It was, according to Scotland’s foremost comic book creator, “madness”.
Mark Millar, the writer of Kick-Ass, Jupiter’s Legacy and Ultimate X-Men, was reacting to a new billboard advertisement from the UK government, which could be seen as suggesting the timeless mischief-maker Dennis the Menace was created in London.
“Dennis the Menace was created in 1951 by Edinburgh cartoonist for the Beano, published every week by Dundee’s DC Thomson,” Millar wrote on Tuesday morning on X, formerly Twitter. “He’s as Scottish as Sir Sean.”
Millar was not alone in expressing derision at the advert, part of the “Made in the UK, sold to the world” campaign run by the Department for Business and Trade.
It depicts Dennis and Gnasher alongside the headline “Created in London. Unleashed in more than 100 countries” and in smaller print clarifies that it is referring to the animated television series produced from DC Thomson’s Fleet Street office.
But this distinction did not lessen the ire of many Beano fans, who on X described the advert variously as “insulting”, “disrespectful” and “predictable”.
Chris Law, the Scottish National party MP for Dundee West, called the campaign “cultural appropriation” and “utter garbage”. “Perhaps before the UK government start appropriating local Dundee created characters in the Beano they ought to do a bit of basic research,” he said.
Chris Murray, the world’s first professor of comic studies at Dundee University, said the response was understandable in the wider context of a London-centric view of UK creativity. “The poster is about Beano Studios in Fleet Street, so in that sense it’s not inaccurate. On the surface it looks a claim is being made about the character of Dennis, who was created in Dundee and appears in the Beano, and has done since 1951, so I can understand the sensitivities.
“Dundee is an incredibly creative place, and has been an innovative centre for the production of comics and video games for decades, but people tend to think of London as the centre of the creative industries. If there’s a sensitivity, it’s the lack of acknowledgement that there are other creative centres around the UK.”
While the CGI Dennis is voiced by the actor Freddie Fox, with an English accent, Murray says the original comic version was not specifically Scottish, unlike characters such as the Broons and Oor Wullie.
He said: “The origin was definitely Scottish, but Dennis the comic character has been embraced across the UK and children feel an affinity with him no matter where they are. We can celebrate and acknowledge the international success of the animated series and Beano Studios, while also remembering the Scottish origins of this fantastic and beloved character.”
A government spokesperson said: “The Dennis and Gnasher animated series was created in London, based on the brilliant Beano cartoon that originated in Dundee. In this way it is the perfect representation of the ‘Made in the UK, sold to the world’ campaign, which seeks to highlight success stories from across our great union of nations.
“We work closely with businesses like Beano to tell their startup story, demonstrating the support the UK government provides to help companies grow and export around the world.”