became so popular that their names became synonymous with tramps, so it was fair game to use them for a small text joke in The Dandy. It's not as though The Dandy used them in a strip.


swirlythingy wrote:
Who he [Black Bob] was a success with was another matter.


Animal lovers I guess. Black Bob was always one of my favourite strips. So much so that in the early 1970s I used to cut out his pages and bind them together in a book. The character was popular enough to have several hardback books. (Official books that is, not the one I stitched together.) The old-fashioned look of the strip was part of its charm. Frank Skinner may not have cared for it but he appears to have been in the minority.

swirlythingy wrote:
Comics shouldn't come down just to making the best of a bad job. The best reason for stuffing the Beano full of 'classics' would be to present them as museum-pieces (perhaps in a similar manner to Retro Beano, or that 'Guest Star' feature they did around the turn of the century) to celebrate the 75th anniversary, but from the perspective of one who doesn't recognise them already and might not even know there's an anniversary going on, it doesn't appear as if that's what they're up to at all.


You may be over-analyzing the comic. I think it simply comes down to reviving classic characters for a new readership, which also brings in some familiarity for their parents (who buy the comics). You're right that at the moment the kids won't know there's an anniversary coming up but I'm sure everyone and his dog will know about it come July. I don't see how reviving old characters is "making the best of a bad job". Everyone's doing their best to make The Beano a good, entertaining comic, just as we would if it featured all-new characters.

I believe any old character could be revived and made to work for a modern readership. Some might need more tweaks than others, but it could be done. (Some might need no tweaks at all.) Most character concepts are timeless. I saw a group of six kids riding their bikes through the park today. I bet they'd have loved The Q-Bikes (but with more modern helmets obviously).


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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 3:07 pm 
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And mobile phones instead of walkie talkies!

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:40 pm 
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LewStringer wrote:
You may be over-analyzing the comic.

"May"? Welcome to the Beano Forum, hope you enjoy your stay! :P
LewStringer wrote:
I don't see how reviving old characters is"making the best of a bad job". Everyone's doing their best to make The Beano a good, entertaining comic, just as we would if it featured all-new characters.

I believe any old character could be revived and made to work for a modern readership. Some might need more tweaks than others, but it could be done.

In theory you're quite correct - there's no archive character which couldn't, with sufficient modification as appropriate, be adequately resurrected. It's just a question of priorities. It would undoubtedly be more work to dredge up a concept from the 1940s and knock bits off it and glue other bits on until finally you thought it more or less suitable for modern audiences, than it would be to just create a brand new character with a completely different look sharing only their most fundamental traits with any number of characters which had gone before.

There's only a certain number of character concepts to go around, after all. How many comic strips about tramps accompanied They Who I Am Trying Not To Name? How many Bash Street Kids clones were there, some with extra gimmicks (like being all-female), some without? How many strips centring on a rich kid versus a poor kid (or two gangs of same), aliens setting up home in a residential street, a secret time-travelling device of some description, an animal or human of abnormal size (in either direction), a mysterious loner living rough in the wilderness, two characters who beat each other up constantly, a teller of tall tales, a talking dog, or giant crabs?

And what, really, would you get out of singling out any particular one of them which was popular in its day for a revival, when you could just as easily take the exact same concept and craft a brand new strip which would fit into a modern comic just as nicely, if not more so, than an old strip, without having to go to the effort of repairing all the historical artefacts and not-quite-right things about it first?

As for the timeworn theory that slapping an old character's name on it will press the brand recognition buttons of older readers and cause them to automatically like the new strip, it must be time to dredge up this thread again. If anything, adapting old characters for modern kids while trying to keep it relevant to their parents compounds the problem of acceptance. Not only is the new strip too old-fashioned for modern eyes, but the original strip is too new-fangled for old eyes - the worst of both worlds!

I've already mentioned, after a fashion, Snooty 3 in this discussion, but he's a particularly relevant and recent example here. All that was was a strip about a rich kid living it up in his mansion - again, a not very original premise which owed far more to any number of other bygone strips than it did to Lord Snooty. It bore absolutely no resemblance to the original at all, and there was no earthly reason why the Beano should have attempted to cash in on the Snooty name instead of just calling it 'Loaded Larry' or 'Moneyed Mike' or 'Rich' or something. The traditionalists hated it because they saw it as an affront to the legacy of the original. The others still hated it because, well, frankly, it wasn't very good. OK, so no matter what they'd called it, it still had some pretty glaring flaws of its very own (oh my word, the tokenism, I have entire episodes of that strip filed in a folder of teaching materials labelled "DON'T DO THIS"), but pretending he was some sort of relation to Lord Snooty just added insult to injury.

