| Ally Sloper in Close-Up. William Baxter original, |
ink on lightweight paper, 1886.
American publisher Bill Leach has been collecting Ally Sloper original art since the 1980s. His mother’s maiden name was Sloper, so “what started out as a minor interest has become a major addiction.” Along with Dennis Cunningham, founder of Weirdom fanzine, later Weirdom Illustrated, Bill Leach ran the graphic print shop Grafitti Graphics in Clearlake, California, from 1977 to ’87.
In 1986 Leach bought all of the Rich Corben art Cunningham had in his possession and republished Corben’s Tales from the Plague, originally published in Weirdom Illustrated no. 13 in 1969. Corben supplied a new cover and “I got Corben to use my face on the torch wielding maniac, so I have that on my resume now!…” With Barry Cunningham, brother of Dennis, he published four issues of County Comix in 1981-82, featuring Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Clearlake titles.
| Heads of the People. Full-page William Baxter cartoon, Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday, Oct 23, 1886, one of his last for the paper.|
FUN. Then, in 1870, the comic journal Fun, rival to the weeklies Punch and Judy, was bought by the Dalziel Brothers, a long-established family firm of wood-engravers, the largest in London at the time. The firm was started in 1840 by the two brothers George (b.1815) and Edward Dalziel (b.1817). In 1872 the Dalziels also purchased the title Judy. Edward’s son, Gilbert Dalziel became its business conductor. In 1883 Charles Henry Ross sold all rights to his Ally Sloper character to Gilbert Dalziel of Dalziel Brothers, who then launched Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday with proprietor W.J. Sinkins on May 3, 1884. This publication ran until September 9, 1916. It was revived unsuccessfully in 1922 and again in 1948. The address of its editorial offices was given as “The Sloperies,” 99 Shoe Lane, EC. The first years, primary art was by William Giles Baxter or W.G.B. (1856-88), who drew Sloper in 1884-86. He left at the end of 1886 to work on a different project, but then died in mid-1888, alcohol was given as the cause. According to Bill Leach, William Fletcher Thomas (1862-1922) had been drawing Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday covers even before Baxter, and took over full time in late-1886 upon Baxter’s leave.
NO FUN. The Dalziel Brothers who bought those magazines in the 1870s, saw their wood-engraving business dwindle during the 1880s photomechanical reproduction revolution, and went bankrupt in 1893.
| “May Your X-MAS Day Be Happy, and Your Bills Be Light.” Original William Thomas art, 1899.|
| Bill Leach with the William Thomas original.|
| The “Sloperies” – Editor’s Bell. Sloper and Freedom. Original William Baxter art, 1880s, 32 x 25 cm.|
| “Billstickers will be prosecuted!” Original William Baxter art, Christmas 1880s, 33 x 27 cm.|
| The Eastern Crisis. – Grease: Its Use and Abuse. Full-page William Baxter strip of cartoons, Ally Sloper's Half-Holiday, Feb 6, 1886.|
| A Cabinet Council at “The Sloperies.” Full-page William Baxter cartoon, Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday, Aug 21, 1886.|
| Turning over a New Leaf. William Baxter cover, Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday, Jan 2, 1886.|
| Our Contempo-Raree Show. Businessman Gilbert Dalziel pictured by Houghton, FUN, May 21, 1895.|
| Bound volume, Gilbert Dalziel’s signature, 1886. |