Friday, 14 December 2012

"EVERYONE SING HIS NAME..."

 
 
RUPERT THE BEAR was created by MARY TOURTEL and
first appeared in THE DAILY EXPRESS on November 8th, 1920.
15 years later, ALFRED BESTALL took the daily newspaper mascot to
even greater heights of glory, working on the strip until he retired from
it in 1965. However, he continued to draw the covers to the Annuals
until 1973 (for '74), and apparently occasionally contributed to the
character in some way right up into his 90s.
 
Although I was aware of the famous British bear, it wasn't until
browsing through an old Rupert Annual in a dentist's waiting room
in the late '70s or very early '80s that I found myself transfixed by the
art, and the atmosphere it conjured up. Then, in the late '80s, when I was
regularly posting work to IPC Magazines in London, post office workers
(seeing that I was involved 'in publishing') would continually ask me if
I knew the Rupert the Bear artist, who also often posted work
from the same branch. I had to admit that I didn't.
 
 
 However, one day when I was in AKA Books & Comics in Glasgow,
JOHN McSHANE (famous man-about-town) introduced me to JOHN
HARROLD, the artist in question. John had been living in my home town
for some time, looking after his mother-in-law when she was sadly dying
from cancer. We both found ourselves on the same train back home, and
it transpired that John actually resided only a few minutes down the road
from my house. Despite John's repeated invitations to visit him sometime,
I never managed to get 'round to it (I was a busy boy back in those days),
and a couple or so years later, John moved, first down to London
(I think), and then shortly thereafter to France.
 
It's kind of strange to think that the then-current Rupert artist lived
just down the street from me. Small world, eh? Anyway, it's the work
of Alfred Bestall we're looking at today, featuring art from the pages
of the 1949 Annual. I decided to publish these wonderfully evocative
examples because they're so apropos of the season. They just exude the
kind of Christmas that I fancy I remember from my long-ago boyhood,
although perhaps it's more a case of how I want to remember things,
rather than how they actually were. Then again, perhaps not.
 
 
Regardless, I hope that you enjoy looking at them. If you have
any fond recollections of Rupert from your own childhood, feel
free to share them in the comments section.     

2 comments:

Dougie said...

I got a Rupert annual for Xmas possibly 1970 or 71. The annual had a Chinoiserie theme with Willow Pattern imagery. Really beautiful and delicate.

That twig-like wood creature seems to tap into ancient British folklore, doesn't he? Quite Arthur Machen.

Kid said...

The Wind In The Willows has chapters that fit the mood of Machen; the great god Pan, for example. Grahame was born first, by a few years, but Machen may have preceded him into print. I don't know, not being familiar with Machen's work.

One thing that always bothered me about the Rupert books is how he was transformed into a 'polar' bear in the interior art. That's one tradition I wish they'd do away with, and colour him brown throughout.