We put updates and latest news here at the top of the Bulletin Board; but we don't get rid of times past: we leave everything on, so that it will all gradually turn into compost; but not to worry, it's full of nutrition.
The STROPPY WOMEN spiffing & biffing exhibition, (featuring all my female creations from Minnie the Minx and Toots onwards) at Mills gallery/cafe/winebar, in the medieval Witheys Yard, High Street, Stroud, Monday 12th. March 2007 till end of April.
U.A. Fanthorpe and Leo Baxendale at the ‘Stroppy Women’ exhibition, 12th. March 2007:
U.A. Fanthorpe, Leo Baxendale and Nick Park at the View of the ‘Stroppy Women’ exhibition on the evening of 16th. March 2007:
& following the piercing blast of the Acme Thunderer, here is what was said, first by Leo Baxendale:
Most of my waking hours, and some of my sleeping hours besides, are
spent working out how to outwit Almighty Power.
It is pleasing, more than I can say, that we have with us tonight someone who uses language wonderfully: U. A. Fanthorpe.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Kids and Minxes –
‘Laughter’ said Peter Ustinov, ‘is the most civilised music in the world’.
We’re here tonight to celebrate wit, and to celebrate an art form that unites the oldest of us with the youngest – and an art form that has a fine high pedigree itself.
In particular, we’re here to honour an immensely talented man who lives in Gloucestershire. Gloucestershire is famous for Gloster Old Spots, for Cider with Rosie, for racing, and of course for Double Gloucester cheese – but above all Gloucestershire’s famous for that most modest of men Leo Baxendale.
He has been at his trade since before many of you were born, and his work brings back happy moments of childhood with The Beano, as well as more sophisticated pleasures in the pages of The Guardian.
Speaking for myself, I have often been invited to open
things – libraries,
church fetes, festivals (even tins) and so on. But never till now have
I opened an exhibition of cartoons – still less an exhibition of
Stroppy Women! – (I secretly hope to be counted among them as a
stroppy woman myself). I certainly never expected to meet the marvellous
cartoonist himself, whose work has influenced generations – as
it has me.
Now, cartoons are very important things. They’re serious, not just funny. And this is especially true of Leo Baxendale’s cartoons. They are secret weapons. They reach the parts of us that other forms of discourse fail to reach. Laughter liberates us, laughter puts things in perspective.
And you’ll notice that these aren’t cheap laughs, at other people’s expense. Here’s what the artist himself says about some of his characters:
‘In creating Fatty, I was aware of how fat boys had been treated
in comics – either as greedy (Hungry Horace, in The Dandy) or as
greedy and the butt of jokes (Billy Bunter in The Magnet’s Greyfriars
‘I made an abrupt decision to create Minnie the Minx, not a naughty girl, as Dennis was a naughty boy, but as a girl of boundless ambition, and an Amazonian warrior to boot.’
This is the profound thought that lies behind Leo Baxendale’s work. I found it tucked modestly away at the back of his splendid book The Beano Room: wise, tender, funny -
‘Comedy can carry a heavy cargo, yet ride high in the water.’
Finally – it’s marvellous that it’s in special Stroud, home of so much magic, that Leo Baxendale the cartoonist is properly celebrated.
One mercenary thought: even the tickets to this wondrous exhibition are special – they’re hand-printed, on hand-made paper, by Dennis Gould. So don’t throw them away!
It gives me enormous pleasure to declare this Exhibition of Stroppy Women OPEN.
Stroud exhibition 2005: Leo Baxendale's splendiferous exhibition 'THE BEANO ROOM' will be at Mill's organic cafe/bar, Withey's Yard (off the medieval Shambles in the centre of Stroud) from 11th. April to end of May 2005. (This is a different exhibition from the one below).
30th September 2005: The Stroud Exhibition has now finished.
Leo Baxendale's new book, also titled THE BEANO ROOM is now out (January 2005). The book and the exhibition are co-conspirators. For details of the book, see the books page.
