D C Thomson – Creator of the Beano

When you combine the thought of publishing with Britain in mind, the general immediate response is always London, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s not just a capitol of our little island but in many ways London is a capitol of the world. Host to some of the biggest companies the world has seen, up to its eyes in world leader meetings, London is a very busy place.

But it is important not to forget the other gems of the United Kingdom and their own success stories.

A true underdog of the above statement being Dundee, you may not have heard of it but it is in fact home to one of Britain’s most successful publishing companies, D C Thomson.

The company that today produces national magazines, newspapers and comics as well as local publications began as Charles Alexander and company however in 1884 was bought by the entrepreneur William Thomson. Thomson ran family business up until that point mainly in the shipping industry but one can assume they had decided to broaden their horizons in the big world of business (not that I am attempting to describe Dundee at metropolis).

The publishing company had taken their interest as at the time it published the Dundee Courier, they continued to publish the paper after taking over but expansion really begun when the son of the ambitious Scotsman took the role as leader of the company. In 1905, David Coupar Thomson merged the company with the other leading publishing company in Dundee (yes there really was more than one established publishing company in Dundee in the 1800’s) headed by Sir John Leng, this new company was named D C Thomson & Company Ltd. It took its place in the “three J’s” of Dundee, Jam, Jute and Journalism.

This move allowed the company to really expand, bringing out new papers both local and National including the Telegraph and the Sunday Post. Now newspapers are all great but the really iconic product of this company were its comics, which started in the 1930’s.

No British born child has not at some point in life been introduced with characters such as Dennis the Menace, Gnasher and Oor Wullie.

In the early thirties, cartoon strips were added to the newspapers, experimenting with some of these characters and how they might be received and yes, they were an immediate hit. In December of 1937 the first edition of what would go on to be Britain’s longest running comic series (and worlds 3rd) The Dandy was released. The Dandy featured comic stories from a series of characters such as Desperate Dan, the roughest, toughest cowboy in the West. The comic series now has a collection of over 3,500 issues a year after it started however DC Thomson went on to start Britain’s second favourite ! The Beano featured Dennis the Menace and his friends along with other characters such as Roger Dodger and Minnie the Minx, the Beano started at a sales price of 2p per copy and by the 1950’s was selling over two million copies a week nation-wide, today original Beano comic first editions sell between £4000 and £12,000, they truly are a British favourite.

They were also continued throughout the war! Despite ink and paper rationings DC published the Dandy and the Beano on alternating weeks.

Today, the Beano is the bestselling comic in Britain and its characters are also featured on British television, in March of 2012 the Royal Mail even created a set of Beano and Dandy comic strip stamps to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Dandy.

DC Thomson has provided a huge selection of loveable characters that have appealed to the British public from the beginning, and a statue of Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx is the feature of Dundee’s city centre, where all the fun began.

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