The Spies Report
January 1, 2024 posted by Kamden Spies

Early Andy Panda in Comics

Andy Panda was the biggest star in the Lantz studio in the late 30s and early 40’s. Throughout Lantz’s early merchandise and promotions, Andy was promoted as Lantz’s greatest personality, and he was indeed a popular character. The character got as far as generating his own radio show pilot. To celebrate the new year, I thought it would be worth spending our day off perusing the early comic book exploits of this cartoon favorite.

When Andy debuted, his first comics appeared in Crackajack Funnies issue 39-40 (sample pages pictured below). However, the character became interesting once the Andy Panda comics moved to The Funnies (which would eventually evolve into Walter Lantz’s New Funnies several years later). Andy Panda also appeared in an issue of the Big Little Book All Picture Comics series. In the book, Andy Panda essentially stars in a Terry & the Pirates knock-off. It seems crazy but it actually worked! You can read many of the issues at where Andy appears in issues 61-63 of The Funnies.

Moving from Crackajack Funnies to The Funnies, Andy also switched from gag cartoon storylines to adventure stories. In the comics, Andy plays an adventurous movie star in the early issues with his two new friends Marion and her brother Tommy, who are saving him from villainous hunters who hope to be famous by trapping a talking panda. The three faced head hunters, plane crashes, and other dangerous and incredibly dramatic obstacles very unlike anything that would ever be seen in Walter Lantz cartoons in theaters with the character. In the first issue of New Funnies, Rajah the Tiger essentially comes Andy’s newest sidekick but would be later replaced by Charlie Chicken when Andy’s adventure storyline was dropped. Many of the early comics were done by George Kerr and L. Bing.

Below – from Crackajack Funnies #39 (Sept. 1941)

Below – from Crackajack Funnies #40 (Oct. 1941)

Below from Andy Panda Comics “The Funnies” issue 61 (Starting at page 24) November 1941

Below from Andy Panda Comics “The Funnies” issue 62 (Starting at page 40) December 1941

Below from Andy Panda Comics “The Funnies” issue 63 (starting at page 35) March 1942

Thanks to who has many of the scans that I shared.


  • Gee whillikins, that’s wonderful!

    The Crackajack Funnies stories share the setting of Andy’s first animated cartoon, “Life Begins for Andy Panda”, an exotic environment inhabited by animals from every continent: pandas, monkeys, kangaroos, etc. As in the cartoon, there’s even a turtle with an old-timey Southern accent, though no sign of the Pygmy Panda Hunters.

    As for The Funnies, that adventure appears to be very loosely based on the story of Mrs. Ruth Harkness, the American socialite who in 1936 captured the first live panda to be taken out of China. Her husband, William, had previously led an expedition to capture a live Komodo dragon and hoped to have similar success with a panda; however, he died in Shanghai while waiting for government approval, so Ruth flew to China to carry on his work. (Unlike Marion in the comics, she didn’t bring a younger brother along. She did, however, have a 22-year-old Chinese-American guide who became her lover.) A panda cub, later named Su Lin, was captured after its mother was shot, and Mrs. Harkness sold it for the princely sum of $20,000 to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, where celebrities from Shirley Temple to Al Capone clamored to be photographed with it. A second expedition in 1937 brought back another cub named Mei-Mei. Sadly, of the dozen or so pandas displayed by American zoos in the late ’30s and early ’40s, none lived for more than a few years; Su Lin died in 1938, Mei-Mei in 1942.

    As for Mrs. Harkness, she wrote a book about her Chinese expeditions called “Mrs. Harkness and the Panda”, as well as accounts of her subsequent adventures in Peru and Mexico. She was found dead in her bathtub at age 46 of alcohol poisoning. Interestingly, a series of comic panels dramatising her capture of Su Lin appeared in an advertisement for Quaker Oats that ran in the Chicago Tribune in 1936.

    • Paul,

      I once again thank you for your incredibly informative and complimentary comments here! Each time I write one of these threads things, you’re additional information gives me lots of encouragement!

      • Glad to encourage you in your writing, Kamden. I only wish your articles appeared here more often!

  • Hey – isn’t that Walt Kelly art in the ad at the top of this story?

    • Looks like him, but probably not him.

    • That’s absolutely Walt Kelly’s artwork. He drew occasional features for NEW FUNNIES at the time, including the Brownies, adapted from Palmer Cox’s preexisting comics/storybook property focusing on a tribe of woodland elves.

      Not every Kelly feature in NF is indexed properly or has even been noticed by Kelly scholars, but various characters’ eyes in this look unmistakably like his.

    • My initial thought on seeing just the top 1/8th inch of the drawing was that it looked like Kelly, but I dismissed that thought until I made it to the comments.

    • It certainly looks like Kelly to me, but a lot of the Dell artists were using a similar style. I think it could just as easily be Dan Noonan, for instance.

      As someone who has scanned tons of books for Comic Book Plus and/or the Digital Comic Museum, I’m always glad to see people enjoying the books there. None of these scans are mine, but I did scan and share a lot of the Animal Comics and Peter Wheat books by Kelly.

  • I’m surprised to see Andy’s girlfriend Miranda as early as 1941. Didn’t know her existence predated “Scrappy Birthday” (1949). As with Petunia Pig at Warner’s, a major presence in the comics, barely seen on screen.

  • Kamden, I just noticed you’re now at IU, where I did my graduate work. I hope you enjoy your time in Bloomington. Is Mother Bear’s Pizza still around?

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