Tagged: Tex Avery

Mike Gold, Mickey Mouse, and Ren & Stimpy’s DNA

Mickey Toon

Listen up. I’m going to tell you a horrible, horrible secret. And it’s about me!

I really don’t care for most Disney animation. The earliest black and white stuff is fun, and there are a few shorts here and there that I enjoy. The features? Not as many. Alice in Wonderland… that’s about it. As Craig Ferguson might ask, “how long have you been in ISIS?”

Floyd-Gottfredsons-Mickey-Mouse-1930Disney comics is a totally different thing. Every time I’m forced to list my all-time favorite comics creators, Floyd Gotfriedson and Carl Barks are always on that list. Gotfriedson’s Mickey Mouse newspaper strip brought depth and characterization to the popular rodent. His adventures were truly adventures, full of wit and charm, brilliant craftsmanship, on-the-button pacing, and heart. Lucky for us, our pals at Fantagraphics have been reprinting them in brilliant hardcover editions.

Carl Barks was the master behind Disney’s Donald Duck family of comics, published by Dell and later Gold Key. You’ve probably heard of him: he’s one of the very, very few Disney comics creators who’s adapted work was screen-credited, in Duck Tales. Unca Carl created Uncle Scrooge, the Beagle Boys, Magica De Spell, and a great many other pillars of the Disneyverse. His comics are that good; even better. You will often hear geriatric baby boomers mentioning Barks in the same breath as Will Eisner and Jack Kirby. Here, too, Fantagraphics been reprinting them in brilliant hardcover editions.

But three years ago, my animation preferences expanded to include some work produced by the current Disney studio. I haven’t opened my heart to more of the “original” material; I’m enjoying the new series of Mouse cartoons (featuring the entire Disney-toon cast), available on the appropriate Disney cable channels – excluding ESPN – and on sundry Disney apps for smartphones, tablets, AppleTV… they made it really easy for me to find this stuff.

donald-p3And who do we have to thank for it?

I’d say Ren and Stimpy.

These shorts, which average a paltry 210 seconds, have damn near everything the classics do not: they are anarchistic, irreverent, self-parodying, and wacky as shit. In other words, they’re entertaining – even to a guy un-American enough to not worship about a half century of Disney animated output. The style, also reminiscent of Ren and Stimpy (and even more reminiscent of small budgets and short deadlines), works perfectly for the pacing.

Of course this material won’t replace those I consider to be the masters of animation such as Bob Clampett, Tex Avery, and the Fleischer family. Cartoons aren’t profitable enough to warrant such budgets. But after more than two decades of soulless mainframe computer hyper-modeled “3-D” crap, these new Disney shorts are a breath of fresh air. Damn near all of them. And there’s a lot out there, too.

Give a few a test-drive. Like I said, each takes about three-and-one-half minutes out of your life.

And, because I now like some Disney animation, there’s one less reason to send me to Gitmo.

Martha Thomases: Yeah, Baby!

My son is 30 years old today. And while this is a wonderful thing and I’m thrilled to have the experience, it also demonstrates one of the great failures of my lifetime. He stopped reading comics before I did. When I was a kid, before the direct market, before cable television, before the discovery of fire, kids might read comics for a few years but usually stopped around the time they started high school. There were a lot of reasons for this (puberty, team sports, rock’n’roll) but I’ve always thought a big reason was the spotty distribution. It was more difficult to be a dedicated fan when you couldn’t be sure that the magazine racks would have the same titles every month. Still, I was an unusual child. I kept reading comics, despite the hardships, despite my gender. I’ve always enjoyed a quest – especially when said quest involves shopping. Of course, I wanted to pass on these values to my child. We spent many happy hours in his youth, walking to the comic book store on Comic Book Day, reading comics, discussing comics. He met Stan Lee before he started school. When I applied for a job at DC, I remember telling Paul Levitz that my five year old kid could explain Crisis on Infinite Earths and the multiverse, and Paul wanted to arrange for him to come in and explain it to the editorial staff. After I got the job, my kid could sit in the DC library and read the bound volumes of back issues because the librarian knew he would take care of the books. My son learned important lessons from his father, too. By the age of three, he could tell a Tex Avery cartoon from a Bob Clampett. Family values were important to us. And now, this. He’ll explain that it’s not his fault. The monthly comics that he read all of his life left him. The Flash that he knew (Wally West) is gone. So is the Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner). I could have said the same thing at his age, when The Powers That Be took away my Flash (Barry Allen) and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). The difference is that TPTB made new characters who had new stories. I might like them or not, but they were new. My son’s heroes were replaced by the characters his parents liked. That’s a problem. The market for superhero comics (and I love superhero comics) isn’t adapting to a new audience. It’s adapting to the old one. My boy still enjoys a good graphic novel. He likes a lot of independent, creator owned series (which he buys as trade paperbacks). He can still speak with great wit and insight and humanity about the socio-economic and political implications of Superman and Batman. If we’re in the same city at the same time, I’m sure we’ll go see Guardians of the Galaxy together. He’s turned me on to some great books. I’m loving Saga based entirely on his recommendation. But I wait for the trades. Maybe I’m not as old as I look

