Created in February 1954 by the 22-year-old Leo Baxendale as "When the Bell Rings," it ran under this name until 1956, when it changed to "The Bash Street Kids". It was originally fairly loosely plotted, with a few expository pictures building to a climactic and expansive final frame. Over time the strip settled down to telling the story of the the Kids of Class 2B.
The nine reprobates we know and love today appeared only gradually. The first strip, for example, featured only Danny, Toots and the Caretaker. They were joined by Sidney (Toot's brother), Fatty, Smiffy (the densest boy in the world), Wilfrid (with his oversize jumper), 'Erbert (chronically short-sighted), and Plug - whose always less-than-ideal features evolved over time into their final, extraordinarily foul, form. Last to appear, but not least, was Spotty (with his problem compexion and trailing tie).
Class swot Cuthbert Cringeworthy wasn't introduced until 1971. Teacher was immediately struck by the handsomeness of this intelligent boy, while the rest of the kids found soemthing oddly familiar about him. It's never been quite clear why Cuthbert has been placed in Class 2B - perhaps a clerical error? The last regular character to appear was Olive the school cook, in 1980. She was based - to some degree, at least - on the Beano's own cook.
Leo Baxendale continued to draw the Bash Street Kids until he left the Beano in 1962. (He later drew a thinly-disguised version of the strip for Wham!) The strip was taken over by David Sutherland, at which point it moved to the centre pages in full colour for the first time. The match was a good one, as Sutherland was able not only to reproduce the same standard of artwork, but also to capture the full range of subtle humorous details the strip was noted for.
In 1980, the first Bash Street Kids book was published. Reprinting strips from the late sixties, it showed up the toll that drawing such a detailed strip week in, week out over such a period can take. By comparison, the contemporary strip was less detailed and lacked some of its old energy. The Bash Street books have since become a regular Christmas fixture, published first bi-annually, and now annually.
In 1998, Sutherland retired partially from The Bash Street Kids, allowing newcomer Nigel Parkinson to deputise. Arguably the best Bash Street Kids work of the nineties came from Tom Paterson in the new Bash Street Kids summer specials.
...and then there was Plug Comic...