LEO BAXENDALE (1930 – 2017)
Steve Winders pays tribute to one of Britain’s greatest comic cartoonists.
I almost knew Leo Baxendale. His parents and younger siblings lived in the road where I was brought up in Preston and I knew them well, but when I moved there as a toddler Leo had already gone to Dundee to work on the Beano and Dandy. He attended the same Grammar school as I did, twenty three years before me, but as an adult in the 1970s I knew one of his old teachers who had subsequently become Head of another school. He remembered Leo as a student with a talent for drawing, but had no idea that he had become a famous cartoonist!
At this time Leo began to produce a regular weekly newsletter The Strategic Commentary. Written by Terence Heelas, it endeavoured to prove through ‘cold military logic’ that America could not win the war in Vietnam. His first subscriber was the American philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky.
His final major work for I.P.C. was The Bad Time Bedtime Books for Monster Fun in 1975. These were eight page mini comics, inspired by famous stories. The extended stories gave him the idea to produce a whole children’s comic annual and this led to the creation of Willy the Kid and his friends and ridiculous pets. He produced three Willy the Kid books between 1976 and 78 and these were published by Duckworths who also published his 1978 autobiography A Very Funny Business.
With the money he received from the settlement with D.C. Thomson he started his own publishing company ‘Reaper Books’ and produced high quality collections of his Willy the Kid and I Love You Baby Basil cartoons. Baby Basil was created for the Guardian newspaper and ran from 1990–93. He has also published his own reflections in The Encroachment (1988), On Comedy; The Beano and Ideology (1989), Pictures in the Mind (1998), The Beano Room (2005) and Hobgoblin Wars (2009).
In 2013 he became the second inductee into the British Comics Awards Hall of Fame. His contribution to the world of comics is immense. He will be greatly missed.