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Beano artist brings comic capers to life at Black Country workshops

Sandwell | News | Published:

She's got the job of her childhood dreams – bringing the madcap adventures of characters in classic comic the Beano to life week after week.

And now Laura Howell has passed on her expertise to the next generation of talented young artists via special cartoon workshops in the Black Country.

The illustrator has worked on the Beano – which this week celebrates its 75th anniversary – since 2006.

In the process she became the famed comic's first ever regular female artist and said she still couldn't believe she was working for such an historic publication.

"It's amazing," the 36-year-old told the Express & Star.

"Working for the Beano is certainly never something I imagined I'd be doing when I was younger."

Over the years Laura has penned the adventures of mischievous Minnie the Minx, as well as Meebo and Zuky and a new strip lampooning The Voice's Will.I.Am – called Will.I.Am the Conqueror.

As well as sketching the comic strip, which is then coloured in on computer, Laura now writes some of the storylines herself, a new facet for the Beano introduced last year.

"I find it very challenging coming up with storylines," she said.

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"When I started everything was written for me. When I was a kid I never really thought about how the Beano came together. I just thought it magically appeared on your newspaper shelves.

"But there's an army of people behind it. It's huge."

The artist, who has also drawn for the Dandy and Viz, said she was enjoying teaching youngsters how to draw, as part of workshops at Central Library in West Bromwich and Blackheath Library.

"It's tremendous to see them drawing and I love seeing adults getting enthusiastic too," she added.

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"People get nervous and think they can't draw, particularly adults, but we're teaching everybody that we can all draw.

"It's pretty simple if you just start off with a couple of shapes. You can turn two circles into a vampire-themed cat just by adding a bit of simple detail.

"A good drawing is not one that's perfect in every detail. It's just got to be recognisable.

"If you just draw the outline of the top of Bart Simpson's head then it's obvious that it's him – and that can be the start of a good drawing."

Laura can pen her own Dennis the Menace drawing in just a few seconds and her library visit was part of Sandwell Council's summer programme of encouraging youngsters to read books over the summer holidays, with this year's theme being Creepy House. Nicola Morris, service department manager for the library service, said: "We've had loads of positive comments from Laura's visit.

"It's been great to see children and grown-ups join in for the interactive session."

The Beano was first published in July 1938 and has produced more than 3,500 issues to date.

Characters Dennis the Menace Roger the Dodger, Billy Whizz, Ball Boy and The Bash Street Kids has delighted generations of children and adults for decades.

As part of its 75th celebrations edition a host of celebrities were depicted in a special edition which featured Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson, David Beckham, Wimbledon winner Andy Murray, One Direction, Simon Cowell, Jessie J and Sir Bruce Forsyth.

Last month the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Bash Street – The Beano's headquarters – where they were presented with framed prints. The couple had been immortalised in an edition of the comic.

In 2012 The Dandy, which was produced at publishers DC Thomson like The Beano is, was released in print for the last ever time on its 75th anniversary. It is now released in online format only.

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