FURTHER UPDATE, 29th, July 2005:
The Stroud exhibition 'THE BEANO ROOM' was supposed to finish at the end of May 2005, but in fact it's still on - at the end of May it was moved to the new upstairs Mills cafe/gallery, and is running there (as things stand at the moment) indefinitely. The new gallery is v. swish, but smaller, so I took five exhibits away, leaving twelve. A fortnight later one of the exhibits fell off the wall, cracking the glass. So that left eleven exhibits. The exhibition still looks good though, and you can sit in the airy gallery sipping coffee or wine or whatever, in between savouring the delights of The Beano Room.
Above: Putting on the style at the Cartoon Art Trust's annual awards dinner in the Mall Galleries, 3rd. December 2003 - Steve Bell presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Leo Baxendale.
After receiving the award, this is what Leo Baxendale said:
Leo Baxendale and Steve Bell at the private view of the exhibition at the Cartoon Art Trust gallery, Bloomsbury, 11th November 2003.
To celebrate the 50th. anniversary of Leo Baxendale's creation of Little Plum, Minnie the Minx and The Bash Street Kids for The Beano, Cartoon County (a group of artists based in Brighton) have organized a touring exhibition of his drawings:
Cartoon Study Centre, Canterbury, Kent - 2nd. August 2003 to 12th. September.
The Hawth, Crawley - 15th Sept to 18th. Oct.
Cartoon Art Trust Gallery, London - 5th. Nov to 24th. Dec.
Gateshead Library Gallery - 9th. Jan to 21st. Feb 04.
Kettering Alfred East Gallery - 28th. Feb to 27th. March 04.
Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 20th. April to 23rd. June 04.
Hartlepool - 26th. June to 22nd. August 04.
Uxbridge - 7th. January to 4th. February 2005: at Atrium Gallery, Central Library, Uxbridge.
Hove Museum & Art Gallery - 12th. February to 10th. April 2005.
Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery, at Clarence Street, Cheltenham - 17th. September to 12th. November 2005.
All the drawings in the exhibition are by Leo Baxendale - with one exception. Minnie the Minx decided to right a wrong in history by awarding a posthumous Nobel Prize to Rosalind Franklin. Jacky Fleming has made a drawing to record this historic occasion
Update October 2002:
Such is the size (308mm x 384mm) and weight (1.65 kilograms) of the THE WORST OF WILLY THE KID, and because it is intended to last forever (or at the least - let's be realistic - if not quite forever, then at least for several lifetimes) each book of this severely limited edition has been hand-bound and hand-sewn at the specialist Black Cat Bindery at Castle Cary. Instead of high-gloss lamination on the covers, we've used a 'matt' laminate (which in fact isn't quite matt, but has a delicate egg-shell sheen to it) as being more subtle, and nearer to the appearance of my original drawings. Each voluptuous volume is supplied to you contained snugly & sumptuously in its own sturdy yet svelte slipcase, hand-made and covered with black buckram at the Black Cat Bindery. The Worst of Willy the Kid is priced at 100 guineas. Guineas instead of £s are suitably posh for such a posh book; but since, I think, guineas are no longer legal tender (shame), please make out your cheque to Leo Baxendale for £125 (this covers the book, its stalwart slipcase, packaging and Special Delivery postage) and send to Leo Baxendale, 11 Brockley Acres, Eastcombe, Stroud, Glos. GL6 7DU. Each copy is signed, and will be posted to you by Special Delivery.
For more background to the making of the book, see the text of the 'Update early April 2002', below.
The Worst of Willy the Kid
end of August last year I've been working intensively on this sumptuous
book. I'm now near the end of the task - sticking the page numbers on
the paste-ups, which I'll be taking to the printers sometime in the next
Leo Baxendale opening the
" This is my
first ever visit to Dublin. Over
I thought it odd,
when I first met Paddy at the
Now that I am arrived
in Dublin, the overwhelming
There is more than
one reason why I am here
Without further ado,
I declare this
Tom Mathews, Stephen Dee
and Leo Baxendale (and Stephen's ceramic of the poet Seamus Heaney) in
CD ROMIC 'Down the Plughole' (original price £13) plus the book 'Down the Plughole' (original price £2.95) for total of only £10 (postage and packing paid.) Cheques or postal orders to: Leo Baxendale, 11 Brockley Acres, Eastcombe, Stroud, Glos. GL6 7DU.
