Drawing National Boundaries in Barr’s Ba-Bru Comic Strip Advertising

in European Comic Art

Barr’s Irn-Bru (previously Iron Brew), Scotland’s best-known soft drink, was promoted by recurrent comic strip advertisements in Scottish newspapers from 1939 to 1970. ‘The Adventures of Ba-Bru’ featured an eponymous Indian character who was joined by a kilt-wearing companion known as Sandy. This article explores how what the firm presents as the longest-running promotional comic strip in history has helped shape the construction of Scottishness in the drink’s advertising. The exotic nature of the central Ba-Bru figure provides a counterpoint to manifestations of local particularism but also grounds the drink’s discourse on Scottishness in a wider imperial and unionist context. The comic strips also generate examples of intermedial transfer that underline the impact of quotidian consumption habits in a national identity shaped by popular culture.