Laurel and Hardy may be enjoying renewed success at the box office thanks to the new film Stan & Ollie starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly, but they were box office stars in comics here in the UK too, thanks to their long-running success in the pages of the weekly comic Film Fun.
first featured in a double-page centre spread of Film Fun in November 1930. Four years later they were cover stars – and remained so for 20 years, appearing in both the comic and the Film Fun annuals until 1959.
The artist best known for drawing them was George William Wakefield (1887 – 1942), although like other artists he also drew many other strips, including “George Formby”, “Max Miller” and “Abbott & Costello”, right up until his death in 1942.
George was succeeded on the strip by his son, Terry Wakefield (1911 – 1989), in 1946, who drew the boys until 1957, retiring after 32 years to work as a driver for the West Middlesex Hospital.
Many of the strips were are credited to long-time Film Fun editor Frederick George Cordwell, better known to Film Fun readers as Eddie the Happy Editor, who edited the comic until his death in 1949. He made the occasional cameo in the comic itself down the years, meeting Laurel and Hardy a number of times, as well as film stars Joe E Brown, Wheeler and Woolsey and others.
In addition to their appearances in Britain’s Film Fun, there have been plenty of American Laurel and Hardy comics, of course – and they even made a cameo appearance in Marvel’s Thor: The Truth of History in 2008, written and illustrated by Alan Davis. They play the part of two Egyptologists with differing theories regarding the Sphinx!
Down the years, Film Fun absorbed several titles in its long life, including Picture Fun soon after its launch in 1920, followed by Kinema Comic in 1932, Film Picture Stories in 1935, Illustrated Chips in 1953 and Top Spot in 1960, but when its sales dropped below 125,000 a week it was merged with Buster, in 1962.
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• The Wonderful World Of Film Fun by Graham King and Ron Saxby
Great book about the comic
The Laurel and Hardy Magazine is a non-profit making publication printed quarterly by the HELPMATES UK TENT of The Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy Appreciation (Fan Club) Society
• For a more general introduction to British comics comedy stars (and more), this German exhibition, in English – Wonderfully Vulgar – is a great starting point
With thanks to Lew Stringer for some of the images above