Peter Hansen’s Comic Curiosities: Teddy Tail, the first British newspaper strip

British comics archivist Peter Hansen’s massive collection of comic-related items comprises an amazing range of comics related material, including girl’s and boy’s comics, teenage titles, and juvenile comics, annuals, flyers, original free gifts, advertising, toys and games related to the comics, original artwork, fanzines, memorabilia, artist’s archives, publishers archives as well as almost 900 bound volumes of British comics of which the majority belonged to the original publishers.

We’re delighted he has kindly given downthetubes permission to post some of his short items about just a few some of the smashing comic collectibles he owns…

Teddy Tail of the Daily Mail

For me, the whole history of British comics is interesting. For example, officially, British comics have been published since the 1860’s and are still being published.

However, comic publishers were not the only ones to exploit cartoon characters. There were others who were in the business of using comic characters to boost sales.

One of the most notable in my mind was the Daily Mail newspaper. It had obviously become apparent that comics were extremely popular by the turn of the 20th century, with a selection of titles out there. A few years later, the Daily Mail set out to bring the kids into reading their own comic characters.

The Mail introduced Teddy Tail on the 5th April 1915. First written and drawn by Charles Folkard (1878–1963), the stories of the eponymous mouse with a knot in his tail was the very first cartoon strip in a British newspaper, and the first to use speech balloons rather than captions.

Like all characters, Teddy Tail and his pals developed slightly along the way as you can see from these early examples.

The strip continued to be succes for decades, until 1974, albeit with some interruptions, spinning off into books and many Christmas annuals.

The success of Teddy Tail paved the way for other newspaper strips such as Pip Squeak and Wilfred, which premiered in the Daily Mirror on 12th May 1919 in the childrens’ section of the paper.

A year later, Rupert the Bear appeared in the Daily Express, on 8th November 1920.

Peter Hansen

Read (and watch) our interview with Peter Hansen and his hopes for a permanent national British comic collection here

Teddy Tail: Background

The very first Teddy Tail book, The Adventures of Teddy Tail of the Daily Mail, illustrated by Charles Folkard
The very first Teddy Tail book, The Adventures of Teddy Tail of the Daily Mail, illustrated by Charles Folkard
A Teddy Tail postcard by Herbert Foxwell, one of several discovered by downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf

In addition to his creator, Charles Folkard (1878–1963), artists well known for their work on Teddy Tail included Herbert Sydney Foxwell (1890 –1943), who’s also well known for his work on Tiger Tim, who drew the strip from 1933 to 1943, an era that saw the arrival of the Teddy Tail League which it’s noted in one Teddy Tail annual as having some 750,000 members.

The 1935 Teddy Tail annual. Many of these are offered on AbeBooks, AmazonUK and eBay
How the Knot Got Into Teddy Tail’s Tail, Illustrated by Arthur Potts, published by Juvenile Productions Ltd.
How the Knot Got Into Teddy Tail’s Tail, Illustrated by Arthur Potts, published by Juvenile Productions Ltd. On sale here from Stella Books

Teddy Tail was revived in 1945, drawn by Arthur ‘Spot’ Potts, followed by Tony Hawes (1929–1997), and, finally, Bill Glenn (William St. John Glenn), who drew the strip until his death in 1974.

Teddy Tail annual cover by Bill Glen

He designed all the colourful annual covers from 1948 until 1953 with the exception of 1952 when serious illness prevented this.

The cover for that was designed instead by Roland Davies, who is perhaps best known for the newspaper strip “C’Mon Steve”.

Former Marvel UK editor Tim Quinn sought to revive the character at one point, and Nick Miller created some sample art, as they also did for a proposed revival for Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

A sample of a proposed Teddy Tail revival strip, by Tim Quinn and Nick Miller
A sample of a proposed Teddy Tail revival strip, by Tim Quinn and Nick Miller

“I think we did two proposals for Teddy with over 10 years in between,” Tim recalls. “Bel Mooney mentioned him on her page, so I suggested we bring him back on her page each week. This strip was published but that was it, as the editor didn’t agree with Bel on Teddy’s chances in our brave new world.”

WEB LINKS

The Website of William St John Glenn (1904 – 1974)

Yesterday’s Papers compiled by John Adcock

A great guide to British newspaper strips

British Comics Newspaper Strips

A straightforward checklist on DanDare.Info

• Teddy Tail annuals are regularly offered on AbeBooks, AmazonUK and eBay | The Political Cartoon Gallery has a few examples of original Teddy’s Tail art for sale

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Books, British Comics - Newspaper Strips, Classic British Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Humour Comics

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1 reply

  1. Thanks John hope people enjoy your post and finding out more about British comic history!

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