We are very sorry to report the passing of legendary comic artist David Sutherland, best known for his work on “The Bash Street Kids” in BEANO.
The news has just broken, and comes shortly after the announcement an OBE for services to Illustration. He had drawn “The Bash Street Kids” for the BEANO for 60 years.
David, who lived in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, and often signed his work simply as “DS”, had 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 last 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.”
As we recently noted, he initially worked on The Beano’s adventure strips of the day, 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.
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.
BEANO editor John Anderson has fond memories of David as artist, and his legacy.
“Living round the cover from Dave, I used to drop by for a cup of tea and a chat quite regularly,” he tells downthetubes. “Despite his decades of experience, and my relative inexperience, he’d show me the pages he’d be currently working on to check they were okay. And of course what he was working on was always brilliant, funny and accomplished, and I’d tell him how good it was. It was a measure of his humility and generosity of spirit.
“When you consider his longevity, high standards and his body of work (‘Biffo’, ‘Dennis’, ‘The Bash Street Kids’), he can only be considered a genuine comics legend, and Beano’s most important ever contributor. His is a legacy that will never be matched, and today marks the end of an era.”
“Like many Beano readers of my generation, David Sutherland was almost synonymous with the comic,” current “Bash Street Kids” writer Andy Fanton told downthetubes, paying tribute, “not only drawing the ‘Bash Street Kids’ every week, but giving us his unforgettable take on ‘Dennis the Menace’ to boot.
“I frequently had to pinch myself when I found myself writing the ‘Bash Street Kids’ years later, and working alongside the very man who had entertained me as I grew up.
“David’s work continued to be as funny and as accomplished as ever, making it never less than a delight to see the finished strip. In my correspondence with him he spoke of his ‘amazement’ of how the stories came together so well every week, and genuinely seemed touched that his work was still enjoyed.
“I’m pleased he got to enjoy a fresh wave of appreciation upon the recent receipt of his OBE, appreciation that was truly well deserved for a man who drew our childhoods for decades. My thoughts are with family, friends and all his colleagues.”
Another comic great leaves us,” noted The Sunday Post‘s “The Broons” and “Oor Wullie” and “Wee Harry” artist Mike Donaldson on Facebook. “A rare and wonderful talent who could draw both adventure and humour strips with a distinct and dynamic flourish. For me it was the little details that made Dave’s work such a joy – the cheeky mice, the darts with teacher’s name on, the innocent smiles on the faces of ‘The Bash Street Kids’.”
Paying tribute, Nigel Parkinson, artist on “Dennis the Menace” and more for the BEANO, said “David Sutherland OBE modestly never considered himself one of the top Beano artists but he undoubtedly was the Beano artist, having drawn Biffo, Dennis & Gnasher and, of course, ‘The Bash Street Kids’, as well as dozens of other strips in a 60 year career.
“When he and l shared a dram one cold winter evening a few years ago he was more interested in what l was doing and what David Law had done than in talking about his own timeless achievements. Every inch a gentleman, and he was six foot plus. There never was and never will be anyone as important to the Beano as him.”
“It’s mind-boggling to think of the number of children who’ve been entertained by David’s artwork over the years,” “Minnie the Minx” artist Laura Howell tells downthetubes, “Myself included, growing up in the 1980s – and nothing short of a miracle that he was able to produce so much great work for such a length of time.
“Although I never met him in person, I’d heard only positive things about what a warm, generous and decent man he was, loved and respected by all who knew him. I’m glad he was able to enjoy his well-deserved OBE, a fitting reward for his extraordinary legacy.”
“He was one of the nicest, most generous, modest, funniest, and most delightful of souls,” commented comics writer Daniel McGachey on Twitter. “It was a privilege to wok with Dave, and even more of an honour to have known him
“The versatility of David Sutherland’s talent was remarkable,” comic creator and BEANO artist Lew Stringer told downthetubes: “He smoothly adopted the ‘Bash Street’ style when he took over the strip from Leo Baxendale and made it his own, producing genuinely funny pages filled with hilarious endearing characters and little sight gags. He was able to master any style and bring it to life in his own way, as he did when he replaced Dudley Watkins on ‘Biffo the Bear’, and when he followed Davey Law on ‘Dennis the Menace’, defining the characters for a new generation of readers.
“Not many comic artists can switch between cartoony and straight adventure styles convincingly but David Sutherland made it look effortless, drawing gripping adventure strips such as ‘The Great Flood of London’, ‘Danny on a Dolphin’, and of course the very popular ‘Billy the Cat’.
“It’s hard to believe that an artist who has been a significant part of our industry all our lives has passed away but David leaves us with such a legacy of joyful, entertaining strips that have brought happiness to millions over the past 60 plus years.
“David’s style defined the Beano. His recent OBE was well deserved and his work will always be remembered and respected. My condolences to David’s family and to all those who knew him.”
The BEANO, commenting officially on the news of David’s passing has shared a ‘Biffo the Bear’ story in which the modest David drew himself as Biffo’s neighbour, and changed its social media banners to feature a sad Dennis.
“David viewed himself as a resident of Beanotown, living alongside our characters that he loved and he will live on there forever, and always be in the hearts of Team Beano and the millions of kids who have enjoyed his strips every week.”
“We couldn’t think of better tribute to celebrate the life of this incredible man
Our sympathies to family, friends and co-workers at this very sad time. Our thanks to his fellow BEANO creators for their memories and thoughts.
David Sutherland OBE, 1933 – 2023
• BEANO: “The Bash Street Kids”