A Century Of Comic Capers For Kids At Dewsbury Museum

| 11 August 2004
Shows the front cover of an edition of the Beano from 1956. below the main title is a comic strip featuring the character Biffo the Bear.

"The smashing paper that's smashing all records for fun!" a copy of the Beano from 1956. Courtesy Dewsbury Museum.

We’ve all done it: gasped in awe as Roy of the Rovers hits the top corner again, sniggered with glee as Dennis the Menace has his dad tearing his hair out or just sat rooted to the spot as Dan Dare thwarts global disaster.

And let’s face it, who wouldn’t be disappointed if the latest Beano annual wasn’t in their stocking this year?

Comics for Kids, at Dewsbury Museum until November 7, looks back at the history of British comics and magazines to see how the way they enchanted the young evolved from 1870 to 1970.

Shows the front cover of The Girl's Own Paper from 1938. It depicts a girl wearing an apron and gloves, surveying a full flower bed.

It might seem hard to believe these days, but back in 1938, it seems, a day in the flower bed was real 'Girl's Own' stuff. Courtesy Dewsbury Museum.

From ripping yarns in the days of empire to instructional tomes and the teacher-baiting of the Beano, the exhibition uses a vast collection of publications to explore a world of childhood dreams.

Museum Officer, Grant Scanlon, told the 24 Hour Museum how the sort of children’s comics that began to emerge in the 1870s were inspired by Victorian 'penny dreadfuls' - melodramas that provided cheap, entertaining reading.

"Following on from that, the early comics were very wordy and aimed at a very literate audience, so although they all had very creative covers they were stories," he said.

One comic in particular, he added, carries the tagline: "For the Instruction of Young Boys, rather than the entertainment of, so there was almost an educational quality and then they evolved to end up with irreverent stuff like the Beano."

Shows the front cover of Young Britain from 1922. Under the headline, In The Bandit Lair, two boys can be seen wrestling on the ground.

Packed full of "Tip Top Tales For British Boys", Young Britain must have been just the thing for adventurous chaps in 1922. Courtesy Dewsbury Museum.

Combining a private collection on loan with artefacts from the museum’s own archives, the show takes in the full range of the comic experience taking in such characters as Girl Detectives and Billy Bunter.

It also reveals how comics mirrored the events of their time. Long lost rebels made an appearance in Young Ireland in the 1870s while, later on, Boers battled with scouts.

Intriguingly, an edition of The Boys Friend from 1906 reveals the extent of British nervousness of Prussian militarism: fearsome illustrations depict a German invasion of Essex.

Shows the front cover of Chatterbox from 1900. A black and white picture depicts a firefighter rescuing a young girl from a burning building.

This copy of Chatterbox dates all the way back to 1900. Courtesy Dewsbury Museum.

As the 20th century unfolded and an age of great invention began, comics of the 1930s and 1950s began to offer a vision of the future with a tunnel beneath the Atlantic, Dan Dare battling the Mekons and the Falcon landing on the moon.

The exhibition also shows a glimpse of how world events have affected comic production. During the Second World War paper shortage many comics cut their size, while some ceased production altogether.

However, for any young artists wanting to give comic creativity a go, arts and crafts activity days are being held to accompany the show on August 13 and 27.

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