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|DC Thomson comic strip character(s)|
|Other contributors||Tom Lavery|
|Current/last artist||Nigel Auchterlounie|
|The Beano||Issue #2674 (16 October 1993)|
|Regular characters||Edd, Brainy, Radar, Snitch, Blinky, Cruncher, Mr. Throbb|
The Numskulls is a comic strip in The Beano, and previously in The Beezer and The Dandy – UK comics owned by D.C Thomson. The strip is about a team of tiny human-like technicians who live inside the heads of various people, running and maintaining their bodies and minds. It first appeared in The Beezer from 1962 until 1979, drawn by Malcolm Judge.
The strip first appeared in The Beezer in 1962 and was drawn by Malcolm Judge. In this version, they lived inside a man's head rather than a boy's head. The man was never named, but the Numskulls referred to him as "our Man". There were six Numskulls during this time. The 'Mouth Department' was home to two Numskulls, named Alf and Fred. Luggy (Radar) looked a lot like Cruncher, Snitch looked like Cruncher as well except Snitch wore orange, Brainy had no glasses and had no hair apart from around his ears and wore black, Blinky looked the same except he was bald and Alf and Fred had two hairs on their head and wore black and yellow.
Judge drew the strip until 1979, at which point Tom Lavery started drawing the strip. Judge returned as artist in 1984, and continued to draw it until his death in 1989. Following his death, John Dallas took over as artist. In 1990 the comic became The Beezer and Topper following the acquisition of The Topper by The Beezer. It was at this point that the man was replaced by a boy. In the Beezer and Topper, Dallas continued drawing the strip for a few months, before Steve Bright took over as artist for most of the comic's remaining run. Three years later the comic folded, and the strip joined The Beano in issue 2674, dated 16 October 1993, drawn by Tom Paterson. It was at this point "Our Boy" Became Edd, and each numskull was given a new look. The strip in the 60th anniversary special was drawn by Trevor Metcalfe. Paterson continued drawing it until late 2000, as shortly afterwards he took over Minnie the Minx from the retired Jim Petrie. The strip was then drawn by Barry Glennard, who became the permanent artist in 2003, although Dave Eastbury drew some strips on occasion during 2002. Tom Paterson returned to contribute a number of strips in 2007–2009, as well as in the 2009 and 2011 Beano Annuals.
After "Our Man" became "Edd" and "Luggy" became "Radar" and "Nosey" became "Snitch", Edd became aware of the Numskulls' existence inside him, after a doctor discovered them on his X-ray system. Despite the doctor's alarm and decision that they had to be removed, Edd was very calm and wondered whether getting rid of them was a bad idea.
The Numskulls in this version are:
- Brainy – controls Edd's brain. Brainy is the head of the Numbskulls.
- Blinky – controls his sight/eyes.
- Radar (originally called Luggy) – controls his hearing/ears.
- Snitch (originally called Nosey) – controls his smell/nose.
- Cruncher (originally two characters called Alf & Fred) – controls his mouth/taste.
Occasionally other numskulls are seen who control Edd's other body functions including germ fighting numskulls, numskulls in the stomach, pelvis numskulls and blood numskulls.
Some earlier strips had suggested that everyone had Numskulls. A Bananaman summer special, for instance featured an X-ray of Bananaman showing the "Nanaskulls". Even animals and other Beano stars were revealed to have Numskulls, in fact, the centre story of the 2008 Annual was centred around Plug's Plugskulls, reacting to true love. A rare trope in their strips would occur when the Numskulls of animals (such as dogs, rabbits and pigeons) would invade Edd, causing him to behave in the same characteristics as their animal hosts.
In December 2012, a new version of The Numskulls appeared in the new digital version of The Dandy. This version is about a younger boy called Alex Bonce, whose Numskulls are not stick figures, but instead are concepts popular with children – the brain is controlled by a space jackal starship captain, the nose by a masked wrestler, the eyes by a video game elf (a spoof of Link from The Legend of Zelda), the ears by a robot, and the mouth by a barbarian and a dinosaur. It is drawn by Jamie Smart.
In July 2013, the Beano version was revamped by Nigel Auchterlounie, who writes and draws a new version of the strip showing the Numskulls of famous celebrities, starting with Ant and Dec. As a result, Edd disappeared for a while, though he returned after a few months. The Numskulls remain the same though, although always looking different each week, they are still referred to as Brainy, Blinky, Radar, Snitch and Cruncher. In early 2014, Edd returned but it's still drawn by Nigel Auchterlounie.
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We can see the typical interaction between the Numskulls in the story "An Alarm clock gives them a shock" which appeared in The Beezer Book 1980. "Our Man" is pictured asleep in the first panel and in the second we see Luggy in the Ear Dept. awoken by the sound of the alarm clock next to "our Man's" bed. Using an intercom system Luggy sends a message to Brainy that the alarm clock is ringing. Brainy, in turn uses his intercom system to wake up all the other Numskulls and feeds the written message "Switch off alarm!" into the suggestion box. We then see "our Man" thinking "Noisy alarm! I'll switch it off. Where is it?" In the following panel we see Luggy informing Brainy that the alarm is still ringing whilst Brainy reads a print-out from the computer "Where is it?".
It transpires that Blinky, who is in charge of the man's eyes, has neglected his duty by staying in bed. The other two Numskulls burst into his department and force him out of bed. Grumbling, Blinky opens the man's eyes with a hand-crank whilst Brainy and Luggy stow his bedding in cabinets under the eyes. In the last panel we see "our Man" reflecting that he couldn't open his eyes this morning and now he has bags under them, caused by the bedding.
The above description is typical of the Numskulls' formula. The Man (who represents 'us') is totally determined by the decisions and actions of the numskulls. He has the freedom only to reflect on what has occurred, all his decisions are made by Brainy. As all the thoughts sent from Brainy's 'suggestion box' appear to "our Man" as his own he little suspects the existence of the numskulls. Much of what he reflects on is actually a consequence of the Numskulls' free will, rather than his own. In the story above the Man notices the bags under his eyes, which he puts down to a normally bodily reaction to tiredness, when they are in fact the bulges caused by Blinky's bedding. The man has bags under his eyes, not because he chose to have a late night but because Blinky chose not to get out of bed.
The Numskulls stood out from the other comic strips in the Beezer in that it addressed the metaphysical questions that fascinate children and philosophers such as – where do thoughts come from and why do people do as they do?
'Our man' was also referred to as 'our boy' before settling on the name of 'Edd' for their human home. According to the 2008 Beano Annual, Edd's full name is Edd Case (a pun on the word Headcase).
- Philosophy of the Numskulls (fustar.info)