The Bash Street Kids is an ongoing comic strip that features in the UK comic The Beano. The strip was created by Leo Baxendale under the title When the Bell Rings, and first appeared in The Beano in issue 604, dated 13 February 1954. It became The Bash Street Kids in 1956, since then it has became a regular in the comic and featured in every issue.
Like many long-running UK comic strips, The Bash Street Kids is anachronistically frozen in the era in which it began. It portrays Class 2B of Bash Street School, Beanotown, where the teacher and headmaster still wear mortar boards and gowns and pupils sit at wooden desks with inkwells. They are taught by a stereotypical teacher, who appears to actually have the name Teacher (his wife is called Mrs Teacher). The characters were inspired by the view from the D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd office windows, overlooking the playground at the High School of Dundee. Leo Baxendale remarks: "In fact the catalyst for my creation of Bash Street was a Giles cartoon of January 1953: kids pouring out of school, heads flying off, and sundry mayhems. Straight away I pencilled a drawing of 'The Kids of Bash Street School' and posted it from my home in Preston to R. D. Low, the managing editor of D.C. Thomson's children's publications in Dundee. I received an offhand response, a dampener. It was only after I'd created Little Plum (April 1953) and Minnie the Minx (September 1953) that the Beano editor George Moonie travelled to Preston on 20th October 1953 and asked me to go ahead with Bash Street (he gave it the provisional title of 'When The Bell Goes; when it appeared in The Beano in February 1954 it was titled 'When The Bell Rings.)"
Characters in the strip
The class contains eleven pupils:
- Danny - The leader, with the soul of a pirate. Wears a skull and crossbones sweater which his grandma knitted for him, and a floppy red school cap which indicates his rebellious nature. He is quite crafty, with a unique intelligence. He was appointed leader very early on in the strip after he gave each kid a wine gum. He is one of the central characters in The Beano Interactive DVD alongside Dennis, Gnasher, Minnie the Minx and Roger the Dodger. His real name has been revealed in 'The Wizard' to be Daniel Deathshead Morgan. Singled Out has called him Deathshead in the title header recently.
- 'Erbert - A shortsighted boy who struggles to see, even with his spectacles. The rest of the class (excluding Cuthbert) have great fun swopping his thick-rimmed spectacles for others in the class and watching the resultant mayhem.
- Fatty - A fat boy who can never stop eating. Being called Fatty does not bother him - in fact, he likes it. It is only in the later strips that Fatty has been made fun of for his weight, in which he usually just reacts in trying to prove the kids wrong.
- Plug - A hideously ugly pupil who uses his face to his best defence. He's so ugly that when he pulls a face he becomes handsome. He has an impish sense of humour. His name derives from the term plug-ugly. He later appeared in his own comic, called simply Plug (1977-1979), which starred him and his two pets, Pug, from Pup Parade, and Chunkee the Monkey. This strip was later incorporated into the Beezer comic. His name used to be Pug: the L, according to The Beano, was added when Smiffy had a spare one after spelling the word "sily". Plug's "real name" was first revealed as "Percival Proudfoot Plugsey" on the cover of Plug, though earlier issues of The Beano give him the name Claude. Plug briefly inherited Smiffy's naive comic attribute in comic libraries such as 'The Time Machine' and 'Darkest Africa'. In the Beano issue No. 3438 (28th June 2008), however, in Singled out, he was addressed by his full name by Teacher.
- Sidney - Toots' twin brother and the keeper of a dozen animals. He wishes to become a vet when he grows older because he knows more about animals than anything. Sidney has spiky hair resembling a chimney sweep's brush in which he takes pride. Recently, Sidney's bad luck and basic stupidity has come to light and he has never had a Singled Out strip in which he is the central character where he has not come out worse.
- Smiffy - The naive, somewhat dumb pupil who often confuses genders and nouns. For example, when Teacher calls the register and he is supposed to say 'Present, sir', he says 'Gift, miss' instead. He can sometimes be very kind and aware of things on an emotional level, similar to an idiot savant, but most of the time he can't even remember what colour the sky is. He has two brothers, Whiffy and Normal Norman. His mother occasionally appears, once as a replacement member of staff when Teacher was absent. Smiffy has even been seen to send his father to school instead of himself.
- Spotty - A short character who is often compared to a Christmas pudding. He is proud and protective of the multitudinous black spots that cover his face; any attempts to remove them are chased off. He is quite handy when he wants to be, with his attire (his extraordinarily long tie) often helping the kids out in tough situations. In the 1981 Beano Book, it was revealed that Spotty has 976 spots. In later comics that were not from the original artist, Spotty tended to be seen as the more sarcastic and joke-cracking one of the group.
- Toots - Sidney's twin sister, the only girl in the class and the youngest. A classy tomboy who can be as bossy as Danny when she wants to be, but has more of a heart than any of her friends. She is very tough and the boys have no problem letting her join in their games. Loves music and can often be seen with a "boogie box" (a CD-player) towing behind her. In the later strips she is seen as a more central character and Dannys right hand man. She also indicates several times that she has a crush on him.
- Wilfrid - A thoughtful and introspective boy, with thoughts hidden behind the depth of his green jumper that goes all the way up to his nose. He often resembles a tortoise and has a mystery concerning his neck, which is never seen: whenever he takes off his jumper all we see is a vest as high up as his jumper.
- Cuthbert Cringeworthy - The brightest child in the class, and a teachers' pet who tends to be bossy, rude, and spoiled; and ostracised by the others. He has a name for every letter of the alphabet. First appearing in 1971, he looks very much like Teacher (a play on the DC Thomson comics' tradition that pets look like their owners — e.g. Dennis the Menace and Gnasher — and his status as teachers' pet) and Walter the Softy of the Dennis the Menace strip. Danny's first comment on Cuthbert was 'He reminds me of someone I don't particularly like'.
