There have been numerous occasions when comic book characters and adventures have been turned into television “one offs” and even series. Many of the fictional characters that are on aired today can be traced back to the comic books of yesteryear. One of the most famous characters in British comic book history is Dennis the Menace and he has appeared in the Beano alongside his dog, Gnasher, since 1951. In 1996 the BBC produced an animated TV series called Dennis and Gnasher which ran until 1998. In all 26 episodes were recorded in the 2 series. A second series then followed in 009 with 102 episodes and was aired on the British CBBC channel. The rebellious teenager and his trusty dog proved as popular on television as they had been, for over half a century, adorning the front cover of the Beano.
One of the first comic book characters to appear on television was Captain Pugwash. The loveable pirate was created by John Ryan and first appeared in an issue of The Eagle in 1950 and then more regularly in the Radio Times. In 1957 the BBC commissioned Gordon Murray to produce at total of 86 five minute films. The first series was aired in black and white but by 1974 Pugwash was seen in color. Some animated television series are not necessarily aimed at the young and this is certainly the case with characters from Viz. One of the “alternative” comic’s most popular set of characters are the “fat slags” who made their debut in 1989. The popularity of “San and Tray” continued in 1992 with the UK’s channel 4 airing eight episodes of pair.
Also jumping from pages of Viz onto the screens of the British viewing public was Billy the Fish. The comic strip based around the football team Fulchester United first appeared in 1983. It was original formed in a series format but later only appeared during times of major tournaments. It was made as an animated film in 1990 and was shown on channel 4, and it 1991 it was split into four episodes. One of the longest running television series that started as a comic book was the Smurfs. The Smurfs were originally created by Belgium cartoonist Peyo as a cartoon strip in 1958, in the magazine Spirou as part of the “Magic Flute Storyline”.
Between 1981 and 1989 NBC aired 256 episodes and this does not include 3 cliffhangers and 7 specials. Their Saturday morning shows became one of the longest running cartoon series on television. Belgium cartoonists have a special relationship with successful and famous comic book characters. Georges Remi, whose pen name is Herge, created The Adventures of Tintin in 1929 as a comic strip for the Le Vingtieme Siecle newspaper. They soon found their place in comic books of which 24 were created resulting in sales of 200 million copies worldwide.
The comic series were first adapted for television by the Belgian company Belvision in 1957 and were released as Herges Adventures of Tintin. The 103 episodes were produced in both English and French with the series being aired in the UK in 1962 and in the USA in 1963.
In 1991 a second adaption of the comic books by a joint French and Canadian venture produced 39 half hour episodes. The series directed by Stephen Bernasconi was aired in Canada, the USA, the UK. Australia and may more countries. The relationship between comic books and television series is a close one. There is no doubt increased exposure to the general public will bring guaranteed extra income. It is therefore not surprising that a successful comic book character will be positively pushed towards television.