After the trials and tribulations of the comic industry during World War II, came a sales peak that is yet to be replicated. As per usual The Beano and The Dandy were on top of this booming market. During the 50s, The Beano and Dandy were selling over 2,000,000 copies per week each, and were well loved by most because of their morale boosting efforts during the war. By the mid-1950s, the paper shortages were over, giving publishers a chance to innovate and bring new comics to market again. The sales boom of the ‘50s can be put down to four main reasons. Firstly, after the atrocities and realism of the war, children needed a place to escape to, hence the fantasised worlds in the comics appealed. Secondly, they just wanted some relief after the war; a chance to sit, read, and laugh without fear of bombs or explosions. A third reason for the boom was down to the money available to spend on entertainment. During the war, money was tight and people could buy only what they needed, but after, more money was accessible and people could spend it on something they could enjoy. Also in the 50s, all the “baby boomers” were old enough to read comics, and because their parents knew them from their childhood they bought them for their children. Lastly, the rationing was ended in this decade making the common person more frivolous with their food and forms of entertainment. It was also during this period that publishers started making separate comics for boys and Girls.
The Dandy Coronation Issue beside the Diamond Jubilee Issue
Hulton Press, a publisher that eventually merged into Odham’s Press and then into IPC, brought out two comics that took the concept of “sister comics” to a new level. Hulton brought out the Eagle comic in 1950 and it’s literal “sister comic” Girl, in 1951. The reason I say they created a literal “sister comic” is that many brothers would buy the Eagle while their sisters would buy Girl. These two comics catered for everyone. The boys could enjoy the adventurous Eagle comic with stories based on space, the jungle, and the front line, while Girl was providing female heroes falling in love, having fun, or saving the day for the Girls. Fleetway also brought out two comics that were “just for boys.” As well as the usual sci-fi and adventure stories, these comics also had many strips based around popular sports and history. In this decade, D.C. Thomson brought out three noteworthy comics: The Topper, The Beezer, and Bunty. The Topper, started in 1953, was the first of a new line of comics brought out by D.C. Thomson to complement their two “big sellers” The Beano and Dandy. The Topper broke the D.C. Thomson mould, by reverting back to the tabloid size allowing readers to enjoy larger pages with more detail. The Beezer, The Topper’s sister comic, came out in 1956. Its contents were just as fun filled and seam busting as its D.C. Thomson stable mates. These two comics became partners much like The Beano and Dandy, and eventually merged before their demise. D.C Thomson also brought out a Girl’s comic around this time called Bunty as a direct competitor to Girl, Hulton Press’ offering. All the stories in the Bunty revolved around Girls and the things they liked at the time.
The Beezer and Topper Merged Comic from 1993
The comics that came out in the ‘50s also brought with them many well-known characters. Dan Dare, a space pilot, became a huge hit for the Eagle, while Roy of the Rovers enjoyed a lengthy career in the Tiger. The D.C. Thomson characters that came out in this decade also left us with a lasting impression. The ‘50s saw the beginning of Dennis the Menace, perhaps the most well-known British comic character ever. Dennis was of his time and has since been modernised to fit in with newer audiences. In his early stories, he would behave in a “menacing” way towards his parents, Walter the Softy, and his neighbours. Often at the end of the story he was seen bent over his father’s lap being belted with a slipper. In his later days, Dennis became more mischievous, and, with the political correctness, less violent. Dennis has stayed one of the greatest characters because he was able to adapt to the audiences of the day. As mentioned, the ‘50s brought about new girl comics as well as ones for everyone. Two popular characters, Beryl the Peril, from The Topper, and Minnie the Minx, from The Beano, took the idea of Dennis the Menace, changed it to a female character, and ran with it. After the great work of the women during World War 2 as land girls and air-raid wardens, they were seen as strong and heroic rather than just a housewife, so were portrayed more in comics. I believe the ‘50s can be summed up with two phrases, “girl power,” and “new favourites.” Due to all the different publishers, it may be slightly confusing for the reader to know which publisher published what, especially after many publishing mergers. D.C. Thomson are a separate company and have always had the same name and office since it started in 1905, however, Amalgamated Press’ history is slightly more confusing. Amalgamated Press was founded in 1901, but had created comics before this time under the name of Harmsworth. They had another name change in 1959 when they were bought by the Mirror group and renamed Fleetway Publications. In 1961, Fleetway bought Odhams who had many comics in its repertoire, as well as the recently acquired Eagle. In 1963, Fleetway merged with IPC. Today Egmont owns the rights for Amalgamated Press/IPC/Fleetway’s comics and characters.
The Land Girls Empowered Women After the War