Comic artist Leo Baxendale, whose characters like the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx entertained generations of young readers, has died.
With his sense of anarchy and humour, Baxendale and his creations became a big part of the appeal of comics like The Beano from the 1950s.
He was regarded by aficionados as one of Britain’s greatest and most influential cartoonists.
His creations also included The Three Bears, Little Plum and the comic Wham!.
Baxendale’s son Martin, also a cartoonist, said his father died at the age of 86 after a long fight with cancer.
Hailing from Preston, Lancashire, Leo Baxendale helped the Beano appeal to children in an otherwise austere post-war Britain – first with Little Plum then Minnie the Minx, a female answer to Dennis the Menace.
Cuthbert, Smiffy, Fatty, Plug and the rest of the Bash Street Kids came next. Like Minnie, they revelled in running riot across the comic panels and outwitting grown-up authority figures like their teacher, named Teacher.
Martin Baxendale said: “The humour in Leo’s work for children’s comics and his later newspaper cartoons and books was always anarchic, anti the established order and pro fairness and justice in a generally unfair and unjust world, championing the underdog against the forces of oppression; a reflection of his strongly held left-wing, progressive political views.
“In his comics’ pages he saw the child characters he created (most famously The Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx, Little Plum) as the underdogs long controlled and oppressed by the adult world around them and he gave them a voice and actions with which to fight back in hilariously anarchic fashion, allowed them to step into the limelight and control their own destinies.
“Children of the time responded to that, writing fan letters of glee and appreciation that truly delighted him. The fan letters also came from grown-up children, reading his pages with as much enjoyment as their offspring.”
Cartoonist Lew Stringer told the Downthetubes comic blog that Baxendale was “quite simply the most influential artist in UK humour comics”.
He said: “The impact of his work on British humour comics is incredible, as other artists were encouraged by editors to mimic Leo’s style.
“The Beano simply wouldn’t look like The Beano without Leo’s influence, and it’s debatable whether The Beano would even still be around if it had never featured The Bash Street Kids or Minnie the Minx.”
Comic archivist, author and publisher Paul Gravett wrote on Facebook: “He did so much more than revolutionise British comics. He inspired in his readers, young and old, an anarchic, free-thinking spirit to challenge authority and be yourself.”
Baxendale left The Beano to create the comic Wham! in 1963. It featured characters like Eagle Eye Junior Spy, his arch enemy Grimly Feendish and The Barmy Army.
In the 1970s, Baxendale moved on to Willy the Kid and Baby Basil, the latter of which also featured in The Guardian in the 1990s.
In the 1980s, he fought a seven-year battle for the copyright to his Beano creations with publisher DC Thomson. They settled out of court before a three-week trial began.