Friday, 28 April 2017

A SUDDEN GUST OF WIND BLOWS IN WITH SOME SAD NEWS - LEO BAXENDALE 1930-2017 (UPDATED)...


Images copyright their respective owners

Well, what can you say and how do you say it?

As most of you will know by now, LEO BAXENDALE
passed away recently.  Leo was an influential creator in the
world of comics, but due to leaving mainstream comics in the
mid-1970s, is known mainly to diehard fans who read his stuff
in the '50s, '60s, and '70s.  News of his sad demise will bring him
a wider recognition among the great British public, but it's a poor
trade-off at the end of the day.  Some people you think will live
forever, some people deserve to live forever, and Leo probably
deserved it more than most.  True, he has attained a kind
of immortality through his comics creations, but even
that seems a lesser reward than it should be.


Anyway, there's little point in me repeating facts
and figures about his career;  that's already been done
on other blogs, in far more detail than my tendency to the
superficial can match.  Suffice to say that, when it comes to
comics, Leo was a lion.  There have been other lions of course,
and there'll be others again, but he was among the first.  Sadly,
I never met him, but he very kindly replied to several of my fan
letters over the years, and, at my bold request in the position of
assistant editor of The ILLUSTRATED COMIC JOURNAL
back in the '90s, supplied an article for publication within its
pages.  True, it had appeared elsewhere first, but Leo
didn't think the readership of both 'venues' would
overlap, and we were glad to have it.


With each passing day, another little piece of our
childhood is eroded away, and with Leo's passing, quite
a large chunk has been chipped off in one fell swoop.  For
what it's worth, if anything, I'm sure readers of this humble
blog extend their condolences to Leo's family and friends at
this sad time.  We're frowning at the moment, but we'll all
laugh again after an appropriate interval, especially when
we read again some of Leo's comic creations that we
enjoyed as kids, teenagers, and adults.


Rest in peace Leo Baxendale.  He may be gone, but
he'll never be forgotten as long as unruly kids indulge in
mischief and mayhem in any school playground.


And below is the cover of Leo's autobiography,
which every fan of British comics should read.


And now, a gallery of various images.  Click
to enlarge, then click again for optimum size.















25 comments:

Phil S said...

Dennis. Bash Street. He had a wonderfully demented way of drawing characters. And of course he will always remind me of being a kid and getting a few P for comics.

Kid said...

He didn't actually create Dennis, PS, or draw him regularly, but did fill in for Davey Law on a few occasions I believe. A sad day in Comics World, alas.

Colin Jones said...

Kid, that's a fine tribute and I fondly remember his art in the Beano, Beezer, Topper etc but it's sentimental tosh to say that "quite a large chunk" of our childhood disappeared upon Leo Baxendale's death. Our childhoods ended when we stopped being children but we are always able to revisit those days through comics, books, TV shows etc - Mr. Baxendale's work will long outlive him and we can continue to appreciate it and remember our childhoods for the rest of our days.

Kid said...

Well, just call be a sentimental tosher, CJ. (But don't be swapping that 'h' for another 's', or saying it in a Sean Connery voice.) Maybe I look at things differently than you because I had personal correspondence with the man, which, to me, connected me to my childhood even more firmly. The fact that he's now gone seems like a huge chunk of my childhood went with him. And I'm sure others feel the same.

Incidentally, you're too young to have seen Leo's work in the comics you mention, as he'd long left them by the time you were reading them. Unless you got your hands on some older back issues of course. What you probably saw were strips he'd once worked on being 'ghosted' in his style.

Colin Jones said...

OK, thanks Kid - I'm genuinely surprised by your last point as the art you've shown today is so familiar to me from the Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx etc. I started reading D.C. Thompson comics in circa 1971.

John Pitt said...

Lovely, fitting tribute, Kid. I heard the news on the radio yesterday, - the DJ kept calling him Leon Baxendale, but he meant well and was saying nice things.
I was telling the missus yesterday that even my late Mother used to enjoy the Bash St. Kids and Minnie the Minx, so his popularity transcends the generations!

Kid said...

That shows just how influential he was, CJ. Of course, DCT used to believe in consistency in their characters (not any more it seems), and would instruct new artists on a strip to adhere as much as possible to the established style, which is also part of why Leo's former strips retained the same look for so long. However, what's interesting is that Leo's art was constantly evolving, and eventually other artists were all drawing in Leo's various styles, which all had something different to them. In 1971, Leo hadn't drawn anything for DCT in around 8 years, so it was definitely his 'ghost' artists you were reading in Thomson's comics.

******

His stuff was genuinely funny, JP, and, along with David Law, he was one of only a few cartoonists who made me laugh out loud. You should try and track down his Willy The Kid books. Someone's selling all three, along with his autobiography, on eBay for £150, but since his death, that price might well skyrocket.

Paul McScotty Muir said...

As I mentioned on another site Leo's work just made me happy as a kid, and when I rediscovered his work again in my mid - late 20s his strips still looked as fresh and as funny as when I first read them as a kid. One of my enduring memories as a kid was reading "Eagle Eye Junior Spy" in WHAM! I just loved it another (less known) character / strip was "Mervyns Monsters" in Buster- I used to spend hour pouring over these strips and copying the monsters. I missed (either too young or just don't remember) his Beano work at the time but remember a few strips from the Beezer (it featured vultures -forgotten the strip) and the tail end of his run on the Banana Bunch - I have of course seen his Beano work since in DCTs reprints and annuals and in a few original comics and annuals I picked up amazing stuff. And of course who can forget the amazing " Swots and the Blot" strip.Leo's passing certainly wasn't the death of any part of my childhood either as Leo left us an amazing body of his work that we can revisit (and kids now can find for the first time) that will take us back even if just a nano second to those days when we were all knee high to a grasshopper - As always my condolences to his family and friends the people that have really lost someone special. And Kid that was an excellent tribute to Leos work.

