The Bash Street Kids is a comic strip in the UK comic The Beano, and is often seen as respresentative of the comic, rivalling Dennis the Menace. 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. Baxendale continued to draw it until 1961, and David Sutherland has drawn the majority of the strips since then. Jack Dandrew also draws the strips as a ghost artist.
Like many long-running UK comic strips, The Bash Street Kids is anachronistically frozen in the era in which the strip began. About Class 2B of Bash Street School, where the teacher and the headmaster still wear mortarboards 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 overlooking the D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd office windows, from the playground at Dundee High School.
The class contains ten pupils:
- Wayne - A clumsy kid. If there was a possible accident to happen to someone, it happened to Wayne. In other words, he is accident prone. Wayne was voted as the brand new Bash St Kid for 1 year. He has now sadly disappeared for good.
- 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.
- Erbert - A shortsighted boy who struggles to see, even with his spectacles.
- Fatty - A fat boy who can never stop eating. Being called fatty does not bother him, in fact he likes it.
- 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 plugugly. He later appeared in his own comic, called simple Plug (1977 - 1979), which starred him and his two pets, Pug, from Pup Parade, and Chunkee the Monkey. (This strip was later incorpaorated 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, although 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'.
- 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.
- 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', he says 'gift' 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.
- 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.
- Wilfred - 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 teacher's pet who tends to be bossy, rude, and spoiled; he tends to be 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 teacher's pet).
Other characters of the strip include:
- Teacher - Class 2B's long suffering teacher, who (as noted above) appears to be actually called Teacher. However, in one issue the Kids were thrilled to find out that their teacher's first name was... Algernon! He has a wife, Mrs. Teacher.
- Head - The pompous and portly school headmaster. He is very fond of tea and biscuits, and permanently wears his academic gown and mortarboard. Teacher spends much of his career toadying to Head.
- Janitor - The school's fat janitor. 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 with Janitor. Winston is crafty and often concots his own schemes when Janitor frustrates him. He is always seen wearing the same hat as Janitor.
- Olive - The school cook (and Beano offices 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. 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.
- Mrs Bird - The school secretary first apears in "Bash Street Kids 1993". It is unknown if she appears again.
- 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 explicitely mentioned as 'Florence' nowadays.
- Techno - Techno is a robot and the scientist at Bash Street School, he is the only teacher that likes the Bash Street Kids. He appears a lot in the in the Bash Street Kids Annual.
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 16, including:
- Teddy - A teddy boy.
- Ella - One of only two girls. The other was Toots.
- Jimmy - Who looks like Smiffy but wears a cap.
The strip has had various spin-offs over the years, including Pup Parade, Simply Smiffy, Plug and Singled Out. The Bash Street Kids Annual is published every year, as were summer specials during the 1990s.