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Frederick George Cordwell was born in Stockwell, south London, in 1887, the son of a solicitor. He joined the Daily Mail as an office boy before moving to the Amalgamated Press in its offices on Tudor Street. He became editor of Butterfly (1904), Merry and Bright (1910), Fun and Fiction (1911, became Firefly in 1914) and Dreadnought (1912). He wrote "Jack Johnson" stories in Butterfly as well as scripts for Merry and Bright and The Favourite Comic, and probably many others. He served in the Army during the First Word War, before returning to the AP and editing Cheerio (1919).

Noticing the growing popularity of the cinema, he launched two new comics featuring film stars, Film Fun and Kinema Comic, in 1920, both of which were extremely successful, lasting 42 and 12 years respectively. He used artist Bill Wakefield on many of his titles, and instructed other artists on Film Fun to imitate his style. Cordwell himself wrote Jack Keen stories in both titles, and occasionally helped illustrate them. He appeared in a Jack Keen photostory, playing the evil Professor Lewdroc, in the 1939 Film Fun annual, and was depicted in Film Fun as "Eddie the Happy Editor", usually in the Christmas issues, drawn by Wakefield.

Another of his launches, Sports Fun, was less successful, lasting only 42 issues in 1922. In the 30s he launched the story papers Startler (1930-32), Bullseye (1931-34) and Surprise (1932-33), and the short-lived comic Film Picture Stories (1934).

He set high standards for his artists, but also gave them eccentric prohibitions: they were not allowed to draw an octopus or a character with a wooden leg in their strips. He was a flamboyant characters, brandishing a long cigarette holder and ordering kippers and whelks in the most exclusive restaurants. He lived at Hayling Island until 1939, and died suddenly at a riverside hotel in Richmond, Surrey, in 1949.


  • Alan Clark, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, p. 43