Ally Sloper's Half Holiday

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Ally Sloper's Half Holiday was a British comic, first published on 3 May 1884. It has a legitimate claim to being the first comic magazine named after and featuring a regular character. Star Ally Sloper, a blustery, lazy schemer often found "sloping" through alleys to avoid his landlord and other creditors, had debuted in 1867 in the humour magazine Judy — created by writer and fledgling artist Charles Henry Ross and inked and later fully illustrated by his French wife Emilie de Tessier under the pseudonym "Marie Duval" 1 (or "Marie DuVal"; sources differ).

The "half holiday" referred to in the title was the practice in Victorian Britain of allowing the workers home at lunchtime on a Saturday, a practice that also established the kick-off times of football matches.

Publication history[edit]

19th-century issue of the British comic magazine Ally Sloper's Half Holiday

The black-and-white weekly comic paper Ally Sloper's Half Holiday, typically of eight tabloid pages and priced one penny 1, was first published on 3 May 1884, a short time after Ross, had sold the rights to the character to Gilbert Dalziel, an engraver and the publisher of Judy. Initially launching the paper with proprietor W. J. Sinkins, Dalziel was soon in full control, publishing it from "The Sloperies", 99 Shoe Lane, EC. Alongside the strips featuring Sloper, the magazine also featured prose stories and cartoons and strips of other characters.2

Sales of the magazine have been estimated as being as high as 350,000, the magazine describing itself as "the largest selling paper in the world". The paper found a mixed audience: aimed at adults it captured both a loyal working class, male base, as well as attracting a cult following amongst the middle class of the time. 3

Although the weekly initially ceased publication on 9 September 1916, after 1,679 issues, it was later revived between 5 November 1922 and 14 April 1923 4, again from 1948 to 1949, and finally from 1976 to 1977, each attempt failing to capture the imagination of the British public as the original once had.5

In 2001, a copy of the first issue fetched £3,600 at an English auction house.

Contributors[edit]

William Giles Baxter 6 took over art duties for the Sloper character with issue 13. 7

William Fletcher Thomas 8 became the artist on the Ally Sloper strips following Baxter's death in 1888.9

James Gibbins contributed his expertise in the field of handwriting, a skill he put forward to the police at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, offering to analyse items thought to be authored by the Ripper. 10

Thomas Burke contributed stories. 11

Influence[edit]

The weekly comic paper is widely cited as being the first comic book or magazine to feature a regular character, and is also often cited as the first comic as well. Half Holiday helped established the financial viability of the medium and codified the British form to an extent visible many years later in publications such as Viz. During 1908 C. H. Chapman illustrated the Ally Sloper character. Chapman was better known as the artist that drew Billy Bunter from 1911 until the The Magnet folded in 1940. He continued to illustrate Billy Bunter in books through the 1950s.

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