The boss of the classic Beano comics has vowed to take on Disney and make his characters bigger than Mickey Mouse.
Mike Stirling, editorial director of Beano Studios, reckons much-loved British comic heroes such as Dennis the Menace, Gnasher, Bananaman, Billy Whizz and The Bash Street Kids are more than a match for the famous “House Of Mouse” and its huge stable of superstars.
The Beano is about to celebrate the 70th year since Dennis was first drawn but the comics are as lively as ever and going from strength to strength.
Its website Beano.com is also seeing a surge in worldwide sign-ups from youngsters all keen on a giggle and joke.
And the firm is branching out further with a host of new television shows in the pipeline after the success of hit new series Dennis & Gnasher on Netflix, reaching 100 countries.
Proud Mike, 46, said: “The reason why we’ve been so resilient is because our hero characters are all ordinary kids.
“Even Bananaman is a kid who transforms into a hapless grown-up.
“Every week in the Beano comic the characters are simply mirroring the lives of the kids reading about them.
“Our characters never age in the comic, they just stay in the sweet spot of life for ever. They haven’t changed in terms of their personality but instead speak the language of each new generation. Dennis is still the same mischievous kid who you’d love to be best mates with. I think grown-up fans enjoy the nostalgia of seeing something they enjoyed still just as popular with kids today.”
The Scot said the use of the Beano website is helping the comic find a new global audience.
The site offers the usual Beanotown antics – but also fun news items about stars such as Little Mix and Harry Styles.
He said: “Humour transcends across borders and ages. We love the fact that Beano is passed down as a family tradition in Britain but we can’t rely on that if we want to grow globally.
“We want Gnasher to become figuratively bigger than Mickey Mouse. We have our own TV development team who have several amazing projects in development. It’s a mix of current characters and gems from our archive redeveloped with a fresh eye.
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“We have obviously enjoyed a lot of success with 2D and 3D animations but these projects will see our characters introduced or reintroduced to millions of viewers as live action creations.
“Our most recent animation – Dennis & Gnasher: Unleashed! – is in its second season on CBBC in the UK and a hit in 100 countries across the world.
“The characters have come to symbolise the best parts of childhood for kids throughout the world.
“The comedy is universal and broadcasters tell us he’s relatable across cultures, due to his optimism and resilience. More kids are relating to Dennis today than at any time since he first appeared as a rough pencil sketch in 1951.
“Our readership is diverse and inclusive so our comic needs to reflect this.
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“We also invited readers to apply to become the weekly editor. They get to make really fun editorial decisions and can tell us to change things to make them funnier.
“This has added nearly 250 additional editors to Beano history.
“I sent loads of letters into Beano when I was a kid but was never lucky enough to get published so it actually blows my mind that we were able to create this opportunity to give a kid anywhere in the world the chance to become the editor of a comic that will reach half a million readers every week.
“We wanted to prove that every kid can become an editor. We hope it inspires kids to feel there’s a place in publishing or the creative industries for them when they grow up.
“Who knows, it could be their first step on a pathway to becoming a future editor of the Daily Star!
“Thanks to technology we’re able to work with contributors from all around the world, so we have more funny bones to play a tune upon.”
●New issues of the Beano are available in stores every Wednesday or can be delivered with a subscription from Beano.com.
Tomorrow: Mike tells all about his plans for more adult-focused Beano comics and how the brand has saved panto jokes this year.
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