I'd promised myself I wouldn't buy any more old comics as I already have far too many unread, but how could I resist these issues of Ally Sloper's Half Holiday? Over 100 years old and in superb condition! (Paper preserves well if looked after.) Items like this don't turn up on eBay very often so I snapped them up.
Ally Sloper was the first ongoing British comics character, and his 'Half Holiday' comic paper was pretty much the Private Eye magazine of its day; making wry digs at politicians and the establishment with a mixture of satirical cartoons, commentaries, and mini strips. He was created by Charles H. Ross and his wife Emile de Tessier in 1867 for Judy magazine, graduating to his Ally Sloper's Half Holiday paper in 1884. William Baxter illustrated Sloper for the Half Holiday, succeeded in 1888 by W. Fletcher Thomas after Baxter's death. It's W.F. Thomas' excellent covers we're looking at today.
The first cover of this selection (above) is issue No.476, dated June 10th, 1893. Always topical, it sees Sloper reference the then-upcoming marriage of The Duke of York and Princess May (married a month after this was published) by trying to convince the public to shell out for presents for his son's wedding. (Did Alexandry actually marry Evelina? Possibly not, as she was his cousin and no doubt part of the scam.)
Our next cover is issue 498, dated 11th November 1893. Spoofing the Lord Mayor of London's parade, Sloper decides to have his own procession. Excellent penmanship by Thomas on this.
Finally, this one displays the dark humour that Ally Sloper was often known for, as he attempts to con the public into believing he's a wounded soldier by begging on Southsea prom. Issue No.903, dated 17th August 1901.
Even today, over a century later, the satire still works, and the quality of artwork is incredible. I would suggest that the artist currently coming close to this detailed technique today is Phil Winslade, with his Lawless strip in Judge Dredd Megazine. (See here.)
In humour comics, artistic techniques have gradually become more simplified and basic, - even abstract in some cases, - over the past 100 years. Either way works, when done well.
I hope you've enjoyed this look back into the distant past! Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.