Sunday, November 7, 2010

Big Budget

C. Arthur Pearson’s BIG BUDGET (‘Three Papers for a Penny’), edited by Arthur Brooke, began circulating 19 Jun 1897 and lasted until 1909. The 24 page penny weekly featured an 8 page comic section and 16 pages of fiction. Pearson tried another comic called Dan Leno’s Journal, after the famous comedian, but it folded just short of two years after 93 nos.

The Editor’s page listed the forthcoming contributors. “We have but to mention such well-known writers as Louis Tracy, George Griffith, Henry T. Johnson, Maxwell Scott, Claude Heathcote, etc., and such deservedly popular artists as Jack B. Yeats, Tom Browne, T. Wilkinson, “Yorick,” and A. Morrow, to show our readers that the Big Budget is going to be The Record Paper of a Record Reign.”

The first issue featured Tom Browne’s “Airy Alf and Bouncing Billy,” very similar in style to Browne’s “Weary Willie and Tired Tim,” from Harmsworth’s Illustrated Chips. The illustrations to “Airy Alf and Bouncing Billy” were shared by Browne, Frank Holland, a South-African cartoonist, and Ralph Hodgson under the pen-name “Yorick.” Frank Holland drew drew the recurring characters “Jimmer Squirm and Spooky the Sprat.” In 1897 Holland contributed drawings for “Chokee Bill and Area Sneaker,” in Harmsworth’s Comic Cuts.

Ralph Hodgson drew “Sunny Jim,” a commercial character used to promote Force Wheat Flakes, for the cover of Funny Pips, which lasted 16 issues starting 12 Sept 1903. I am not sure if this was the Ralph Hodgson (1871-1962) who was a well-known poet and close friend of T. S. Eliot’s. Eliot’s poet friend was also a caricaturist. A 3rd series of comic characters were “Bertie Bounder and Algie ‘Ardup.”

The fiction in the first issue was Maxwell Scott’s “Kenyon Ford, the up-to-date Detective; or, The Secret of the Ruby Ring,” Harry (Henry) Farmer’s “The Flying Phantom,” Henry T. Johnson’s “Sawdust and Spangles, a Story of Circus Life,” Harry Blyth’s “From Toil to Triumph,” and Claude Heathcote’s “The Strange Ordeal of Alfred Wharton.”

‘Maxwell Scott’ was Dr. John William Staniforth, Henry Farmer used the pen-name ‘Franklin Wright,’ and worked as literary editor at the Daily Express, Henry T. Johnson (1858-1930) used the name ‘Neil Thomson,’ and was an editor of the comic journal Fun and Trapps Holmes Vanguard story paper. Harry Blyth (1852-1898) wrote the first Sexton Blake story, “The Missing Millionaire,” for Harmsworth’s halfpenny Marvel, no. 6, December 1893. Claude Heathcote’s real name was J. Harwood Panting.

Herbert Wentworth James, Paul Herring, S. Clarke Hook, Reginald Wray (real name William Benjamin Home-Gall), and Sidney Drew (real name Edgar Joyce Murray), also contributed thrilling stories to Big Budget. Samuel Clarke Hook was renowned for his creation of Jack, Sam and Pete, a series running through the marvel from no. 385, March 1901 to no. 940 in 1922. Original stories featuring the characters also appeared in Boys’ Friend Library. Herring wrote “Kit Carson” and other westerns for Big Budget. The artist on “Kit Carson” was J. W. Homes.

Albert Morrow was the preeminent artist for the fiction section. He was born in Ireland in 1863, studied at the Belfast Art School, and made a name for himself as an illustrator, poster designer and cartoonist in London. He contributed to the English Illustrated Magazine, Tit Bits, Good Words, Chums, and Punch. He died in West Sussex, 26 October 1927.


  1. A bit late, but the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography confirms that Ralph "Yorick" Hodgson the comic artist was indeed the same person as Ralph Hodgson the poet.