Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Big Budget - Three Comics In One

The Big Budget Vol. 1 No. 1

There was a comic many years before the first issue of Whizzer and Chips came out that was advertised as multiple comics for the price of one. No, not two comics as we are used to seeing (Whizzer and Chips, Shiver and Shake and Score 'n' Roar), but was "Three Papers For A Penny!" The Big Budget was its name, and it was launched on 19th June 1897.

The cover stars were nothing new, a fat 'n' thin tramp duo called Airy Alf and Bouncing Billy. They were, of course, based on Illustrated Chips' ever popular Weary Willie and Tired Tim and were even drawn by the same illustrator, Tom Browne (who still holds the record for highest ever paid cartoonist in Britain - £150 a week in the late 1890's!). A very interesting Airy Alf and Bouncing Billy Strip was the one on the cover of The Big Budget Vol. 5 No. 122, dated 14th October 1899. The episode that week was entitled 'Airy Alf and Bouncing Billy Meet Their Great Rivals', who were named Weary Tim and Tired Willy (see what they did there?)! These rival tramps are even seen reading Chips in the first panel, despite the fact that The Big Budget was published by C. Arthur Pearson and Chips by Amalgamated Press. Interestingly, the strip is illustrated by Ralph Hodgson and not Tom Browne, the latter of whom was to leave comics for good the following year due to too big a workload. Here is the strip in full, which is quite possibly the first crossover in British comics.

As mentioned above, The Big Budget was divided into three sections. The first of these sections was The Big Budget itself, which featured comic strips such as Airy Alf and Bouncing Billy. The second section was entitled 'The Comrades Budget' and the third part 'The Story Budget'. Both of these featured texts stories and features. Perhaps the whole 'three-in-one' technique was too far ahead of its time, because, less than one year into its run on 26th March 1898, they merged into each other and The Big Budget became just another one pence comic, or "penny dreadful" if you will (I personally dislike the term as it was mostly used by critics who hated the publications, but it now seems to be generally used to address the comics and papers). Bringing it back to standard form must have helped it because, despite a loss of pages, The Big Budget thrived for many years afterwards.

Bounderby Bounce, a strip from a 1900
issue of The Big Budget illustrated
by Charles Genge.

In 1904 there was a short spin-off from the regular Big Budget series. The Big Budget Library was launched in January 1904 with high hopes, each issue had a grand 96 pages, all of which was material reprinted from the weekly paper. Sadly, it was a failure and lasted for just two issues.

The Big Budget was more comic centered for most of its life until 1905, when Boy's Leader merged into it and changed it into a dominant story paper. It continued on until 20th March 1909 and produced 614 issues, when it underwent a name change to Comet. This, however, was a failure, lasting just 14 issues from 27th March 1909 to 26th June 1909, after which it was gone forever.

Today, The Big Budget isn't very common, as with most comics of the time, and I've never seen an issue for sale - and I have been looking. The images for this post are scanned from Victorian Comics by Denis Gifford, a 1976 book that has hundreds of illustrations but is very lacking in information. I found any information on The Big Budget hard to come by, all the facts in this post come from at least three different sources - so hopefully you've learnt something! There sadly isn't much interest in comics of this time now, despite their interesting history and [usually] high quality artwork. I'm really getting interested in these older comics prior to 1940 and I have another post of a comic from the mid 1930's planned, so stay tuned!


There isn't an awful lot to add to this post but I have just learnt that The Big Budget was the first comic in Britain to reprint American newspaper strips.


Peter Gray said...

love the fight between the tramps...very funny...also they lost!!

Your blog is the tops!!!

Kid said...

Even 'though at first glance the cover of #1 looks a little dated (because of the captions and the style of clothes), there's great artistry and storytelling going on in that page.

George Shiers said...

Thanks Peter - there is another really interesting Weary Willie and Tired Tim strip in the book I could post if you're interested?

Kid- Yes, Tom Browne was an excellent artist. It's a shame that he died when he was just 39, but his imapct on British comics was huge.

Peter Gray said...

When you have time it would be nice to see the other one you've got og the famous tramps...thanks..

George Shiers said...

I'll post it soon, Peter. :)