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Little Plum 
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I just got the Beano Book 1959, by far the earliest one in my collection. There are several things that interest me about it, one of which is the prominence of Little Plum. There are more stories about him in it than any other character (4), and more pages (9), without mentioning the endpapers. Plus he joins Biffo and Dennis on the front.

Was he quite simply one of the most popular characters at the time? As in the top two or three characters? Possibly even threatening to be the most popular?

Or maybe just they happened to have more spare Little Plum scripts.

There is a lot of Baxendale art in the annual generally, (thank goodness because there's also a lot of second-rate art in there, to my eyes) but I always imagined Little Plum was behind Minnie and the Bash Street Kids as Baxendale's most popular character of the time. Maybe I was wrong.

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Thu Apr 14, 2016 8:39 pm
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I might be wrong, but at that time Baxendale was so prolific that he was given a fair amount of freedom (for Thomsons) and it is possible that he did more Plum stories because he enjoyed doing them more than the others.

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Sat Apr 16, 2016 8:42 am
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dishes wrote:
Was he quite simply one of the most popular characters at the time? As in the top two or three characters? Possibly even threatening to be the most popular?


In his autobiography, Leo wrote that he always put his best drawing into Plum and it was a popular strip, but it "never topped the charts like Bash Street and Minnie."

It was his favourite, and important to him, so it must have been a major blow when the office rang to tell him it had been taken from him and given to another artist, his opinion not required.

DJDogfart wrote:
I might be wrong, but at that time Baxendale was so prolific that he was given a fair amount of freedom (for Thomsons) and it is possible that he did more Plum stories because he enjoyed doing them more than the others.


He did also write that his work reached a pinnacle of popularity in 1958. Plum went up to a full page that year.


Sat Apr 16, 2016 10:27 am
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One DCT Editor informed me that Baxendales' page output was pretty low compared to many other artists: it was something like three or four and a half pages a week or something, after pretty long hours, I can't remember the exact number---which is hardly surprizing, looking at the meticulous quality of his best work from the late 50s/early 60s. His wages were considerably higher [per page] than most artists though, so Thomson must have valued his contributions to the high volume of sales back then: although it looks heartless and uncaring how they put another artist on his characters [presumably Ron Spencer] I assume their thinking was they could capitalize on his style by getting other artists in to put out clone versions of his drawing style.

Not exactly the healthiest outlook artistically, but that's Capitalism!

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Sat Apr 16, 2016 12:39 pm
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ISPYSHHHGUY wrote:
One DCT Editor informed me that Baxendales' page output was pretty low compared to many other artists:


Well, we know he was a perfectionist, but he doesn't seem to be a laggard in this 1959 annual. Although I'm sure he didn't do the Plum/Bears endpapers.

Thanks for the replies all.

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Sat Apr 16, 2016 12:56 pm
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Raven wrote:
dishes wrote:
Was he quite simply one of the most popular characters at the time? As in the top two or three characters? Possibly even threatening to be the most popular?


In his autobiography, Leo wrote that he always put his best drawing into Plum and it was a popular strip, but it "never topped the charts like Bash Street and Minnie."

It was his favourite, and important to him, so it must have been a major blow when the office rang to tell him it had been taken from him and given to another artist, his opinion not required.
I'd guess this is why he quit? Leo stopped doing Plum, Minnie and Bash Street in the same year, 1962. So when they handed Plum to Ron Spencer, Leo would've said "fine, but you'll have to find new artists for my other characters too", prompting them to get Jim Petrie on board to do Minnie and have Dave Sutherland take over Bash Street (which took over the colour center pages at the same time).


Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:36 pm
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Digifiend wrote:
I'd guess this is why he quit? Leo stopped doing Plum, Minnie and Bash Street in the same year, 1962. So when they handed Plum to Ron Spencer, Leo would've said "fine, but you'll have to find new artists for my other characters too", prompting them to get Jim Petrie on board to do Minnie and have Dave Sutherland take over Bash Street (which took over the colour center pages at the same time).


No, he had an angry confrontation at the Beano office about it, but it's not why he quit.

As L. B. tells it, that was a little later when, to save time, he drew a Bash Street Kids strip at a different size than usual (a bit smaller), without consulting the editor, Harold Crammond, first.

He'd done the same for a Beezer Banana Bunch strip but, while Beezer editor Ian Chisholm chided him politely and insisted he speak to him beforehand before making such a change in future, while acknowledging it had been a logical decision and that the drawing was first-class, Crammond simply told him he'd have to draw the Bash Street Kids page again.

Leo refused. It had taken two days of hard work. Crammond said he had to.

