Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rupert the Bear and the Mermaid Boy

Aussie comics artists/illustrators Frank Kennedy and Marcelo Baez stopped by my place the other day after attending the Australian Society of Authors Xmas party. My friend Zoe Harvey and I made it to the party too but left after ten minutes. This wasn't a commentary on the speeches, the guests, the food or any of the proceedings – it was because we were on an animal rescue mission and had to look after a baby bird we had found in the middle of the main road in Balmain, Sydney.

Anyway, had a great chat with the two guys and somewhere in the conversation, we began to discuss Rupert the Bear. Now for those of you who don't know anything about this literary character, he was the lead in a comic that was first published in 1920. The books were unusual in style – there were four sequential art panels per page but no captions or word balloons. The story was told in a two-line verse under each panel and in prose at the bottom of the page. I found a copy of Rupert, sans cover, in a box of books I found hidden in a cupboard of our home in Cronulla where I was born. I must have been about two years old because we moved soon after. I have no idea who this book originally belonged to but from that moment it was mine. It's sitting on my lap right now and in a few moments I'll return it to the graphic novel section of my library. The title page only says "Rupert" and a statement at the bottom proclaims it to be "A Daily Express Publication". It costs 4 shillings and six pence. I think this must have been the first graphic novel I ever owned.

Anyway, Frank asked me if I had ever seen the story (Rupert and the Popweed) where Rupert meets a merboy and I said no. He then kindly emailed me the piece you see on this blog post, which of course prompted me to do a bit of investigation and see if the title still exists. It does. If you're a mermaid collector like us, you can order it from Amazon (although I think there's only one used copy left). We'll see which of us gets in first! There are lots of other Rupert books out there too so check them out if you have a minute.


Alan Ralph said...

Rupert the Bear was still popular when I was a kid in the 70s, in fact there was a cartoon series made of his adventures with his friends. :) No surprise that he met some merfolk in his travels. :)

Black Mermaid Productions said...

Thanks for the tip, Ralph.
I never came across the cartoon series – I don't know whether it was shown on Australian TV or not as I wasn't allowed to watch terribly much TV. However, I did notice that some of the books with the cartoon characters featured on Amazon and also the Wikipedia article reference in the blog post. I hope the cartoon series was good – I may have to try and chase them up.