MOONLIGHTING ANIMATORS IN COMICS: MARTY TARAS, Part 2
Many of the Dave Tendlar-directed Famous Studios, in which Marty Taras served as an animator, relied on violent action featuring animal characters—in a similar vein to the Warners and MGM cartoons—including Blackie the Lamb, Herman the Mouse, Buzzy the Crow, and Katnip. One day, the studio bosses at Famous informed the artists they would receive additional payment for creating new characters. With that, Taras created Baby Huey, a large, dim-witted baby duck. He wrote the initial outline and sketched out the idea during his lunch hour. In a few weeks, Famous approved Taras’ character and was paid $185 for the work.
St. John Publishing caught on to the character in its early stages, and debuted Baby Huey in a comic book story for Casper #1 (September 1949)—six months before his screen debut Quack-A-Doodle Doo was released in theaters on March 1950. Taras received story credit along with Carl Meyer and Jack Mercer, who provided the voice for Popeye the Sailor. After Quack-A-Doodle Doo, Huey was featured in only 11 subsequent cartoons throughout the 1950s.Established characters Casper the Friendly Ghost and Little Audrey had their own comic books published by St. John. Around October 1951, Famous Studios arranged a deal with Harvey Comics to publish stories with Casper, Audrey, Buzzy, Herman, Katnip and Baby Huey, starting in April 1952, which ended their association with St. John. Many Famous animators drew comics for Harvey—at first, Dave Tendlar drew the Huey stories, along with artists such as Tom Golden, who used Taras’ previous comic pages to claim it as his own to Harvey. Taras wasn’t able to draw the Huey stories until he went over to Harvey, stating that he originated the character. Harvey was convinced, based on his samples, and Taras became the regular artist of the Baby Huey stories.
In essence, the Harvey comics with the Paramount characters read as a counterpart to the animated films, especially in their “animated” motions. He spoke about the liveliness in his poses used in the comics to Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald: “You try to get those silly exaggerations, and it’s the pose that really sells the attitude…If I just showed you the picture, you could tell me what the picture was trying to sell. Being an animator, of course, you did those things naturally. You knew that it had to sell, and sell very importantly in doing the motion.”
Taras only penciled the comic book stories for Harvey, as he felt that writing and inking them was a “chore.” Those jobs were often tasked by Famous staffers — the likes writer Larz Bourne and inker Lee Donahue. Besides Baby Huey, throughout the ‘50s, he drew many stories with Little Audrey, Buzzy, and Herman and Katnip. Taras also drew stories with Rags Rabbit and his two twin brothers Pesty and Jesty, who debuted in earlier Harvey comics in the mid-‘40s, but hadn’t appeared in any Paramount cartoons.
Near the end of the ‘50s, Taras left Famous Studios, arriving back to Terrytoons,now under the management of Bill Weiss – in that post-Gene Deitch/”New Terrytoons” era — serving as a director for a brief period. He went back to Paramount, where he animated on King Features’ Beetle Bailey, Snuffy Smith and Popeye television episodes as well as several Paramount theatrical cartoons throughout the ‘60s. During this time, Taras continued with comic book stories, primarily for Casper spin-offs such as Wendy the Good Little Witch and Nightmare the Galloping Ghost.
After Paramount’s closure in 1967, Taras went back to television on Steve Krantz and Ralph Bakshi’s Spider-Man series. When Bakshi formed his own production company to create animated features for adults, Taras joined the studio as an animator on Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Wizards and The Lord of the Rings. (In between the latter two Bakshi films, Taras also animated on the 1975 animated feature Tubby the Tuba.) During the early ‘70s, Taras handled drawing duties for Western Publishing’s Gold Key, with Little Lulu’s Tubby, and, intriguingly, Warners characters—namely, Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam. Taras later became a layout artist for Hanna-Barbera in the late ‘70s, and animated on a few specials with Strawberry Shortcake and the Berenstain Bears in the early ‘80s.
Here’s a random selection of Taras’ comics from the ‘50s through the ‘70s—again, the work done around this period is immense, so apologies if some stories have been overlooked. (If you’d like to see more of Taras’ work, particularly the Baby Huey stories, be sure to check out Harvey Comics Classics Volume 4: Baby Huey, compiled by Jerry Beck and Leslie Carbaga.)
• “The Chiroquactor” (Buzzy the Crow)—Paramount Animated Comics #4 (August 1953).
• “Musclin’ In” (Rags Rabbit)—Rags Rabbit #15 (September 1953).
• “Heaven Scent” (Casper the Friendly Ghost)—Casper #15 (December 1953).
• “Pot Luck” (Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost)—Casper #25 (October 1954).
• “Golf Balled Up” (Baby Huey)—Paramount Animated Comics #11 (October 1954).
• “Yes, There is a Santa Claus” (Wendy the Good Little Witch)—Wendy #28 (February 1965)
• “So Hauntingly True” (Nightmare the Galloping Ghost)—Casper and Nightmare #20 (June 1968).
• “All Around the Whoopie-Berry Bush” (Bugs Bunny/Yosemite Sam)—Yosemite Sam #18 (December 1973).
This has been another great year writing for Cartoon Research, and I’d like to thank the kind and generous people who have helped make it successful. Admittedly, the amount of drafts available to me diminishes by each post, which is one reason why I’ve decided to write about an entirely different topic altogether. I have another topic to discuss in the future, and the details will be revealed in another future post, but it requires more research than both subjects combined—so keep an eye out!
On the subject of both columns, I’m proposing an alternative for 2017—each alternating month will be dedicated to animator breakdowns and the other for comics. For instance, this coming January will all pertain to the comics, and the following month will relate to the animator breakdowns. I have already planned the theme for February, which will not be Foghorn February, as it was last year, but it promises some variety. Hopefully, more animation records surface from other films that were thought impossible next year, but as I’ve said, time will tell and we’ll have to hope for the best.
(Thanks to Mike Kazeleh, Jerry Beck and Bob Jaques for their help.)