Cuthbert's character appears to have changed slightly in recent years; he is still seen as a swot and is still as bright as ever before, but (particularly in longer strips by the likes of Mike Pearse and Kev F. Sutherland) he is sometimes shown to be 'one of the gang' and occasionally appears as part of the Kids' 'team', contrary to earlier strips where in he never seemed to like the other kids, sometimes coming up with intelligent plans to aid their cause or save the school.
- Wayne - Following a competition held by BBC's Blue Peter to find a new Bash Street Kid, the winning entry was announced on March 14 2007 and revealed to be "Wayne's 'in' pain". Wayne has fat, puffy cheeks, hair like a dandelion and a problem with standing. He is also said to be very talkative. He constantly wears a plaster cast and sling, and is supposed to suffer a lot of comic misfortunes not unlike Calamity James. So far, however, his lack of involvement since his inception has been widely noted. Cuthbert and Wayne have only once appeared in the same strip. After a year, Wayne disappeared. But then made a triumphant return in the Beano Annual 2009!
Other characters of the strip include:
- Teacher - Class 2B's long-suffering teacher, who appears to be actually called Teacher. However, in the 1978 Beano Summer Special the Kids were thrilled to find out that their teacher's first name was Algernon! He always wears a mortar board and has a domineering wife, Mrs Teacher.
- Head (Headward Headington-Hail/Chocilus Bicius) - The pompous and portly school headmaster. He is very fond of tea and biscuits, and permanently wears his academic gown and mortar board. Teacher spends much of his career toadying to Head.
- Janitor - The school's fat caretaker. He hates litter and pupils who break the rules. He enjoys bossing Winston about, but is a lazy man himself.
- Winston - The school's cat. Anthropomorphic, he is often seen mopping the floor alongside Janitor. Winston is crafty and often concocts his own schemes when Janitor frustrates him. He is always seen wearing the same hat as Janitor.
In #3432 (May 17 2008), Winston is tidying the rubbish when Teacher buys a car.
- Olive - The school cook (and Beano office tea lady), who first appeared in the strip in 1980 . Everyone hates her food, as the ingredients for it include items such as old books (from the Beano Annual 1998). On the other hand, she has a high opinion of her cuisine, which is a constant source of worry to the school's pupils and staff. Due to the inedible and frequently disgusting meals she serves, industrial-sized boxes of indigestion remedies have occasionally been seen on the canteen tables. However, in a recent edition, she bought the best-quality food from a market and raced off to her kitchen to put it in the freezer to keep it fresh, but she accidentally lost control of her bike and was spinning for 23 days, so when she got to her kitchen, she had rotten food, and was too dizzy to put the food in the right bowls. As her disastrous cooking had an explanation, she was forgiven.
- Mrs Teacher - Teacher's overbearing wife, who bears an uncanny resemblance to him, and is almost always shown to be very assertive, bossing Teacher around while he is at home, and yelling at the Kids during a memorable strip wherein she took over the class as a supply teacher. In another issue, she was seen injuring all the pupils in a break-dancing competition, because they had injured her husband, who was her partner.
- Florence the School Nurse - She appears occasionally when the plot demands that one of the kids attempt to skive class by faking an illness. She is rarely explicitly mentioned as Florence nowadays.
- Techno - A science teacher who appeared in the strip during the mid-1990s and was actually a robot in the form of the cartoon Inspector Gadget with gadgets around his body. Techno proved so popular that he was awarded his own strip for a limited run and appeared in The Beano Book of Amazing Facts. He returns in the Bash Street Kids Annual 2008.
As can be seen, some characters are named after their occupation: Teacher and Head, for example. This is typical of eccentric British humour, and even borders on surrealism. Teacher's wife is called Mrs Teacher, the headmaster's brother's name is Mr Headsbrother, and the children's parents (who look almost exactly the same as their child) are called Plug's Dad and such, even in flashbacks when they are themselves children.
In the earlier years it was not clear how many pupils there were. The maximum ever was 17, including:
- Teddy - A teddy boy.
- Ella - One of only two girls. The other is Toots.
- Jimmy - Who looks like Smiffy but wears a cap.
The same characters also appeared in one page stories (Not comic strip) in "The Wizard" in 1955, entitled "Bash St. School"; and featured in the full-page cover cartoon on 23/7/1955.
Leo Baxendale drew it until 1961, when David Sutherland replaced him, initially using a similar drawing style to Baxendale, but simplifying it later in the decade. Sutherland has drawn the majority of the strips since then, except for a period from 1999 to 2001, when Nigel Parkinson took over the strip, drawing it in a style similar to how David Parkins was drawing Dennis the Menace by that point (the strips have had closely connected visual styles since the early 1970s, when Sutherland started drawing them both). Parkinson moved over to drawing Dennis the Menace in 2001, and Sutherland returned as artist.
The strip has also had a number of ghost artists through its lifetime, including Gordon Bell in the early 1970s, John Sherwood later on in the 1970s, Keith Reynolds in the 1980s, and Tom Paterson in the early 1990s. In recent years, Mike Pearse and Kev F. Sutherland (no relation to David Sutherland) have also occasionally drawn the strip.
Other appearances and spinoffs
The strip has had various spin-offs over the years, including Pup Parade, Simply Smiffy, Plug and Singled Out. The Bash Street Kids Annual was originally published bi-annually (It was called The Bash Street Kids Book in those days) but is now out every August, and summer specials used to be printed annually as well during the 1990s. These featured solo stories for the kids, and are therefore a forerunner to the Singled Out strip.