Jolly japes and comic romps

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A jolly clown has a troupe of tiny pierrots and gets involved in all kinds of japes with them. It’s the kind of scenario that only happens in comics.

The Merry Adventures of Jolly Joe Jinks and his Pocket Pierrots graces the front page of our exhibit from Scarborough Museums Trust this week: a copy of Puck, a comic which was first seen in 1904, and ran for 1,867 issues until 1940, when it merged with another comic, Sunbeam.

It was published by Amalgamated Press, which later became the mighty IPC Media.

The pictured issue is volume 15, number 377, dated October 14, 1911, and was priced at 1d, or one old penny. In it, Jolly Joe and his Pierrots were joined by the likes of Professor Radium, Percy the Page, Dan the Menagerie Man, and Koko the Comic Kaffir in all sorts of implausible comic romps.

Jolly Joe was the creation of Albert Thacker ‘Bertie’ Brown (1887-1974), who worked for Amalgamated Press for some 51 years from 1908.

As well as Puck, Brown contributed to many other titles including Chips, Comic Cuts, Merry & Bright, Butterfly, Rainbow and Jester. His other creations included Pa Perkins and Percy, Dad Walker and his Son Wally, Constable Cuddlecook, and Smiler and Smudge.

But he’s best remembered for drawing Charlie Chaplin in Funny Wonder from 1915: he was the first in the world to depict the actor in comic strip form and his was the definitive version, continuing for nearly 30 years until 1944.

He also drew British film comedian Will Hay for Jolly Comic and other strips based on well-known personalities in titles such as Radio Fun and TV Fun.

Brown retired in 1959 and was not only one of the Amalgamated Press’s most prolific artists – it’s estimated that he drew around half a million pictures during his working life – but also one of the most respected by editors and colleagues.

Yet his name didn’t appear on a single one of his strips, due to the publisher’s policy 
that artists remain anonymous.

This copy of Puck is part of the Scarborough Collections, the name given to all the museum objects that have been acquired by the borough over the years, and now in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust. They are used by researchers ranging from professional to amateur academics, freelance writers producing articles for magazines to television production companies, students studying art, costume design, geology, history, and tourism.

If you have an enquiry or would like access to the Collections, please contact (01723) 384503, or email info@smtrust.uk.com.