Leo Baxendale writes: 'When the CD ROMIC was running on a monitor at the opening of my exhibition to celebrate the 60th. Birthday of the Beano in July 1998 in Stroud, a group of 9-year olds were grouped round the monitor. The producer from Central TV who was filming them, came over to me: "Those children are entranced, and so am I. It's a world away from the 'zap the enemy' Japanese computer games."
The CD ROMIC is therapeutic wit, rude but relaxing, and gentle with it.
The history of the CD ROMIC 'Down the Plughole':
Leo Baxendale writes:
In 1979 I took the Edwardian music hall ditty 'The Babby Down the Plughole' as the base for elaborating a Willy the Kid and Baby Basil comic strip adventure for the Dutch publishers Oberon. In 1995 I removed the Dutch speech balloons from my artwork, and replaced with English speech balloons, then added an accompanying commentary (in verse, what's worse) and published the result as a paperback book for children 'Down the Plughole'. Later still, using the 'Down the Plughole' drawings and commentary as a plot-within-a-plot, I added a GREAT DEAL more artwork, and elaborated the whole comedy structure, and we made the CD ROMIC 'Down the Plughole' (for adults of all ages). By comparing the book and the CD ROMIC, you can see how much we expanded the original concept.
(N.B. More recently,
I thought I'd better check the provenance of the 'Babby Down the Plughole'
song, so in June 2002 e-mailed Max Tyler, historian of the British Music
Hall Society. He e-mailed the following reply:
For more details of the history of the CD ROMIC 'Down the Plughole, scroll down, down, down.....
UPDATE 15 April 1999: The BBC have told me that the Antiques Show item re. my Bash Street & Minnie the Minx original drawings (see below) will be transmitted on Tuesday 27th. of this month (i.e. April) - on BBC2, at 8.30pm.
UPDATE 27 February 1999: Click on the Stroud Comic Strip Centre button.
UPDATE 7 January 1999: Yesterday (6 January) the BBC2 'ANTIQUES SHOW' film crew came here. They spent the morning filming at my house, then in the afternoon at the wonderful but delapidated mansion at Stratford Park in Stroud, one of the designated venues for the planned Stroud Comic Strip Art Centre, and which marvellous building is to be rebuilt and refurbished with Lottery heritage funding, ready for the first Comic Strip Festival in 2001.
The context for the piece is the Comic Strip Centre; the theme: that my original Bash Street, Minnie the Minx and Little Plum drawings for The Beano in the 1950s, which would by conventional mindsets be regarded as highly desirable and costly 'collectibles', are held by myself for a very different purpose. I will never sell or auction the originals, to be squirrelled away by an individual collector. I always meant my drawings to be accessible to the largest number of people; and just as when my drawings were first made they went out into the greater world to many millions of readers each week, so now the same drawings can be seen by vast numbers of people at exhibitions.
The new series of the Antiques Show will begin circa the end of March 1999, and it is likely that the piece will be televised sometime during April; I will post the exact date here as soon as the BBC let me know.
UPDATE 26 July 1998: Production copies of CD ROMIC (first ever F1 Hybrid between CD ROM and COMIC) have arrived, and we are now despatching orders. The first CD ROMIC: 'Down the Plughole' is available to you direct from us for £13 (post and packing free). Send cheque or postal order (cheques made out to Leo Baxendale) to Leo Baxendale c/o Reaper, 11 Brockley Acres, Eastcombe, Stroud, Glos. GL6 7DU. The CD ROMIC is also on sale at the exhibition Baxendale of Bash Street: an Interactive Exhibition at the Subscription Rooms (George Room Gallery) Stroud, Glos., 20th. July - 1st. August 1998. (For details of the exhibition, click on our 'Exhibitions' page.)
