Saturday, February 25, 2017

The origin of Weary Willie and Tired Tim

The first Willie and Tim strip, 1896, scanned from The Penguin Book of Comics (1971).
Tom Browne was the most influential artist who worked in comics in the late 19th/early 20th Century. He created Weary Willie and Tired Tim, the two affable wandering tramps who were the cover stars of Illustrated Chips from 1896 to its final issue in 1953. Browne himself only drew the strip until 1909, (succeeded by Percy Cocking) but it inspired many imitators and Browne's art style was also imitated by numerous artists. 

Certain characteristics of his style; the body language and mannerisms, are still evident in British comics today because they've been handed down from artist to artist, whether consciously or not. I certainly recognise that some of the gestures and facial expressions of my characters stem back to Tom Browne's initial template, although I would never regard my abilities as anywhere near his league of course. 

In 1909 one of the Brush, Pen and Pencil series of books on artists focused on Tom Browne. I have the second edition, from 1930, and although it mainly covers Browne's other endeavours such as his paintings and magazine illustration, there is a mention of his famous Weary Willie and Tired Tim strip. I've scanned the relevant pages for you to read. Click to enlarge them...






It says that Tom Browne moved on from the strip in 1909, although it's worth bearing in mind that he sadly passed away a year later so illness may have played a part. We can only speculate on whether he would have returned to comics had he lived longer than his all-too-short 39 years. 

I wrote a longer piece on Tom Browne a few years ago, and you can read it here:
https://lewstringer.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/tribute-to-tom-browne.html

I was honoured to hear from Mr.Browne's great-grandson and family after I wrote that piece. 

I'll be showing more of Tom Browne's illustration work soon. 

7 comments:

The Captain said...

Very interesting piece, I've never really looked beyond the 1930s so unfortunately I'd never come across this chap.

Lew Stringer said...

Tom Browne's the main man, Cap. British humour comics would have looked quite different without his influence I think. It's worth seeking out his work. His postcards are very collectable.

Manic Man said...

Seen a few strips through the years but never that first one. Interesting it's "Weary Waddles" and "Tired Timmy", even though Waddles is called Willie, it seamed more later the name of the characters were more the shorten versions. okay not that interesting but oh well.. of note I think

Lew Stringer said...

It was the early days of comics so things were just developing. I don't know how long they used 'Waddles'. Not long I think. I suppose it sounded friendlier for them both to have proper names.

One of the interesting things that biography revealed is that Chips was selling 600,000 copies a week back then. Very impressive.

Phil Rushton said...

My Dad grew up reading Weary Willie & Tired Tim so I can't see them now without thinking of him - though for some reason I always assumed they were always drawn by Percy Cocking. Funnily enough I just picked up the Brush, Pen & Pencil book devoted to Lawson Wood. While it seems to be written in a slightly rambling style it's fascinating to get a relatively contemporary account of these artists.

Lew Stringer said...

My grandad told me he read Chips when he was in an orphanage in the early 20th Century, and Weary Willie and Tired Tim was his favourite so it always reminds me of him, Phil. (He wasn't too impressed with IPC's Chips when I showed it to him in 1969. "It's not a proper comic like the old one" he said. Just goes to prove that a comic is defined by what we're used to.)

Percy Cocking's impressive run of 50 plus years on the strip can't be overlooked of course, and he made the characters his own, so I'll definitely be showing more of his work again.

Roberto said...

I can see how he might have influenced the likes of Dudley Watkins. And it looks very modern indeed, I wouldn't have guessed that those drawings were that old.

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