I’ve already posted several comics featuring my favorite Hanna-Barbara cartoon character, Huckleberry Hound, but this giveaway, Huckleberry Hound’s Kite Fun Book is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First it’s a neat little booklet from 1961, ”Published as a public service by Southern California Edison Company.” that teaches kids how to build a kite as well as the rules of kite safety. It’s a shame I didn’t see this when I was a kid because while I went through a kite flying phase every attempt was met with Charlie Brown levels of humiliating failure. Even when I had an adequate space for kite flying, which was infrequent, I could only keep my feeble crates afloat for roughly 3-4 minutes before they would inevitably crash. After a half-dozen attempts, I took a freaking hint and moved onto building models — something I was also horrible at.
Along with being informative the art is also wonderfully on model and Huck mostly in character. Though I don’t recall him having a nephew named “Pup” or living in a doghouse with “Huckleberry Hound’s House” carved into it.
We lost Gary Owens a little while ago. You probably remember him as the booth announcer on Laugh-In.
Gary has many connections to comics and cartoons as voice actor. Mr. Owens was the voice of Roger Ramjet, Space Ghost and the Blue Falcon.
Gary was also a cartoonist himself! But since this is Comics Tunes Tuesday, we’re interested in how Gary Owens’ career intersected with records and comics. Well, you need look no further than this very blog! We already spotlighted three tracks from an album called “Sunday Morning with the Comics” which you can hear here, here and here.
Note to trivia buffs and nitpickers: Gary’s Wikipedia entry, and virtually every other mention on Google, calls this LP “Sunday Morning With the Funnies” with the Jimmy Haskell Orchestra. Yet he’s called Jimmy Bowen on every copy I’ve seen. Is this an error? Or was there another version under a different name? It’s a honey of a mystery.
This time, we’re sharing the song “Wonder Mother” featuring Gary’s voice at the beginning.
The comic book of course started out as a collection of previously published comic strips and even after most publishers switched to a primarily original material format there were were still quite a few titles devoted to reprinting comic strips; Tip Top, Magic, Ace, The Funnies and Super Comics. It ran 121 issues and featured some of the biggest strips on the funny pages including Terry and the Pirates, Little Orphan Annie, Smokie Stover, Dick Tracy, etc. But of course me being me as per usual I’m more interested in the more obscure comic strips as well as the few original features.
Like Tiny Tim by Stanely Link about Tim Grunt and his sister Dotty, both of whom were only a couple of inches tall. It was mostly a kid’s melodrama strip but according to Wikipedia it became more of a straight adventure one where a gypsy grew them to “slightly less than normal size”. Tim then became kind of a superhero after the gypsy presented him with an amulet that allowed shrink down to two inches. According to Don Markstein’s Toonopedia site he even fought “evil would-be world conquerors”. I really hope I get a chance to read that version of the strip.
I’ve always been fond of Frank Willard’s Moon Mullins a “lovable, banjo-eyed lowlife at home in the sporting world” (to quote Wikipedia) but so far I’ve only been able to experience the strip in small doses, like this.
He’s an oddity, The Thief of Bagdad, an original Arabian Knights type strip by Erwin L. Hess who worked for Dell Publications on everything from Gang Busters to Roy Rogers but who also drew the Captain Midnight comic strip from 1942 to 1945.
Jack Wander by Ed Moore about a war correspondent.
Walter Berndts Smitty about an office boy.
Ken Ernsts Magic Morrow about a standard Tarzan who also happened to be a darn good sorcerer.
As previously established I love old comic books and old comic strips so old comic books full of old comic strips hold a special place in my heart. Especially since most of these comics (Ace, Magic, The Funnies, etc.) have long been unavailable to me. But I recently came across a bunch of early issues of Tip Top Comics and, boy, do I like them. Published by the United Features syndicate it ran 188 issues between 1936 and 1954 and while in it’s final days it focused pretty heavily on Nancy and Sluggo during it’s early days it featured many well known and incredibly obscure comic strips.
Like Dirks The Captain and the Kids. The more I read of this iteration of the characters the more I prefer it to the better known The Katzenjammer Kids.
Burne Hogarth’s Tarzan. Full disclosure; this is a strip that I’ve always admired and appreciated more than actually liked.
I finally get a look at the very early days of Joe Jinks.
I haven’t had a lot of exposure to Bill Counselman and Charles Plumb’s Ella Cinder, a somewhat awkwardly drawn comic strip that was, as the title suggests with the subtlety of a clown hammer, is a contemporary version of Cinderella. Of much more interest to me is the strips “topper”, Chris Crusty which ran from 1931 to 1940 mostly because it’s just so darn strange; I’m still not sure whether Chris is a hapless everyman or a man on the verge of a psychotic break.
