Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Word About Anthropomorphic Super-Animals...

The first superhero to which an American child of the 1950s was likely to be exposed was either Superman or Mighty Mouse, both of whom were on television.
Mighty Mouse’s appeal was obvious and derivative, combining the 1928 Disney sensation Mickey Mouse with the 1938 DC Comics sensation Superman. The Terrytoons character debuted in 1942, appearing in 80 theatrical cartoons until 1961. A considerable number of cats got beaten up in the process.
Charlton Comics, which rarely failed to copy any popular trend or character (the Lone Ranger, Casper the Friendly Ghost, etc.), offered multiple Mighty Mouse knock-offs that interested me as a child. All were caped, black-clad funny animal heroes who, in one of those derangements peculiar to the nuclear-nervous 1950s, used the word “Atomic” as a synonym for “Super” in their names.
We had Atomic Mouse, Atom the Cat (a Tom Cat, get it?) and two atomic Leporidae, along with one magical one. In 1955, Atomic Rabbit gained the powers of flight and super strength by eating irradiated carrots.
The talented artist Al Fago “…handled Atomic Rabbit from his first appearance, dated August, 1955, through the end of the series under that name — #11, dated March, 1958. As of #12, it was changed to Atomic Bunny, and it’s not certain they're the same character,” comics historian Don Markstein noted. “Bunny looked like Rabbit in the first issue, (although) drawn by Charlton’s editor, Pat Masulli, but his appearance changed radically after that. Then, he was back to his former appearance with the last issue (December, 1959).”
A 1997 issue looks back with cheekiness
“Funny animal superheroes have been a part of the animation and comic book scenes since the days of Mighty Mouse and Supermouse, respectively — almost as long as human superheroes have been around, in fact,” Markstein noted. “Marvel had Super Rabbit, DC had The Terrific Whatzit, Fox had Cosmo Cat etc. But the biggest concentration of the sub-genre was at Charlton Comics during the 1950s, which had Happy the Magic Bunny, Atom the Cat, and several others — in fact, its longest-lasting superhero title ever was Atomic Mouse. What Magazine Enterprises (Red Mask, Presto Kid) was to western heroes with secret identities, Charlton was to funny animal superheroes.”
In particular, the company boasted an embarrassment of super-rabbits. Happy the Magic Bunny was Charlton’s barely retooled version of Fawcett’s Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, who debuted the same year as Mighty Mouse. When Captain Marvel and his pals were legally hounded out of business by Superman, Hoppy/Happy remained quietly on the back pages, the last surviving member of the once million-selling Marvels.

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