Saturday Morning Cartoons: Tex Avery’s “SH-H-H-H-H-H”


Here’s something you’ve probably never seen before: a Tex Avery cartoon from 1955 produced by Walter Lantz simply called “Sh-h-h-h-h-h”.

This was Tex Avery’s last animated short cartoon. The sounds of the trumpet player and the laughing woman who keep the man awake through the night are taken directly from the novelty OKeh Laughing Record, which was released in 1923. The voice, of course, is Daws Butler. Beyond that, we should obviously say no more. Enjoy.


Martha Thomases Plays With Toys

Thomases Art 130201 “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:11

Uh uh.

Leaving aside the gender issues that run rampant through our so-called holy books, I find myself about to enter my seventh decade with a computer full of rock’n’roll songs, shelves full of toys, and a plastic figure of Howdy Doody watching over my bed as I sleep. I revel in childish things.

So when I saw a story about Mattel’s latest attempt to revive the Max Steel line of action figures, I was curious. And then a little bit horrified. And then fascinated again.

When I was a kid, I loved team-up comics. The Legion, the Justice League, the Teen Titans – they were great because I could imagine myself as different characters depending on my mood. If I had friends who were also into comics, there were enough characters that we could each play our favorite. It was fun. We didn’t need any accouterments except maybe towels tied around our necks as capes.

In the 1980s, when my son was a boy, the ways corporations marketed to kids had changed a lot. My husband and I were real opinionated about it, and we had bunches of rules. We didn’t allow him to watch any cartoons that were created just to sell toys. No He-Man. No G.I. Joe. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were okay, because they were based on a comic book that was a satire of Frank Miller’s Ronin. The rules relaxed as he got older and better able to understand how marketing worked. Also, at four years old, he could tell the difference between a Tex Avery cartoon and a Chuck Jones cartoon.

Here’s what I noticed as a mom. Favorite characters came and went. Ghostbusters. Dick Tracy. Batman. Turtles. Whatever was in vogue, the kids would run around the playground, pretending to shoot (or send rays out of their hands, or wave swords). The names of the characters would change, but the game was always the same.

Back then, kids didn’t have computers. There was only television and, if the family budget allowed it, books and comics. Kids knew the story lines of their characters, but there was still a lot of room for running and fighting evil.

Maybe I’m wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here. According to the article I cite, Mattel is creating a rather ornate web site with lots of information about the various characters and what they can do, even before the toys are available or the cartoon goes on television. “The intent of the wide distribution is to create viral marketing on social networks,” said Bob Higgins, the executive vice president for children’s and family programming at Fremantle. “Around the world, kids will start hearing about this,” he said. “Kids want to do what their friends do. If they are watching Max Steel, they want to be a part of that party.”

Before I buy my kid a toy, I want to know that he will actually play with it. Not hold onto it while he sits in front of the computer, but play. I want it to engage his imagination so he makes up his own stories, or thinks of ways the characters could participate in his own life.

Toys are media. They are how children learn about the world and how they fit into it. I don’t want my kids to learn that their place is in front of a screen, absorbing content.

