MOONLIGHTING ANIMATORS IN COMICS – Part 3
Irv Spence and Rod Scribner, both known for the unbridled energy of their animation, took a chance free-lancing their own “funny animal” stories for Happy Comics, one of many in the line of Sangor’s comic magazines. Their stories were an issue apart—Spence’s story was featured in issue #11 (January 1946), and Scribner’s in issue #12 (March 1946). These stories seem to be the only known comic book work done by these artists. Of course, that may be subject to change (let us know in the comments below) — at the moment, any other published stories by the two would surprise me.Spence migrated to Warners, where he animated in Tex Avery’s unit, and brought an eccentric drawing/animation style to already irreverent animated films. He later moved to MGM in 1938, starting with the Captain and the Kids cartoons—some of which were directed by Bill Hanna and Friz Freleng. Spence animated for Milt Gross (on the Count Screwloose cartoons), Hugh Harman, and for the Bill Hanna/Joe Barbera unit. Spence also animated for Tex Avery in his first four cartoons (Blitz Wolf, The Early Bird Dood It, Dumb-Hounded and Red Hot Riding Hood) when he arrived at the studio.
Based on a cartoon diary Spence drew in 1944, in October of that year, he moved to Avery’s unit, as a character layout artist and drew model sheets on the George and Junior cartoons and Slap-Happy Lion (1947). Around 1945, Spence left MGM to animate for John Sutherland Productions, on industrial films.
According to entries in Spence’s cartoon diary from around mid-November 1944, before he left for Sutherland, he saw an opportunity to draw for comic books. It’s unclear when he drew his “Lonely Wolf” for Sangor’s Happy Comics, but considering the influx of stories produced by artists working regularly in animation studios, a backlog is certainly possible.
Here is a reel of Irv Spence’s animation, compiled by Thad Komorowski:
The drawing in the story, as it appears, is strikingly similar to the character models Spence drew for Avery (click to enlarge each page):
Rod Scribner joined Warners’ animation department shortly after Leon Schlesinger’s association with Harman and Ising dissolved in 1933. He became an assistant animator by 1935, and by 1938 was an animator for the Ben Hardaway/Cal Dalton unit. After their unit disbanded, when Friz Freleng returned from MGM a year later, Scribner moved to Tex Avery’s unit, where his uninhibited animation became noticeable. When Avery left the studio to direct the live-action Speaking of Animals series for Jerry Fairbanks Productions, Scribner shifted to Bob Clampett’s unit—there, his drawing/animation ideally matched the director’s expansive and energetic cartoons.
Scribner’s story for Happy Comics features “Rowdy Runner” – written by Michael Maltese – featuring a road-runner more in the vein of Clampett’s Beaky Buzzard than what Chuck Jones would design in later years. Considering the backlog for this story as well, this story assuredly was drawn while Scribner was animating for Clampett. The fourth page, as the constable possum awakens in a daze after hitting a nearby tree, strikes a notion that Rowdy is the culprit to his harm, and his destroyed motorcycle—bursts with inner emotion, just as the best of Scribner’s animation evokes for Avery and Clampett.
Again, a reel of Scribner’s scenes by Thad Komorowski, all comprised of his work for Warners:
Scribner’s “Rowdy Runner” here (click to enlarge each page):
(Thanks to Thad Komorowski and Michael Barrier for their help.)