First Issue: 8th November 1920
Last Issue: Present Day
Copyright: Express Newspapers
As of writing (June 2016) November will see the 96th birthday of the world's longest running comic character. Rupert is not only older than 'Winnie the Pooh' but also Walt Disney's 'Mickey Mouse'. It was on November 8th 1920, that the British Newspaper 'The Daily Express' owned by Lord Beaverbrook and edited by R.D.Blumenfeld launched the Rupert comic strip.
'The Daily Express' had been looking for a comic strip character to rival those of their competitors. The news editor at the time was a man named Herbert Tourtel who suggested that his wife Mary Tourtel could draw a children's strip as she had been trained as an artist and was an established children's illustrator at that time. With the illustrations of Mary Tourtel and the captions by her husband Herbert 'The Adventures of a Little Lost Bear' appeared and Rupert became an immediate success.
Rupert with his friends Bill Badger, Edward Trunk and Algy Pug became firm favourites with the readership. In 1935, after ill health, Mary Tourtel retired and passed on the Rupert baton to Alfred E Bestell who continued both the writing and illustration. Bestell had previously worked for titles such as Punch, Tatler and had illustrated over 50 books.
Bestell worked on over 270 Rupert stories and one of his major contributions was the introduction of new friends including Tigerlily and the Old Professor. As a mark of respect to Tourtel, Bestell never signed his Rupert work until after her death in 1948.
The yearly Rupert annuals had become very popular and it became a tradition to draw Rupert with a brown face, hands and feet for the front cover and inside the cover his face would be white. The publishers continued the tradition up until 1973. However, due to a large number of letters from children asking why Rupert was always a different colour on the front cover, the publishers decided, after a print run of about 15 copies, to change the front cover Rupert to one with a white face and hands. The changes were made without the knowledge of Bestell who was so upset that he never worked on a Rupert annual ever again. More than 100,000 white-faced 1973 Rupert annuals were published with only about 15 brown faced annuals being printed. The brown faced annuals are extremely rare and very collectable. Recent prices for a brown face 1973 Rupert annual have exceeded £15,000. The 1973 annual was the last cover illustration drawn by Alfred Bestell. From 1974 to 1978 the work was undertaken by Alex Cubie. From 1978 illustrations were by to John Harrold with stories by Freddie Chaplain.
In 1985 the Queen awarded Bestell the MBE, but he was unable to collect the honour himself due to ill health. Bestell died on 15th January 1986 aged 94 years.