Yet another post about death. And there’s me normally such a cheery soul, a positive ray of light illuminating an otherwise drab world.
This week also saw the demise of Leo Baxendale, at the relatively advanced age of 86. I imagine many of my US audience will be going, ‘Who?’ Even a few of my urban warrior collective in the UK may be stumped.
He was the cartoonist who brought us, among other gems, The Bash Street Kids*. This bunch of junior degenerates first graced the pages of the comic The Beano way back in February 1954. Since this was only shortly after I was born, the Bash Street Kids were pretty much what I grew up on, and they’re still creating mayhem to this day.
The rapscallions of class 2B at Bash Street School were a constant thorn in the side of Teacher, who was both a strict disciplinarian and as dim as a Toc H lamp if some of the stunts were to be believed.
The ringleader and firestarter was the rollneck-sweatered Danny, who bore more than a passing resemblance to his slightly older Beano stablemate Dennis the Menace. What he said went. But the thing was that all those years ago nobody was at all PC (see ‘Little Plum’ in the first footnote), and this was reflected in some of the other characters and storylines.
There was ‘Erbert, who was picked on mercilessly because of his spectacles like the bottoms of pop bottles. Then there was the character Fatty. I doubt you’d get away with that these days. Probably not Spotty either. Then we have Smiffy, who these days might well be regarded as someone with ASD. Wilfred suffered such social anxiety that he always had the neck of his sweater pulled up to cover the lower half of his face. Plug was plug-ugly and ill coordinated. Try that today.
There was only one girl in the class. I had to look her name up, as it had disappeared into the deeper recesses of what I laughingly refer to as my brain. She was called Toots, and had a twin brother called Sidney. She acted as Danny’s SIC, and would take control of the gang when Danny was absent. I guess these days she’d be seen as an empowered** role model for girls. Maybe not, though.
Although ‘Erbert got some stick, it was generally good natured, unlike the punishment meted out to the class swot, Cuthbert. In the grand tradition of Thomson comics, he has a lot of the physical characteristics of Teacher, because he’s Teacher’s pet, and all Thomson pets look like their masters.
Part of my childhood just went away.
*He was also responsible for Minnie the Minx, Little Plum (Our Redskin Chum), and The Three Bears.
**I know most of you dislike that term, which is why I used it.