Congratulations are very much in order today with the news that legendary comic artist David Sutherland, best known for his work on “The Bash Street Kids” in BEANO, has received an OBE for services to Illustration.
David, now 90, who lives in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, and often signs his work simply as “DS”, has been drawing “The Bash Street Kids” in The Beano since 1962. In addition to “Bash Street”, he was also the regular artist for “Biffo the Bear” for 17 years, from 1969 to 1986, and “Dennis the Menace” for 28 years from 1970 to 1998.
Born in Invergordon in 1933, David was the youngest of three children. Sadly, his mother died when he was only two and the family moved to Stirling, where his father’s family were able to help bring up the children. Shortly after, the family moved to Kirkintilloch near Glasgow.
David trained at Rex Studios, illustrating adverts for all manner of products., including cinema advertisements, attending evening classes at Glasgow School of Art to add to his qualifications.
In 1959, he entered a drawing competition organised by Dundee-based DC Thomson.
“I didn’t win the competition but I did win a prize,” David told The Sunday Post in an interview charting his long career, earlier this year. “I was delighted, because there was a fantastic number of artists who had competed. The editor of The Beano, Harold Cramond, then took me under his wing and helped me mould my career in comics, and for that I am truly grateful.”
He initially worked on The Beano’s adventure strips of the day, such as “Danny On A Dolphin”, “The Great Flood of London”, and, later, “General Jumbo” and “Billy the Cat”.
He replaced Leo Baxendale on “The Bash Street Kids” in 1962, the strip becoming a documentary page strip commanding the long-running weekly comic’s centre pages for decades. It’s estimated that, in addition to over 3000 instalments, he has drawn some 4000 “Bash Street” stories, which have also run in various Specials and annuals down the years.
Talking to The Sunday Post earlier this year, David picked out his favourite Bash Street kid.
“From an artist’s point of view, Plug is my most favourite character,” he commented, “because he has fantastic pliable features and actions that illustrate his character.
“I don’t really have a favourite strip as there have been so many good ones over the years that have made me chuckle,” he continued.
“In recent years some new characters have been added. It takes time to develop new personalities and that can be challenging,” he noted, the interview published shortly after the arrival of new pupils Harsha and Mandi. “However, I always try my best to bring the characters to life as if they have always been there. It was strange to begin with, as I have known the original characters for more than 50 years but times change. I am happy to go with what is required.”
His other BEANO credits include “Biffo the Bear”, which he took over following the death of Dudley D. Watkins in 1969, drawing the strip until 1986; “Dennis the Menace” from 1970 to 1998; “Gnasher’s Tale”, which launched in 1977, “Rasher” (1984), “The Germs” (1988, replaced in the early 1990s by Vic Neill, “Gnasher and Gnipper”, and “Fred’s Bed”.
He also drew episodes of “Korky the Cat” and “Jak” for The Dandy.
Commenting on his honour, David said: “When I entered the DC Thomson art competition more than 60 years ago, I couldn’t have guessed where it might lead.
“I’ve been so lucky to be able to do something I love for a living, and work with so many talented writers whose words have helped bring these characters to life.
“Working on ‘The Bash Street Kids’ for so long, these mischievous kids have become a second family to me, and I continue to love spending time in their company.
“To them – Danny, Toots and the rest – I’d like to extend my thanks, and of course to the readers, who I hope continue to enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoy drawing them.”
“David Sutherland is, without doubt, a master technician and humourist, and his 60 years and counting of work on The Bash Street Kids will never be surpassed,” commented BEANO editor John Anderson.
He added: “It is no exaggeration to say that given his longevity, his work on cover stars “Biffo the Bear” and “Dennis & Gnasher”, plus the breadth of his work on the comic more generally, makes him the single most important illustrator in Beano history.
“This honour is the very least he deserves.”
Congratulations from the downthetubes team to David for this much deserved honour.
• BEANO: “The Bash Street Kids”