Little Plum, also known as “Little Plum – Your Redskin Chum” is a comic book character created by Leo Baxendale (1930) for The Beano, a British comic book. He was first introduced on 10 October 1953, as a ten-year-old Native American wearing a simplified headdress with a single feather, a look which has stayed consistent even in his modern appearances. Little Plum traditionally spoke in broken English during his initial debut and used the word “um” rather than “the” to make him seem more savage, however this was abandoned in 2011.
In “Little Plum,” the titular character is often assisted (or hindered) by his fellow tribesmen: Chiefy, Pimple, Hole-in-um-Head, and Dr. Kildeer. He also has a horse named Treaclefoot. These characters, along with Little Plum make up the Smellyfeet tribe who often have outrageous conflicts with their enemies, the Puttyfoot tribe. The early “Little Plum” comics also pitted Little Plum against a group of highly intelligent bears. These bears would eventually get their own spin-off comic (also drawn by Baxendale): “The Three Bears” in 1959.
Part of Little Plum’s appeal (and perhaps why the character has been consistently active since his inception) is that he somewhat of a contradiction. Though his attire resembles a stereotypical Native American in the western genre, he is depicted as a Caucasian with short hair. He also wears shoes with a pronounced heel, and sometimes even a modern-looking belt. This makes him occasionally resemble a modern-day child playing dress up rather than an actual Native American living in the wilderness.
Little Plum as a character seems to operate outside of a specific period of time, simultaneously existing as a savage, but also with the ability to construct complicated traps and devices. In one issue he might be using a bow and arrow, and in the next, he might be building a rocket ship. This depiction adds character to the juvenile fantasy world in which Little Plum lives, and allows the opportunity for hilarious shenanigans to occur.
When Baxendale left The Beano in 1962, “Little Plum” was taken over by several other artists before ending in 1986. The character still made occasional appearances in various Beano comics, but (apart from a brief reprise in 1998) did not have a prominent presence until 2002 when artist Hunt Emerson took over. Though “Little Plum” had previously taken up a full page, it has since been reduced to a single line strip. However, the continued publication says something about the charm of Little Plum;even though his initial debut was in 1953, he is still relevant and is currently entertaining a new generation of fans.
— Michael Baker
- Baxendale, Leo. A Very Funny Business – 40 Years of Comics. London: Duckworth, 1978.
- Chapman, James. British Comics: A Cultural History. London: Reaktion Books, 2011.