Little Mary Mixup was a gag strip about a little girl by Robert Moore Brinkerhoff than gradually became a light-hearted story strip that also gradually allowed the title character to age to a teenager by WWII.
Fritzi Ritz, sans Nancy.
I’ve never heard of Benny and as far as I can tell neither has the Internet. Which is a shame since it’s just so odd, not necessarily odd enough to be good, but odd as in “I’ve never seen anything quite like this before”.
Mr. and Mrs. Beans, another completely unknown strip that’s handsomely illustrated by person or persons unknown.
Billy Make-Believe by Harry E. Homan,
Peter Pat by Mo Leff,
Frankie Doodle, a fairly short run orphan on the run strip by Ben Batsford.
As well established I’m always inappropriately delighted when I discover something I don’t know. This week it’s the fact there was an Archie character I had never heard of, and I’ve heard of Senor Banana. I speak of The Adventures of Pipsqueak, a short-run Archie series running six issues between 1959 and 60. Pipsqueak is considered by some to be a Dennis the Menace ripoff and while I’ve only read this one issue and he certainly seems to be a lively kid misconstruing the English and causing chaos didn’t seem to be his exclusive reason for existing. He’s a pretty normal kid with pretty normal friends and parents and his ‘antics’ are low key and thoroughly believable. About the only thing of distinction, I can find about this comic is that characters use the archaic nautical term “yare” meaning easily maneuverable, ready. It’s used by both Pipsqueaks friend Knucklehead and his dad and in the context it appears to mean “right” or “I heard that”. Perhaps the writer/artist Walt Lardner had a nautical background of maybe it’s a regional colloquialism; I just don’t know.
Speaking of whom I also learned, a little about a cartoonist named Walt Lardner who seems to have lived a double life. While there is precious little about Walt Lardner, comic book artist, available on the web there’s a bit more about Walt Lardner, an editorial cartoonist. Anyone with any further information about Lardner please to let me know.
There are definite holes in my encyclopedic comic book knowledge, one of those being non-superhero DC comics from the 50′s and 60′s. For example, their SF/Fantasy anthologies. I’ve often spoken about how much I appreciated the non-threatening, gently reassuring nature of DC’s 50′s and early 60′s comics but when comes to this genre (Mystery In Space, Strange Adventures, Tales of the Unexpected and House of Secrets) I much preferred the sometimes unsettling ookines of the Atlas/Marvel comics (Tales To Astonish, Strange Tales, Tales To Astonish, etc.) . And the Marvels had the better monsters; for me The Faceless Hunter and Yggardis the Living Planet just couldn’t compete with Fing Fang Foom and Googam.
As far as I was concerned the only advantage the DC’s had was they had reoccurring quasi-superheroes like Captain Comet and Adam Stange to fight the monsters. Oh, and the DC’s had gorillas. Now, I love me some gorillas, always have, both the real world variety and their fantastical fictional counterparts. How much? If you were able to check out my hard drive (and you really shouldn’t) you would find a lot of images of gorillas. Like, this one:
Supposedly back in the 50′s and 60′s it was an article of faith at DC Comics that a gorilla on a comics cover resulted in higher sales. Now no one has ever been able to produce an internal memo that substantiates the legend, but as you can see for yourself, the anecdotal evidence is pretty overwhelming:
Which resulted in this lovely one by Nick Cardy. Now that’s one nice, photorealistic gorilla.
According to the Grand Comic Book Database, “The Phantoms In the Ring” was drawn by George PappInks and inked by Sheldon Moldoff.
“The Magic Pass” was drawn by Howard Purcell and inked by Mort Meskin.
And finally bringing up the rear comes our star attraction, “Experiment 1000″ drawn and inked by Nick Cardy. Again, Nick Cardy could draw himself a gorilla.
As previously established I’ve always had an abiding passion for the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters, especially in their original incarnations. Oh, I know that it’s good that they evolved over the years, but I also believe the further they got from their beginnings the weaker they got. I’ve never had the chance to read the a lot of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies comic books, especially the early ones, but I recently came across a treasure trove of them online. And boy, am I happy.
I find them to be charming and wonderfully “on model” (as they say in the animation industry), so it’s a shame that the Grand Comic Book Database has no idea who wrote or drew any of these stories. They’re also more than a little odd; that’s certainly the case withLooney Tunes and Merrie Melodies#8.
There’s a lot of material to cover here and I won’t be covering most of it. Like the Bugs Bunny story with an Arabian Knights theme and toxic African-American stereotypes. I know enough about funny animal comics to know that the Sniffles and Mary Jane stories are generally well thought of, but I frankly wasn’t impressed with this outing. Plus there’s a Kandi the Cave Kid strip by Walt Kelly, but frankly, I wasn’t that crazy about it either.