CD ROMIC minimum system requirements: P75 CPU; Windows 3.x (Video for Windows required) or Windows 95; 8MB memory (16MB for Windows 95); 640 x 480; 256 colour graphics; Quad speed CD ROM drive; 16 bit soundcard; 10MB free hard disk space. For Windows only.
The CD ROMIC 'Down the Plughole' (first of a series of CD ROMICs) is a collaboration between Leo Baxendale and his son Mark, a multimedia specialist. The CD ROMIC has a subtext: 'Art and Science Entwine' (Baby Basil plays the part of Art and Thespian Duck represents Science.)
It's a play within a play, featuring Baby Basil and the Armpit Road Strolling Players, and the 'play within the play' is based on the Edwardian music hall 'BABBY'S EPITAPH' (a.k.a. 'Down the Plughole.)
The C D ROMIC is for adults, and in fact adults who use PCs a lot (whether at home or at work) and is intended to be 'therapeutic' i.e. a soothing break, to dip into and nip into when the whim takes you). We've stuck a 15+ sticker on, because of the charming, delightful RUDE BITS. (Though we should bear in mind that when the late Kenny Everett had his anarchic and 'rude' TV series for adults, market research found that vastly more 'children' watched his stuff than watched the 'official' childrens' TV fodder.)
A large part of the CD ROMIC soundtrack is made up of the cackling, panicky stage hands (under the control of Stage Manager Duck) who shift the scenery about. The stage hands' panicky squawkings were recorded from the assorted poultry (ducks, geese and hens and whatnot) who live thirty yards from us across the field. When we were working on editing the soundtrack in warm weather with doors and windows open, they could hear the soundtrack, and responded, presumably thinking a colony of their own demented kind had taken up residence here.
A large part of the soundtrack is also derived from the astonishing dawn chorus which Mark recorded here on 1st. June 1996.
The CD ROMIC 'Down the Plughole' took an intense year to make: written and drawn by Leo Baxendale, produced by Mark Baxendale; associate producer Peggy Baxendale. We are starting work on the second CD ROMIC now.
by Leo Baxendale
My drawing has always been allied to technology. I imagine it was steam technology that made comics possible in the late 19th. Century - steam-powered presses that printed the comics, and steam trains that distributed them around the country - but here I am dealing with the technologies of reproduction of the drawn image, not the processes of production and distribution .
Learning and creativity are part of each other, part of the same. Artists have always worked within limitations of one sort or another, and have always learned to turn limitations to creative advantage. (Glance backwards, to an example - just one example, but a striking one - the development in Italy from the 13th. to the 16th. centuries, of the techniks of 'true fresco', buon fresco: painting on damp plaster. What resulted had a 'look' different from anything that came before or after.)
When I created Little Plum, Minnie the Minx, and The Bash Street Kids in 1953, The Beano was printed by letterpress. Colour pages could not be processed direct from the painted image. The freelance Beano artist sent or took a completed inked drawing to the Beano office. This black and white original drawing was camera processed. Then staff artists added water colour work to the original drawing; these colour washes were not for direct processing (they couldn't be, under the letterpress technology) but were a guide to the process department when adding mechanical Ben Day dot or line tints. (And on my original Beano drawings from the 1950s and early 1960s, you can also see tiny blue pencil marks and numbers where Beano staff journalists had indicated to the process people where a particular Ben Day tint was desired.)
The letterpress-printed Beano used two printing inks - black and red - on its inside pages. That chosen limitation (for reasons of cost) was turned to advantage. The depth that came from the myriad juxtapositions of 'grey' and 'pink' tints, counterpointed to the boldness of the solid reds and blacks, gave a singular 'look' to the Beano different from anything that came before or after.
After the pre-trial settlement in May 1987 of my 7-year High Court action over the rights in my creations for The Beano and The Beezer, a series of exhibitions began.
