Thursday, January 17, 2013


Just a quick primer for those not quite as obsessive about superheroes as I am: Superhero comics were huge in America in the 1940s, nearly died out through lack of interest in the 1950s, then sprang back to life at the end of the fifties when DC Comics launched all-new superheroes named after their Golden Age counterparts, the Flash and the Green Lantern, who had the same basic superpowers but were otherwise entirely different characters.

Soon enough, the DC Universe of superhero comics revealed that the characters from the thirties and forties actually lived on an alternate world, Earth-2, and were still going strong, if a little grey around the temples. The two worlds used to regularly interact in the pages of 1960s comics.

This posed an interesting question for comics fans - Superman and Batman had remained popular enough to be continually in print during the dark days of the fifties, and yet now their comics were depicting the adventures of the Earth-1 versions of the heroes. So, exactly at what point did the comics switch from chronicling Earth-2 to chronicling Earth-1?

I only mention this because, if you're not as obsessive about the Beano as I am, you might not have noticed that the fathers of the central characters have had a makeover recently. The core Beano characters first appeared in the early fifties (the same time that American superheroes were disappearing, funnily enough), and their dads were traditionally bald, grey-haired and decidedly elderly-looking. Perhaps men didn't have children until they were sixty back then, I don't know. But now, in line with parenting habits of the 21st century, Mr The Menace, Mr The Minx and Mr The Dodger have all become much more youthful, with full heads of hair and not a moustache or a wrinkle to be seen on their faces.

The really fun part is in a Dennis The Menace story on the shelves now, when he looks through old photos with his granny, and sees that his dad was exactly like him as a boy (except that his jumper was black and red instead of red and black), AND that his dad's dad looked exactly like the old character model for Dennis's Dad! And even more, that his granddad was also identical to Dennis, during the war! It's fun stuff for the old-time fans. I want to see more adventures of Earth-2 Dennis.

The Bash Street Kids did the same thing many years ago, incidentally - their teacher was called Mr Brown in the fifties, before sliding into just being called Teacher, and then a story in the seventies or eighties revealed that the Kids' parents were all former pupils, and that their teacher was Mr Brown - who made an appearance, aged somewhat but looking like he used to in the olden days. And another Bash Street Kids story around the same time revealed that they all have younger siblings who look exactly like them, just smaller... you could have a lot of fun working out which generation of Beano characters you're reading about at any given time!

The writer deserves praise, whoever it was. Nigel Parkinson was the artist, and he always deserves praise anyway, so unless I hear otherwise I'm going to credit him with all the cleverness.

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