Thursday, December 23, 2010
Christmas 1929: Frolix comic
Here's a comic which I must admit I'd never heard of until I bought it on eBay a while ago. Frolix subtitled The Children's Weekly Comic hails from 1929 and this Christmas edition is No.24. It's quite early for a Christmas issue, being dated December 6th, so perhaps it was trying to beat its rivals by getting there first.
Published by A.J. Barton & Co. Ltd of London, the 16 page "comic" hardly features any comic strips at all. Only three strips appear inside, with the rest taken up with illustrated stories or features. The cover illustration, The Merry Market Boys, seems very derivative of Rainbow's Tiger Tim and I think it's fairly obvious that the similarity is intentional. It also seems to be trying to attract fans of The Daily Mirror's Pip, Squeak and Wilfred too, as evidenced by the style of the penguin and rabbit in the picture. The artist, Murdock Stimpson, is in the early years of his career here, and would contribute to comics until the 1950s.
On page 2 is the strip Bib and Tucker, The Naughty Nautical Nibs, also drawn by Murdock Stimpson with the boys embarking on some Christmas pud-related jape. Again there's a feeling that the comic is trying to imitate its rivals.
The tone of Frolix is quite young and I'd imagine it was aimed at four to seven year olds. The editor was the pseudonymous "Uncle Frolix", perhaps a tad too sinister-sounding for our more paranoid times. As with the cover, the artwork throughout the comic is perhaps by artists new to their craft, or perhaps it's rushed. There's something a little bit raw about their work.
Another likelihood is perhaps it's simply that from a modern perspective some old illustration styles present a world that is so far removed from our 21st Century comforts that it appears to be a darker place than it actually was. Take for example the story The Missing Stocking, illustrated by Freda Mabel Rose. The girl, whose bedroom is only lit with one candle in a bottle resting on a wooden chair, and a Father Christmas far different from the rotund cheerful figure we know today appear a bit unsettling to our modern eyes. Or perhaps that's just me.
An unsigned strip is Fee, Fie & Do-Do, regarding a pair of Imps and another pud-related escapade. It all ends with the traditional slap-up feed that we still use in comics today.
Frolix lasted just 46 issues, ending in 1930. Unlike most comics of the time it wasn't a tabloid but was close to A4 in size and had good quality glossy paper. No full colour, but the covers and some pages were printed sepia on white, whilst the rest were dark green on white. At 2d (when most other comics were 1d) it was perhaps too expensive for the times and I suspect most children and their parents back then would have preferred to buy Rainbow.