Friday, May 14, 2021

In Search of an Elusive Good Rabbit Artist

When it comes to sharing age-old comics that only registers in the memory of old-school comic readers, there's the borderline legal impetus to share that joy by posting scans of some notable short stories, like The Horrors of it All,  Four Color Shadows, Big Blog Comics, Pappy's Golden Age, and recently, the defunct Looney Comics of Matthew Hunter who started his blog to share some Looney Tunes comics with his opinions on them.

For the most part, most of the Warner Bros. Comics had sub-par art and stiff off-model characters.  But there was one exception.  In the few Looney Tunes comics that happened to fall in my hands, there was always one story that seemed to be slightly above average than the others.

For some reason, Elmer's line of "That's my Gwandfather you're punching!"
is endearably funny to me.

A long time ago (circa 2016), Mike Sterling made the claim that there never was a “Good Rabbit Artist” and the reason Carl Barks comics was fondly remembered while Warner Bros. Comics weren’t.  For the longest time, this confused me, since I thought this was the elusive artist that'd fit the profile.

It's unusual for Bugs to build up to trickery, rather than just bulldoze his way
into forcing others into whatever reality he deems plausible.

Nowadays, we'd recognize Bugs' tactics as gaslighting,
but at the time, I thought it was typical trickster tactics.

I started doing some research, but absent a name, I had no way of identifying him.  By process of elimination, I knew he wasn't Ed Volke, Pete Alvarado, Chase Craig, Roger Armstrong, Tom McKimson or Charles McKimson [no relation?].

It was only by going through the Comics Database that I found this elusive clean line artstyle showcasing Bugs Bunny with highly defined buck teeth than usual was most likely Phil de Lara, who also did the Porky Pig and Daffy Duck comics in the same issues.  The Bugs Bunny comics were also 10 pages long, which gave rise to the allusion that these were higher quality material, especially since the shorter comics weren’t as strong.

He was quite the prolific artist, working in animation, for both Warner Bros. and Walt Disney, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Chip & Dale and Woody Woodpecker.

My enthusiasm upon finding these comics was dampened upon actually seeing them all at once.  One factor that comes up is that the Warner Bros. Comics bear little resemblance to the cartoons that inspired them.  The majority of the Bugs Bunny comics had Bugs be on a frenemy terms with Elmer, and there were plots involving cursed idols, running across crooks, and casual racism which would make reprinting such stories a problem.
As with any adaptation of licensed products, there was a tendency to misunderstand the allure of the characters, grafting known marketable traits onto new properties that were known to work.  Somewhat similar to the Weekday episodes of The Real Ghostbusters where the team temporarily branched out into Crimebusters, cracking down on criminals.  Not exactly the same as tracking down and analyzing ghosts, which made the team more like cops than anything, which wasn’t what they were supposed to be doing anyways!
The difference between the nameless comics and the Carl Barks classics is that for all of Phil de Lara's skills, he worked off someone else's anonymous script.  If given the chance, could he have used his imagination to create something that could've expanded on the nature of the Warner Bros. cartoons?  We may never know.
There's no animal such as a pip-squeak, but if there were, would it behave any differently from how Elmer portrayed one here?
I normally would’ve ended this post here had I not in my searches come across this otherwise unremarkable story from 1957 where Bugs encounters Elmer on the docks in an inconspicuous disguise and WAITAMINIT.
That steamboat with cargo looks awfully familiar...
In fact, this whole setup is directly lifted off from The Crab with the Golden Claws, which was published in 1947, a full decade later, basically summarizing a 48-page comic classic in under 10 pages.
For any American ignorant of Tintin, this would be another unremarkable story, but for any comic connoisseurs in the know, this would be deliberate plagiarism, or at the very least, an indirect homage.
One other fault with these Warner Bros. comics is that the ending can be abrupt and with a somewhat unsatisfying joke, even for a condensed 10-page comic like this one.  As such, it seems we won't be seeing a collection of Phil De Lara's works anytime soon.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Weird Romance: Cathy & Alex

Cathy's relationship with men can be described as being desperate, while also being unsatisfied seekers of perfection only to attract disasters, and being the inspiration for missing Newspaper Comic Collection titles.

And in the rare occasions where there were acceptable men, they were either too good for her, leading the lead character to back off out of fear that there might be something wrong with someone who'd want her as a companion, or snapped up by her friends later.

Early on, there was a kind accepting boyfriend, Emerson, who had all the qualities Cathy wanted in a man, but just not in his kind of man.  And he was quickly forgotten.

For the most part, her definitive man was Irving, an irrepressible clueless jerk who was somehow endearing despite his faults.  He would be the backdrop against all the other awful men Cathy would go out with, serving as a barometer gauge of awfulness.

But there was one instance where Cathy found a potential soul mate that would wind up being one of her longest lasting relationships over the course of a year.  It all started innocuously enough in January 31st of 1994 when she signed up for gym membership.

Cathy is described as being a lot of things, (overeater, overdoer, workaholic, shopaholic) but a Cougar isn't normally one of them.

The following isn't Alex-related, but I decided to include it for continuity's sake in showing Cathy's reaction later.

I don't have a date for this Sunday, but this seems like the appropriate place to put it.

To further present the divide between Cathy and Alex, Alex decided to go on a camping trip.

If there's one complaint about Alex, it's that compared to Irving, there wasn't as much argumentative drama.  Alex was simply too easygoing, and his childish immaturity was more a core character than a fault.  If anything, he seemed simply too good for Cathy.

Assault on Irving was something that was deserved, but the same level of violence aimed towards Alex lacked that same sense of reciprocity.  It seemed somehow... mean.

Then in an attempt to impress everyone involved, Cathy decided to undertake the laborous task of preparing Thanksgiving dinner all by herself.

Of course, when anybody ventures out into new territory, they have a tendency to fall back on the old patterns they're most familiar with.

Cathy's relationship with Alex while fraught, was still healthier than with Irving, and was said so in a Newspaper article I managed to find, back when going through physical microfiche archives was still possible.
At the beginning of February, we were treated to a teaser of what we could expect: the usual itinerary of anxiety of an approaching Valentine's Day and all the implied pressure it carries.

And then on February 14, 1995, a year after Cathy met Alex, without any fanfare foreshadowing or buildup, we were suddenly faced with this:

This isn't the last that Cathy and Alex would see each other, but this post is running long enough already, easily outpacing my Epic BC posts.  Maybe I'll post a followup sometime next year.