The Golden Age of AP Comics

An original newsagents poster for the AP comic Lot-O'-Fun advertising the Xmas edition for 1924. Cover art by Bertie Brown.
An original newsagents poster for the AP comic Jester dated Dec 15 (circa 1934) - drawn by Reg Parlett

The Golden Age of British comics started in about 1920 with the advent of Film Fun and concluded, some would argue, with the Second World War in 1939. But these are not the only criteria to be used. AP published various comics that fall outside these periods that could also be included in the phrase, such as Illustrated Chips (1890-1953), Butterfly (1904-1917), Lot-O'-Fun (1906-1929), Firefly (1914-1917), Merry & Bright, Sunbeam (1922-1940), Funny Wonder (1914-1942), Larks (1927-1940) the last two edited by Stanley Gooch, and a whole variety of publications featuring Tiger Tim and friends - see the Comics Index for a complete list. Film Fun itself, the doyen of the Golden Age, carried on to 1962 - although it was limping along for some years before it died.

What all these comics had in common were funny strips featuring animals (always with human characteristics) , children or adults getting into unlikely and comical situations. By the standards of today some of the strips could not be considered Politically Correct: age-ism, sex-ism and race-ism were all grist to the artists mill. Yet after so many years they have a certain naivite that is charming.

A relatively small group of mostly freelance British artists, with the same basic style (and AP enforced a certain basic style on its artists) worked on many AP titles and strips. The basic tenent appears to have been the requirement for an artist to duplicate the style of other artists, whether for holiday cover or simply to enforce a house style is a matter of conjecture.

One of the features that would need pointing out to a non-UK audience, is that Merry & Bright, Film Fun, Radio Fun, T.V. Fun, Kinema Comic and various other comics, featured the comic strip adventures of various music hall, (vaudeville as it is known in the US), film, theatre and TV personalities of that time, some of them American. This led to some unlikely, but to a child, quite plausible situations such as Laurel & Hardy walking down very English roads, or Abbott & Costello looking after Welsh sheep.

Many people associate the comics of the twenties and thirties with cheap newsprint paper (no arguments there) and printed black on pink, green or white paper; à la Comic Cuts, Illustrated Chips, Butterfly, Firefly, Jester, Jolly, Joker etc. But that was not quite the whole story. Many titles sported full colour covers and back pages that made special editions such as Christmas such fun. If you are really lucky you may also find some of the wonderful H.S. Foxwell plates that were given away with certain issues of Tiger Tim's Weekly.

The following pages are dedicated to a handful of the finest artists (there are many others) responsible for creating that Golden Age, accompanied, where possible, with samples of their original artwork.

My grateful thanks goes to Alan Clark for permission to use his biographical texts (and who also supplied much of the artwork for these pages). Alan has written many books on the artists of this period which are a recommended read.




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