The BBC is to show a new version of Dennis the Menace but the comic book character will no longer be allowed to bully Walter the Softie after fears he could seem homophobic.

Walter the Softie was usually seen being tormented by Dennis for peaceful pastimes such as picking flowers and holding tea parties for his teddybears but this will now change.

Last year, former Beano editor Euan Kerr said he was concerned children could be led to copy Dennis’ bullying.

He said: “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.”

Walter was even given a girlfriend to ward off accusations of homophobia.

Dennis was created in 1951 for the Beano and has evolved over the years. Although some commentators have accused the BBC of political correctness, the character has moved with the times. He previously carried a pea-shooter and a catapult, although these will be missing from the new BBC series. The strip in the magazine used to see him getting hit with a slipper or smacked in the head, but this too has changed as corporal punishment was phased out.

Instead of allowing his dog Gnasher to bite people, Dennis will now be more creative, getting into scrapes when his imaginative inventions go wrong.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Dennis the Menace has been evolving since its creation in 1951, in print and on TV. Although the stories and animation have been updated to appeal to current CBBC viewers, his character has not changed significantly and Dennis remains as boisterous and mischievous as ever.”