Monday, March 08, 2021

Review: Edwardian Comic Papers by Alan Clark

Edwardian Comic Papers is a step up in production value from Clarke’s other recent book. It reveals, in exquisite colour, how comics developed during the brief tenure of King Edward, the son of Victoria who grew from being known as the ‘prince of pleasure’ to a much-loved monarch.

The comics published during his reign – 1901-1910 – also went through an astonishing transformation. The late Victorian comics were weekly papers containing cartoons and and humorous features, satirical stories and caricatures, and were aimed at adults. Advanced print technology became the norm, with photo engraving replacing woodblocks and colour printing becoming economical for the first time.

What many might find surprising is just how colourful these magazines are. Experiments with colour comics date back to 1896 and the first regular colour title, the clue being in the name The Colour Comic, dated from 1899.

In his introduction, Clarke charts the many changes that occurred in society in the early years of the new century and how these were exploited by publishers, who expanded their output with magazines and papers for all classes and all ages. There were stumbles along the way—even the beginning of the Edwardian era was delayed six weeks because of the King’s appendicitis—but, for the most part, comics expanded in a market that was ready to be entertained by smart, satirical drawings by the likes of Ralph (“Yorick”) Hodgson, W. F. Thomas and Tom Browne.

Many other artists are celebrated throughout the book, including some names that might be little known to modern readers: Oliver Veal, Leonard Shields, Will Spurrier, Frank Holland, Julius Stafford Baker, George Davey, Tom Wilkinson, Percy Cocking, Alex Akerbladh, G. M. Payne, Charles Genge and H. O’Neill, with sidelines into a number of American contributors like George McManus and James Swinnerton.

The book is very heavily illustrated throughout, with rarely seen images from a wide variety of penny papers and tuppenny coloureds.

Privately published, it can be purchased via Ebay:

Edwardian Comic Papers by Alan Clark
Alan Clark, 2021 [December 2020], 190pp (A5), £15.00.

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