Vintage comic review: Willy the Kid (1976)

in COMIC BOOKS fan/pro2 months ago

As a kid I loved comics, but these were mainly British publications such as the Beano and Dandy rather than US superhero comics. I do not have any of the old weekly editions, but I do have a number of annuals that I would generally get for Christmas. I also used to buy them in second hand shops and jumble sales to feed my habit. One that has stuck in my memory is Willy the Kid by Leo Baxedale. He had worked for the Beano drawing the Bash Street Kids amongst others. Willy was an even more anarchic extension of that. I think the character may only have appeared in the annuals. There were at least three, but I only had the first one that I must have got when I was about ten years old.


It was rare for an artist to get prominent billing on such books. My copy is in fairly good condition, although the glue is failing on the spine a bit. There is the remains of a price sticker on the front.

What stands out with this book is the density of detail and jokes on every page. It is full of puns and secondary plots going on in the background as well as some surreal elements. The style is otherwise fairly typical of the time. It is mostly just black an white with the odd slab of colour.

First page

You have to rotate the book sometimes as the pages go to landscape to fit in more. There is a lot of violence in this book, some of it fatal. I am not sure if you would still get that in current books aimed at pre-teen kids. There are supplemental jokes and riddles on some pages. There is a whole series based on soccer teams.


There is quite a lot of dialogue and one story has sections told just in text. This story features various 'accidental' ink blots for more puns. It also includes a black kid called Henry. His colour is used to comic effect, but he is shown in a positive light as one of Willy's friends. Obviously current comics have to be much more sensitive about race issues, but having grown up in a culturally mixed town this portrayal seemed natural to me at the time.


There are several Willy stories in the book plus one about a dim character called Spotty Dick who gets promoted at the zoo after other staff meet sticky ends thanks to his incompetence.

The humour of this book is fairly timeless, but there are cultural references to things like Daleks (from Doctor Who) and Kojak. The Daleks have made a comeback recently, so kids would know who they are.

I had not looked at this book for many years, but some of the stories had stuck in my mind and it was fun to revisit them. I think I need to look at some of the other annuals I still have and I will report on those too. I have found copies selling online for £40 or more, but I will keep mine for now.

I found this review that seems quite recent and matches pretty well with my opinions. Leo Baxendale died three years ago at 86. He left a great legacy of fun for millions of kids.


Don't remember Willy the Kid? Beano, Topper, Dandy, Whizzer and Commando were my reads.

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I think I read some Commando comics. It's all so long ago, but I remember others. Willy just stuck in my mind and I had to have another look. I will dig out some others soon.


I still read the Beano now and again. Obviously, that's a private admission between you and me. 😉

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I pride myself of knowing comics culture, but when I started to do Phill I realised that there was a lot of comics from the Uk in the seventies that I didn't know about. One my readers asked me if I was inspired by Pete Loveday, and I didn't know him at all... It is always fascinating to realise that there is a whole treasure trove of art that you can get into.

There are so many comics out there. As a kid we had a selection that were all fairly similar. Later I read violent comics like Action and 2000 A.D. I'm not sure if I have read any Loveday, but some of it looks familiar. I can see similarities with your work.

Have you seen Martin Rowson? I encountered him many years ago in a music magazine and he does work in the Guardian now. He reminds me of Gerald Scarfe who worked with Pink Floyd.

I used to be big into superhero comics. But outside the superhero realm, I loved Sgt. Rock comics. Makes me want to see if I can find some old comics now for some nostalgia.


I never really got into superhero comics as a kid, but of course I saw movies like Superman. In my teens I discovered 2000 A.D. which was science fiction and pretty violent. Wish I still had those comics. Another I regret losing were the Marvel Star Wars comics. I had a load of those and I bet they would be worth something now. Star Wars was a really big deal as an 11 year old.

Very interesting. I never really got into comics when I was a kid besides the Archie ones. I used to read those quite frequently. I remember we would always have our parents pick up one or two off the shelf in the aisle at the grocery store. There is a show on the CW right now called Riverdale that is supposed to be a modern take on the characters, but I don't think it is anywhere remotely close to the good clean fun the major players had back then.

Comics were a bit of a treat for us too. Kids now have access to so much entertainment they may not be as interested. Mind you I think my nephew still reads the Beano.

I don't remember that one. I used to get Whizzer & Chips every week and my brother got Buster. I was never a huge fan of the Beano or the Dandy.

This was not a weekly. I used to read those others at times too. I expect the comics would be worth something now, but I think they just got thrown out after reading. I've seen people post about some of the old Marvel comics that are worth thousands. There are some serious collectors out there. I just kept some annuals for sentimental reasons, but my kids have read some of them.