Capes. I want capes.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Martha Thomases: The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends

As a child growing up, I loved cartoons. At that time (the 1950s and early 1960s), that’s a bit like saying that I loved breathing. There were cartoons on Saturday morning, and cartoons every afternoon. The movie theater near my Grandmother’s house had Saturday matinees that were three hours of cartoons.

But I loved comic books more.

My husband, John Tebbel, was the first animation maven I ever met. He not only knew the difference between Disney and Warner Brothers, but he knew the individual directors, and quickly taught me how to spot Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson. He explained who the Fleischer Studio was and why I should care.

We went to animation festivals in Ottawa, Canada and Annecy, France. I saw films by George Dunning that weren’t Yellow Submarine. I met Bill Scott and June Foray. We would go to the Jay Ward store when we were in Los Angeles.

Naturally, I tried to share my love of comic books. My success rate was lower. He liked Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. He loved Kyle Baker. Milk and Cheese made him laugh out loud. Still, he never quite got the superhero thing.

I’m not writing to celebrate two geeks in love. I’m writing about how sometimes, we let our differences divide us. Do you like Marvel or DC? The Big Two or independents? Broadcast or cable?

We defined our affection for two art forms that were graphic storytelling. One moved and one didn’t. One had finite time limits and one didn’t. Each of us, with our affection for our chosen art, could appreciate the other’s favorite.

I would like our political discourse to work at this level, but that isn’t going to happen as long as there is so much money and power involved. However, if there is anything that would make my husband’s life more significant, it would be if we could each of us share our love for pop culture with the rest of the world. Instead of fighting over which piece of the pie is the biggest or the best, we could have more pie.

John liked pumpkin. I prefer blueberry.


SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


MIKE GOLD: Fellowship and Censorship

This week I’ve been ruminating about the Internet and free speech over at Michael Davis World. Whereas I don’t want to discourage you from checking out my pearls of wisdom in its awesome glory let alone the interesting and edifying comments in response thereto, I do want to clue you in on what the whole thing’s about.

I said “Arizona House Bill 2549 states if you post an offensive annoying comment online, you are guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. What is offensive? What is annoying? The bill criminalizes behavior that is used “to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend (using) any electronic or digital device.” Of course, it also outlaws lewd or profane language. You could be fined $250,000, and you could be sentenced to six months in the clinker.

 “Do you think this un-American attack on liberty could not possibly pass? Well, you’re wrong. The folks in the Arizona house and the Arizona senate have already passed this bill and it presently awaits their governor’s signature.”

Given this nation’s fear-based cultural drift towards repression of our freedoms, the chilling affect of this law is as overwhelming as it is overwhelmingly depressing.

Then I looked at some of the comments we’ve received on our March Madness campaign here at ComicMix.

As I’ve stated repeatedly, I am a First Amendment absolutist. As long as it’s legal, there is no reason why advertising cigarettes should be illegal (and no, I do not smoke cigarettes). I don’t believe in the concept of “hate crimes.” Hate speech might be evidence of the motivation behind a crime and that’s fair – freedom of speech does not absolve you from the consequences of your actions. But speech is not in an of itself “action” and we have the right to express our opinions. And I certainly do not want to censor or limit in any way anything anybody might comment on here at ComicMix, even if the ox you’re goring happens to be mine.

However, given some of the comments I read recently here on ComicMix, I am making a request for a higher level of civility. There’s no enforcement behind this, and if you want to comment on this column with a “fuck you, you crawling piece of shit,” well, that’s your prerogative… you asshole.

One of the things I like most about ComicMix (and, for that matter, Michael Davis World where ComicMix columnists Martha Thomases, Marc Alan Fishman, Michael and myself also blog) is that, by and large, this is a pretty civil operation. We tend to respect one another’s opinions, or at least we’re usually polite. I realize this places a burden on impulsive wits, but I figure if I can usually rein it in, then anybody can.

ComicMix Sorcerer Supreme Glenn Hauman and I have been discussing all this, and Glenn summed it quite up nicely when he said “Welcome to the Internet.” I’m too much of a Tex Avery / Bob Clampett fan to ever be that cartoon bunny rabbit dancing in the sunshine, but I sometimes recognize being a jerk has its limits.

