The Terrytoons movie cartoon character Mighty Mouse, who debuted in 1942, was an attempt to combine the appeal of two characters who were massively popular then — Disney’s Mickey Mouse, who’d debuted in 1928, and DC’s Superman, who’d appeared a decade later.
The idea was even more obvious at the start, when Mighty Mouse was called “Super Mouse” (in his origin cartoon, The Mouse of Tomorrow, where he acquired super powers by eating super cheese in that amazing new kind of store, a supermarket). He sported a red-and-blue costume identical to Superman’s, and fought inventive menaces like Frankenstein’s Cat, a lion and bat cats from Pandora’s Box.
|The other "Super Mouse"|
The character hit the peak of his considerable popularity in 1955, when CBS purchased the Terrytoons studio from Paul Terry. Mighty Mouse Playhouse aired Saturday mornings Dec. 10, 1955, until Sept. 2, 1967, mostly using Terry’s existing film library. The first superhero familiar to many American children in the 1950s and 1960s was therefore Mighty Mouse.
Mighty Mouse comic books were published from 1946 on, first by Timely (Marvel), then by St. John Publications (1947–1955), Pines Comics (1956–1959), Dell Comics (1959–1961), Gold Key Comics and Dell Comics again (1964–1968).
The Mouse of Tomorrow’s earthbound Dell comic book adventures — slightly more sophisticated than the animated cartoons, but still meant for small children — tended to be mundane cats-and-robbers affairs. But all that changed in 1961 when Dell published a one-shot, square-bound 25-cent giant issue called Mighty Mouse in Outer Space.
When Mighty Mouse’s friends are abducted by a flying saucer, he’s off on an 80-page space chase, fighting gas giants on Jupiter (get it?), dinosaurs and other nifty menaces. He even teamed up with bat-winged cats on Mars until he realized that their enemies were flying albino mice.
And Mighty Mouse finally thwarted the evil space cats’ invasion plans by the tried-and-true ploy employed by superheroes from Thor to Iron Man to the Jaguar to Superman. He convinced the invaders that all earth beings were as mighty as he was.
If the adventures of Mighty Mouse were generally a bit cheesy, Mighty Mouse in Outer Space was the finest cheddar.