Sunday, June 22, 2014
Comic-Life No. 687 (1911)
The above issue of Comic-Life, no 687 dated 19th August 1911, is a perfect example for showing how comics are printed. I'm sure most of you are fairly familiar with how they're printed, but as this particular issue is uncut it makes a perfect example to show. Each issue is printed on a single piece of paper, folded up, cut where necessary to separate the pages and then either left like that or glued or stapled at the spine. As you can see, this copy wasn't cut so can still be opened up as a single sheet of paper.
The cover stars are, naturally, a pair of fat 'n' thin tramps, in this case their names are Tall Thomas and Butterball. The strip is signed 'H.O', the initials of Harry O'Neill who would illustrate them for their entire run. They had first appeared in 1908 and had finally made it onto the front cover earlier in 1911, and would remain there until 1918 before being replaced by Tot and Ted. They vanished from the paper in 1920.
As is standard for comics of this period, the centre spread and back cover consist of comic strips whereas the rest is text. There doesn't seem to be very much interest in text stories, so for this post I'll avoid them and stick to the strips. The centre spread doesn't seem to feature, as far as I am aware, any recurring characters, just one-off strips or illustrations by various artists. My favourite is Dr. Canem's Aeroplane Academy. I don't know who the artist is but it's a nice busy scene, similar to Illustrated Chips' Casey Court, and most likely inspired by it.
The back cover was printed with red and black ink and featured two comic strips. One of those strips, entitled 'A Bank-Breaker Falls Into the Clutches of Our Red Lions', is about the Red Lion Scouts and is illustrated by Harry O'Neill. In the background, one scout can be seen reading a comic entitled Lot-O-Fun. Lot-O-Fun had been launched in 1906 by the same publisher as Comic-Life, James Henderson, as a companion paper and followed the same layout.
Comic-Life had been launched in 1899 under the name 'Pictorial Comic-Life'. With a price tag of a halfpenny it was clearly one of the many comics set up as a rival to Alfred Harmsworth's revolutionary titles Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips, which had started the "comic boom". However, by the time this issue went on sale Comic-Life had a full-colour front cover whereas Harmsworth's still had black and white covers, with occasional full-colour numbers. Perhaps Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips had too loyal a readership however, as it was Henderson who fell first, for his titles were bought up by Amalgamated Press (Harmsworth's company) in 1920.