So, on one hand, I want to compliment us all on being such polite and considerate folks. On the other hand, I’d like to ask those who feel the phrase “flame on!” refers to something other than Johnny Storm to please play nice. We’ve all got enough trauma in our lives, and I hate the idea of chasing anybody out of the sandbox.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


REVIEW: “Justice League: Doom”

justice-league-doom1-300x402-7902089If you’ve been a fan of Warner Bros.’ direct-to-DVD DC Universe movies, you are no doubt eagerly awaiting the February 28th release of Justice League: Doom. ComicMix’s own Glenn Hauman and Mike Gold attended a press screening of the movie, along with the mandatory press conferences and post-game roundtable discussion. We decided to take a conversational approach to our preview – not quite a review, as we’re avoiding spoilers. Still, if you’re extraordinarily anal retentive (the fanboy/fangirl affliction), you might want to just look at the pictures.

Glenn: The story, and the universe, felt familiar – not just because we’ve known these characters forever, but because it was Dwayne McDuffie’s take on them, his POV from Justice League and from Justice League Unlimited. One of those “you don’t realize how much you miss it until it’s gone” things.

Mike: DC’s animated universe came about organically, from the original Fox Batman Adventures through Doom… with major exceptions like that Teen Titans and that unnecessary and initially unwatchable The Batman series a couple years ago. Dwayne played a major part in that Justice League animated universe to be sure, but those Batman and Superman series created the foundation of this universe, as well as the bouncing off point for many of the actors.

Glenn: Speaking of the DC animated universe: one thing that was weird for me, throwing a new bit of unexpected unfamiliarity, was meeting Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman for two decades, because he just doesn’t quite look the part in real life – he looks more like the Scarecrow. I found myself mentally covering up his face from his nose up, superimposing a cowl on him. Or am I just that weird?

Mike: Yeah, Conroy is pretty skinny and he’s got a great face. But I think he’d be perfect as Jason Blood or Orion of the New Gods.

Glenn: Conroy as Jason Blood, live action? Oh, that works really well.


Happy 67th birthday, Bugs Bunny!

Happy 67th birthday, Bugs Bunny!

On this day in 1940, A Wild Hare was released in theaters, which was written by Rich Hogan, animated by Virgil Ross, and directed by Tex Avery. It was in this cartoon that Bugs Bunny first emerged from his rabbit hole to ask Elmer Fudd, now a hunter, “What’s up, Doc?" It was also the first meeting of the two characters, and the first cartoon where Mel Blanc uses the version of Bugs voice that would become famous worldwide.

The film would go on to get an Academy Award nomination for best short film, alongside Puss Gets The Boot, which introduced Tom and Jerry. Both lost to Citizen Kane.

Anaheim, Kookamonga, and… Allentown!

Anaheim, Kookamonga, and… Allentown!

If you’re going to be in or near Allentown Pennsylvania between June 24 and September 16 of this year, you might want to drop by the Allentown Art Museum to enjoy their massive Art of Warner Bros. Cartoons exhibition.

A greatly expanded version of the exhibit that played New York’s prestigious – and extremely expensive – Museum of Modern Art back in the mid-80s, the program consists of over 160 drawings, paintings, cels and sundry objects used by directors Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett and others in the creation of the famous Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig cartoons from the classic period of the 1930s through 1960. Dozens of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies will be shown in their entirety as part of the exhibition.

Artwork from Bob Clampett’s Porky in Wackyland copyright Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved.

Happy 70th Birthday, Daffy!*

Happy 70th Birthday, Daffy!*

It was seventy years ago that Tex Avery’s masterpiece Porky’s Duck Hunt premiered in theaters, featuring the world premiere of a certain bouncing black duck that we all dubbed as Daffy. It was also the first cartoon that Mel Blanc did the voice of Porky Pig.

Mike’s wife Linda would never let us hear the end of it if we didn’t pay tribute to her favorite character of all time. So, for your dining and dancing pleasure and after a brief ad, here’s a colorized version of the very first Daffy Duck cartoon, Porky’s Duck Hunt

* Okay, the film premiered on April 17, 1937, so it’s a few days late. You expected respect at this date in the game?