This being New Year’s Day, when better to present a comic story in which the central character deals with the morning after results of over indulging!
Ten years ago, when I was working with Richard Olson and Robert Beerbohm to create the first instance of a Victorian Age Comics section, within the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, the listed items & photos mostly came from my collection (since then, plenty of other people have contributed material, so, no, don’t begin to think that I own a copy of everything you see listed there). Anyway, one of the items highlighted, was the paperback book The Clown, or The Banquet of Wit, published no earlier than 1851, by Fisher & Brother. Containing multiple sequential comic strips plus numerous cartoons, by a variety of artists, most (maybe all) of it reprinted from earlier sources, it was notable as the earliest example of such collection by an American publisher, that we knew of. (A few years later, Gabriel Laderman would contribute knowledge from his vastly larger Victorian Age Comics collection, revealing at least half a dozen equally rare similar type books, from the same time period (early 1850s). What their sequence of publication was, is currently undetermined.
Some of the material in The Clown, or The Banquet of Wit, I recognized as ripped off from foreign (mostly British) sources, some of it from American sources (which in turn still might have originated in Britain), and some, who knew? (Enforceable international copyright laws had yet to come into existence, and publishers stole material from foreign sources, in both directions of the Atlantic, with impunity.) The majority of the cartoons (and this applies to all the early 1850s paperbacks), had appeared before, inside American comic almanacs.
One of the comic strips in The Clown whose origin was unknown, was “The Adventures of Mr. Gulp” (which appears not only in The Clown, but in a few other titles later contributed to Overstreet by Laderman). I had taken an uncertain guess, based both on the artist initials “BR”, that the story might have been created by the American Read Brothers (cartoonists/creators of the Gold Rush graphic novel, Jeremiah Saddlebags). The Overstreet guide still lists that guess, followed by question marks to identify it as uncertain.
Just this past year, however, I discovered whence the story of Mr. Gulp truly originates — it is an unauthorized, pirated copy of the circa 1847 to 1850 comic strip book, The Glass, The Bottle’s Companion, by British cartoonist Thomas Onwhyn. It’s title an obvious attempt to capitalize on artist George Cruikshank’s highly successful 1846 temperance tale, The Bottle, Onwhyn’s The Glass likewise has an over-the-top warning about the dangers of drink.
Presented above, are the covers of both versions. (If you’re thinking, the cover of The Glass looks like something rigged up after the original cover was lost, all I can say, is that I own five different Onwhyn booklets in this identical format, acquired separately from different dealers, over several years, and all five have this same type of cover. )
Below, we first have the original Thomas Onwhyn version, which unfolds into a single long strip of panels. After that, we show the American piracy, in which not only the text has been altered, but the entire story was redrawn! (Being unauthorized, the publisher would have lacked the original printing plates, and so resorted to having it reillustrated & newly engraved.) Somebody had to do that redrawing. The initials “RB” in the final panel, do not appear in the original, thus, the Read Brothers still might have been involved. (Or, also likely, John H. Manning might have performed the task, given that he definitely illustrated the story which followed “Mr. Gulp”.
Click on the above & below pictures, to view the cartoons in detail, and read their captions.
The last panel shown in the above portion of the fold-out, captioned, “Mr. Gulp is carried to bed, and when there, is impressed with the idea that somebody is making an anvil of his head ”, is patterned after earlier broadsheet cartoons by George Cruikshank and Robert Seymour, in which tiny imps bang on the heads of those suffering from a hangover.
Beneath, start of the pirated American version. Art differences can be spotted in every panel. For instance, Panel One in the American version was widened to fit the new page arrangement. It now shows people reaching in from the other side of the table, plus a wall clock which had been behind the waiter’s head, is now found off to the left. For fun, you could open a second window of SuperITCH, and spend hours of enjoyment finding all the differences!
Beneath, the final two panels of the American “Mr. Gulp”, followed, on the right, by the first page of “Mose Keyser the Bowery Bully’s Trip to the California Gold Mines”, by John H. Manning, which I decided to show, since I had to scan the two open pages together, anyway. Note the “BR” initials in the final panel of “Mr. Gulp”. Again, those initials are not found in the original.