Thursday, January 08, 2015

Alfie the Air Tramp

It's probably not intentionally symbolic.
It's mostly forgotten now, but Alfie the Air Tramp was a popular humour strip published by The Amalgamated Press that enjoyed a 22 year run from 1930 to 1952. It was originally in The Joker from 1930 to 1940, then transferred over to Chips when the two weeklies merged.

Humourous tramps had been a staple feature in British comics since the debut of Weary Willie and Tired Tim in Chips in the late 19th Century. Many imitations followed, often with variations on the theme. Combining a funny tramp with aviation was inevitable. It was a good strip though, thanks to inventive scripts and the artistry of John Jukes who drew many of the strips.

Here are a few examples. (Click images to see them much larger.) Firstly from 1934 when Alfie the Air Tramp was the regular cover star of The Joker...


Now a few from 1942 from the combined Chips and The Joker, although I think one or two of these may be reprints. Even as popular as he was, Alfie was never going to replace Weary Willie and Tired Tim from their established cover position but he did manage the next best thing, appearing on the back cover of the comic instead...



Great slapstick strips from a bygone age. Anyone interested in seeing more 1930s/40s classic characters sometime? Or don't they float your boat? Leave a comment and let me know.      

26 comments:

Hibernia Comics said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lew Stringer said...

I only have an A4 scanner but I 'paste' the pages together in Photoshop.

Joker was tabloid, as were most pre-war comics, but by 1942 Chips was smaller due to paper shortages.

Bruce Laing said...

I posted an example of the comics comparative sizes on my blog, but here is a direct link of the image: http://images.brucelaing.id.au/ipc/chips/c/chipsize.jpg

Manic Man said...

good stuff..

I'm not sure how many of the chips ones were reprints as that last one with the land girls is quite topical.. the Woman's Land army wasn't really around until WW2 (when they were officially formed) so the 1942 print date is about right.. there were Encouraged during WW1 but not with the name of lands girls..

Oh and Hibernia, A3 Scanners are nice ^_^ if you get a decent one, they can be of more use then you think depending on what you do of course.

Lew Stringer said...

I know the Land Girls one wasn't a reprint, Manic, but one or two of the others might be. AP did put in some reprint in their comics some weeks, just as they did years later when they were IPC.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for the link, Bruce!

Lew Stringer said...

Weird! Hibernia Comics' comment has been "removed by a blog administrator" but I certainly didn't do it!

Lew Stringer said...

I don't know how Hibernia Comics' comment vanished but here it is again, as a cut and paste:

"Nice, lovely artwork, it looks effortless. Interesting bit of social history with the 'Land Girls' Look like they were all pretty good looking too;-) As a matter of interest are these comics tabloid, and if so do you have an a3 scanner, I have been thinking of getting one, but not sure of what to go for as I would not have much use for it."

paddykool said...

The sense of movement in this artwork is lovely, Lew. That's raw natural talent at work .The characters are in a constant state of animation and the detail in the drawing is wonderful.I have a few of these old comics but mostly I've seen them in some of the books we were discussing earlier in the week.

Hibernia Comics said...

I thought I had offended someone!
:-)

Lew Stringer said...

No, but I'm a bit concerned my blog may have been hacked as that's the only way comments could be removed.


Paddy, you're right. The strips are entirely action packed. No one ever stands around just talking. It was probably the inspiration of silent cinema from years earlier that instigated it.

John Pitt said...

In answer to your question, yes, please, show me loads more from before I wasborn!

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks John. I know from polls I've done in the past on this blog that comics of the 1930s/40s aren't everyone's cup of tea but I think it's important to keep alive the history of UK comics. I've read too many articles that wrongly assume British comics began in 1937 with The Dandy. Even the BBC documentary Comics Britannia implied it. The early work of Tom Browne, Roy Wilson, Percy Cocking, Reg Parlett, John Jukes etc deserves to be recognised. Years ago, books by Denis Gifford, Alan Clark etc did the job, but these days there isn't a viable market for books on pre-war comics.

Hibernia Comics said...

'isn't a viable market' That the problem in general with comic. Keep up the good work Lew, these old artist and storytellers deserve to be seen again, not only for their craft, but just to see how life was. They are an important social record, my Dad, born just before WW2, and still going strong explained what a Beano was to me , I always thought it was a comic!

