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Friday, 10 April 2015


The following pages are from COMIC BITS no.5,Christmas,2004.

To many the name Tom Browne will mean nothing. And yet, he was the original master of British comic strip art. So, how can I ignore him in a publication dedicated to the Golden & Silver Ages of British comics?

 Thomas Browne was "born of humble parentage", as the writers like to say, in the city of Nottingham, in 1870. There was a brief education, common in those days, until he was 12 years old at the St. Mary’s National School. Young Tom was then put out to carry hat boxes for a milliner. However, Tom was handy with a pencil and was apprenticed to a lithographer, which earned him the princely sum of one shilling a week -but that salary rose by 18 pence a year until he left in 1891.

Obviously, a young man needed more than that to live on and so, while an apprentice, Tom moonlighted as a freelance cartoonist for the London comics. The first eight-pager from the 18 year-old was titled "He Knew How To Do It" and was published in Henderson’s SCRAPS and one night’s work had earned him over six months wages -some thirty shillings!

As soon as his apprenticeship was over, young Tom moved to London where he intended to tackle the ha’penny comics and earn a real living.

Phil May was a brilliant cartoonist who took all the overloaded cross-hatching out of Victorian cartooning, as seen in periodicals such as PUNCH.  May was able to capture characterisations in a few smooth strokes, it was modern cartooning no doubt hated by the traditional illustrators!

Naturally, May was Tom’s favourite cartoonist. Tom applied the "May method" to his own work; crisp line work with carefully spotted areas of solid black.  This style was perfect for Harmsworth’s ha’penny comics: they consisted of cheap printing, low quality newsprint paper, Ill-etched blocks and cheap, near grey ink. Now you know why old comics were not designed to last!

All of Tom’s early work were one-off sets, but slowly, over a period, the ideas crept in; the first being "Squashington Flats" in COMIC CUTS in 1895, but his greatest creations were soon to appear. Browne’s favourite fictional heroes were Don Quixote and Sancho Panza -and there was his inspiration!  On the front page of THE ILLUSTRATED CHIPS no. 298, 16th May, 1896, appeared a six panel picture strip entitled "Innocents On The River".  It featured two tramps, a thin one called Weary Waddles, and a rather stout chap called Tired Timmy.  Something about the pair clicked (rather like film funsters Laurel & Hardy years later) and editor G. H. Cantle called for more -how could Tom refuse?

The characters were re-named as "Weary Willy & Tired Tim" and their adventures continued for a staggering 60 years!  Only one other artist ever drew the dynamic trampsters; that was Percy Cocking who drew in Tom’s style but never once had his name credited (typical of British weekly comics).  Cocking’s run lasted 40 years until the pair retired to the plush mansion of Murgatroyd Mump, millionaire, in the last issue of CHIPS on 12th September, 1953.

The two tramps shot the circulation of CHIPS to 60,000 copies per week!

Obviously, this could not go unchallenged by other publishers. Tom was to create similar characters for many such as "Airy ‘Alf And Bouncing Billy" for THE BIG BUDGET, in 1897; "Lanky Larry And Bloated Bill" for COMIC HOME JOURNAL, in the same year and, in 1898, "Don Quixote de Tintogs" appeared in COMIC CUTS. Still a record in British comics, for six months Tom drew five front pages each of six panels every week! This increased his earnings to, for that period, an incredible £150 per weeks.

By 1900 the workload had tired Tom out and he left comics to do other things such as paintings, posters, postcards and in 1906 even went to the United States as cartoonist on the CHICAGO DAILY TRIBUNE.

Later, Tom even helped found the London Sketch Club.

For 50 years comic artists would imitate and emulate the "Browne style".  Rather like editors did years later with Dudley Watkins, during and after Tom’s time, artists were urged to draw "in the style of".

Tom Browne died at the very early age of 39 in 1910.

As Denis Gifford pointed out in THE INTERNATIONAL BOOK OF COMICS [1990]:~

                  "...his true living legacy may be seen in any
                 copy of almost any British comic."
One has to wonder,had Browne lived to see the explosion of comics in the 1930s, just what might he have produced?  Perhaps somewhere, in a parallel dimension, he went on to even greater things!

And I posses a few of those Browne post cards and they are lovely!

Laurel & Hardy by George Wakefield (1942)

From the Amalgamated Press Film Fun Annual 1942.  My pages are from a rescued, cover-less annual but Robert Downing at Scanarama has posted a full scan and although he does not like the cover I do!! I wish mine had that cover!!!

Set (strip) artist was George Wakefield and Laurel & Hardy ran in Film Fun from 1930-1957 -George's son, Terry taking over after his father's death.

Laurel & Hardy, like every other Hollywood and British star in these comics, had not granted permission -and when Laurel & Hardy visited the UK in the 1930s and then the 1950s, George Wakefield and later Terry, wanted to go and meet them.  Amalgamated Press almost had a heart attack because they did not want the pair to find out they were appearing in Film Fun!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Colorado Kid in Rock Trap At Bridger's Gap!

Colorado Kid was published by L. Miller & Son between May 1954-1959.  The art was put together by the King Ganteaume Productions studio -set up by two ex GIs after WW 2.  Initially, the comic was to feature Riders Of The Range radio show star Cal McCord.  However "last minute changes" led to the book being the Colorado Kid -he kept McCord's side-kick, Wyoming Joe, though.

