By 1946, the Our Gang shorts were no longer being produced by MGM, but Dell Comics was still publishing an Our Gang comic book. That meant writer/artist Walt Kelly had more freedom in the stories he told--able to freely introduce his own characters, use whichever members of the gang he wanted in any particular story, and tell action-adventure tales in addition to giving us slapstick comedy.
Two of the gang, Froggy and Red, are able to come along. This is a clear sign of the freedom Kelly had--because the comic existed on its own merits and didn't have to showcase the movie shorts, Kelly wasn't obligated to use characters based on the Our Gang actors. He could add or subtract from the cast based on what it best for a particular story. Here he takes Froggy (a character who had appeared in the shorts) and Red (a character I'm pretty sure is original to the comics--though I'm not complete certain of that), leaving the rest of the gang behind for a few issues because they didn't fit into the story he wanted to tell. Of course, each issue included stories by other artists, so any particular character was rarely gone from an entire issue.
The next issue is pure slapstick--Julip swallows a mechanical parrot, which provides him with the illusion that he can talk. A lady wrestler named Guinevere sneaks aboard to look for work on the show and gets mixed up in a scheme to shoot Julip out of a cannon. It is sincerely funny stuff, but also moves the story arc as a whole along, since Guinevere will play a key role in the final two issues.
awfully high crime rate. Professor Gravy agrees to transport a valuable race horse. Crooks sneak aboard to rustle the poor beast.
I love Kelly's art here. Most of the action takes place at night and Kelly uses light and shadow brilliantly to generate suspense. Reading this story almost makes you sad Kelly eventually dedicated his career to the comic strip Pogo. That strip was one of the finest to ever grace a newspaper page, but Kelly shows us here he could have been equally superb at giving us adventure stories.
The crooks after the horse accidentally kidnap Froggy and Red, who were in a horse costume at the time.
The last part of the riverboat saga involves one of the horse thieves escaping. Professor Gravy, Guinevere, Red and Froggy pursue, but Red is captured after the crook rejoins one of his companions.
Next week, we'll join characters based on toys as they rampage through a toy store.