Monday, January 14, 2008
Bash Street Wizards
Since their inception in 1954 The Bash Street Kids have been so synonymous with The Beano that it may be surprising to hear that the characters also appeared in another publication for a while. For a short time in the mid-Fifties, D.C. Thomson's story paper The Wizard included Bash Street in its line up, - as a text story.
Simply titled Bash Street School the single page (or page and half) text stories appeared in The Wizard No. 1522 (April 16th 1955) to No. 1554 (November 26th 1955). As revealed in Ray Moore's diligently researched books The Beano Diaries (pub. 1991) Leo Baxendale drew new headers for the stories and, on two occasions, illustrated two Bash Street covers for the story paper, tying in with the text stories, on issues 1536 (July 23rd 1955, seen above) and No.1547 (October 8th 1955).
What's most interesting about the Bash Street School text stories is that they gave the reader more information on the characters than The Beano had revealed. As The Wizard was aimed at a slightly older reader than the primary school age group of The Beano, it also aged the Kids for its readers to relate to. Issue 1536 states that the Bash Street Kids are "over thirteen years old".
More revealingly, it gave full names to some of the characters. The stories were narrated by Sidney Pye (simply known as Sid in The Beano strip) and other characters fleshed out were his sister Kate Pye (Toots in The Beano, thus becoming 'Kate and Sydney Pye' - geddit?), Deathshead Danny Morgan (Danny), and Fatty Brown (Fatty). Wilfred and Smiffy remained without surnames, but there was no Plug or 'Erbert. Instead, new Kids with names such as Gasbag Jones and Toffy Hughes made up the numbers.
No nameless "Teacher" either. Instead, the form master of Class 2c was "Sleepy Snorer" , - a completely different teacher. The nameless "Janitor" from the comics was given the name "Bull" Carr, an ex-sergeant-major.
If the issue I have is any example, the tone of the Bash Street School text stories was far different to the wild slapstick of The Bash Street Kids comic strip. Although still geared towards comedy, the pacing was far gentler and the humour more sophisticated.
The Wizard had a long run in its first incarnation, starting in 1922 and running until 1963 as a text story paper. Then it was revived in 1970 as a comic, which ran until 1978.