The last time I exhibited original drawings of my 1950s Beano work was in 1977. I realised then that the drawings were fragile entities, and that frequent exhibiting would put them at risk. Moreover, the colour washes would be as prone to fading as Turner watercolours (Turner stipulated in his will that the collections of his watercolours - these are at Edinburgh, Cardiff, the Courtauld, etc. - should only be on show in the winter light of January of any year.)
Thus the Beano original drawings I possess live in eternal darkness, to be taken from their plan chest drawers only when images are to be taken from the drawings, for exhibition. I regard the originals as master tapes.
In 1987 I exhibited Canon laser copies of my originals.
Straight after that, the introduction of Canon 500 laser copies enabled better images for exhibition; by 1993 I had moved on to the new bubble-jet reproductive of technology; and now, at this present time, Canon 700 laser copies.
Of late I have been working on the making of an innovative comedy CD ROM.
'Art and Science Entwine' is a part of the scenario of the CD ROM itself, and provides deliciously absurd comedy.
There are limitations in the technology of CD ROMs. (For example, because the computer screens on which a CD ROM is viewed are made up of pixels, the technology flies into a panic at the sight of fine ink lines.) As is the way, I have learned to turn such limitations to creative advantage.
Striking out across new terrain brings the unforeseen, and things that come about by serendipity. On 1st. June 1996 we began recording the dawn chorus here at Eastcombe (in stereo) at 3.49 am. Many extracts from the recording are used on the CD ROM soundtrack. Because of the catastrophic decline in the songbird population of the British Isles since then, from drought and other causes, that dawn chorus of astonishing intensity and high metabolism has not been repeated, nor anything approaching it. In the light of that, we will be releasing the full dawn chorus recording (52 minutes) separately as an audio entity, on CD.
MINNIE THE MINX, MARILYN MONROE, MAHATMA GANDHI, and Sgt. PEPPER.
The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper record sleeve 30th. anniversary exhibition: at the Bluecoats Gallery, Liverpool: 25 July - 26 August 1997.
The exhibition has a LIFE-SIZE tableau of 20th. C. 'icons' - everybody's there: Elvis, Marilyn, Gandhi, and, bowling along in her soap box cartie with a maniacal smile symbolising UNSTOPPABILITY, Minnie the Minx, blown up from a 1958 Beano pic.
Putting on the style in the Bluecoats courtyard: a Liverpool rock group who've called themselves: "BAXENDALE" (the group's full title: "The molecular structure of BAXENDALE".)
They were good. An afficianado said they were a bit like Blur, and the lead singer a bit like Jarvis Cocker; but all the same they had their own style.
I'm presently collaborating with my youngest son Mark on an innovative comedy CD ROM (he's a scientist: he does the techniks) - should be out by Xmas.
Might be a good wheeze, and fitting, somehow, to incorporate one of the group's tracks on the CD ROM soundtrack.
In the meantime, if you want to get a copy of the group's 13-track audio tape, best to write to them at 'The House of Baxendale' (nothing to do with me - I don't live there) 38 Falkner Street, Liverpool L8 7pz.
Intellectual tomfoolery (1):
I brought into being the daft comic world of Grimly Feendish (with his barmy supernatural and subnatural creature friends) as part of my creation of 'WHAM!' childrens comic for Odhams in 1963 (and, a bit later, I drew Grimly for 'SMASH!' as well.)
Years later, some 'WHAM!' and 'SMASH!' readers, grown up, formed a punk rock group, The Damned, and charted a single about Grimly (The Bad Trap Mix, 1985 MCA Ltd.)
Now, a young Frenchman, Jean-francois Hangouet from Vincennes, a reader in his 1970s childhood of French reprints of my Grimly Feendish drawings, writes to tell me: while trawling the Internet for mention of his childhood hero Grimly, he comes across an American fundamentalist religious site giving poor old Grimly a right going over: my own dear comic-book-pen-and-ink-in-his-veins sly beloved , along with the rock music industry, is part of a "web of Satanic intrigue".
