Back in the 1940s and 50s, comic book sales were huge – and one of the most popular comics genres were the “funny animals”. Especially the ones based on licensed Hollywood movie cartoon characters: Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Mighty Mouse, et al. Meanwhile there were hundreds of lesser funny books – the Ha-Ha and Giggle types – that filled their pages with made-up characters more often than not drawn by actual Hollywood (or New York) -based animators.
And then, every once in a while, there would be a “knock-off”. A comic book, or a random story, where the characters therein strongly resemble a popular cartoon star, the ones owned by the major animation studios; the ones featured in actual theatrical cartoons seen on big screen at your local Bijou. This post looks at three such comics – please let me know if you’ve spotted any others.
First up, the Fox & Crow. This one is the very definition of a “knock-off”. It literally IS an unlicensed Fox & Crow story (artist unknown – we welcome educated guesses in the comments below). It comes from Wonderland Comics #2 (Fall, 1945).
The actual Fox & Crow were licensed (from Columbia Pictures) to National Publications (DC Comics) in late 1944 and first appeared in Real Screen Funnies #1 (Spring 1945) in a story drawn by animation director Bob Wickersham. This isn’t that, and these aren’t them. For your reading pleasure, here’s a rare “untold tale” of Fauntleroy Fox and Crawford Crow:
This one-page Drakestone The Duck Magician by Ellis Holly Chambers appeared in a Toby Press one-shot Sands of the South Pacific #1 – dated January 1953. It looks like Chambers created it on spec and perhaps tried to sell it to Western Publishing. Or not. Who knows?
Oscar Wilde once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. If that’s so, then Casper The Friendly Ghost must be the greatest cartoon character of all time! During the 1950s at least six competitors tried to duplicate Harvey Comics success: Marvel’s Homer The Happy Ghost (by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo), A.C.G.’s Spencer Spook, Charlton’s Timmy The Timid Ghost, Ajax’s Spunky The Smiling Spook and Super Spook, and St. John’s L’il Ghost. Here are the four most notorious – click each cover to enlarge.
There you have it for this week… Know of any other classic cartoon character comic book knock-offs? Post about it in the Comments below!
Thanks: Devon Baxter and Milton Knight.