Lew Stringer said...

You're right. The old strips are an important record of the times in terms of environment, attitudes, design, and suchlike. Even the comic mastheads are reflective of the design elements seen on shop fronts, advertisements etc of the eras.

Yes, having a 'Beano' was basically a good party or celebration. Today the term is only used as the name of the comic. I wonder if today's kids are confused by it, wondering why there isn't a character called Beano in it?

Beezer, Topper, and Dandy are also archaic expressions these days of course.

Colin Jones said...

Isn't Beano the shortened version of the word "beanfeast" which you can still hear today.

Keith Apperley said...

Good stuff Lew. As a kid I grew up on 70s Beano/Dandy, but loved a copy of the Ace Book of Comics I found in an attic. Think it was printed in the 50s and contains action and humour stuff from the 40s(?). I think the tramps in it were called 'Tish and Tosh'

Lew Stringer said...

I've heard of that book, Keith.

Colin, I looked it up and you're right, although I don't recall hearing anyone use 'beanfeast' these days.

Keith Apperley said...

Lew - I've just taken a trip to the bookcase and I'd guess the stories in ' the Ace book...' are more from the 30s...only as there aren't any ww2 stories. It turns up on ebay a lot for pennies.

Lew Stringer said...

I might actually have it somewhere but I'm not sure. I might be confusing it with the Wonder Book of Comics that Odhams published:

http://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2007/12/60-ish-year-flashback-wonder-book-of.html

Keith Apperley said...

That definitley looks like a different book. I'll seek that one out. The 'ace book...' has some picture stories featuring Red Falcon and an excellent Sci-Fi strip called 'King of the Earth'. Most of the illustration is by someone called Cecil Orr.

James Spiring said...

Regarding the archaic comic names, when DC Thomson were planning the launch of The Beano, they were of course celebrating the success of The Dandy - so they will have been having a beano and perhaps that's what inspired them to call the comic that! I wonder if they already had the names Topper and Beezer planned at that point? After all, if World War II hadn't happened, they did plan to launch two more comics after Magic, to complete a second Big Five.

Lew Stringer said...

That's a possible reason they called it The Beano I suppose. Not sure if Topper and Beezer were the names planned for the aborted comics but again it's a possibility.

Kib Lloyd said...

I, for one, love the pre-war stuff.
There's a whole family of comics vernaculars there that does get a bit overlooked. I've noticed the use of supplementary captions sometimes confuses people who are used to a different style. Sometimes people say that Dandy and Beano (and Magic) introduced the British comics without those captions. This, as has been demonstrated on this very blog, is not true. All the same, those captions were part of the entertainment, often crammed with all kinds of wordplay, and could be enjoyed in their own right. I like to read the strips without the captions first, then go back and enjoy the puns and alliteration as one might read annotations. In fact, that's exactly what they are.
I ramble.
Alfie is a very strange creation: tramp meets aeroplane. As mentioned, the homeless were a source of comical fun for many decades in the comics, as were travelling folk of many kinds. It's a great conceit that allows for settings to change thus bringing something new each episode. Another popular theme is the accessory: hold-alls; magical tools; a portable hole - all kinds of inanimate objects that can be put to mirthful use. Alfie is an unlikely synthesis of these 2 themes.
Jukes did a great job with the overflowingly rambunctious, mirthful movement and unabashed jollity characteristic of the best 30s strips. I'm glad there was once a time when artists like him, Don Newhouse, and the rest were lapped up. You can still see that spirit in the faces of Reg Parlett's characters in the 70s. Good times!
Rambling again.
Here's a bunch of old comics on the theme of itinerancy, 1890s-1951, including one Alfie strip:
http://bumperfunspecial.tumblr.com/tagged/itinerancy
(Not just tramps, there's Basil and Bert and all sorts.)

Peter Gray said...

I love seeing the period and clothes..also the girls are nice to look at ;)

Its great you are showing these early days...its amazing how quickly they could get forgotten...

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Kib, Peter. Glad to hear you like the old material. I've never understood why some comic fans are only interested in their own 'nostalgia bubble'. I've been fascinated by the whole history of comics since I was a child. Discovering that there were comics around before I was born was a revelation to me when I was 8, and the fact that comics reflect the period they're created in is also fascinating I think.

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