Leo Baxendale: Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx comic legend dies
Comic artist Leo Baxendale, whose characters like the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx entertained generations of young readers, has died.
With his sense of anarchy and humour, Baxendale and his creations became a big part of the appeal of comics like Beano from the 1950s.
He was regarded by aficionados as one of Britain’s greatest and most influential cartoonists.
His creations also included The Three Bears, Little Plum and the comic Wham!.
Hailing from Preston, Lancashire, Baxendale helped the Beano appeal to children in an otherwise austere post-war Britain – first with Little Plum then Minnie the Minx, a female answer to Dennis the Menace.
Cuthbert, Smiffy, Fatty, Plug and the rest of the Bash Street Kids came next. Like Minnie, they revelled in running riot across the comic panels and outwitting grown-up authority figures like their teacher, named Teacher.
Fans were drawn to the fact that Baxendale’s strips were packed with detail, gags and light-hearted rebellion.
Baxendale left the Beano to create the comic Wham! in 1963. It featured characters liked Eagle Eye Junior Spy, his arch enemy Grimly Feendish and The Barmy Army.
Cartoonist Lew Stringer told the Downthetubes comic blog that Baxendale was “quite simply the most influential artist in UK humour comics”.
He said: “The impact of his work on British humour comics is incredible, as other artists were encouraged by editors to mimic Leo’s style.
“The Beano simply wouldn’t look like The Beano without Leo’s influence, and it’s debatable whether the Beano would even still be around if it had never featured The Bash Street Kids or Minnie the Minx.”
Comic archivist, author and publisher Paul Gravett wrote on Facebook: “He did so much more than revolutionise British comics. He inspired in his readers, young and old, an anarchic, free-thinking spirit to challenge authority and be yourself.”
In the 1970s, Baxendale moved on to Willy the Kid and Baby Basil, the latter of which also featured in The Guardian in the 1990s.
In the 1980s, he fought a seven-year battle for the copyright to his Beano creations with publisher DC Thomson. They settled out of court before a three-week trial began.