|Publisher||D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd|
|First appearance||Nutty #1 (16 February 1980)|
|Created by||Writer: Steve Bright
Artist: John Geering
|Alter ego||Eric Wimp (later Eric Twinge but usually referred to as simply 'Little Eric')|
|Team affiliations||Chief O'Reilly, Crow|
|Abilities||Super strength (smashing
through steel, fighting, etc.) "the muscles of twenty men, and the
brains of twenty mussels",
Breathing in space
Helium-boosted heat finger
Also equipped with gadgets: Thermal Banana, Banana Laser Gun, electronic thermal underwear.
The original strip, written by Steve Bright and mostly drawn by John Geering until his death in 1999, is essentially a parody of Superman with shades of Captain Marvel and his British twin, Marvelman and occasionally other Silver Age characters, while also combining comic slapstick with a heavy dose of eccentric British humour similar to Alan Moore's contemporary work on Captain Britain. In the strip, Eric Wimp, an ordinary schoolboy, living at 29 Acacia Road, Nuttytown (later changed to Dandytown after Nutty's demise), eats a banana to transform into Bananaman, an adult superhero, sporting a distinctive cowled blue and yellow outfit complete with a yellow two-tailed cape resembling a banana skin. His superpowers include the ability to fly, superhuman strength (often quoted as "twenty men... twenty big men" but sometimes limitless, with "nerks", "women" and "snowmen" all being used in place of "men"), and seeming invulnerability.
If Bananaman needs extra power, bananas can be eaten for strength boosts, provided by his faithful pet crow; if he does not have enough strength to shatter an ice block, for example, after eating a banana, he will have enough. If he eats lots of bananas in one sitting, he quickly becomes obese in his transformation; if he eats bananas that are not full, he transforms with extra weight in the lower part of his body. There have also been comics where he has eaten a variant on normal bananas, and transforms differently, reflecting the difference in that banana. It should be noted that the effects of eating the bananas are not consistent from story to story.
Bananaman is still a star of the modern Dandy comic, although from April 2007 the character has only appeared in reprinted strips from the John Geering era. Chris McGhie is the latest artist to take on Bananaman and his re-invention of the character with his own style will appear in The Dandy in the second half of 2008. Chris' other work includes The Three Bears for the Beano (in 2002) and the characters on Yoplait's 'Wildlife' product range.
From 1983-1986, he had his own annual, the 1984 one was a Marks & Spencer exclusive, the next one was titled "Bananaman Annual 1985". This is unusual for two reasons - Nutty comic never had an annual, and all other DC Thomson annuals of that era were called "The (title) Book". The remaining two are called "Bananaman, Your TV Hero" with the year (1986 and 1987) after that. Unlike Dennis the Menace and Bash Street Kids, these annuals were entirely new material.
Eric was rocketed to Earth from the moon as a baby, and gained his powers because the crescent moon resembles a banana. He has a kryptonite-style weakness to mouldy bananas, and at one point even a Fortress of Solitude-style building at the North Pole, made out of a giant banana. During early board meetings, the designers thought of the aspect of Bananagirl to accompany the series. The girl would have been called Margaret Wimp, and be the "sister" of Eric. This idea was scrapped later on in production, because the concept of two children being related without parents would be too far-fetched for children to understand.
In the 1991 Dandy Annual, Bananaman's origin was changed to that of being a normal Earth baby in a maternity hospital, who obtained his powers after unintentionally eating a banana in which General Blight had hidden a stolen supply of Saturnium (presumably similar to uranium, neptunium or plutonium), and accidentally left it next to Eric. However, later issues referred to the first origin as the real one.
Bananaman initially faced a different pastiche supervillain each week, who were often lampoons of the kind of single-issue, uncreatively-named villains that heroes fought during the Silver Age, or tips-of-the-hat to famous supervillains.
The strip's medium-subverting elements became toned down as the strip gained in popularity, becoming more simplistic to appeal to the new audience. Bananaman gained a talking crow sidekick called simply Crow, and became so stupid he often forgot how to fly or to use the door. Eventually, Bananaman even began to go to school despite being an adult. General Blight, a generic criminal mastermind, largely replaced the inventive criminal-of-the-week.
Bananaman is allied with Chief O'Reilly, a stereotyped Irish policeman (apparently an homage to Batman's James Gordon or the equally stereotyped Chief O'Hara in the 1960s Batman TV series). He used to wear an Indian feather headdress as a visual pun on Chief, and in later strips wore a hat with a flashing blue light on the top. Chief works in a police station shaped like a giant police helmet, which frequently has to be rebuilt after Bananaman accidentally destroys it. O'Reilly rings up Eric to get him to talk to Bananaman, presumably thinking Eric is Bananaman's assistant of some kind, as in the cartoon series it is made clear that the Chief is not aware of Eric's being the big blue superhero.
|Created by||Steve Bright|
|Theme music composer||Dave Cooke|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Language(s)||English, and Spanish|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||40|
|Running time||5 min|
|Original run||3 October 1983 – 15 April 1986|
In 1983, the BBC made a cartoon series which included a catchy theme tune and featured the voices of The Goodies. It was produced by Flicks Films for Chatsworth TV and in association with Tellytales Enterprises. Parts of the character were changed for the series: he was now called Eric Twinge, voiced by Simon Tweed and had a distinctive banana-shaped hairstyle rather than punk stubble, and had a love interest (only when transformed) in the form of Fiona, a newsreader based on Selina Scott.
Graeme Garden voiced the characters of Bananaman, General Blight and Maurice of The Heavy Mob, Bill Oddie voiced the characters of Crow, Chief O'Reilly, Doctor Gloom and the Weatherman, and Tim Brooke-Taylor voiced the characters of Eric, King Zorg of the Nurks, Eddie the Gent, Auntie and Appleman, as well as narrating the episodes. Jill Shilling voiced Fiona and any additional female characters, including Eric's cousin Samantha (but not Auntie). It lasted for forty episodes between 3 October 1983 and 15 April 1986.
Bananaman was aired in the United States by the Nickelodeon cable network as a companion piece to Dangermouse, but Bananaman never came close to reaching that series' American popularity. The show also aired during the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) after school timeslot and is considered one of the Classic ABC shows.
Some of these episodes would eventually re-appear in print form in The Dandy in 1998, coinciding with the BBC repeating the series that year, and are now being reprinted in the comic as of April 2007, now promoting the DVD. Each episode was roughly five minutes from start to end. Phrases from the show, "twenty big men" and "ever alert for the call to action", are still used in the comic today.