The Bash Street Kids
|The Bash Street Kids|
|Current/last artist||David Sutherland|
|First appearance||Issue 604
(13 February 1954)
|Regular characters||Danny, 'Erbert, Fatty, Plug, Sidney, Smiffy, Spotty, Toots, Wilfrid, Cuthbert, Head, Janitor, Olive, Teacher, Winston|
The Bash Street Kids is a comic strip in the British comic book The Beano. The strip, created by Leo Baxendale as When the Bell Rings, first appeared in issue 604 (dated 13 February 1954). It became The Bash Street Kids in 1956 and has become a regular feature, appearing in every issue. Since 1961, David Sutherland has drawn about 2,100 strips.
Like many long-running UK comic strips, The Bash Street Kids is frozen in the era when it began. It portrays Class 2B of the Bash Street School in Beanotown, where the teacher and headmaster wear mortarboards and gowns and the students sit at wood desks with inkwells. They are taught by a stereotypical "Teacher", whose wife is "Mrs Teacher". The characters were inspired by the view from the D. C. Thomson & Co. office windows, overlooking the High School of Dundee playground. According to Leo Baxendale, "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 20 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')." Over time, the Bash Street School's large number of students slowly shrank to its trademark ten. When they first appeared, the strips consisted of the kids outside school; the settings were increasingly inside the school, and the strip was retitled The Bash Street Kids on 11 November 1956 with "the kids" preparing for a pantomime.
In 1994 (the Kids' 40th anniversary), it was announced that The Bash Street Kids would be overhauled to appeal to a more politically correct, modern audience. Changes included the replacement of Danny's trademark school hat by a top hat, Fatty becoming fit and muscular and Tom-boy Toots acting more feminine. The school would be replaced by a technologically advanced "academy", and Teacher by a robot. A protest began, accompanied by petitions and publicity stunts throughout Britain, demanding that the characters remain the same. The proposal turned out to be a hoax when the story introducing the new Bash Street Kids saw them in their old ways. Editor Euan Kerr was pleased with the fan response, saying that the publication "even got death threats!" Shortly afterwards, an animated adaptation was produced as a segment of The Beano Video Stars.
By 2000 The Bash Street Kids was a feature-length strip, filling an entire Beano book. Often drawn by Mike Pearce and Kev F. Sutherland, during the late 2000s the strips moved to Beano sister publication BeanoMAX (where they were drawn by Nigel Parkinson). These feature-length strips were more detailed, delving into an obscure character's personality and introducing new traits. Spotty was revealed as sarcastic and aggressive, while Plug was a more sympathetic, emotional character. The strips detailed a rivalry between the kids and the comic's cover star, Dennis the Menace. Mike Pearce soon began penciling a spin-off from the original strip, The Bash Street Kids - Singled Out, a single-page comic concentrating on one "kid" a week. Pearce retired, the strips were taken over by Tom Paterson before being mothballed and they were later collected into two annuals.
As Dennis the Menace was revamped, he appeared less with other Beano characters and more by himself due to the popularity of his new TV series. The Bash Street Kids now has three spin-offs: Simply Smiffy, Winston and The Bash Street Burp. In the July 2013 Beano 75th-birthday edition, the Bash Street School is destroyed and the kids move to Beano High.
The strip centres around Class 2B, which contains ten students.
Danny, whose full name is Deathshead Danny Morgan, is generally depicted in a skull and crossbones jumper and a floppy red school cap. He became the leader early in the strip, after he gave each kid a wine gum. Danny often devises the kids' pranks and escape routes from school. Although he is clever he does poorly in school, primarily due to his laziness and short attention span. Danny is often described as having the "soul of a pirate", the reason he gets caught up in rebellious schemes and boisterous activities. Like most of the other characters he is usually rude to adults, once asking Smiffy to speak up because he couldn't hear him over Teacher. In later strips Danny has some respect for Teacher, often helping him out of trouble. Although he hates school, like the other children he found it hard to cope when the Bash Street School was closed. As the leader Danny is prone to conceit, and in the 2006 Beano annual he announces that his conker is indestructible in a competition. His swelled head is often deflated by a fellow student.
