Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Oi, sheep. How'd you like to eat the juiciest grass in the whole world?"
"I think I already am!"
"Wait till you've tried this stuff! Go on... have a nibble..."
"Well... I don't know..."
"Oh, alright! Just a nibble!"
What is it with sheep, cows and horses that they can have an entire field full of grass to munch on, but offer them some more of the exactly the same stuff and they'll waltz right up to the fence and nibble it out of your hands?
You know Derek is going to give in - on anything within - and you just know it's going to go ridiculously wrong. Give him a momentary advantage and he'll turn it into a calamity. Give him five more seconds and he'll compound the calamity into a catastrophe.
It seems impossible, doesn't it? It's a meadow; they are sheep. All they do is eat grass. Outside of barnacles, they are the most sedentary creatures in the animal kingdom. What can possibly go wrong?
Enter Gary Northfield - Lord Lieutenant Stoopid and King of Bog-Eyed Buffoonery - responsible (and I used that word under duress) for GARY'S GARDEN, TERRIBLE TALES OF THE TEENYTINYSAURS, JULIUS ZEBRA: RUMBLE WITH THE ROMANS and JULIUS ZEBRA: BUNDLE WITH THE BRITONS and suddenly the farm animals are wearing galoshes, kicking around footballs and tobogganing down snow slopes on bits of old Farmer Jack's barn.
To a substantial extent the comedy is predicated on the abandonment of all shades of sanity in the same way that Simone Lia's THEY DIDN'T TEACH THIS IN WORM SCHOOL undermines worm logic. We all know what a worm is, what a worm can do. Similarly we all know what a sheep is (stupid) and what a sheep can do (eat grass, run from anything that goes "Ruff!") and what a sheep patently cannot do (open a can of baked beans). Same goes for cows. I don't recall the last time I saw a heifer basking on its back outside a barn, sunglass on with the radio at full blast, blaring "Who Let The Dogs Out? Woof! Woof!"
Sheep are already inherently funny. But sheep on a tractor...?
"I've been pretending to be old Farmer Jack, trundling around in the mud."
"WOW! This is so cool!"
"I know! Vrrom! Vroom! Beep-beep!"
Sheep driving a tractor...?
"Pedal faster, Lizzie! Them dogs are gonna catch us!"
And it's all illustrated with such wild abandon, such glee! These sheep aren't just stupid, they're gormless - all mouth and eyeballs! The colours are those of innocence and nature into which Northfield introduces the unnatural, the preternatural and the stupour-natural.
From the pages of THE BEANO, then, thirteen full-colour short stories running at roughly half a dozen pages each in which Derek the sheep is traumatised by bees, bubblegum, bulls and bulrushes (oh, he finds a way!), forever tempted as he is by that grass which is always greener. "This is a really bad idea, Derek," could come from any of these disasters waiting to happen wherein he digs himself deeper and deeper into stinky doo-doo. Once, quite literally.
We don't have the fourth and final page of the sledging fiasco for you, but do you really not know what's going to happen next?
"Ooh, I don't know, Derek. You know how precious Farmer Jack is about his barns."
Exactly. It's a good job sheep are famously dab hands with a hammer, isn't it? Spatial awareness...? Not so much.
Brought to you directly from Gary himself, I can assure you that all our copies now and in the future will have this demented man's mark left indelibly inside the front cover. So sorry.