May Gibbs

May Gibbs: an Australian classic

Newspaper cartoons

The 1920s was a prolific and prosperous period for May Gibbs as a syndicated newspaper cartoonist and columnist. At the time, children’s comic strips were becoming popular with titles such as Ginger Meggs and Fatty Finn.

In 1924 Gibbs was the first woman to join the ranks of Australia’s cartoonists, with her popular Bib and Bub cartoon strip, which first appeared in the Sunday News on 3 August 1924. Already a household name with her children's books, Gibbs now pursued her newspaper career with vigour.

Bib and Bub was later syndicated to newspapers across Australia and New Zealand, becoming one of Australia’s longest-running comic strips by an individual artist, continuing until 1967. The cartoons featured topical themes, as well as ideas adapted from her previous works. Gibbs used the pseudonym Sam Cottman for her second cartoon strip, Tiggy Touchwood, which was published by rival newspaper the Sunday Sun from 1925, and also Melbourne's Sunday News Pictorial from 1926. In a departure from her usual gumnut characters, Tiggy was a pipe-smoking pig which proved equally popular with readers. It ceased publication in 1931. 

Editor writing his leading article, from Snugglepot & Cuddlepie, by May Gibbs

Given the ongoing success of Bib and Bub, the Sunday News expanded their children’s supplement to include further May Gibbs work. Gumnut Gossip – Extracts from the Daily Bark first appeared in the Sunday News in August 1925. The weekly newspaper column featured short stories and illustrations of life in Gumnut Town, always with a humorous twist or moral for its readers. The Daily Bark was the fictional Gumnut Town newspaper which had first appeared in Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. From 1930 her Gumnut Gossip column was transferred to the Women’s Budget, until it ceased in 1935. 

Gibbs continued to draw inspiration for her work from the gardens surrounding her home, 'Nutcote', in Neutral Bay. While enthusiasm for her cartoons grew during this period, there was something of a slump in sales of her gumnut books during the Depression years. During this period she also produced merchandise to supplement her income.

Volume 08/Published xvi: Illustrations for Bib and Bub Painting Book / by May Gibbs

 Find more cartoons in the May Gibbs papers, via the Library’s online catalogue

Bib and Bub

Bub and Bib, the friend of every Australian child, redolent of the Australian Bush, will from now on appear every week in color in the "Sunday News" only - Sunday News, 3 August 1924, p.1

May Gibbs’ popular cartoon strip, Bib and Bub, first appeared in the Sunday News on 3 August 1924. A front page advertisement in that edition announced “Gum-nut Babies in Color To-day”.

For the initial sum of five pounds per week, Gibbs was to supply a half page cartoon strip each week. The cartoons featured her familiar gumnut characters and humour, combined with small lessons in life for her young audience. Originally, the captions were in her distinctive scribbly-gum writing, although they were later typeset to improve legibility. Her cartoons incorporated topical themes, as well as ideas adapted from previous works.


Gumnut Gossip