Danny seems especially close to Toots, calling her his second-in-command, and is most annoyed by Smiffy's stupidity and Spotty's sarcasm. He occasionally enjoys making fun of Plug's looks and Fatty's weight. Danny has an intense rivalry with Dennis the Menace, highlighted in a strip where the two compete to find a treasure under The O2 Arena and ending with Danny outwitting Dennis; they often argue in crossover strips. Although Danny also dislikes Roger the Dodger (although he is willing to use him) and Minnie the Minx, their rivalries are not as intense and he once had a crush on Minnie. He is a central character in The Beano Interactive DVD with Dennis, Gnasher, Minnie the Minx and Roger the Dodger.
'Erbert is a short-sighted boy, who struggles to see even with his spectacles. Except for Cuthbert, the rest of the class have fun swapping his thick-rimmed glasses with others and seeing the resultant mayhem. In older strips, the character is sometimes called Herbert instead of 'Erbert. 'Erbert is considered the least-mischievous student, and is said to resemble a human mole. His short-sightedness is shared by his parents, who have ended up in different parts of town on many parents' evenings. During an escape, 'Erbert is usually bumping into a wall or running in the opposite direction.
Feature-length strips and crossovers brand most of 'Erbert's mischief as accidental or the result of misdirection. His short-sightedness is renowned; in The Beano Annual 2000 the characters take a cruise to Perth, only to reach shore at Perth, Scotland. When they go to the captain's quarters, they discover that 'Erbert has put himself in charge of the ship.
Although he is quiet and friendly, 'Erbert can wreak as much havoc as his classmates. He is a source of entertainment for the others; Sidney and Spotty once send him into a field full of cow pats, with misleading directions for getting out. Despite this, they consider him "one of the kids". When he moves to the Bash Street Academy 'Erbert receives contact lenses to improve his sight, discarding them when he returns to his old school.
Fatty's full name is Fatty Brown. A large, round boy who is always eating, only in later strips is he ridiculed for his weight; he usually reacts by trying to prove the others wrong, but earlier he is indifferent. When Danny tricks Fatty into completing a long assault course to prove his fitness, he breaks the equipment. Although he is usually the only student able to eat school cook Olive's meals without incident, in an annual her curry makes him ill. Fatty has several stories about him in the Beano Library series.
Plug is a lanky, gangling character with a large overbite, two buck teeth and a wide nose. On the cover of Plug his name is given as Percival Proudfoot Plugsey, although in some earlier strips he is named Claude. Plug's real name is only occasionally used in The Beano, such as in Singled Out when Teacher addresses him by his full name. He is originally known as Pug; according to The Beano, the "l" was added when Smiffy had one to spare after misspelling "silly".
Despite his appearance Plug is one of the more sympathetic Bash Street Kids, often ready to defend those he feels have been unjustly treated; he once calms Danny down after he loses patience with Smiffy's stupidity. He has never seen his reflection, and considers himself the most handsome boy in Beanotown.
Plug had his own comic from 1977 to 1979 featuring him and his two pets (Pug from Pup Parade and Chunkee the Monkey), and was the first Beano with a spin-off. Plug was later incorporated into The Beezer.
He has two sisters, Plugella and Plugena, who closely resemble him. However, in earlier strips his father was shown to be quite handsome (to the confusion of the other kids) and Plug is described as taking after his mother in appearance. In the September 2014 issue of The Beano he is described as Jonah's nephew, implying that he is the son of Jonah's sister Jinx.
Although Plug received plastic surgery for the Bash Street Academy makeover, he soon returned to his familiar appearance. When he sees his friends brainwashed into behaving, he saves them by installing a virus on the robot teacher's disc drive.
Sidney Pye is Toots' twin brother, whose spiked haircut resembles a chimney-sweeping brush. He is a trickster, with Smiffy a frequent target. When the kids rehearse a nativity play, Smiffy asks what sound a sheep makes. Sidney replies "Woof", and he and Wilfred go into hysterics when Smiffy ruins the rehearsal. He makes pithy remarks about the other kids, to the amusement of those around him; he and Spotty fight several times when the latter is a target.
