Leo Baxendale is a British cartoonist who should need no introduction to downthetubes readers. Not only was the creator of the classic Beano strips “Little Plum”, “Minnie the Minx”, “The Bash Street Kids” and “The Three Bears”, but he was instrumental in the creation of the much-loved Wham!, published by Odhams Press, in 1964, and for creating Clever Dick (for Buster, later “ghosted” by Steve Maher) and Sweeny Toddler (for Shiver & Shake, but who became the star of Whoopee!).
Now in his eighties, Leo – one of several talents deservedly inducted into the British Comic Awards Hall of Fame some years back – remains a much admired figure in British comics.
Here, Richard Sheaf offers a quick snapshot of his later, creator-owned work, much of it still available from various outlets, including Leo’s own official web site…
Every comic collector out there wants Leo Baxendale book on their shelves, right? I certainly do – and I’ve managed to acquire the following from second hand bookshops, charity shops and the like over the years (so, that’s why I haven’t posted a picture of Willy the Kid Book One here).
Leo created Willy the Kid series in the 1970s, published as three annuals between 1976 to 1978 by Duckworths.
In 1987, after a seven-year legal battle with DC Thomson for the rights to his Beano creations, eventually settled out of court, he founded the publishing house Reaper Books, and his adult comic THRRP!, was published by Knockabout. Reaper Books titles include Hobgoblin Wars, published in 2009.
I remember this from the Guardian (which published his strip ” I Love You Baby Basil!” between 1990 and 1991), but don’t recall realising somehow that is was by Baxendale.
Here’s some more of his Willy the Kid art…
What this was doing in a secondhand record shop in Croydon (about 20 years ago) I have no idea. On Comedy: The Beano and Ideology is in the main an account of Leo’s time at DC Thomson and doesn’t include any illustrations. Prices for this online vary considerably – a copy on Amazon is listed at over £70!
Finally, I acquired A Very Funny Business: 40 Years of Comics – an autobiography of his career, also published by Duckworths – in the Socialist bookshop just by the British Museum for a very comradely price. I was very happy! Copies do turn up online.
• Back in 2011, Lew Stringer celebrated Leo’s 81st birthday on his terrific Blimey! blog. “Leo is the most influential artist in British humour comics over the past 60 years,” he wrote. “Even today, long after Leo retired from traditional children’s comics, his style is still evident in the pages of The Beano and other comics. His strips were certainly a big influence on my work and that of artists such as David Sutherland, Tom Paterson and Nigel Parkinson.”
• In 2013, Leo Baxendale was inducted into the British Comic Awards Hall of Fame and there’s a tribute to his work posted at the time here on the BCA web site
This article first appeared on Richard’s Boys Adventure Comics Blog in an abridged form
Willy the Kid and THRRP! © Leo Baxendale. The rights of Leo Baxendale to be identified as author of The Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx, Little Plum, The Three Bears, and The Banana Bunch, have been asserted in accordance with ss. 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.