Tuesday, 26 August 2008

British Comics (part two)


Having briefly touched upon the wondrous worlds of Comic Cuts and Ally Sloper and Chips and Punch and Puck, it is time to move on and away from the roots and foundations of British comics. Away from the later part of the 1890's and early 1900's up and onto and into the UK comic's of pre-war Britain.


The British invented the comic and the newspaper strip but it was America that took hold of it and sailed the genre to places that us Brit's hadn't imagined.

After the turn of the century as the British Empire started to thankfully crumble, many of the producers of British comics still clung to the dream days of Empire and refused to let go of the aging humor that had fueled those halcyon days.

In the pages of The Star we had Dot and Carrie. Two typists who worked for the oh so irrascible Mister Spilligan. The series began on 22nd November 1922 and ran for forty years. The artist behind the this successful strip was J.F. Horrabin who also created The Noahs of Arrat Avenue whose collected adventures were published in The Japhet Book in 1924.

The most popular British newspaper strip of all, and the first to be syndicated to America was Pop by J.Millar Watts. First published in 1925 and lasting up until 1949.

The best of the thirties strips was Nipper which, without any dialogue whatsoever, was a purely visual strip.

From the twenties and on, the British strips began to challenge the excellent American imports such as Mutt and Jeff and Bringing up Father.

As the forties dawned and war loomed, The Daily Mirror, surely the king of British newspaper strips, dropped the American Popeye in favour of the booming British ones.

In truth, the resurgence of British strips began in 1932 with the arrival of Jane. A jokey, gag-a-day strip that evolved by the start of the war in to a strip where each and every day Jane took her clothes off. Well it kept the lads fighting happy. Jane became so popular on both sides of the Atlantic that the American Army newspaper announced, when Jane went naked, with this headline "JANE GIVES ALL!"

Soon after Jane a host of other note worthies arrived and this time they all kept their clothes on.

Buck Ryan a tough detective
Beelzebub Jones a town sheriff
Belinda very much in the "Little Orphan Annie" mold
Ruggles a family adventure

And of course the excellent Garth, a musclebound hunk of a hero, kind of like Superman but with out the super powers who went on to fight a number of villains and also became Britain's longest running newspaper serial.

Unlike American strips the British versions were seldom reprinted as comic books. In fact it wasn't until many years later when an Australian publisher put the strips together into an American style comic book that some of these great strips were published in a collective format and thereby were read by a larger audience.


Away and aside from the successful newspaper strips, the British comic industry had become stuck in a rut and was still peddling tired and threadbare titles such as Puck and The Joker.

And then in 1937, The Dandy arrived and a year later The Beano.

Things were about to change.


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all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.

1 comment:

weirsdo said...

Most informative. I had no idea about any of it.