Oh dearie me
Did I unwitting,
Intellectual tomfoolery (2): the Phaidon Phiasco.
Browsing in a Cheltenham bookshop before Christmas, I happened on the newly published 'Comics, Comix and Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art' by Roger Sabin, published by Phaidon Press; a weighty tome costing £40. And what did I find? Oh dear, oh dear. A bloomer.
My solicitors promptly (23rd. Dec. '96) faxed Phaidon:
"...the entry which records our client's contribution to the history of comic art includes a full colour double-page illustration (reproduced from a Beano comic) purporting to be from a drawing by our client. In fact the original was not drawn by our client but appeared in a 1964 Bash Street set - drawn by another artist. It is universally accepted that our client's work is distinct from that of 'followers' or 'imitators'; it is very widely known that he ceased drawing for The Beano in May 1962. It is disappointing that this error has occured in a publication which puts itself forward as a history of comic art...Our client instructs us to invite you urgently to review the publication with a view to an erratum slip being prepared and circulated without delay."
Note what a forebearing creature I am: I didn't seek the books pulped and marmalized - merely a civil request for a humble erratum slip.
Phaidon phaxed back: their Company . Lawyer on holiday...
Sigh...Oh my ...NINE weeks pass by...delay, stalling, o fie...pressure on Phaidon from my solicitors, to reply...
Then - on the nonce - two letters from Phaidon both at once!
Thus one dated 27 Feb '97: "I enclose a copy of a letter which should have been despatched to you on 20th. January although this does not appear to have been done. We have not yet heard from Roger Sabin and I am chasing him today for a response - Natalie Kontarsky, Phaidon Company Lawyer."
- and thus her accompanying letter dated 20th. Jan '97: "...the purported error in our caption to the illustration on pp 30-31. We are clarifying the position with the author of this work, Roger Sabin and if it is indeed correct, we will ensure that the caption is correct on our next print run. It is regrettably not possible nor is it our policy to insert erratum slips. - Natalie Kontarsky, Phaidon Company Lawyer."
Ooooh! Hoity toity!
But the end is nigh! Phrom Phaidon comes small but savoury helping of humble pie:
10th. March 1997, from Natalie Kontarsky, Phaidon Company Lawyer:
"Having now spoken to Roger Sabin, I understand that he obtained the edition of the Beano in question from a reputable dealer who assured him that it was an example of Mr. Baxendale' s work . You will note from the text of this book that Mr. Sabin is very complimentary about Mr. Baxendale' s work. In the circumstances, both he and we can only apologise for what is a genuine error and we will ensure that the caption is corrected on our next print run of this work."
I gracefully acknowledge Phaidon's tugging of Phorelock and respectful touching of neb. Still, that flawed Work is out in the world; thus must correction also be, on the Wondrous World Wide Web.
And now for something completely different:
"The Beano and The National Consciousness" by Leo Baxendale is published simultaneously in the Spring 1997 issue of Comics Forum (Number 14) the journal of the Comics Creators Guild, and in the Spring 1997 issue of Raven, the anarchist quarterly journal (Number 34: Communication (3): Language.)
Copies of Comics Forum can be obtained , £2.50 per copy post paid; £3.50 Europe, $6.50 USA (International Money Order) from Comics Creators Guild, 9 Stamford Grove East, London N16 6LS, UK.
Copies of Raven can be obtained , £3 per copy post paid in the UK. (Overseas add 20%) from Freedom Press, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. UK.
Update: (October 1997) The illustrated "The Beano and The National Consciousness " has now also been published in the Spring/Summer issue 1997 issue of the "Illustrated Comic Journal" (a journal dealing with the history of comics). A copy of this issue can be had by mail order for £5 from: A & B Whitworth, 17 Hill St., Colne, Lancs. BB8 0DH. UK. Annual subscriptions to the journal (two issues per year) are: Britain and Northern Ireland £10, Europe (EEC) (Air Mail) £12, Rest of the World £15.