Today is the 81st birthday of the great Leo Baxendale, the original artist and creator of The Bash Street Kids, Little Plum, and Minnie the Minx for The Beano back in the 1950s, and many characters for other comics such as Grimly Feendish and Willy the Kid.
It's no hyperbole to say that Leo is the most influential artist in British humour comics over the past 60 years. Even today, long after Leo retired from traditional children's comics, his style is still evident in the pages of The Beano and other comics. His strips were certainly a big influence on my work and that of artists such as David Sutherland, Tom Paterson and Nigel Parkinson.
It's hard to imagine how British comics would have developed without Leo's massive input. Admittedly the style of comics was already changing in the 1950s, away from the wonderful Roy Wilson style and towards an equally wonderful and more mischievous Davy Law style but Leo pushed comics even further into a more modern and anti-authoritarian direction. (Davy's radically energetic work on Dennis the Menace was the key that inspired Leo to submit work to The Beano in 1953.) The combination of Davy Law, Leo Baxendale, and Ken Reid changed the face of The Beano in the Fifties, and when Leo was invited by Odhams to create a "Super Beano" in the form of Wham! in 1964 his style influenced a generation of new artists such as Mike Lacey and Graham Allen.
Leo left traditional comics in 1975, moving on to create books such as Willy the Kid and Thrrp!, and to write his autobiography It's a Very Funny Business and books such as The Encroachment and On Comedy. He also created a new strip, I Love You Baby Basil for The Guardian in 1990.
Today he still maintains a website for his Reaper Books imprint which you can find here:
Happy Birthday to Leo, the king of comics.
Illustrations on this item all by Leo Baxendale: A title page from The Beano Book 1960; an early Eagle-Eye strip from Wham! No.3 (July 4th 1964); cover to Smash! No.4 (1966); Willy the Kid Book 1 covers (1976), and an unusual one-off strip, Whodunnit, from The Beano Book 1960. Here's the solution below...