Thursday, January 14, 2010
The 90th Anniversary of Film Fun
This week marks the 90th anniversary of the launch of Film Fun, one of the most successful comics from Amalgamated Press. It ran from 1920 to 1962, compiling over 2,000 issues before it merged into new kid on the block Buster.
I don't have many issues of this long running title so rather than waffle on about a comic I know little about I thought I'd share a selection of covers here to demonstrate how the style of the comic changed over the years. The earliest issue I have is from 1932 (seen above). With its 24 page format, and approx A4 page size, it must have seemed quite radical compared to the standard 8 page tabloid comics of the day. Even the black and white style would not have seemed limited considering the comic featured the stars of black and white cinema. The original artist for the Harold Lloyd strip was Tom Radford, but this 1932 example looks to me to be the work of George Wakefield. (I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.)
By 1950 (below) the masthead had changed considerably. The characters surrounding the logo were changed periodically as new stars eclipsed the older ones. Here we see the likes of George Formby, Old Mother Riley, and Abbott and Costello have joined Film Fun's ranks. The cover strip is now Laurel and Hardy, who had previously occupied the centrespread. Art by George Wakefield.
A nice festive masthead for the "Grand Christmas Number" in 1953. You'll notice that by this time Chips had merged into Film Fun. A marriage in name only though, - no strips from Chips actually moved over to the new comic!
A summer holiday issue from 1956 shows a few changes to the masthead again, with Frankie Howerd, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as part of the line up.
By 1957 a dash of colour has been added to the cover, - yet without its array of stars surrounding the logo it actually looks quite bland. Inside, despite the arrival of newcomers such as Tommy Cooper the comic must have looked incredibly old fashioned compared to the thriving Dandy and Beano of the 1950s.
Speaking of Tommy Cooper, here's a piece of original artwork by Albert Pease for Film Fun dated December 21st 1957. In those days most British artists drew their pages in "sets", - each row of panels as separate pieces of art, hence this tier has survived but I've no idea where the rest of the page is. You'll notice that Albert has tidied up the finished art with process white in some areas and in panel two Tommy's head has been redrawn on a "patch" stuck over the first version. The blue pencil areas would be to indicate to the art editor where to place grey tone.
In 1959 A.P. had become Fleetway Publications Ltd and by the cover shown below, from 1961, were trying to shake up Film Fun somewhat. Fleetway dropped the cover-numbering on their comics, perhaps to fool readers into thinking the comics were new and modern. However, Film Fun seemed doomed, and increasing the adventure content and adding photo-covers such as this Three Musketeers cover did nothing to halt its decline.
Later in 1961 and another revamp, with the comic now called Film Fun and Thrills in order to show it wasn't just a humour comic. (No, a comic called Thrills hadn't merged into it, - this was just a cosmetic change.) The content was now an odd mixture of adventure strips and Disney comedy reprint. If the idea was to make the comic seem like a Saturday cinema matinee it didn't quite work.
By May 1962 (below) Film Fun had taken on a more traditional approach with TV star Bruce Forsyth on the cover, drawn by Roy Wilson. Perhaps this was all part of a "match and dispatch" plan though, as the comic now looked very similar to Buster, which it would merge into in November of that year.
From what I can gather, Film Fun was a very strong title throughout the 1920s - 1940s and only started to look dated due to the arrival of television and changing trends in comics themselves in the 1950s. It certainly had a very long and respectable run. I'll be taking a look at some of the comic's interior strips at a later date.
Blog item on the very first Film Fun Annual:
Comics UK discussion on Film Fun with information on the comic by comics expert Ray Moore (Kashgar):