Apologies for the long absence. My computer problems aren't yet solved. It is a huge patience-drainer to work on a cruddy computer. I didn't want the momentum of this blog to wither away...there's far too many good Stanley stories left to post!
I've wanted to post this story for awhile. It has a number of Stanley firsts: it contains his first witch character, it's his first attempt at a fairytale-fantasy type story, and it's from his first Andy Panda solo comic.
Indeed, this was Stanley's first foray into the long-running Four Color series of one-shot, usually licensed-property, comic magazines.
Stanley's prior one-shots were (according to his records) a pair of "Bugs Bunny" comics published in 1943/4. I hate to differ with his own accounting of a long career, but I honestly don't see any of John Stanley's "tells" in either of those issues (FCs 33 and 51).
If they are indeed his work, they are tentative experiments in comix storytelling. They are of a piece with the lackluster West Coast material that filled Dell's Warner Brothers-based books.
That another West Coaster, Carl Barks, wrote and drew a 1944 "Porky Pig" one-shot, which appeared in FC between these two Bugs comix, makes it seem less likely that Dell's West Coast office would farm out work to New York. They already had a large talent-pool in Los Angeles.
In today's tale, Stanley still struggles to write a long narrative. It fares better than the main feature, a lengthier western burlesque that co-stars Woody Woodpecker's ineffectual nemesis, Wally Walrus.
The things that happen in this story lack consequences. The ideas are imaginative and compelling, but without stakes. Thus, they have a harmless, unrooted feeling.
Stanley's next one-shot, a brilliant "Oswald the Rabbit" book (FC 67), contains two stories in which stakes are high and outcomes uncertain.
I've posted both stories that comprise that landmark issue on this blog. If you haven't read them, seek them out. Compare this story with the "Last Flower" story from FC 67. It fascinates me to see Stanley's quantum leap as a comix storyteller between these two issues.
Well, let's see if this thing posts. If so, hurrah for me, as I've overcome a doddering, grumpy old PC!
"Andy Panda & The Magic Hat," from Four-Color Comics #54, 1944