Animation History
March 11, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

The Strangest Mighty Mouse Comics You’ve Never Seen!

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Cartoonist/animator Paul Terry was known for his archaic sense of humor and style of drawing. So when Mighty Mouse achieved commercial success in the 1940s he apparently turned to similarly archaic comic strip artist – a neighbor in Larchmont, New York – Herb Roth. Roth was somewhat well-known for his book and magazine cartoons, as well as being the assistant/ghost to cartooning legend H.T. Webster (1885-1952). Roth had his own one-shot comic strip briefly, for a few weeks in 1913, a New York World panel called Oh, That New York! What It Doesn’t Do To You!.

I don’t recall where I found these, but here are two sample Sunday strips Roth created for Terry in 1947. Needless to say, the strip never sold (though Mighty was popular enough to headline comic books for Timely (Marvel) and St. John around the same time). They are not very well written, and Roth struggles to stay on model (and fails), but his unique cartooning style comes through. Poor Mighty Mouse – like the repetitious animated shorts themselves (and understand, I love every operatic moment of them) the studio knew it had a great character but simply had no idea what to do with him.

Click on the strips below to view them at large size.

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10 Comments

  • This is quite fascinating, and revealing!! I, for one, will allllllways chering my Mighty Mouse CBS days!!

  • Something about this artwork reminds me of Tony Millionaire’s Maakies.

  • These are more impressive than I expected. Herb Roth was reasonably talented; the only thing he apparently couldn’t draw was the star of this unrealized comic strip — Mighty Mouse himself!

  • Impressive? I’m not sure. While fascinating and endearing, the art here reminds me of nothing so much as Tijuana Bibles—and the 1934 Oswald Big Little Book, a notoriously primitive low for licensed cartoon art. (Apart from the cover, which deceptively looks fine.)

  • Those are in-sane! It they had been presented without information, I would have assumed they were snarky parodies of brain-damaged, old-time comics.

  • Terrytoons’ artwork by the end of the 1930s definitely marched to the beat of its own drummer. Apparently the comic version of the studio’s star character was equally as eccentric (were it just a tad more detailed and smoothly laid out, the first example would look like a Prince Valiant strip, with the prince replaced b a flying muscular rodent).

  • It’s intriguing to compare Herb Roth’s art with that of Jim Tyer, who both animated some Mighty Mouse cartoon sequences and drew some of the Mighty Mouse comic books. Tyer’s art was also very off-model; the difference is that it was very lively and funny, while Roth’s is just — interesting.

  • Wasn’t Mighty Mouse supposed to be a comedy?

  • I knew my grandfather shared an office with Paul Terry but I did not know he drew some of his cartoons.

    • Your grandfather has a brief cameo as a fireman in the 1932 Terrytoon “Hook and Ladder #1″.

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