Bash Street School gets its first new pupil for 50 years

THE Bash Street Kids have rampaged their way through the pages of The Beano for more than 50 years.

But - despite a society where violence in schools is endemic and pupils and teachers alike are victims of brutal assaults - the old-style pranks of the kids of 2B, Bash Street School still manage to find an audience.

Dr Chris Murray, a lecturer in English and film studies at Dundee University, said: "I think the secret is that comics are entertaining fun and escapism while filming someone being assaulted isn't.

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"I would hope comics like The Beano are an antidote rather than a contributor to violence in society."

He added: "Violence in schools is a political hot potato at the moment, but I don't think comics have responded to or reflected that - a comic's responsibility is only to be entertaining."

Dr Murray was speaking as the first new member of the Bash Street Kids in more than 50 years was unveiled.

The new character - dreamed up by a boy from Sheffield - is accident-prone schoolboy Wayne's In Pain. He will join the gang next month.

Wayne's In Pain is the creation of a seven-year-old identified only as James, who based the character on himself after he suffered a series of minor injuries. His creation was picked out of more than 27,000 entries in a competition run by BBC children's programme Blue Peter.

Comics fan James said: "Wayne was based on the fact I went through a period of small accidents, which meant I had injuries ...

so yes, he is based on me in a way."

James added: "It was really cool to see him on the pages and it made me feel important because I had drawn him."

Wayne's In Pain is the first new member of the gang since the Bash Street Kids first appeared in The Beano in 1954.

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Wayne, who has at least three injuries at any one time, is described by teachers as "a lovely boy, but ever so slightly clumsy".

The schoolboy also has an encyclopaedic knowledge of bones in the human body - because he has managed to break most of them.

The Beano is published by Dundee-based DC Thomson, which also publishes The Dandy, which holds the record as the longest-running comic ever.

The Beano's editor, Alan Digby, said: "We liked Wayne because we knew we could do quite a lot with him in the background as he is always injured and having accidents.

"It was felt he would fit in perfectly with Bash Street School."

Mr Digby added that he had not been surprised by the thousands of entries to the competition.

He said: "Kids love to draw and design. We have to compete more now with things like the internet and computer games, but some things never change."

He added that, while the storylines and characters had changed to reflect different tastes over time, The Beano retained a timeless quality.

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Mr Digby said: "Whether we are of contemporary relevance is really for someone else to say, but we have lasted the course.

"If you do try to frantically update things you do risk becoming outdated very quickly. Longevity is based on a certain timelessness."

James said that his friends had been "really impressed" with his character.

He added: "I think that when I am older I would like to be a professional goalkeeper, but I might draw cartoons in my spare time."

The other Bash Street Kids are: Plug, Danny, Fatty, 'Erbert, Sidney, Smiffy, Spotty, Toots and Wilfred.

The strip - originally entitled When the Bell Rings - was created by graphic artist Leo Baxendale in 1954. The title was not changed to The Bash Street Kids until it was nearly three years old.