The Colorado Kid and other UK Western heroes began a quest in 1995 in Black Tower Comics -the end result (so far) featured in The Cross Earths Caper -available from the Black Tower online store - or Amazon and Barnes and Noble....but I make more from the online store...hint!

These pages have not been cleaned or edited as they would be for publication though I have "slightly" cleaned page 5 to show the difference.

This story is from The Colorado Kid  no. 58, May, 1955

The Annual Legal Notice

The Annual Legal Notice

 This Is From HM Intellectual Properties Office THE official last word in such matters. I do hope that a certain trouble making little nark takes note.  IPC and Egmont tell me that they agree with this and stand by the legislation.
Dry. Boring but then, it can't all be The Mighty Crusaders!

Subject: UK Comic Book copyright query


I was wondering whether you could help me re. the above matter.  I am a comics historian/publisher and have, obviously, studied the UK industry for over thirty years now.

Contracts were never signed between creators and comic publishing house such as Fleetway, IPC, Odhams, etc.  The companies changed hands many times over the years with no new deals with creators.  In fact (c) was not even given on many titles.

I was put in contact with a solicitor last year and he sent me the following;

"UK Copyright

Someone was asking what the legal position is in the UK.

The writer and artist own the copyright in the strip jointly, under the Copyright Act 1956 (or the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 in the case of more recent comics), unless there has been a written transfer of their copyright ownership to a third person (such as the Publisher).

This is called Author's copyright. It lasts for the lifetime of the writer and artist, and thereafter for a period of 70 years from the end ofthe year in which the last survivor of them dies.

Each strip within an issue of a comic is thus the copyright property of different people: i.e. the writer and artist who created that particular strip; and so a lot of individuals will have copyright interests in
each weekly edition.

 The Publisher has a seperate copyright (called Publisher's copyright),which protects the entire published issue of a comic, including its overalltypographical layout, not just indivdual strips within it. This lasts for 25years from the end of the year in which that issue of the comic was
originally published.

This second type of copyright has now expired for any comic with a cover date on or before 31st December 1984.

I was wondering whether you could tell me whether this is correct? The problem is that many now retired creators are wondering where they stand -most get the same (above) responses from solicitors as I had.

Any help in clarification would be very helpful.

My thanks in advance

Terry Hooper
Dear Mr Hooper,

Thank you for your recent enquiry. Although we are unable to provide legal advice regarding specific cases, I hope the following general information is of use to you.

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, in the case of written (including software and databases) theatrical, musical or artistic (including photographic) works, the author or creator of the work is also the first owner of any copyright in it.  The only exception to this is where the work is made by an employee in the course of his or her employment. In some situations two or more people may be joint authors and joint owners of copyright (as may be the case for instance with a comic strip).
Where a written, theatrical, musical or artistic work, or a film, is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work (subject to any agreement to the contrary).  'In the course of employment' is not defined by the Act but in settling disputes the courts have typically had to decide whether the employee was working under 'contract of service'.

Where a person works under a 'contract for services' he may be considered by the courts to be an independent contractor and his works may then be considered to be commissioned works.  When you ask or commission another person or organisation to create a copyright work for you, the first legal owner of copyright is the person or organisation that created the work and not you the commissioner, unless you otherwise agree it in writing.

Even though the legal owner of copyright is the creator, it is possible that the commissioner may be considered by the courts to be the beneficial owner of copyright and therefore entitled to legal ownership.  This could be where you intend to stop others using or copying the work that has been commissioned for instance a logo designed to be used as your trade mark.

I outline these points since you mention the absence of a formal 'signed' contractual agreement between the creators and comic publishing houses.  In the event of a dispute as to ownership it would therefore be for the courts to decide ownership and/or the nature of the ownership (it may be that there are joint creators [writer and artist] and they may or may not have some rights in the work along with the publisher). Each situation must therefore be considered on its merits.

I would suggest the situation is less clear under the Copyright Act 1956 and you may wish to seek further legal clarification of Section 4 and in particular section 4.(2) in order to ascertain whether this situation could apply to comics.  This section seems to limit the ownership of a work by an employer to the publication in his/her newspaper, periodical or magazine and beyond that the creator would be entitled to any copyright subsisting in the literary, dramatic or artistic work.

In relation to a publisher's rights I was confused as to the 1984 date in relation to typographical arrangement (25 years from publication) but then noticed that you sought this advice last year.  The publisher may also have copyright in the 'compendium' of strips which he has produced as a comic.  His copyright [as well as the individual creators in the absence of any assignment to him] could therefore be infringed if the whole or a substantial part of the comic is reproduced without his permission.
It should be remembered that irrespective of whether the creator or another party own the copyright, then provided the creator died less than 70 years ago the work is still likely to be protected.  This will also be the case in relation to publishers etc where the duration of copyright protection is calculated from death of the employee creator.  Again, where a company changed hands or was bought it would be necessary to consider who then owned the intellectual property rights.  Under both the 1956 [s36(3)] and 1988 [s90(3)] Acts an assignment of copyright is not effective 'unless it is in writing signed by or on behalf of the assignor'.  Each situation should then again be taken on its merits.

I hope this helps. I should emphasise that this information does not represent legal advice but rather seeks to assist you on what issues you might seek further legal clarification. 

I hope this response has been some help to you.


Copyright Enquiries

The Two Space Tramps

John "Jock" McCail -reprinted in the 1953 Comicolour Album from Swan.