Euan Kerr, editor of popular children’s comic The Beano, has revealed in a new book that the behaviour of its main character was changed due to accusations of encouraging homophobic bullying.
Mr Kerr edited the comic from 1984 to 2006.
In a book due later this month about the history of The Beano, Mr Kerr reveals that its main character, Dennis the Menace, was stopped from bullying effeminate character Walter the Softie in the late 1980s because of fears that this encouraged homophobic bullying amongst children.
Mr Kerr said: “I definitely felt a sense of responsibility in making sure the characters did nothing that was easily imitable.
“The evidence is that the kids understand a comic is a comic and that it isn’t anything like real life.”But the relationship between Dennis and Walter was always one that worried me.
“There were accusations from certain quarters that it was a little like gay-bashing.
“This obviously wasn’t the way we intended it to be perceived.”We decided the best way to approach it was to make sure that even though he and Dennis didn’t get along, Walter was completely happy about who he was and a confident, likeable character in his own right.
“We eventually give Walter a girlfriend too, as a measure to combat any further criticism.”"The comic has certainly changed over the years to come in line with political correctness.
“For example, every strip used to end with the rogue of the piece being punished in some way; usually a smack across the head or a slipper across the bottom.
“This sort of corporal punishment became outdated and eventually it was phased out.”
“Luckily for us, I think there is a real resistance to the overt political correctness creeping into British life and the Beano can hopefully use this to its advantage.”
Matthew Jarron, the curator of a hugely successful Beano exhibition at Dundee University, said: “I’d be absolutely amazed if any child ever interpreted Dennis’s behaviour towards Walter and the softies as gay-bashing.
“The softies had their own strange way of life where they liked skipping and picking flowers and doing very girly things.
“I’m sure it was never intended by the writers – and I’m sure it was never picked up by the children – that this could somehow be linked to homosexuality.”The History of the Beano – The Story So Far is published by Waverley Books.