Now there's a slightly more faithful depiction of Lord Snooty in the Beano, by which I mean his costume is the same. The storylines, he says, wildly extrapolating from a sample size of one, barely seem to have moved on from Snooty 3 at all. The artist is Alexander Matthews, and I can hear the heartrending wails of "RUINED! INSULT TO WATKINS! NOT AS GOOD AS WHEN I WERE A LAD!" emanating from the gaslit traditionalist hovels on the outskirts of the blogosphere already.

The revivalist extremists have tried some downright strange ideas at times. "Spadger and his Pals", really? There's tweaking an old strip to bring it up-to-date, and then there are things where you wonder what possessed them to even bother.
LewStringer wrote:
Most character concepts are timeless. I saw a group of six kids riding their bikes through the park today. I bet they'd have loved The Q-Bikes (but with more modern helmets obviously).

Definitely. This may also be something to do with the fact that, as previously mentioned, truly original character concepts come around a few times in a generation, but there's no denying that a strip like Rasher - which is basically about a pig behaving like a pig - is almost indefinitely guaranteed to work just as reliably as it does today, no matter in which decade someone originally had the idea of drawing a pig and calling it "Rasher".

It's just that, while there are a lot of strips ripe for recycling, I just don't think either Biffo or Snooty are among them. (You'll notice I haven't yet mentioned Pansy Potter, the other 1940s character who restarted this week, which is because I think her concept has aged a great deal better than the other two. I'm not against revivals per se, just indiscriminate ones.) The fact that the Beano is more concerned with what was once popular in the past than what might still be popular today is what worries me. That, and the fact that, parallel to all this, they still haven't created any new characters.

Going off on a tangent, but almost relevant to what you just said, another entry for the bulging file of random mad ideas I had in the shower last night and will probably have forgotten all about by next week: a revival of Billy's Boots. I've got almost the entire first six pages of the debut episode of a rebooting (no pun intended) of that classic serial mapped out in my mind, and I'd love a chance to have a proper crack at it. The basic concept is more or less timeless and resetting it in the 21st century wouldn't take much effort, but I'm also itching to put into practice some of my long-gestated opinions on how comics should be written and presented, the true function of dialogue and captions, letting the pictures do the talking instead of the words, crafting complex storylines and trusting your readers to follow them, not talking down to the audience or assuming too little of them, etc. etc. Complete non-starter, of course, not least because Billy is currently in the same hopeless situation as Willie and Tim, but wouldn't it be nice if it could happen?

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:21 pm 
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swirlythingy wrote:
Complete non-starter, of course, not least because Billy is currently in the same hopeless situation as Willie and Tim, but wouldn't it be nice if it could happen?


Not necessarily a non-starter. Being a post-1970 IPC strip, Billy's Boots is owned by Egmont, who seem a little more willing to allow their old characters to see daylight. (As reprints anyway.)


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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:46 pm 
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^Yeah, Billy's Boots was in the Striker comic in 2004.

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 Post subject: Re: My thoughts about The Beano
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 10:19 pm 
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LewStringer wrote:
swirlythingy wrote:
Complete non-starter, of course, not least because Billy is currently in the same hopeless situation as Willie and Tim, but wouldn't it be nice if it could happen?

Not necessarily a non-starter. Being a post-1970 IPC strip, Billy's Boots is owned by Egmont, who seem a little more willing to allow their old characters to see daylight. (As reprints anyway.)

Is it? I can never remember how it all works. There's something to do with 'everything post-1970 except the characters who were appearing in Buster comic at a certain point in time' somewhere in it, isn't there, or is it pre-1970 in that case? And then I think someone or other sold off some other characters like Dan Dare to someone else, and where does 2000AD fit into it all? Absolute bleeding nightmare, the lot of it.

And statistics like the number of signatures on this petition certainly aren't a promising sign for the future.
Digifiend wrote:
Yeah, Billy's Boots was in the Striker comic in 2004.

As reprints, anyway...

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