ABSTRACT UK comics in the 1970s had an ambiguous relationship with violence. Whilst portrayals of children who committed violent acts were deemed dangerous and provocative, adult to child violence was permissible. Using a range of comics and stories from the time period but focusing particularly on Dennis the Menace, the star of the popular pre-teen humour title, the Beano, this article argues that the social acceptability of parental physical chastisement in particular rendered any potential harm to the child invisible. The wider context in which physical abuse was being conceptualised in the UK at this time is presented, and how what happened in comics was in stark contrast to real events such as the terrible murder of seven-year-old Maria Colwell in 1973. Maria’s death led to changes in the law and provoked the artist Sonia Lawson to produce a striking and distressing cartoon reflecting the incident. Whilst physical chastisement remained part of the Beano well into the late 1980s, nevertheless it is argued that the Beano’s decision to eradicate smacking in its pages pre-empted wider cultural views.

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