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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Happy Birthday to Leo Baxendale!

This Sunday, October 27th, is the 83rd birthday of comics genius Leo Baxendale, the creator and original artist of Minnie the Minx, Little Plum, The Bash Street Kids, Clever Dick, Eagle Eye Junior Spy, Grimly Feendish, Willy the Kid and numerous others that have graced British comics. 

Leo retired from mainstream British comics in the mid-1970s but his style was so influential that it's still evident in the work of many artists who followed him. And I include myself in that as Leo's work was hugely inspirational to me when I was younger (and still is). 

I used the term 'genius' above, and I truly consider Leo to be one of the handful of people who have genuinely shaped the direction and style of British comics over the years. Some critics unfairly compare modern cartoonists to Leo and find us lacking, but the truth is people like Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Roy Wilson, and Dudley Watkins were giants back then too, even compared to artists of their own generations.

For my own little celebration of Leo's work, here's a few pages he drew way back when. At the top of this posting is a Minnie the Minx page from The Beano No.852, November 15th 1958. (As with all images on my blog click on them to see them larger.)

Next up is the very first Leo Baxendale artwork I saw as a child. This Tiddlers strip from Wham! No.77 (4th December 1965) fascinated me as a 6 year old, and I still remember looking at this cover as I was walking around Nuneaton's JC Smiths store (now Debenhams) with my mum. I was immediately hooked by Leo's work and became a fan for life. 

Finally in this brief selection, here's a very funny Swots and Blots two-pager by Leo from Smash! dated 30th August 1969. The inventiveness and comic violence in this is fantastic, and that punchline (literally ending with a punch) is a real laugh out loud moment.

I met Leo once, back at an event in Preston twenty years ago, and he was a real gent and good company. I hope he enjoys today and will enjoy many more birthdays still to come.


Peter Gray said...

Happy Birthday Leo....What a great comic legacy of fun...thanks..

Graham Exton said...

Happy birthday, Mr B! Love from Graham (Sweeny's Bahamian uncle.) You have been a huge influence, and you were kind enough to send encouragement when Mark Rodgers and I were starting out. Mark edited Oink! and wrote Round the Bend for the telly, so you definitely know how to spot talent.

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