From Wardour St. to Fleet Street 1933

NipperStatuetteAnd so Nipper made his début in the Daily Mail. He was a fictitious character with some sort of likeness to our son John. His exploits were based upon the natural childish tendency to imitate his elders, which were slightly exaggerated for the purpose of humorous emphasis, but most were true to life. I tried to keep them as simple as possible as I believed that a strip cartoon should tell its story to people of all ages without a word of dialogue or even title by way of explanation. The ideas came from both a little inspiration and perspiration plus a lot of observation. Memory played a large part too, It was about this time too that as an experiment I made a little plaster model of the Nipper, my first shot at it.

In October 1933, I moved with my family from London to Holzer, Station Road, Thames Ditton, in Surrey. Despite my receiving several complimentary letters from readers, the Editor of the Mail saw fit to reduce my remuneration from five to three guineas for the sketches and despite representation for its reinstatement he could not see his way clear to do so. Despite this brief financial setback, the Nipper continued to be well received by the public and in 1934 was popular enough for the publication of the first Annual on 7 December in time for Christmas. It was an astonishing success.

1935 was to prove even more successful than the previous year. I now gave some thought to making a series of Nipper cartoon films. One interviewer, Fenn Sherie of Pearsons Weekly Magazine even suggested that if the little fellow was able to amble onto the cinema screen he might even become a formidable rival to Mickey Mouse, especially since I already had considerable experience in making screen cartoons. Geoffrey Millar Ltd., of London made a tentative approach to the Mail proposing a series of six minute films in colour which was in greater demand than those in black and white. Nothing came of this and I was not in too much of a hurry as I was then experimenting with various new ideas on the technical side.

The Mail now saw fit to put me on contract for a period of two years from 5 June at a salary of £2000 per year, which was a considerable change from eighteen months before when I was paid on a basis of strips submitted and accepted.

To create a cartoon was not all plain sailing. There were the Editors’ wishes to consider. In January 1935 he wrote “A little niece of mine writes to me this – When is the Nipper going to school? I am sure he could be awfully naughty there”. This suggestion I managed to ignore, as I wanted the Nipper to remain a Nipper all his life, about the same age as my son John was when the Nipper idea first emerged. I dare not let him grow any older.

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