Minnie The Minx And Bash Street Kids Creator Dies
♦It was announced today that Beano comic legend Leo Baxendale died at the age of 86. Here’s his obituary courtesy of The Guardian…
Leo Baxendale, the creator of Beano favourites Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street Kids, has died at the age of 86.
Baxendale’s fresh and energetic style, combined with his drawings of anarchic fun in strips including Little Plum, The Three Bears and Lord Snooty, made him a favourite for generations of British children, as well as an inspiration for comics artists. The comics historian Denis Gifford has called him “the most influential and most imitated comics artist of modern times” and he was inducted into the British Comic Awards Hall of Fame in 2013. Baxendale died from cancer on Tuesday.
Andy Fanton, who currently writes Beano strips for Baxendale’s creations Little Plum, the Bash Street Kids and now Minnie the Minx, called him “the godfather of so much of what we do”.
“It’s no understatement to say that I literally wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Leo,” Fanton said. “His influence runs beyond that though. I became aware of his work as a kid when I got my hands on older Beano books and read some of those early strips – his anarchic, riotous style was so distinctive and had so often been emulated or adapted by others who came after him that it still felt completely fresh … Legendary is a word bandied about quite liberally these days, but Leo definitely was legendary, and long may his legacy last!”
According to the comic writer Alan Moore, who read his work in the Beano as a child, Baxendale was the reason British comics creators made waves in America during the 1980s. “We started out ingesting the genuine anarchy of the Beano, when Baxendale was doing all that wonderful stuff, and then we moved on to American comics,” he said back in 2013. “We just became fascinated with all that gaudy exotica.”
He began reading the Beano during the second world war and when he returned from the Royal Air Force, he found work drawing adverts and cartoons for the Lancashire Evening Post.
After reading a Dennis the Menace strip, Baxendale submitted a portfolio to the Beano and in 1953 began working for the comic, run by Dundee-based publisher DC Thomson. His editor wanted a female version of Dennis, but this had already been done, Baxendale remembered, so instead he made Minnie the Minx, an impish and violent troublemaker: “Unlike a lot of the comics at the time, she didn’t have special powers, or superhuman strength – she was just a sturdy 12-year-old girl. She had will and ambition.”
In 1956, Baxendale created the Bash Street Kids, another huge success that has run in the Beano ever since. “At one point, the editor showed me a letter from an adult reader saying that the artist doing the Bash Street Kids was a near-genius. I think he expected me to be pleased,” he recalled. “But I was annoyed, actually, by the word ‘near’.”
His tale of a plucky brave, Little Plum – Your Redskin Chum became popular for its stories of the Smellyfoot tribe and their battles with other tribes and bears – so popular that Baxendale’s bears got their own strip in 1959, called the Three Bears. By this point, the Beano was selling 2m copies a week.
In 1962, overwhelmed by deadlines, Baxendale “just blew up like an old boiler, and walked out”. He left the Beano and found work two years later with Wham! and Smash! comics in London. During the 1960s, he also produced activist newsletter the Strategic Commentary, campaigning against the US’s involvement in the Vietnam war; he later revealed his first paid subscriber was Noam Chomsky.
Baxendale fought a seven-year legal battle with DC Thomson in the 1980s for the rights to his Beano creations, which was eventually settled out of court. He never regained copyright, but was legally identified as their creator and received 30 pages of his original artwork. He later estimated he had produced 5,000-6,000 pages for the publisher.
In 1987, Baxendale founded the publishing house Reaper Books and continued to work in comics, writing the I Love You Baby Basil! comic strip for the Guardian for a year before he retired in 1992 to focus on publishing books.
His eldest son Martin, who also works as a cartoonist, said Baxendale was “an impossible act to follow”.
“His drawings were always both very, very funny and sublimely well drawn,” he added. “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling to my greetings card and gift-book scribbles. He cast a long shadow and will be greatly missed now he’s gone.”