Who is Marie Duval? While not a household name in comics circles she’s actually one of the most important Victorian cartoonists, artist on Ally Sloper, one of the early cartoon sensations. The tale of a no good lazeabout that ran from 1857 on, it was created by Duval’s husband, Charles Ross, but gained its greatest fame after Duval took over in 1859. The Guardian has a tribute to her:
Ross and Duval, or Duval and Ross, created one of the world’s first iconic cartoon characters, Ally Sloper, a rogue as famous in Victorian Britain as Dennis the Menace would be a century later. Ally Sloper was an urban antihero – a feckless shirker constantly escaping creditors. Clearly he appealed to working-class readers, who saw him as a dodger surviving the Victorian slums. In an age when teetollers were trying to reform the ways of the “undeserving poor”, Ally Sloper’s red nose even celebrated hard drinking.
The article suggest that a piece by historian David Kunzle argues that Duval was the main force behind the strips creation—however in the comments its stated that’s a bit of a reach. You can read the original piece by Kunzle below, but whatever the origin of the strip, Duval was a madly popular cartoonist in her day, and yet another example of a female cartooning pioneer who pushes the whole “women in comics” start date back more than one hundred years.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.