Tiger Tim, by Julius Stafford Baker
The Bruin Boys, from the first issue of Rainbow (14 February 1914)

Julius Stafford Baker was a late 19th, early 20th-century British comics artist, most famous for his funny animal comic 'The Bruin Boys', better known as 'Tiger Tim' (1904), one of the oldest and most enduring British comics characters of all time. It ran uninterrupted for about half a century, continued by several other artists. At the time adventures of the little tiger were popular enough to inspire a huge merchandising. The comic strip is even credited with popularizing newspaper comics in the United Kingdom. But 'Tiger Tim' was also popular abroad, even inspiring his own magazine in Italy though oddly enough with the side character Jumbo as the main focus: 'Jumbo e i Compagni'. Baker also drew another long-running cartoon panel, 'Casey Court' (1902-1953), which can be considered the godfather of all British comics series about naughty children. The artist is also referred to as Julius Stafford Baker Jr. or Julius Stafford Baker II.

Julius Dawe Stafford Baker was born in 1869 in Whitechapel, East London, as son of theatrical scene painter Julius Baker. His uncle was John Philip Stafford (1851-1899), a pioneer in advertising art and cartoonist for the magazine Funny Folks. He took Julius as his apprentice to work in his studio in Fulham. Baker made his graphic debut in the 1880s in the magazines published by James Henderson. His first published cartoon was in 1885 in a rather racy publication in newspaper style called Topical Times. For Funny Folks he drew a weekly panel starring the Irish labourer 'Hooligan' (1891), which was followed by 'The Inventions of Pat' (1905) in Nuggets. Fuelled by his American Loyalist refugee ancestry, he also got his work published in the American humor magazine Judge in 1895. He signed his American work initially as Frank Martin, but he later used J.S. Baker as his signature.

By 1898 Baker also began working for the magazines of publisher Alfred Harmsworth, who founded the Amalgamated Press in 1901. His first contributions were to The Playbox, a four-page pull-out supplement of the women's magazine Home Chat. According to his grandson, Julius Stafford Baker IV, this publication also featured the first incarnations of his later signature series, 'Tiger Tim'. Another early feature was 'Casey Court' (1902-1920s) for Illustrated Chips, a one-panel cartoon featuring Billy Baggs and his gang of poor children, who avidly try to earn heaps of money in their tenement courtyard with a series of ill-fated plans. While the feature itself was largely inspired by Richard Felton Outcault's 'Hogan's Alley', it was an influence on later British comics starring children, such as Leo Baxendale's 'The Bash Street Kids'. 'Casey Court' would be continued for half a century by other comics artists like Walter Bell, Charlie Pease, M.C. Veitch, H. O'Neill, Louis Briault and Allan Morley. The final panel appeared on 12 September 1953. The feature was once adapted into a stage play by Fred Karno, with a young Charlie Chaplin as Billy Baggs, complete with knobbly cane.

Casey Court (12 September 1914)

In 1904 Baker was asked by Harmsworth's cartoon editor C. Langton Townley to create something for the new comics section of newspaper The Daily Mirror, which could emulate the success of Mabel F. Taylor's funny animal comic 'Jungle Jinks' from The Playbox. This resulted in 'Mrs. Hippo's Kindergarten', which featured 'Tiger Tim'. It appeared only once in The Daily Mirror on 16 April 1904, but did make Tiger Tim the first proper strip in a British newspaper.

The Mirror's comics section didn't catch on, but 'Tiger Tim' proved to have a remarkable staying power. In November 1904 the series appeared in The Monthly Playbox, a colour supplement of The World And His Wife, a magazine which aimed at domestic servants, housekeepers and nannies. The feature starred a mischievous anthropomorphic kid tiger and his group of happy animal friends: Jacko the Monkey, Porkyboy Pig the piglet, Willy the giraffe and Joey the paraquete. They all attended the class of Mrs. Hippo. Influenced by the comics of James G. Swinnerton, Baker made his characters cuter and cuddlier. Originally a series of one-shot panels, the comic soon evolved into serialized stories.

When The Monthly Playbox ("Aunt Molly's Monthly Magazine for Children") was cancelled in May 1910, 'Tiger Tim' found a new spot in the educational magazine The New Children's Encyclopedia. On 14 February 1914 The Daily Mirror received a children's supplement, The Rainbow, which became the first children's colours comics magazine in the United Kingdom. It was also the first to be read by the children of the British Royal Family. 'Tiger Tim and The Hippo Boys' naturally was its star series, but received a new title: 'The Bruin Boys'. Mrs. Hippo, who was the children's female teacher and a hippopotamus, was replaced by a female bear named Mrs. Bruin.

The Hippo Boys and Tiger Tim

Halfway 1914 Baker was fired, either because he often missed his deadlines or because editors felt his style "started too look too American". The first theory seems more plausible since Baker was also editor of The Southend and Westcliff Graphic at that time and thus could easily be overworked. On the other hand his style had evolved, mostly under influence of U.S. artist James G. Swinnerton, which might have bothered his conservative bosses. Either way Herbert Sydney Foxwell took over 'Tiger Tim' from 1914 until 1933. Under his lead 'Tiger Tim' grew even more succesful than before. On 1 June 1919 the characters received their own children's magazine, Tiger Tim's Tales, which became Tiger Tim's Weekly from 31 January 1920 until 18 May 1940, while the strip got a female counterpart called 'Tiger Tilly and the Hippo Girls' in the newly launched nursery title Playbox in 1925. Tiger Tim's Weekly merged with Rainbow in 1940, and the strip was subsequently continued in Rainbow's successor Tiny Tots (a companion paper to Playhour and Jack and Jill) between 1956 and 1959. After the Amalgamated Press' assets were bought over by the Mirror Group in 1959, the 'Tiger Tim' comic spent its final decades in Jack and Jill until 1985. 'Tiger Tim' was also popular in translation, even though side character Jumbo Jim - an elephant friend of Tiger Tim - was now the focus. In 1932 there was even an Italian children's magazine established named Jumbo e i Compagni! It received a Spanish version in 1934, Yumbo, and a French one a year later, Jumbo. In 1933 Foxwell left to draw 'Teddy Tail' in the Daily Mail, and 'Tiger Tim' was continued by Bert Wymer who eventually passed the pencil to Baker's son, Julius Stafford Baker III in the 1950s. During the Mirror Group period the comic was drawn by new artists such as Peter Woolcock.

Among Baker's other features for the Amalgamated Press were 'Hans the Double Dutchman' (Comic Home Journal, 1904), 'Billy Smiff's Pirates' (Puck, 1904), 'Stone Age Peeps' (Illustrated Chips, 1904), 'The Inventions of Pat' (Nuggets, 1905), 'Henry Hawkins' (Jester and Wonder, 1906), 'Comic Cuts Colony' (Comic Cuts, 1910), 'Raggs Rents' (Merry and Bright, 1915), 'Prehistoric Pranks' (Funny Wonder, 1919), 'Dr Croc's College' (The Sunday Fairy, 1919) and 'The Moonshine Movie Nibs' (Lot-O'-Fun, 1920).

His son Julius Stafford Baker III (1904-1988) was also a cartoonist, while his grandson, yet another Julius Stafford Baker (IV), was founder of the Happy Dragons' Press in 1969.

Billy Smiff's Pirates (Puck, 25 April 1904)
Billy Smiff's Pirates (Puck, 25 April 1904)

Series and books by Julius Stafford Baker (II) in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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