The other day All Change Please! got to pay a visit to BEANOTOWN, a free, especially menacing summer exhibition at London’s South bank. Once you’ve manage to push past the suitably noisy, excited and disruptive children, then towards the back of the space is a wonderful exhibition showing the original artwork of selected stories that chart the comic’s seventy-five year history. The original drawings are of course much larger than they appeared in the Beano itself, and as a result the quality of the linework and dynamic composition comes across much more strongly, and even more joyously.
Now as you’ve probably guessed by now All Change Please! has been a lifelong Beano fan, ever since it remembers reading it for the first time in the early 1960s. Here suddenly was a world where children had minds of their own and were allowed to challenge the authority of their conformist parents, and, although they didn’t always get what they wanted, their disruptive approach often succeeded in initiating positive change in the way things were.
Never dreaming that one day it would take on the role of Teacher, All Change Please!‘s favorite strip was of course ‘The Bash Street Kids’, bringing with it its insights into the world of the classroom. There was the extraordinarily prophetic strip from 1964 in which the kids were all given individual ‘Teacher TV’ sets to answer factual questions from (before they worked out how to change the channel and reverse the process and use the CCTV system to spy on Teacher sitting in the staffroom drinking coffee). And the early 1980s visit by the school inspectors in which Teacher was presented with his own ‘unsatisfactory’ report card. Not to mention the 1970s send-up of progressive education when the kids spend so much effort freely expressing themselves in class that they are too exhausted to go out and run around in the playground at break. But most of all, the classic answer Smiffy provides to teacher’s question: “Who can tell me what design is?“, to which he responds with alarming perception: ‘De sign is de thing that points de way… ‘
And elsewhere, as long ago as 1969, Professor Screwtop was inventing a computer to help Lord Snooty and his Pals do their homework for them. Is there nothing new?
And no less a person than Wayne Hemingway has recently defined ‘brand design guidelines‘ for Beano typography and graphics, and it was Hemmingway who designed the current show at the South Bank, which runs until the 8th September – so come up with a really good dodge, put on your best minxing outfit and Billy Whizz down there as soon as possible! It’s to be found the lower level, in between the Royal Festival and Queen Elizabeth Halls.