Sidney loves animals and has a wide variety of pets, from elephants to mice. His mouse is often part of the kids' plans. During the academy makeover, his chimney-brush hair is shaved off and he is apparently hypnotised.
Smiffy is the least-intelligent boy in the class; when Teacher calls the roll, instead of saying "Present, sir" he says "Gift, miss". Although he is sometimes very kind and intuitive (similar to a savant), most of the time he cannot remember what colour the sky is. In his brief involvement in The Wizard, he is given the name John Smith. Smiffy has appeared in two spin-off strips: the 1971–72 Says Smiffy and the 1985–87 Simply Smiffy (where he appears with his brother, Normal Norman). In 2008 he acquires a pet pebble, Kevin, who has his own feature (Where's Kevin?) in The Beano number 3604. First appearing in a 2008 Singled Out story, Kevin appears in Bash Street Kids stories in 2010 and 2011. In the academy makeover Smiffy has a new brain installed, making him the brightest of the kids.
Spotty is a short boy who wears a blue collared jersey and an extremely long, striped tie. He is proud and protective of the 976 black spots covering his face, fending off any attempts to remove them. Spotty is handy, and his long tie often helps the kids out of tough situations.
He is arguably the most insulting of the kids, often teasing Plug about his looks and Fatty about his weight. When Spotty makes a sexist remark about Toots, she fights him; Toots complains to Teacher that her detention is unfair, and Spotty reminds her of equal rights for girls (only to receive another smack). Teacher sees him as the mouthiest of the kids; in Singled Out and feature-length strips, he interrupts the lessons with comments. Spotty is sarcastic, conceited and protective about his masculinity and height. Like Danny he dislikes Dennis the Menace, especially after Dennis menaces him during the latter's 50th-birthday party. In the academy makeover, Spotty's spots and aggressive, sarcastic nature are gone.
Toots Pye, Sidney's twin sister, is the only girl in Class 2B. Although she is a tomboy, she is more feminine than Minnie the Minx. Toots is a fan of boy bands and has admitted a crush on Dennis the Menace, sending him a valentine. Although most of the kids dislike Dennis, her friendship with Minnie the Minx is also surprising and she is the only kid to show any warmth to either character.
Surprisingly tough and as bossy as Danny, Toots is the gang's second-in-command and takes charge in Danny's absence. Her bossiness is exemplified in the feature-length Queen Toots, where she discovers she is connected to royalty. When Toots takes advantage of her power, Dennis announces that she cannot boss him around and she puts him in a makeshift prison tower (quickly populated by other Beano characters and the rest of the kids). She loves music, often pulling a "boogie box" (a CD player) behind her or listening to her headphones instead of Teacher.
Although Toots enjoys the boys' company, she sometimes exhibits disdain, naivete or exasperation at their more boyish behaviour. In the academy makeover, she wears a frilly dress and her hair and face are made up.
Wilfred is the shortest and quietest of the Bash Street Kids, his thoughts hidden behind a green jumper going up to his nose. He loves turtles, and resembles a tortoise; his neck is never seen, because when he removes his jumper his vest is just as high.
He is often simply present in the stories, speaking only occasionally. Unlike 'Erbert, most of Wilfred's mischief is intentional. He hangs around most often with Spotty and 'Erbert and, occasionally, Sidney. In the academy storyline Wilfred apparently has a large chin under his jersey, but it is prosthetic and he pulls it off.
Cuthbert Cringeworthy, the brightest student in the class, is a teacher's pet and has a name for every letter of the alphabet. First appearing in 1972, he resembles a miniature Teacher (a play on the D. C. Thomson comic tradition that pets resemble their owners, like Dennis the Menace and Gnasher) and Walter the Softy from Dennis the Menace. The first thing Danny said about Cuthbert was, "He reminds me of someone I don't particularly like". His character has evolved slightly; although he still swots and is as bright as ever, particularly in longer strips by Mike Pearse and Kev F. Sutherland he is one of the gang (unlike earlier strips, where he seemed to dislike the other kids) and sometimes comes up with intelligent ideas to help their cause or save the school. Cuthbert wants to be like the other kids, but although he is liked he does not quite fit in. The school janitor observes that he will never make any friends. Cuthbert is the only kid who wears the school uniform and turns in homework. A school-dance strip hints at a crush on Toots, but she quickly rejects him. Cuthbert appears in the fewest strips of all the characters.
