Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Flashback to 1912: Lot-O'-Fun
Here's a British comic that was on sale 97 years ago this very week: Lot-O'-Fun No.353, cover dated 14th December 1912 (published a few days earlier). Click on the images to see them larger.
Lot-O'-Fun was published by James Henderson & Sons Ltd as one of Henderson's competitors to the popular Amalgamated Press comics. However, AP would take it over in 1920. Overall, the comic ran for 1,196 issues from 1906 to 1929.
The cover strip at the period we're looking at is Dreamy Daniel, illustrated by George Davey. Tramp characters were a popular theme in comics of the time and Dreamy Daniel was one of the most successful. The strip had been running since issue No.1 and in 1908 the Music Hall actor Harry Rogerson brought the character to life on the stage. (Source: http://lambiek.net/artists/d/davey_george.htm )
The comic is the usual format of the day: eight tabloid pages, half comic strips, half text stories. The tone of the stories are clearly aimed at a more literate reader than today's children's comics. There are even gags about smoking and drunkards, which would suggest the comic is for adults, yet most of the strips are full of basic (and often childish) slapstick sequences and the text stories feature the traditional themes of boarding schools and footballers. I think it's fair to say Lot-O'-Fun was for all ages, at a time before "concerned parents" and the media became paranoid about the content of comics.
It's good to see a female lead character in a strip of this vintage. Topsy of the Tea Shop may only be a waitress (or perhaps she's the proprietor, it's not clear) but she turns the tables on three male pranksters.
Running alongside the Topsy strip in the centre pages, this untitled Christmas-theme strip has another Lot-O'-Fun character fall in the water. Falling in the water appears to be a popular thing to depict in this publication, as it happens three times in one issue, - making the comic a sort of You've Been Framed for Edwardians.
Paul Push - He Gets the Sack Every Week sounds a bit like a Viz strip ahead of its time. This trouble-prone character finds fate conspires against him every issue, as it does here. I'm not sure if this "mistaking acting as a real crime" scenario was brand new in 1912 but the same plot has certainly been used countless times since in various media.
The back page features another character named Paul. This time it's Patriotic Paul, who would be promoted to the front cover star of the comic during the 1914-18 war. Here, he doesn't get much of a chance to be patriotic but he still manages to clout a bloke on the head with a piece of piping in true British comic tradition. The artwork is by H. O'Neill (signed "H.O.") but what caught my attention was the surreal line in panel three: "I now live in a little world of my own, all made of golden syrup". I think it's a fair bet that sentence has never been used anywhere else in the history of literature.
At the foot of the page, Joey, the Handy Lad sorts out "an uncouth person" who tries to steal his milk. If soaking the tramp wasn't enough punishment, Joey "whistles lustily for reinforcements" in the form of a bloke with "a good stout cudgel", - no doubt to bash the bad 'uns head in with the same force Patriotic Paul used on the hunter in the previous strip. Justice was harsh and swift in British comics, even 65 years before Judge Dredd appeared on the scene.
Lot-O'-Fun (or Lot-O-Falling-In-Water if you prefer) eventually merged into Crackers comic in 1929.