The first name I recognised in comics was Leo Baxendale, who signed his name on the front cover of WHAM! In 1964. Until earlier this month, he was still my favourite living cartoonist.
In the 1950s he gave us Little Plum, Minnie the Minx, The Bash Street Kids and The Banana Bunch, still amongst the very top drawer of comic creations, two of them have been continually produced every week in The Beano and probably always will be.
Leo was a larger than life character (the stories of his brief reign as king of comics at The Beano are legion, exciting and unrepeatable!) and his self-taught tremendous energy and vitality made all his strips as hilarious as anything ever published. To this very (sad) day, he’s the only comic artist to have made me laugh out loud.
In WHAM! And SMASH! He introduced possibly his greatest and funniest character, the slimily evil Grimly Feendish and the one picture he did that inspired and thrilled me beyond everything was his cover of Bad Penny on SMASH! Number 3. I kept that comic with me every day from February 1966 until today, the only comic I ever salvaged from my mum’s eternal spring cleaning drives.
In 1994, I was able to tell Leo himself. He said he remembered being very pleased with the way it turned out.
Thanks for everything, Leo, known in the anonymous 1950s to the likes of David Hockney and Peter Blake as “The Master of Bash Street”, you gave us so much and only asked that we laughed.
Nigel Parkinson, April 2017
Nigel Parkinson’s many credits include Cor!!, The Dandy, Whizzer and Chips, Nutty, Radio Times, Fast Forward, Thunderbirds The Comic, The Beano, Beezer, Bunty and many, many others. The Beano takes up about 96.25% of his time. You’ll find him online at nigelparkinsoncartoons.blogspot.co.uk
• In Praise of Leo Baxendale – article by Richard Sheaf on his later work