- Class 2B's long-suffering teacher, merely called "Teacher". In a 1970s Beano Summer Special, his name was given as Algernon. Teacher wears a mortarboard and has a domineering wife, known as Mrs Teacher. He drives an old crank-starter car, often used by the kids in their exploits.
- Headmaster (Headward Headington-Hail, Chocilus Bicius)
- The pompous, portly school headmaster. Fond of tea and biscuits, he always wears an academic gown and mortarboard. Teacher spends much of his time toadying to Head, and usually addresses him as "Your Headship". In the 2015 Beano Annual, he has retired to play golf.
- The school's fat, lazy caretaker, who hates litter and students who break the rules and enjoys bossing Winston the cat around.
- The school's cat. Anthropomorphic, he often mops the floor with Janitor and wears a similar hat. Although Winston is sometimes shown as the real force behind the school's upkeep, he is often overshadowed by Janitor. Crafty, he often concocts his own schemes when Janitor frustrates him. Winston has his own strip drawn by Paul Palmer, which began in Funsize Funnies issue #3660.
- The school cook (and Beano office tea lady), who first appeared in the strip in 1981. Although she is kind, her food is terrible; it often looks like it is still alive, and her tea can burn holes through walls). Olive thinks she is a good cook and sees no reason to change her methods, a constant source of worry to the school's pupils and staff. Large boxes of indigestion remedy are occasionally seen on the canteen tables, and Fatty is often the only pupil who will consider eating her lunches.
- Mrs Teacher
- Teacher's overbearing wife, who looks like him. She is assertive, bossing Teacher around while at home and yelling at the kids as a supply teacher. In another story, she injures the students in a break-dancing competition because they injured her husband.
- A science teacher who appears during the mid-1990s and is an Inspector Gadget-type robot. Techno had his own limited-run strip, appeared in The Beano Book of Amazing Facts and returns in the 2008 Bash Street Kids Annual.
- The Blob Street Kids
- A group of children from a nearby school who became rivals of the Bash Street Kids. Each member of the Bash Street Kids has a counterpart in the Blob Street Kids, and a similar rivalry appears in The Bash Street Pups.
- The Posh Street Kids
- A group of rival children from a posh school.
An eleventh pupil, Wayne, was introduced after a competition on the BBC's Blue Peter to find a new Bash Street Kid. The winning entry was announced on 14 March 2007 as "Wayne's in pain". Wayne has fat, puffy cheeks, dandelion-like hair, a problem with standing and is talkative. He wears a plaster cast and sling, suffering comic misfortunes like Calamity James. After a year, Wayne disappeared.
Some characters (Teacher and Head, for example) are named after their occupations. The children's parents (who look almost exactly like their children) are called Plug's Dad and so on, even in flashbacks to their childhoods.
In the early years, there were an indeterminate number of students; one page had 28, including:
- Teddy - A stereotypical Teddy Boy, appearing primarily during the 1950s
- Ella - Another girl
- Jimmy - A boy resembling Smiffy, who wears a cap
- Gasbag - A curly-haired boy
Leo Baxendale drew the strip until 1962, when David Sutherland replaced him. Sutherland originally used a similar drawing style to Baxendale's, simplifying it later in the decade. He has drawn most of the strips since then, except from 1998 to 2000 (when Nigel Parkinson took over the strip in a style similar to that of David Parkins in Dennis the Menace. The strips have had a closely connected visual style since the early 1970s, when Sutherland began drawing them both. Although he was apparently easing into semi-retirement, Parkinson moved to Dennis the Menace in 2000 and Sutherland returned.
The strip has had a number of ghost artists, including Gordon Bell during the early 1970s, John Sherwood later in the decade, Keith Reynolds during the 1980s and Tom Paterson in the early 1990s. Mike Pearse and Kev F. Sutherland (no relation to David Sutherland) have occasionally drawn the strip, long stories in particular.
