Bash Street Kids' lesson in reality: School's out for the nightmare class of IIB as political correctness and computers catch up with The Beano. Marianne Macdonald reports

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The Independent Online
THE Bash Street Kids are to experience the hideous realities of school-work, muesli and cosmetic surgery when they are dragged into the 1990s to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Plug is to have his ears and his teeth hammered into place, Fatty is to begin working out and Spotty to lose his pimples after being force-fed health foods.

The chaotic world of Bash Street School will vanish forever when the school inspector condemns the school building and sacks the decrepit headmaster, janitor and teacher.

In its place comes the purpose-built Bash Street Academy where the nightmare class of IIB can find their true academic potential.

Instead of the timewarped 1950s world of mortar boards, blackboards and enthusiastic canings - unchanged since the strip began in February 1954 - the Kids are taught by a robot and seated in front of computer screens.

Plug gets cosmetic surgery, Smiffy has an operation to substitute the pea in his cranium with a brain, Fatty gives up cakes and lemonade to pursue a slim-and-trim workout and Spotty visits a beautician.

The transformation will take place over three weeks with the first instalment in The Beano this week.

The Beano's editor, Euan Kerr, said cautiously: 'Class IIB are the worst-behaved in the country and the hope is that they will start behaving. That's the plan of the school inspector, but as the story develops we will see if that's the case.'

He cannot conceal regret at the the new politically, cosmetically and environmentally correct characters, admitting: 'I'm not sure it's the right way to go, but maybe I have a more nostalgic view than kids do.'

The Beano was launched in 1938 and circulation has declined from a peak of two million in the 1950s to just under 250,000 today.

Although it has won fans as diverse as Baroness Thatcher, Paul Gascoigne, Cilla Black and David Jenkins, the Bishop of Durham, its younger market has been wooed away by computer games and globally marketed fads such as Jurassic Park.

Previous attempts by DC Thomson, its Dundee-based publisher, to update characters have not always been a success. When Dennis the Menace was put in trainers last year readers complained so much he was put back in boots.

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