Toon in

Crikey! Who’d have thought The Beano and The Dandy were 70 years old? The sibling comics may be publishing veterans, but Dennis the Menace, Roger the Dodger and the cow-pie-eating Desperate Dan feel like eternal small boys. Their graphic creators, Dudley D Watkins, Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid, among others, amused umpteen children (circulation topped almost two million in the 1950s) and also inspired a younger generation of illustrators and animators, among them Nick Park. ‘It was such a treat getting The Beano every Saturday,’ says the Wallace and Gromit creator. ‘Once I got it, I’d go somewhere quiet and read it from cover to cover.’ The Beano & Dandy Birthday Bash! at The Cartoon Museum celebrates the comics’ long history. It includes all the favourites and shows the evolution of the graphic style, from the rag-taggity originals to today’s much smoother rendering. Nigel Parkinson, who’s been drawing Dennis since 1999, describes how the prankster has been given a bigger head and plumper limbs compared with David Law’s 1951 nobbly-knee’d ration-era creation. Parkinson draws him with Pental felt sign pens, with a Staedtler pigment liner for the fine lines. The colouring is by hand, sometimes with the help of assistants, but never by computer. ‘Only the speech bubbles are done that way,’ he says.

Beano and Dandy Birthday Bash! is at The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1, until 2 November

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