Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This week in 1937: The Jolly Comic


Movie star Will Hay on the cover by Bertie Brown
Whit Week fell on this week in 1937 and here's the copy of The Jolly Comic (renamed The Jolly Whitsun Comic for one issue) that was on sale exactly 75 years ago.

In those days before Holiday Specials, Amalgamated Press celebrated by having theme issues such as this, with a special new title logo illustrated for the occasion. The cover strip, Will Hay, The Master of Mirth, and the Boys of St.Michael's, was drawn by Bertie Brown. The plot, of a depressed man finding cheer, has been used several times over the years. (The final Weary Willie and Tired Tim in Chips in 1953 dealt with a similar plot, as did a Desperate Dan strip in 1960 if I recall correctly.)

The Jolly Comic was in the traditional A.P. format of 8 tabloid pages, printed on coloured paper (pink, for this title). The contents were a 50/50 split of strips and text stories, which meant that pages two and three looked like this...

Let's take a closer look at Yung Chang, a Chinese boy detective inspired by the popularity of Charlie Chan...

The centre pages were a lively display of four comic strips, including Popeye by Elzie Segar. Yes, British comics were running American reprint alongside home-grown strips long before Odhams combined Marvel strips with UK material in Smash!

Here's a closer view of the Popeye strip...


Tramps were a common theme in UK comics back then and here's one that's mobile, - Happy Mike, The Tramp on a Bike! Brilliant title! Uncredited, as was company policy back then, but my guess is it's by John Jukes...


Pages six and seven featured more text stories...


Finally, on the back page, the adventure serial The Captain, The Kid, and the Cook. The artwork was by Roy Wilson, easily proving he could do "straight" illustration as well as humour work. Wilson was A.P.'s top artist at this time and it's easy to see why. What's intriguing is that the Cook is drawn in a partly humourous style, even though he's not particularly being the comic relief character here. (Perhaps he behaved more comically in other episodes.) For me, this makes Cookie look like he's wandered in from a different page, which adds an extra surreal enjoyment to the strip.

The Jolly Comic ran from 1935 to 1939 with just 250 issues. It was one of the comics that fell victim to the paper shortages of World War 2, merging into Comic Cuts. The issue shown here (No.123) is from halfway through its run during the period when Amalgamated Press dominated the newsagents with their tabloid titles. Several months after this issue was published, A.P.'s complacency would be rocked by the arrival of The Dandy, and British comics would enter a new era of fun!

3 comments:

Peter Gray said...

I like the Roy Wilson one it is funny the two styles..
The Popeye one is at its silly gross best! :)

I wonder if Jackpot's comic Mike's bike title was inspired by this..though Bike and Mike do form togehter very easily..Brian Walker did love the older comics so it could be?

Captain Storm said...

Plagiarism is the very lifeblood of comics Peter. :-) Nothing new under the sun and all that !

The Cap.

Lew Stringer said...

I can't see any plagiarism involved. One strip was about a mobile tramp and the other was about a magical bike.

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