Wednesday, May 4, 2016

He's a Pig. His Partner's a Cat. Together--THEY SOLVE CRIMES!

Four Color #271--art by Robert Armstrong

Porky Pig #5--not sure if it's the original re-colored or if it was redrawn by another artist.

As I've mentioned before, the Looney Tunes comics published by Dell and later Gold Key was not set in the gleefully chaotic universe of the animated cartoons, but had more story structure and a degree of logic to the plots. This was perhaps a necessary change to make the characters work in a different medium & the comic book Looney Tunes universe was a fun place to visit in its own right.

Porky Pig #5 (March 1966) is a prime example of this. The story, by the way, is a reprint from Four Color #271 (March 1950), with art by Roger Armstrong and a script by the prolific "unidentified."

Porky and Petunia are heading West, intending to visit Petunia's uncle, who owns a big ranch. But their car is stopped by a gun-wielding cat (proving, by the way, my constantly-made claim that all cats are evil). When Porky happens to snap his fingers, the cat suddenly unmasks and wonders what the heck he's been doing.

The cat turns out to be Sylvester. Has Porky's friend gone bad? (Tweety Bird isn't in the story to voice his opinion.)

It turns out that a villain known as Hypnotic Harry is hypnotizing innocent people and getting them to commit crimes. Also, Petunia's uncle is missing.

Porky, Petunia and Sylvester begin investigating, foiling another attempt by Harry (who would prefer to be called the Phantom) to hypnotize Sylvester into committing a nefarious deed. Soon, Porky finds out the missing uncle had recently discovered a lost gold mine, but the map he made has also gone missing. It's reasonable to assume that Harry is after the gold and that he's now holding Petunia's uncle a prisoner at the mine.

So the story is indeed unfolding in a fairly logical manner, with Porky following up reasonable clues and making reasonable deductions. Mixed in with this are gags, malapropisms, and one-liners to add humor. And it is indeed a funny story. But the chaos so inherent to the Looney Tunes cartoons is toned down.

There's also a sense of real danger that doesn't exist in the cartoons. If you are shot with a gun in a Looney Tunes comic book, you are apparently in real danger of getting killed. When Porky and his friends find the lost mine, a teetering rock poses an actual threat of being crushed to death, rather than simply being squashed into a pancake shape without really being hurt.

Porky uses a tried-and-true method of identifying the bad guy as well, When the ranch foreman blurts out a piece of information he can only known if he's actually the villain, Porky immediately calls him out. It probably would have been better if he had waited until the villain wasn't armed before doing this.

At the same time, the story never completely loses track of its cartoon roots. The day is saved because Sylvester just happens to be holding a mail-order boomerang that just happened to be delivered to the ranch cook moments before. The bad guy then makes the classic mistake of telling Sylvester to throw it away.

So the Looney Tunes comic book universe is indeed a different reality from the cartoons. But it's still a place well-worth visiting. Just remember--when you're there, avoiding taking any boomerang hits to the head. It really will hurt.

Next week, we discover that going on a road trip with Hercules is rarely a good idea.


  1. The black-and-white panels suggest to me that this was a full-length story spilling into the inside and presumably outside back cover. I take it my guess is right? While I have never read this story in its entirety, I believe it has been discussed online elsewhere. It looks like a real winner!

    You have very excellently stated the difference between the Looney Tunes cartoons and the comic book versions. As a kid, I barely took time to notice that Bugs and Porky took on more heroic qualities in the comics, but it's very true that their adventures are much more suspenseful and dramatic in their print existence. What's amazing to me now is how many really GOOD Porky Pig stories there are--at a time when his role in cartoons was diminishing to Daffy's sidekick. Porky seems to have taken the "adventure route" even more often than Bugs--it's also great how they so often teamed up in each others' books...kind of like Mickey and Goofy, only with a different dynamic. Of course, Sylvester as in here was also a great sidekick for Porky. (Much better than his "fraidy cat" persona in the cartoons.)

    My personal favorite Porky-Sylvester team-up is "The Kingdom of Nowhere." That story is another classic example of high drama with delightful humor thrown in.

    Glad to see that the "funny animal" genre is alive and kicking on this blog! Thanks for posting!

    1. You are correct--the black-and-white panels are on the inside cover. I always appreciated that Dell would use even the inside and outside rear covers to fit in more story content. I've actually never been sure why the inside cover art was always in black-and-white. I don't know if it was for technical reasons or to save a little on expense.

      It IS interesting that Porky remained a major player in the comics even after he'd been largely supplanted by Bugs in the cartoons. It might have been output--the comic books gave us more stories per character than the cartoons could, so perhaps there was simply more room for embracing all the characters.

      I have not read "The Kingdom of Nowhere." Thanks for mentioning it--I'll have to dig up a copy of it if its not too expensive.


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