The Beano has been transformed to make the comic more appealing to young readers with the help of the publishing censors who came under fire for rewriting Roald Dahl’s books to remove offensive material.
After remaining mostly untouched for almost seven decades, the Bash Street Kids have quietly been joined by five new pupils – Harsha, Mandi, Khadija, Mahira and Stevie Starr, in an effort to be more inclusive and illustrate the demographics of modern Britain.
As The Beano prepares to celebrate its 85th birthday, the UK’s longest-running comic has undergone a major transformation with the assistance of Inclusive Minds – a collective working to make children’s literature more inclusive and accessible.
The consultancy was slammed by Brits earlier this year after ‘offensive’ language was removed from Dahl’s beloved children’s books.
Considerable edits have been made to descriptions of the characters’ physical appearances – the new editions no longer use the word ‘fat’, which has been cut from every book, and the Oompa Loompas are now gender neutral.
In the last few years, Beano characters Fatty and Spotty have been changed to Freddy and Scotty in a bid to stop children with acne, freckles or weight issues being bullied by classmates.
Despite the name change, Fatty will not be slimmed down because The Beano want to show that children are ‘all different shapes and sizes’. His fact file reads: ‘Frederick Brown’s nickname was Fatty until 2021 when our readers told us we should change it – so we did!’
Mike Stirling, creative director of The Beano, whose first edition in 1938 featured a controversial caricature of a black child, said he had no concerns about being labelled as ‘woke’ by the older generation.
‘We have never seen that as a pejorative term,’ the 49-year-old told The Times. ‘It’s awareness and being awake to things. What would be easy to do would be to sleepwalk and keep The Beano the way it had always been done for ever.
‘When we make a new character, [Inclusive Minds] connect us with an ambassador who advises us. That allows us to get the details right in terms of clothes they are wearing and cultural celebrations their family might get involved in.’