Billy Bimbo and Peter Porker

Harry Folkard is an early-20th century British comics artist, best remembered for his 1920s newspaper comic strip 'Billy Bimbo and Peter Porker' (1920), drawn for the London Evening News. The comic is also an extraordinary case of a series which became far more popular in the Netherlands than it had ever been in its home country. Under its translated title 'Jopie Slim and Dikkie Bigmans' it was practically a Dutch media sensation all throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Folkard was also the second artist to continue the text comic 'Teddy Tail', a series created by his father Charles James Folkard.

It's unknown where or when Harry Folkard was born, but presumably around the turn of the 20th century near London, as this was the home town of his father, illustrator and cartoonist Charles James Folkard. In 1926 Harry took over his father's famous comic strip 'Teddy Tail', so his dad could concentrate on his career as an illustrator. 'Teddy Tail' was a text comic about the fantasy adventures of a little mouse with a knot in its tail and had been running in the Daily Mail since 1915. By 8 April 1933 he drew a full-page adventure story for the Daily Mail's color supplement Boys & Girls Daily Mail, in which the mouse was domesticated and became a schoolboy character. This color page was continued by Herbert Sydney Foxwell in November of that same year. Harry Folkard's art also decorated the original badge of the Teddy Tail League, the character's official fanclub launched in 1933.

Harry Folkard is best known for his humorous comic strip, 'Billy Bimbo and Peter Porker', which was published in the London Evening News in 1920. It starred a young boy with a red gnome-like cap, Billy, and an anthropomorphic pig who wore plaid pants. Many gags featured the duo playing pranks on their environment and sometimes getting punished for it too. While the comic did well in its country of origin, it became a surprising big success in the Netherlands. On 24 July 1921 the series was published in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf under the title 'Jopie Slim en Dikkie Bigmans', where it quickly became a readers' favorite. It inspired an astonishing merchandise with several picture books, a novelty song ('Jopie Slim en Dikkie Bigmans zijn de schrik van 't ganse land'), a stage show starring Corry Vonk, and a low-budget 1938 Dutch children's film by Jan van Dommelen, 'De Guitenstreken van Jopie Slim and Dikkie Bigmans' (1938). In Britain, Billy Bimbo and Peter Porker appeared on an LP with bedtime stories for children, narrated by Albert Whelan for The Gramophone Company Ltd., as early as 1922. The flipside featured 'Teddy Tail' stories. While Dutch newspapers had published comics before, 'Jopie Slim en Dikkie Bigmans' was the first genuine commercial hit. De Telegraaf soon started offering place for more comics, while other Dutch newspapers did the same. At the time the comic was so well known that it was even spoofed by A.M. de Jong and George van Raemdonck in their own series 'Bulletje en Boonestaak'. In one memorable 1922 episode Bulletje and Boonestaak visit the office of the London Evening News to beat up Billy and Peter, because "these two English monstrosities had bored Dutch children quite enough with their whining."

Folkard's art furthermore appeared in British comics papers and magazines like the Sunday Dispatch supplement Jolly Jack's Weekly ('Jolly Jack's Fun Ship', 1933), Sparkler of the Amalgamated Press ('Blooka and the Rubberbeak', 1935) and C. Arthur Pearson's The Summer Comic ('Prisoners in the Cavern', 1936).

Just like his date of birth Harry Folkard's death date is unknown. He presumably passed away somewhere in the mid-20th century. Folkard's contribution to his own country's comics production may have been minimal, but he did have a considerable impact on the Dutch comics industry. Not only because of the popularity of 'Billy Bimbo and Peter Porker', but also because in the decades to come several Dutch newspapers and magazines would translate numerous British comics. Many of them, like Mary Tourtel's 'Rupert Bear' ('Bruintje Beer' in Dutch), Les Barton's 'Billy Bunter' ('Billie Turf'), John Gillatt's 'Billy's Boots' ('De Wondersloffen van Sjakie'), E.George Cowan and Ted Kearon's 'Robot Archie' ('Archie, De Man van Staal'), Frank S. Pepper and Joe Colquhoun's 'Roy of the Rovers' ('Rob van de Rovers') and Mike Butterworth and Don Lawrence's 'The Trigan Empire' ('Trigië') would enjoy an equal amount of popularity. Some magazines, like the girls' magazine Tina, also translated various girls' comics from British magazines like Princess Tina.

Jopie Slim en Dikkie Bigmans
Jopie Slim en Dikkie Bigmans, from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, 11 April 1925. The drawing style seems to have changed considerably, so maybe there was another artist on the job?

Series and books by Harry Folkard in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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