Tagged: Ralph Bakshi

Martha Thomases: Save The Day!

Superman was not my first.

Yes, I know, I have been adamant in my assertions that I loved superhero comics from the time I was five years old. And that is true. But before I started to read Superman in the comics, before I even saw him on my black-and-white television set, I fell for another. Hard.

And now, Mighty Mouse is coming back to comics.

It is difficult to put into words how much Mighty Mouse meant to me. It didn’t matter that the character was male, and a rodent. I totally identified. Perhaps it helped that I was three years old, and I thought that jumping on my bed and singing the theme song was essentially the same as fighting the bad guys.

There have been Mighty Mouse revivals in the past, most notably by Ralph Bakshi in the Reagan years. It was fun at times, and my husband was a big fan of Bakshi. To me, including references to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll missed what I considered to be the point. Yes, Mighty Mouse was simple and two-dimensional and (you should pardon the expression) squeaky clean.

I thought that was a feature, not a bug.

There is a tendency among some modern creators to think that children’s entertainment must include winks to their parents, some references that will go over the kids’ heads to amuse the adults. This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. The Muppets, especially, are terrific at it.

(Note: I am not including examples like the classic Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons because they were not created specifically for children, but rather to be part of a movie program. Le pedant, c’est moi.)

In my opinion, there are many more examples that are less successful. In general, I don’t find the Dreamworks animated features satisfying, because the scripts make me think the writers want me to know that they are absolutely not children but smart, hip adults. Smart and hip, maybe, but give me Pixar’s heart any day.

So I’m not sure how I feel about Mighty Mouse being retooled, even though it seems that I am one of the target geeks. I mean, I love Alex Ross, but his romantic realism seems contrary to the dynamic crudeness of the original Terrytoons aesthetic.

On the other hand, Solly Fisch wrote one of my favorite Superman stories during the New52, starring Krypto.

I’ll probably check it out. You should, too. Let’s hope that we lovingly pass it on to the toddlers in our lives, of all ages.

Dennis O’Neil Comes To Save The Day!



I am sitting across the dining room table from a DNA-sharing fellow human being and, for no reason I can recall, the subject of Mighty Mouse arises and, for no reason I can recall, I start to – yes! – sing:

Here he comes to save the day / Mighty Mouse is on his way…

Okay, before we lurch further, let’s get a bit of full disclosure out of the way: What I was singing – no, what I thought I was singing – was the Mighty Mouse theme song.

But wait! That chap at the rear of the room, scratching his bald head, his long, curled fingernails tearing bloody streaks in his taut scalp – yes, him! Is he puzzled because he’s never heard of Mighty Mouse? Well, it’s probably unkind to leave him in torment, so, briefly:

Mighty Mouse was created in 1942 as an animated cartoon character destined for theaters – gotta plump out those double bills, particularly the ones that cater to the kiddies. He starred in 80 movie shorts until he took a long vacation in 1961 and returned from it in 1987 when Ralph Bakshi did a Mighty Mouse series destined for Saturday morning television. (And since we seem to be digressing, another factoid: One of Bakshi’s scripters was Doug Moench, who wrote hundreds of comics for Marvel, DC and, I think, Warren. And Doug, if I’ve forgotten any of your publishers, forgive me. I’m not as young as I used to be.)

But weren’t we noticing MM’s theme song? Yes. Well. What I sang last night, at the dinner table, was, “Here he comes to save the day / Mighty Mouse is on his way.” My bad. The real lyrics:

Here I come to save the day / That means Mighty Mouse is on his way…

Okay, maybe you don’t think that switching pronouns is important, but others might beg to differ! And that second line? Doesn’t it suggest that the Coming of the Mouse has some greater meaning? Offering, perhaps, some existential hope? Even a promise of existential hope?

But wasn’t I telling a story, way back at the top of the page? Yes I was! To continue, then: the person sitting across from me, whom I’ve known for over 65 years – I’m not really sure of his birth date – suddenly continued the impromptu recital that was being created:

Yes sir, when there’s a wrong to right / Mighty Mouse will join the fight!

Now, you have to understand that this person has no direct connection to pop culture – he’s a grocer if you must know – nor have I ever observed him to have any particular interest in it (though he does like the old Have Gun, Will Travel show.) Yet here he was in in my dining room, with no hesitation, singing the lyrics to a long gone cartoon presentation.

Did I mention that I’d never heard him sing before?

The question I have for you, my friend, is, what the heck is this column about? Which itself begs another question: Did you see that coming?

Dennis O’Neil: Deadpool and the Fat Fury

Herbie the Fat Fury

Deadpool? Who the heck is Deadpool? What the heck is a Deadpool?

That’s Deadpool? Looks like he’s wearing a costume that Spider-Man gave to the Salvation Army. Superhero, huh? With his own movie. It made how much? A hundred and thirty-five million dollars opening weekend? American money?

Yeah, I didn’t see Deadpool coming either. Oh sure, I caught some of the television commercials, but nothing on the screen made me want to plunk down the price of admission. I thought that maybe I’d watch it on cable, maybe some night after Marifran’s crashed. Or maybe we’d watch it together. Some time. Maybe.

Deadpool is not exactly a household name, like Superman or Spider-Man. Despite a connection with the über-popular X-Men, I doubt that Deadpool has penetrated the public consciousness – or at least he hadn’t, before all those TV ads.

Now? Bet the mortgage money that a sequel is already heading our way.

Savants-to-come may extract meaning – or Meaning – from the Deadpoolian success. I won’t even try. Instead, I’ll content myself with observing that, obviously, the Great Superhero Surge has not waned. And if the showbiz folk can extract a Deadpool from the yellowing pages of ageing funnybooks and transform him into profit, mightn’t there be other forgotten/obscure/abandoned characters waiting for similar transformation?

Here’s a thought: why not take these almost-anonymous characters half way back to their birthplaces – those yellowing pages – and reinvent them as animated cartoons? Not the kind of paperdollish creations that used to inhabit the Saturday morniing wasteland. No, give them the same prime time treatment that was once given to The Flintstones and is currently accorded The Simpsons and The Family Guy. And while, yes, I’m proposing that these new shows feature superheroes, I wrote nothing about human superheroes. With a nod to Ralph Bakshi’s version of Mighty Mouse, let’s resurrect funny animals and, as is done with the Simpsons and Family Guy, give them not-so-funny themes.

Hoppy The Marvel Bunny, anyone?

Another idea? Sure. Four words: Herbie The Fat Fury. And who might he be? Herbie – last name Popnecker – was a tubby, lollypop loving kid who had secret superpowers. These he used to fight evil, which is, after all, what superheroes do, even if they’re not terribly imposing superheroes. Herbie lived on the newsstands, in various titles published by the American Comics Group, from 1958 to 1964. Then, poof. Gone!

I think Herbie has possibilities. He could work as an animation property – again, let us remember Family Guy – or in live action. It might be difficult to find the right actor to play him, but hey! that’s why those folks out on the west coast get the big bucks. The only other snag I can foresee is the “fat fury” sobriquet. Some citizens might find it offensive. Well, okay, drop it if that seems prudent. Not much will be lost if you do.

And admit it: aren’t you just a wee bit weary of muscled people in tight costumes? Like Deadpool?