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The Beezer was launched by D.C. Thomson on 21st January 1956, a little under three years after its sister title, Topper. Like Topper, it was a tabloid-sized publication, and like Topper, the first issue came with a gift — the 'Whiz Bang'. Strips in the first issue included long-running cover star Ginger by Dudley D Watkins, Lone Wolfe by Ron Smith, Pop, Dick and Harry by Tom Bannister, Nosey Parker by Allan Morley and The Banana Bunch by Leo Baxendale. From issue #34, Bill Ritchie's Baby Crockett joined the cast and became a permanent fixture.
Later additions included Cap'n Hand by David Law, Colonel Blink by Tom Bannister, The Badd Lads and The Numskulls (both by Malcolm Judge), Smiffy by Bill Ritchie, and Showboat Circus by Paddy Brennan, as well as Barney's Barmy Army by Ken Hunter, Little Mo, Willie Wink the Missing Link, Young Sid the Copper's Kid, The Banana Bunch, Mr Licko and His Lollipops and many others.
From issue #1078 (18th September 1976) the title absorbed the short-lived Cracker comic, and from #1207 (3rd March 1979) it incorporated Plug (starring the character Plug from the Beano's Bash Street Kids), which occupied a pull-out section in the centre pages. From #1315 (28th March 1981) Beezer was reduced to standard size, and it was cancelled with #1809 (15th September 1990), the same week as Topper. The two titles were relaunched a week later as the combined Beezer & Topper, which lasted 153 issues until 21st August 1993.
Many modern comics aficionados seek out their nostalgic fare courtesy of material such as Classics from the Comics and similar outlets. However, any modern reader fortunate enough to come across the original format of either Beezer or Topper is in for a pleasant surprise: the sheer scope and scale of the blown-up artwork is more akin to the difference between watching a film on YouTube compared to seeing it on a fully-equipped cinema screen. Something else often forgotten is the fact that half of these comic's 16 pages were rendered in full colour, a world away from the crisp but depthless black-and-white scaled-down reprints within Classics. To achieve the full flavour of these comics' undoubted delights, it is highly recommended that the modern enthusiast seek out the original item, which serves up, in the main, hard-hitting cartoon visuals light years ahead of today's lamentably typical 'postage-stamp' scaled comics artwork. The yearly annuals are also well worth checking out, as they benefit from highly impressive full-colour painted technique throughout.
In tandem with many D.C. Thomson comics of the 20th century, most of the characters within Beezer were clearly designed to last for decades, and indeed many creations from the early years proved durable enough to sustain right through the Sixties and in some cases up until the Nineties — Baby Crockett, The Badd Lads, The Banana Bunch, and so on. Beezer had one over Topper in the procurement of the undoubted talents of one Leo Baxendale, whose early triumph The Banana Bunch still makes for highly impressive reading today. The most impressive servings of this strip may be in the Carl Giles-inspired single large frames, which exhibited endless anarchic mayhem, spewed forth by literally hundreds of demented individual characters in some of the more extreme cases.
Baxendale also bequeathed us the novel and inventive Tommy Taylor's Toybox, his swansong all-new strip creation for D.C. Thomson, in 1964. This premise recounted the charms of Tommy's 'imported' box of alien technology — mini robots and so forth — who served up much high-tech comics shenanigans. Although Baxendale contributed only ten original strips before departing to the pastures of Odhams soon after starting up this concept, the strip — along with the Bunch — was handed over to the comic talents of Bill Hill, whose tenure on these strips ran a full course until well into the eighties (in the case of The Banana Bunch). Hill's artwork was roughly-hewn early on but before long he settled into his own unique style, eventually forging his own comic identity into the pages of Beezer and his later contributions were certainly welcome as a valid inclusion within the comic's many wonders.
Original cover star Ginger was demoted to an interior fixture to make way for Bannister's Pop, Dick and Harry in the early Sixties: early front-covers of the warring family also benefited from 'pepped-up' visuals in the form of added cartoon novelties [from other artists] dotted around the same page. Pop, Dick and Harry were destined to remain on their long-running back-page tenure, however, and the Watkins street-sussed Ginger returned to his rightful cover centrepiece, where he remained until well after his creator's passing in July 1969. Bannister also contributed the highly comic Colonel Blink, a real laugh-out-loud domestic farce, a (possibly) Magoo-inspired retelling of the misadventures of the retired Colonel's acute short-sightedness, (a real 'short-sighted gink' as later logos so aptly described) to endless comic effect. This strip ran in full colour for many years, and was an undoubted highlight for a considerable time..
It wasn't all merely cartoon cavortings, however, and Beezer ran many impressive, elaborately-mounted serials, which included The Space Kids and perhaps the absolute pinnacle of surrealist adventure: the astonishing Jellymen.