Kid said...

Of course, the 'spirit' of childhood survives in adults, PM, but it's constantly eroded by the deaths of family, friends, etc., to the point that childhood eventually 'lives' on only in memory. And that's not QUITE the same thing I don't think ('though an acceptable substitute). However, to each his own. I forget the name of the vultures strip, which is strange, as I could have told you it yesterday. I'll be sitting down at the earliest opportunity to re-read my Willy The Kid books, and may well dig into his autobiography again too. As you say, his work lives on, but it's a sadder world now that the great man himself no longer inhabits it. Thanks for the kind words about the post, glad you 'enjoyed' it. (Not quite the right word given the circumstances, but you know what I mean.)

Paul McScotty Muir said...

Was it the Gobbles or Guzzlers (Im not sure if any of those are rude names or not?) I seem to recall it ran down the side of another strip on the same page

Paul McScotty Muir said...

I meant to add lets hope that either DCT or whoever has the rights to Leo's old Fleetway/IPC work do a special on him either a comic magazine or an annual of some sort - unlikely I know but the man literally set the format of UK kids comics from the 1960s onwards - they owe him that much at least.

Kid said...

The Gobbles, that's it! I think they might have to change the name of that for a reprint, eh? Trouble is, PM, that Leo was out of mainstream comics for so long that people associate his style with a succession of other artists (Tom Paterson for one), so his name alone might not be enough of a draw (scandalous I know) to casual readers. (Look how CJ thought the work of other artists to be that of Leo's.) Unlike Ken Reid, who was unique (you could tell whenever someone tried to imitate him), it wasn't always obvious with some of Leo's imitators, so most potential buyers of Leo's work wouldn't necessarily buy reprints just because they've got Leo's name on them, but moreso because they recognise the characters. It would be nice if DCT and Rebellion (who bought the IPC strips from Egmont) did do such a volume (or several) 'though - I'd certainly buy them.

baxfan said...

my favourite cartoonist ever. a sad day for comic fans.

Kid said...

Very true, BF, but an even sadder day for his family and friends. Hopefully, it's of some consolation to them that he was so highly regarded by fandom.

Colin Jones said...

I had to smile when Paul wrote "knee high to a grasshopper" - that was a phrase my father often used :)

Philip Crawley said...

The man himself is now gone but I for one would be more than happy, as it were, for anything I left behind after my demise to resonate with and bring a laugh to so many people. To trot out the old cliche- he will forever live on in his work. His art, along with Ken Reid's takes me back to when I first saw it, being such an anarchic contrast to the American cartoons I had been reading up until then, Peanuts, Hagar, Lil' Abner and so on, although I'd been getting a taste of British strip humour via the Perishers by that stage. Great tribute piece.

Kid said...

A lot of people all around the country use that phrase, CJ, but it's nice that PM's use of it reminds you of your dad. In fact, it's good that you're reminded of your family quite a lot on this blog (going by some of your previous comments) - it makes me feel that it's of some help to people like yourself.

******

Thanks, PC. What strikes me is how many newspaper tribute pieces I've seen which use illustrations of his characters that don't appear to be actually drawn by him. His style was used by so many others after him that I fear he's not as associated with his own art style as he should be. At least he's now getting wider public recognition for the moment, but it's just a shame that he had to die to get it.

Bill said...

L.B. influenced so many artists that followed him. R.I.P.

Kid said...

So a lot of them claim, 'though it's not always evident in their work. Hunt Emerson is the only cartoonist I can think of who deserved to inherit the mantle of Bax, as he was an original without being a mere imitation. Tom Paterson IS an imitation ('though hardly 'mere'), but such a brilliant one that he's almost practically indistinguishable from the real thing.

John Pitt said...

Nice additions to the post, Kid.
The more I am now finding out about Leo's private life, the more I now also respect him as a man, as well as loving his work as an artist.
By heck, this country has produced some talent!

Kid said...

We sure have, JP, 'though I wouldn't say we had a monopoly on talent. (Not that you're trying to suggest that.) When you think about it, we had some great cartoonists in comics in our day. Dudley D. Watson, Ken Reid, Reg Parlett, Bill Titcombe, Charles Grigg, Davey Law, Terry Bave, Bill Ritchie, Dick Millington, Robert Nixon, Leo of course, and several others. I'm not convinced that we have so many great ones working in comics today. Steve Bright is excellent, as is Tom Paterson and Hunt Emerson, but I think only the latter currently does any regular work in weekly comics (or did not too long ago).

a comics fan said...

Lovely tribute to the man and his work kid. thank you.

Kid said...

Thanks, 'though I wish circumstances had been such that it hadn't needed to be written.

******

Incidentally, as I said above somewhere, someone was selling the three Willy books plus Leo's autobiography on eBay for £150. He relisted them several times because there was no apparent interest (at that price anyway). After Leo's death however, the fetched £180. I hope it was a true fan who bought them, and not someone planning on selling the books individually to make a profit.

moonmando said...

A thoughtful and genuine tribute to someone who had such a huge impact on so many kids of my generation, growing up in the sixties and seventies. It seems my little world is shrinking at an alarming rate given the passing of so many of my youthful and present icons,both in comics and music.
Keep asking myself, whose turn is it next.
I'm keeping my head down...

Kid said...

I hope it isn't Jim Reeves or Bob Hope, as I'm really getting into their stuff. (Eh, what's that? You have some bad news for me?) Yeah, the heroes of our youth seem to be expiring at an alarming rate, Moony. Our turn will be here before we know it, unfortunately.

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