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Friday, December 25, 2009

75 Christmases ago, the first Funny Wonder Annual

It's December 25th 1934. In stockings and pillowslips across the UK, nestled between the oranges and monkey nuts, is the Funny Wonder Annual 1935, which although was far from being the first children's annual was the first such book devoted to the long-running comic from Amalgamated Press.

Children must have been overjoyed by this book. The Funny Wonder weekly consisted of just 8 pages, black ink on blue/green paper, but this Annual had a whopping 108 pages on paper as stiff as card, with some pages in full colour, all within a hardback cover.

And what a cover! AP's finest artist, Roy Wilson provides a painting of his popular characters Pitch and Toss and their Captain, looking on as the animals of the jungle scoff the contents of their picnic hamper.

Another treat from Wilson's brush greeted the reader inside the book in the form of a full colour plate showing a great slapstick sequence which, unlike the cover, was an appropriately seasonal winter scene.

Following that was an introductory letter from The Editor welcoming readers to the book (and managing to plug the weekly comic while he was at it). The stories then began, starting with a traditional Christmas mystery story.

Board games were often a tradition of annuals and the Funny Wonder Annual served up an appropriate page for the era, Air Raiders.

Roy Wilson was back again for a marvelous four page Pitch and Toss strip in full colour. Sadly the racial stereotypes of the era blight the story (in this case it's a dig at the Chinese) but that was the way comics were back then.

The rest of the book continued with this lively mixture featuring many text stories, comic strip, and short items of interest. Old favourite Charlie Chaplin was there... were tales of exotic lands in stories such as The Snake Charmer's Revenge...

...and this humour-adventure strip Frolics and Fun with Mustava Bunn (artwork by Reg Parlett I think)...

...a busy self-contained page of typical British comic fun with hilarious consequences...

...and a strip called Pranks in the Park which features "The Prying Priors", one of which seems to be a precursor to Thomson's Keyhole Kate who would arrive in the new rival comic The Dandy three years later...

Even robots got into the act, in the shape of The Automatic Man, which must have seemed very modern and exciting to kids of 1934.

The annual was priced 2/6d (12 and a half pence) which was a huge leap from the 1d weekly, but unlike the throwaway comics this was a book to treasure and one that would have entertained its readers throughout the holiday. On the back cover was an advert for five of the AP weeklies of the period. Strangely, Illusrtated Chips, Comic Cuts and others were excluded, but seemingly the idea was to promote one comic a day over five days. It's doubtful that most kids of the Thirties would receive as much as 5d pocket money a week, but if they couldn't afford all five comics at least this ad gives them a choice.

This debut Funny Wonder Annual was presumably a success as it would continue for another six years before World War 2 put paid to it. Some of the other AP titles would also receive annual editions and of course the tradition continues right up to the present day.

I hope you've enjoyed the recent Christmas comics blogs. Blimey! has now been running for three years so I thank you all for visiting and reading these blogs and hope you'll continue to drop by in the months to come. Merry Christmas Chums!


Peter Gray said...

I'm starting to like more and more the early comics..
just bought a Golden comic on ebay for the first time and looking at others I am rereading the comic art books of Roy Wilson and Reg Parlett again..

I sure love the poster you said before The Dandy annuals of the 60's and 70's had some great action double pagers...they really use the space well and can use colour which the comics lacked at the time..

I feel like I'm discovering a whole new area of early comics..Casey's Courts was wonderful for example..

Look forward top more on this subject in the new year and are rereading your earlier blog posts on the early days..
The BBC 4 program on comics recently sure missed a trick missing this period out..hope they do a program on this...or even a Roy Wilson doc..

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year Lew..thanks for your blog...very inspiring..

Peter Gray said...

Now just bought a Film Fun annual on ebay for £6.30 1955..

also rereading my only Radio Fun annual 1952..

so you've inspired me.

Anonymous said...

That looks just like Keyhole Kate!!!

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