Spin-offs and other appearances
The Bash Street Kids has had a number of spin-offs, including Pup Parade, Simply Smiffy, Plug and Singled Out. The Bash Street Kids Annual, previously known as The Bash Street Kids Book and published biannually, is published in August. Summer specials, with solo stories of each character, were also published during the 1990s and were a forerunner to Singled Out. Most were drawn by Tom Paterson, who later drew the Singled Out strip. From 1968 to 1972 The Beano ran a similar series, The Belles of St. Lemons.
The Dandy has had two similar series: the 1970s Whacko (about a teacher who taught in a suit of armour because of his unruly pupils) and P5 from 1998 to 2000, also about a class and their long-suffering teacher. P5 was republished in 2006 as Class Act.
In other media
The Bash Street Kids appear in three segments of the late-1990s Beano Video. In the first, a new music teacher is hired for the school. After failing with the kids he simply listens to Winston's meowing, calling it music to his ears after listening to the kids. In the second, the headmaster tries to improve Plug's appearance. He sends Teacher and the kids to the Himalayas, where they meet a group of monks. One, the Keeper, says he can make anyone beautiful if they bathe in his lake. Instead of bathing Plug, though, the monk pushes the other kids into the lake and they change into Plug-like creatures. The monk (who resembles Plug) thought the whole class needed a makeover "except Plug, of course". In the last segment, Spotty falls into a pot of Olive's pea soup. This makes him look like an extraterrestrial, giving Danny an idea for a prank in which they fool Teacher into thinking that Spotty is an alien and a rubbish bin is his spaceship. When Teacher discovers he has been tricked, he makes the kids stay after school and paint the classroom ceiling. They make a brief appearance in The Beano Video-Stars during their 1994 academy makeover, singing two songs: "The Beano Rap" and "We're the Kids From Bash Street School".
Before Beanoland became Wild Asia at the Chessington World of Adventures, it included the Bash Street Bus. The kids were also featured in the water-balloon portion of the park, and their standees were posted at a number of locations.
Plug is a playable character in Beanotown Racing for the PC, and the school is a race track.
Toys and games
Robert Harrop has designed figures, statues and ornaments based on The Bash Street Kids. A target-practice game featured the characters, and a McDonald's Happy Meal toy set included a number of the kids.
- 11 November 1956 edition
- History of The Beano - The Story So Far... pg. 297
- Sutherland, David (2013). The Bash Street Kids. The Beano. pp. Page 1.
- Sutherland, David (2013). The Bash Street Kids. The Beano.
- Bash Street Kids - School's Out Beano 2006
- Pearse, Mike (2000). Finders Keepers. The Beano #3025.
- Beano Top Trumps - Erbert is least menacing of all Bash Street Kids
- Bash Street Super Kids from Beano Annual 2003
- Pearse, Mike. Fatty - Singled Out. The Beano.
- the Beano issue No. 3438 (28 June 2008)
- "Birthday bash in Bash Street". BBC News (13 February 2004).
- Plug Comic. Paulmorris.co.uk.
- It's Panto Time in The Beano Annual 2003
- Pluggy Love, in the 2008 Beano Annual
- Baxendale, Leo (1955). Bash Street Kids in The Wizard. The Beano.
- "Signore Studios: Mike Pearse - The Great Bash Street Nativity Play". signorestudios.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- Pearse, Mike (March 2006). Smiffy - Singled Out. The Beano #3319.
- 1981 Beano Annual
- Pearse, Mike (2001). Dennis's Big Birthday Party. The Beano #3061.
- Baxendale, Leo (1955). Bash Street Kids in The Wizard 2. The Beano.
- . The Beano #3470. 14 February 2009. Missing or empty
- Sutherland, David (2012). The Bash Street Kids. The Beano.
- Sutherland, David (2012). The Bash Street Kids. The Beano.
- "Blimey! It's Another Blog About Comics". The Bash Street Wizards. The Wizard No. 1522 (16 April 1955) to No. 1554 (26 November 1955). Retrieved 17 September 2013.