Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is This Stanley's Work? "Fuzzy and Wuzzy," from Our Gang Comics #58, May 1949

Mark Kausler and Ed Buchman sent me these scans. They wondered if this could be a John Stanley story. As I'm still searching for "unknown" pieces from the late 1940s and early 1950s, I'm grateful to have possible items brought to my attention. Thanks once again, Mark, for sharing rare material--and going to the trouble of scanning it!

This story is very close in feel to the Krazy Kat, Howdy Doody and Rootie Kazootie material I've posted here. Like those stories, it is lesser work. It lacks the core investment of Stanley's Little Lulu and Tubby material.

That said, the characterizations are strong and distinct, their interactions are amusing, and the simple story does not meander, but moves in confident strides.

It's drawn by Dan Gormley, and gorgeous funny-animal cartoon art it is. One odd thing about this story is that it's set up in three-tier pages. Stanley preferred four-tier pages, and after 1947, we seldom, if ever, see him stray from that format.

"Fuzzy and Wuzzy" were comic book creations affixed to a minor MGM cartoon property, Barney Bear. They never appeared in any of the lumbering fella's fair-to-middling MGM cartoons. They were, I think, attempts to make the Huey, Dewey and Louie angle strike twice. The attachment of nutty "nephews" to an adult licensed property was typical of this era.

Carl Barks made this formula work by making Donald's three nephews smarter, more resourceful and more logical than their older parental figure. Western/Dell imitations such as this and Woody Woodpecker's "Knothead and Splinter" served only to relieve the star characters of needing a strong personality. Barney, Woody and other licensed entities became armchair-sitting, newspaper-reading suburban Blahmen, either befuddled or patronizingly amused by their young charges' wacky-nutty antics.

Enough yak yak from me. Here's the story...

Not the greatest comic book story ever made... but one with several significant Stanley 'tells' (or, as one reader has suggested they be called, 'earmuffs'):

  • frantic physical action (throughout)
  • slightly delusional behavior
  • strong visual spotting of sound effects
  • one YOW!
  • one instance of Ha! Ha! Ha! (8x)
  • one instance of spots-before-eyes
  • one instance of windmill action

If this is Stanley's work, it's a stylistic throwback to his New Funnies material of the mid-1940s. It's apt that Dan Gormley illustrated this piece--that furthers the similarity. It also harkens back to an earlier Stanley stint on Our Gang. His "Tom and Jerry" stories focused more on the two mice, Jerry and Tuffy, and their ongoing bewilderment with the world of human beings.

Fuzzy and Wuzzy are much like Jerry and Tuffy. One is a bit of a loose cannon, fearless to explore the unknown. The other is more uptight, cautionary and reserved. Both are naive and unaccustomed to their surroundings--from whence springeth the comedy.

The stakes are lower than usual here. There is no authority figure to answer to--just the call to adventure and the solution of hunger.

Theory Dept.: there is the possibility that this is the work of another person, who was either heavily influenced by John Stanley's writing, or asked to emulate the overall style, since it was popular and it sold comic books. I still have this suspicion, entirely unfounded, in the back of my mind.

Comic books were a business, first and foremost, and an art-form only to a handful of divinely deluded souls in the 1940s. Like movies, automobiles and appliances, comic books were meant to sell and make money. Therefore, a winning recipe or formula was rife for imitation.

The Western Publications history is largely unknown. Most, if not all of those who were involved in its heyday are long gone. I stress that this is just supposition on my part.

Another likelihood is that Stanley needed money, and that he dashed these lesser stories off to supplement his income from Little Lulu. They were very likely forgotten as quickly as they were written. No one thought some middle-aged nutjob would pore over them 50-60 years later. They're not bad stories... they just don't have much invested in them. Stanley saved his best ideas--and writing--for the Lulu titles.

At best, these minor stories of the 1950s are amusing and coherent--which cannot be said about most of Western's output.

I'd love to know what you think about this and the other stories in the "Is This Stanley's Work?" series.

1 comment:

Paul Tumey said...

It feels very much like a Stanley story to me.