Printing The Bash Street Kids in colour was a concession Crammond finally offered if he did redraw it (it would make the strip much easier to draw in future; colour could replace background detail), but Leo couldn't bring himself to, and suggested he leave The Beano. Crammond raised no objection.

He went ahead and printed The Bash Street Kids in colour anyway.


Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:56 pm
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Did Baxendale have other work lined up when he resigned, such as an offer from Odhams? I can't help thinking of Harvey Kurtzman walking out of Mad after a disagreement with Bill Gaines, knowing he had an offer of work from Hugh Hefner. (Unfortunately Trump was doomed, and only lasted two issues, unlike Wham.)


Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:20 pm
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suebutcher wrote:
Did Baxendale have other work lined up when he resigned, such as an offer from Odhams? I can't help thinking of Harvey Kurtzman walking out of Mad after a disagreement with Bill Gaines, knowing he had an offer of work from Hugh Hefner. (Unfortunately Trump was doomed, and only lasted two issues, unlike Wham.)


He continued working for The Beezer (the weeklies and Annual) for D.C. Thomson for about eighteen months after he quit The Beano. He then made an appointment to see Crammond in 1964 when he said he thought he'd made a mistake and asked to work for The Beano again, but Crammond told him he'd never work for the comic again. "!It's a hard world, Leo."

He probably should have approached the London publishers - where people really wanted and appreciated him at the time - much sooner.


Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:27 pm
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Raven wrote:
suebutcher wrote:
Did Baxendale have other work lined up when he resigned, such as an offer from Odhams? I can't help thinking of Harvey Kurtzman walking out of Mad after a disagreement with Bill Gaines, knowing he had an offer of work from Hugh Hefner. (Unfortunately Trump was doomed, and only lasted two issues, unlike Wham.)


He continued working for The Beezer (the weeklies and Annual) for D.C. Thomson for about eighteen months after he quit The Beano. He then made an appointment to see Crammond in 1964 when he said he thought he'd made a mistake and asked to work for The Beano again, but Crammond told him he'd never work for the comic again. "!It's a hard world, Leo."


What absolutely foolishy petty behaviour on the part of Crammond - that makes about as much sense as sawing off your arm cos your fingernails dirty. So he threw away one of Thomson's greatest assets over a matter of very minor and fleeting importance. then cos he couldn't forgive and forget, he tries to make out it's all part of the harsh realities of life. What a prize plum!

I also think it's incredibly short sighted and patronising to the audience to think Baxendale could easily be replaced by ghost artists working in his style: Just like every child knows that the later Tom and Jerry cartoons are 'wrong', so it's easy for them to tell when the Bash Street Kids or Little Plum strip changes artist.


Last edited by ajsmith on Sat May 28, 2016 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat May 28, 2016 9:45 am
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When Iain Chisholm saw what Leo did, he told him he should have informed him first- but Crammonds reaction was pretty inflexible in my opinion! We forget from today's viewpoint that most staff at DCT had to do as told-or else! It was rare for someone (Who I term more `understanding`) such as `Chiz` to work there!

Maybe i'm judging DCT too harshly, but to me it really comes across rather `Harsh` environment in some ways!

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Sat May 28, 2016 10:50 am
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It's a sad fact that Mad and Beano simply became more successful than ever after Kurtzman, Baxendale and Reid walked out - thereby seeming to confirm the publishers' philosophy that nobody was indispensable. Virtually the same thing happened when Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby quit Marvel Comics! :(


Sat May 28, 2016 3:32 pm
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philcom55 wrote:
It's a sad fact that Mad and Beano simply became more successful than ever after Kurtzman, Baxendale and Reid walked out - thereby seeming to confirm the publishers' philosophy that nobody was indispensable. Virtually the same thing happened when Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby quit Marvel Comics! :(



Did they become more successful than ever? Marvel comic sales were plummeting through the Seventies weren't they?


Sat May 28, 2016 3:53 pm
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You only have to listen to the 2000AD podcast when John Wagner talks about his start in D C Thomson and you know it was a fairly rigid working environment. When he describes how conservative (small c) the company was then you are surprised at how much innovation the company created in the comics world. Go to the 12 minutes mark of Part One of the John Wagner interview and listen to him talk about how the working environment was quite constrained.

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Sat May 28, 2016 3:56 pm
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Raven wrote:
Did they become more successful than ever? Marvel comic sales were plummeting through the Seventies weren't they?


As I understand it comic sales as a whole were in decline on both sides of the Atlantic from the early 1960s, but Marvel Comics went on to become the single most successful publisher when they finally overtook DC in the early 1970s.


Sat May 28, 2016 4:56 pm
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