Saturday, May 10, 2014
This week in 1938: BUTTERFLY
Several British comics have been known to be named after ferocious beasts; Eagle, Lion, Tiger, Jag.... er, Butterfly!? Yes, Butterfly seems to have been an unusual title for a comic but it didn't harm its fortunes, with it running 1,206 issues from 1925 to 1940.
The issue shown here is No.1,101, dated May 14th 1938, but published on May 10th, 76 years ago today. The topline announces "Grand News For All Readers", but this wasn't the sort of "grand news" that often meant a merger. It was simply an announcement of a new story due to start the following week.
The cover strip, Smiler and Smudge, was drawn by Bertie Brown. Unfortunately, reflecting the times, 'Smudge' is presented as a stereotypical caricature of a black boy both in appearance and speech. He's also subservient to his white co-stars. Although Smiler and Smudge are pals, it's clear who's the boss. It's a nice example of Bertie Brown's artwork but there's little else to recommend it.
Butterfly had the same format of most other tabloid-sized comics of the day published by the Amalgamated Press. Eight pages, comic strips on pages 1,4,5, and 8, and text stories on pages 2,3,6 and 7. All in black ink on coloured paper (in Butterfly's case, green). Here's a few strips from the centrespread...
Captain Plus and Major Minus. Not sure who the artist is:
Honey Potts. Art by Roy Wilson:
Moggie the Mouser. Originally by Roy Wilson but I don't think this episode is. It's interesting that the character was created in 1936, pre-dating The Dandy's Korky the Cat by a year.
On page six, a typical A.P. text story, Sardura the Bold, sharing the page with the editor's letter, an advert for Sports Budget story paper, and an ad claiming that a bar of Cadbury's chocolate will give you "enough energy to let you run three miles and not feel tired"! What a huge difference to today, where chocolate is no longer allowed to be advertised in comics because it causes obesity!
On the back page, the only adventure strip in the comic; Jungle Island. (I don't recognise the artist, sorry.) Serials featuring British characters a faraway setting were the norm in comics of the time so each story needed its own novelty. In this case, it's Banjo Joe, who seems to have an annoying knack of strumming his banjo during life or death situations. No doubt the plucky musical instrument saves the day at some point.
...and that's another look back at a comic from bygone years. Please let me know in the comments below if you enjoy looking back at these pre-war titles. I know a lot of comic fans prefer the titles of their own childhoods, but I think it's important to make sure the history of British comics, for better or worse, isn't forgotten. What do you think?