Friday, August 5, 2011
Tiger Tim holds the record for being the British comics character with the longest publication. It was created in 1904 (*) by Julius Stafford Baker (1869-1961) for the Daily Mirror newspaper at the detailed request of an editor on behalf of the publisher. The model which Baker was asked to emulate was 'Jungle Jinks' which had appeared in 1898 in a supplement of a women's magazine and boosted its sales. The commissioned strip debutted on April 11st, 1904. Tiger Tim (the tentative name suggested to the artist was "Tommy Tiger") is one of the mischievous kids in a kindergarten of humanized animals. Daily Mirror's children's corner did not generate much interest, but Tiger Tim and his pals re-appeared later that year in The Monthly Playbox, the children's supplement of a magazine called The World and His Wife. In 1914, they began to be featured on the covers of The Rainbow, the pioneer British comics magazine targeted for children, from its first issue onwards. The above scan is from no. 1234, dated Oct. 9th, 1937. By this time, Baker had long been replaced by other artists. I have also seen the cover of no. 1 from 1914 and Baker's work may or may not have been up to the standarts of its own era but, while the art has improved from 1914 to the above sample in 1937, I still find it to be relatively more stiff compared to the best humanized animals comic art of the pre-war era, esp. compared to original Disney material which had already landed in the British market in 1936 with the launching of Mickey Mouse Weekly in 1936. Nevertheless, despite looking somewhat out-dated, it eludes a naive charm. Tiger Tim and his pals are also featured in the editor's corner of this issue:... and there is also a herald for an upcoming give-away from sister magazine Tiger Tim's Weekly (from 1919 onwards, Tiger Tim had also acquired its own comics magazine in addition to The Rainbow, initially titled as Tiger Tim's Tales):Tiger Tim's Weekly would continue to be published till 1940 and The Rainbow till 1956, but Tiger Tim would appear in other British children's magazines till mid-1980s.
Sources: Denis Gifford, The International Book of Comics (WHSmith, 1988) and The Complete Catalogue of British Comics (Webb & Bower, Exeter: 1985).
(*) Most online sources give an even earlier debut date for Tiger Tim, but I have stuck to Gifford's account. Other sources might be confusing 'Jungle Jinx', which (according to Gifford) was the model for Tiger Tim and his pals with actual Tiger Tim. If anyone knows any better, please let us know.