What did make the cut was an unlikely team-up between two straight men, Porky Pig, and Elmer Fudd who along with Petunia Pig get involved in a fairly straight adventure story It ends with a “continued” blur and them shipwrecked on a desert island
Next up is a story where Elmer actually gets top billing over Bugs in an outing where Elmer is a farmer dissatisfied with his animals output and Bugs a prop in a stage magician’s act looking for a handout. Elmer is clearly demonstrating poor management by cruelly berating his livestock for their poor performance which Bugs sees as an opportunity to seed descent among them. For a moment, I actually expected Bugs to lead them into an Animal Farm style revolt but no, instead he encourages them to seek fame and fortune at the county fair. This, of course, is an unmitigated failure, but all is well in the end thanks to the healing power of an image of FDR.
Next up is an original character that never made it into animated cartoons, RingyRoonga. A roonga being an imaginary African animal created for another strip in a previous issue of Looney Tunes. Here Ringy has been redesigned into a cuter, fully anthropomorphized character, a lost soul who is always being mistaken for a skunk. In this nicely drawn story, he’s teamed with Freddy Fox, a heavy from the short Porky’s Hired Hand.
And finally there’s the feature where the roonga originated, Pat, Patsy and Pete, a strip about two kids and their talking penguin pal. Smith left the feature and went on to do a similar comic, Peter and Pudgie for both Crackajack and Popular Comics
In spite of being superhero-centric in my comic book reading growing up I have nothing but love for the Loony Tunes characters. So it’s always a treat when I come across a comic that gets the characters personalities right and they’re drawn” on model” (to use the term from animation). A lot of times you get what you paid for with free comics, but I was well surprised but just how good this K-Mart giveaway was. Written by JG Weiss and drawn by Oscar Saavedra. 1994 was the Tasmanian Devil’s 40th Anniversary and the comic was no doubt a promotion to help raise Taz’s profile before the debut of the Taz-Mania TV series. The pretext of the story is the gang taking Taz to K-Mart so he can pick out his own birthday present. I really don’t want to say anything nice about K-Mart, but I really have to give the company credit for being good sports about showing Taz trashing one of their stores and indiscriminately devouring their merchandise (without paying for it).
Here’s another Atlas comic I’ve wanted to read for a long time and never thought I would, Speed Carter, Spaceman. You could say this was just another example of the Atlas Comics “philosophy” of identifying trends and fads then trying to get comics out exploiting them before the bandwagon came to a complete stop. In this instance it was the then going full blast “space” fad (perpetuated by such TV shows as Tom Corbet, Space Cadet, Captain Video, etc.). And while it’s certainly a knockoff it’s at least a very good knockoff, beginning with a cover by Bill Everett…
The Speed Carter stories were written by Hank Chapman and drawn by Joe Maneely.
And the Famous Explorers of the Space feature was written by Chapman and drawn (and signed) by John Romita.
Other than its “good”, I admittedly don’t have a lot else to say about SpeedCarter. Except I hope you enjoy it as much I did.
Here’s an Atlas comic that I’ve wanted to read for quite a while. For reasons unknown around the middle of the eighteen issues run of the military anthology comic Navy Action became Sailor Sweeney, after which it becameNavy Action again. This series within a series was focused on the peace-time somewhat comic adventures of Sweeney and his mates, eating machine “Tubby”, girl chasing “Lover Boy”, gambler ”Big Deal” and New Yorker “Broadway”. But whether fighting commies, busting crooks or getting involved in sit-com style antics the focus of the stories invariably were on Sweeney and his immediate superior, Petty Officer Mulligan. Perhaps because both were smitten with the pretty Commander’s niece Joanie Jones, Mulligan hated Sweeney’s guts and always thought he was up to unspecified “something”. Which was pure paranoia on Mulligans part; because whether on duty or on shore leave, Sweeney, as well as the rest of the crew, were perfect gentlemen. During the height of WWII, comics were full of similar comic features where soldiers, sailors, and Marines routinely engaged in brawls and girls chasing. Maybe it was just a different time, or Stan Lee didn’t want to jeopardize the sales of Atlas comics at military PX’s, but Sweeney and his pals conducted themselves like perfect gentlemen.
Once you get past the really nice Joe Maneely cover you got three pretty solid stories drawn by Syd Shores (plus a darn nice non-Sweeney Navy four page story by Don Heck ,”Torpedoes Away!”, which Heck even got to sign, which I’ve chosen not to post).