Royal Mail issued a set of eight stamps on September 3 to mark the 100th birthday of Rupert Bear, Britain’s longest continually running comic strip.

The anthropomorphic bear’s fantasy adventures with his young friends in the idyllic village of Nutwood first appeared in the Daily Express newspaper on November 8, 1920, and quickly became a children’s favourite. 

Initially the stories were written by Herbert Tourtel and illustrated by his wife Mary. They were reprinted in books from 1928, and Christmas annuals from 1931. Such was the popularity of the annuals that, in the midst of World War II rationing, the government sanctioned sufficient paper for them to be printed, to help boost public morale.

Alfred Bestall  wrote and illustrated more than 270 Rupert stories between 1935 and 1965, and his is widely considered to be the definitive version of the bear. He established the tradition that each frame in the strip would have a rhyming couplet under it.

Most stories commenced with Rupert leaving home, and ended with him returning in time for tea to tell his mother about his latest adventure. Each individual strip would typically end with the promise of a mystery, so that the next day’s newspaper was eagerly awaited by children.

From 1965 a team of illustrators produced the strip, but in 1985 John Harrold became the third official Rupert artist, working with storyteller Ian Robinson from 1990.

The stamps all reproduce the artwork of Bestall. They comprise four se-tenant pairs, each pair featuring two illustrations from the same adventure. Designed by Rose, they were printed in litho by International Security Printers.

 

2nd class Rupert’s Rainy Adventure (1944)

Then with a terrifying roar,

The water bursts in through a door.

2nd class Rupert’s Rainy Adventure (1944)

The bath is rocked from side to side,

And Pompey quite enjoys his ride.

1st class Rupert & The Mare’s Nest (1952)

Then Algy looks a trifle glum,

‘I’m going home,’ he tells his chum.

1st class Rupert & The Mare’s Nest (1952)

The large bird says, ‘Our king will know;

Climb on my back and off we’ll go.

£1.45 Rupert & The Lost Cuckoo (1963)

‘There’s something puzzling all of you,’

Says Rupert. ‘So please tell me too.’

£1.45 Rupert & The Lost Cuckoo (1963)

‘My cuckoo’s back again — hooray

He didn’t really go away!’

£1.70 Rupert’s Christmas Tree (1947)

Though Rupert searches all around,

There’s not one spruce tree to be found.

£1.70 Rupert’s Christmas Tree (1947)

The tree is such a lovely sight,

That Rupert’s chums gaze with delight.

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

The presentation pack explores the evolution of Rupert Bear under Mary Tourtel, Alfred Bestall and John Harrold, and takes a look back at the history of the annuals which are now collector’s items.

A first day cover and stamp cards are available as usual.

 

PRICES

Set of 8 stamps   £9.12

Presentation pack   £10.00

First day cover   £11.60

Stamp cards   £3.60

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   4/5

This is an impressive anniversary, even if you are not a Rupert fan

QUALITY OF DESIGN   3/5

Artistic credits are due to Alfred Bestall, with comparatively little 21st century input

WOW FACTOR   1/5

It’s another of those issues which aficionados will adore, and the general public will hardly notice