Comics artist Lew Stringer picks up on news that broke over at web site Comics UK that Euan Kerr, DC Thomson's Deputy Manager of Children's Publishing and former long-standing editor of The Beano and other titles, is to retire.
Dismissing wild rumours that he had been sacked (but making no comment about that DC Thomson is engaged in a serious 'rationalisation' of its workforce at the hands of consultation company Pricewaterhouse Coopers, which include offers of voluntary redundancy), Euan told comics fans that while he was tempted to make up an exciting and intriguing reason for his departure, "I'm going by my own choice and didn't negotiate any special deal.
"After 40 years in the business and with my health and sanity almost intact, the lure of the golf course was too much!," Euan, who edited The Beano for 22 years before handing over to his Chief sub-editor Alan Digby in 2006 explained.
"I've loved my time in comics and hope to do some part-time writing," he added.
As editor of The Beano, Euan was intstrumental in keeping The Beano at the top of the UK comic sales chart for years, often appearing on TV to promote it. His credits also include The Crunch, where he worked as 'agony uncle' Andy (pictured above), as revealed in our Bill Graham interview last year.
He's always said he enjoyed his time on The Beano, and leaving the hot seat on the title back in 2006 was a wrench. "I was left a wonderful legacy of great comic characters by my two predecessors in the Beano hot seat, George Moonie and Harry Cramond," he revealed in an interview for the Forbidden Planet International blog back in 2006. "Over the years I tried to introduce new characters to topple Dennis the Menace from the top of the readers’ popularity polls.
"I’d have to admit that I didn’t even come close to achieving that aim," he admits. "I’d put this down to Dennis’s striking design and simple philosophy on life to pack in as much fun as he possibly can during waking hours. This allows the writers to unleash him into contemporary situations. I’ve often been quoted as saying that Dennis was the original Punk."
Alan Digby moves up to become what Euan describes as "Commander in Chief" of both The Beano and BeanoMAX, the monthly comic/magazine hybrid Euan launched in February 2007 as an 'older brother' to The Beano.
"Euan did a fine job both as an editor and as the media 'face' of The Beano for decades," notes Lew Stringer on ComicsUK. "The task of an editor can be a subtle one, as far as the readers are aware. We immediately notice art changes for example but the editorial guidance to a comic is often under the radar.
"It's fascinating to see how editors put their own stamp on a comic and Euan guided The Beano through some difficult periods in comic history when lesser titles fell by the wayside."
Not least of his problems during his time as editor was an instance in 2005 when an entire print run of 200,000 copies of The Beano was scrapped after its publishers noticed a cartoon character was rather too similar to Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. "In the cold light of day we felt it might cause offence and we did not want to do that so we replaced it," Kerr told the Metro newspaper at the times. "We thought it was safer as we always try not to offend anyone.'
Here at downthetubes, we wish Euan all the best on his retirement and every success in his endeavours beyond DC Thomson's Dundee HQ. These include an already sold out-event at for the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August where he'll be joining former Beano writer Morris Heggie and artist Jim Petrie in "bringing The Beano to life as you've never witnessed before." The event will involve the audience in inventing a new Beano-inspired character and watching it develop.
Right: Euan Kerr giving The History of Beano talk at the Glasgow Aye Write book festival in March this year. Picture: Jeremy Briggs