Posted By Art Baxter


Art Clokey - October 12, 1921

I think that GUMBY is one of the greatest designed characters in the last fifty years. That particular shade of green not found in nature. That flat body design with flaring legs. Those mittened hands on tubular arms. That asymmetrical pointed head! Art Clokey's GUMBY first appeared in 1954 and has been in and out of the public consciousness ever since. I also think the GUMBY toy is one of the greatest toys ever made. You can have Gumby doing just about anything and he looks cool doing it. Partnered with his orange pony pal, Pokey, the pair are unbeatable. The success of Gumby is that he is truly an "every-man." The sight of Gumby also seems to add an air of psychedelia to any situation. Gumby has a calming yet energizing visage. No need to freak out, man!


The GUMBY toy first appeared in the mid 1960s and was hugely successful. Everybody had a GUMBY. Of course, the major problem with the GUMBY toy was the wires in his arms eventually broke and the rubber tended to rot. Unfortunately, my own GUMBY from this era is lost to the ages. The GUMBY toy vanished by the early 1970s. There was a resurgent interest in GUMBY in the mid 1980s due, in part, to nostalgia and new bendable GUMBY and POKEY toys started showing up. Since then, GUMBY toys have never completely left the scene. This past summer I picked up a new mini edition of bendable G & P to stand on my shelf with the rest of my collection.

The trademark bump on Gumby's head was inspired by a picture of Clokey's father, Arthur Farrington, taken when he was 18. You can see a cow-lick on one side of the head, the sight of which amazed the young Clokey. The post-buddhist Clokey has also stated that the bump represents an extra bump of wisdom. The head bump certainly ads to Gumby's uniqueness and seems to make Gumby "Gumby."

Posted By Art Baxter


The GUMBY TV show is unfortunately not so great. He first appeared on TV in 1956 on the  HOWDY DOODY SHOW and graduated to his own show a year later. New episodes were produced through 1968. There was also a revival of new episodes in 1988. It's fun to watch the primitive claymation in the early shows but the stories are often unengaging and repetitive. Gumby's the schlemiel to Pokey's schlimazel. Gumby gets them in trouble and Pokey gets them out. Clokey and company were really cranking them out. The GUMBY show tended to get worse and worse as they got slicker and slicker. Frankly, the DAVEY AND GOLIATH series, also produced by Clokey in the early to mid 1960, are superior thanks to good scripts by children's book author, Nancy Moore. Ultimately, the problem was with the character and look of Gumby. He was an every-man but a pretty bland every-man. Because he is heavily abstracted he doesn't quite fit in almost any situation. Curiously, the GUMBY toy seems to transcend this problem. Still, there is a magic to these hand crafted clay characters moving around on cheap cardboard sets that I almost never get from computer animation. A visceral tangible quality of the fantastic made real.

I think one of the coolest things about the GUMBY show was it's great theme song. It's a catchy number that really gets you ready for a cartoon. It's a strange concoction of harp, electric guitar, drum set, children singing and xzylaphone. It starts slowly with a harp intro, then goes into a frothy pop confection. Here, listen for yourself. You can thank me three weeks from now when it's still running through your brain.


The GUMBY show has been released on DVD by RHINO several years ago and now fetches ridiculously high collectors prices. There have been a few "Best of" collections released on budget disks. There are no good books about GUMBY. There is one book, GUMBY: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF THE WORLDS FAVORITE CLAYBOY by Louis Kaplin and Scott Michaelson with Art Clokey. Aside from some good pictures, the text is pretty terrible and uninformative. I think Clokey is an interesting guy and one day a good book will be written. There is a new documentary on Gumby and Clokey called GUMBY DHARMA which I haven't seen yet but intend to.

You can find out more about the whole GUMBY/Clokey thang here and here.

Why not pose a GUMBY toy on Art Clokey's 87th birthday!

GUMBY and POKEY are © Premavision, Inc. and Prema Toy Co.

Posted By Art Baxter


Bil Keane - October 5, 1922

I have great respect for Bil Keane as a cartoonist. I generally don't give a crap about his characters: the five kids, two parents, grandparents or pets in THE FAMILY CIRCUS. What I've liked about Keane is his Sunday strips. I like the effort he puts into his drawings. Who can't look at a Sunday FAMILY CIRCUS and not follow Billy's roundabout paths as he is distracted from a simple straightforward journey. I love the boring, everyday, mundane details Keane put into a drawing of the backyard of a suburban, split-level, tract house. I love the way Keane uses the space on his Sundays. Sometimes they are full of nothing, sometimes they are incredibly dense, sometimes they are both at the same time. I also think that the emotional and psychological topography of the strip and it's characters are as deep and personal to Keane as the PEANUTS strip and characters were to Charles Schulz, abet not as completely developed.

Although I was never a regular reader of THE FAMILY CIRCUS, I would look at it it something caught my eye. Most of the time it would be a Sunday strip. In the 1990s I slowly became aware of a reoccurring motif that Keane used having to do with death. The character of Granddad, the father of the Father character had passed away in the mid 1980s yet often Granddad would still appear in the strip as a ghost or in heaven. In this strip from July 1, 1986, Billy is discussing his recently dead grandfather with his father. The father gives him some comfort by telling him that his grandfather has been reunited with his family and friends. We see Granddad, in the mind's eye of Billy, about to enter the golden gates of heaven being welcomed by his old pals in white robes and wings.

In the strip of February 15, 1987, Jeffy inquires of Grandma if Granddad can hear him to which Grandma replies yes and that she speaks to him all the time. Jeffy then gives Granddad a big "hello" but then wonders if Granddad heard him at all. We know he did. The ghost of Granddad can be seen sitting next to Grandma with his arm around her waist.

Most of the Grandma/Granddad strips I remember seeing were similar to this strip from May 5, 2002 (most likely Keane's last one), where Grandma prompts thoughts of Grandad and what he is doing in heaven. It's kind of mild, bland place where everyone gets along. It's sentimental and comforting but if that's what it's really like, I think I'd prefer hell, thank you.

Posted By Art Baxter


By the time I thought to clip these strips to save, it was unfortunately near the end of the run of them. They were all drawn by Keane himself but he was already beginning to hand the reigns of the strip over to his son Jeff. Bil Keane became less and less involved with the strip. I think with the Grandma/Granddad strips Keane began to feel the cold hand of death on his own shoulder and produced strips on the subject no matter how banal they were. There were two noticeable exceptions that I'm aware of.

The first of these is this strip from August 10, 1997. Here we see Grandma being greeted by a young acquaintance who offers her condolence on the passing of Grandma's husband. The woman uses the word "lost" to soften the bluntness of the situation. To which, Grandma replies that she is the one who is "lost." The woman looks at Grandma with sadness through heavily lidded eyes. Meanwhile, Granddad can be seen looking down from his cloud in heaven. Grandma's loneliness is palpable. Aside from Granddad's appearance, the strip is pretty sober.

The next from November 6, 1999 (see above), is the darkest. Grandma sits on the edge of the bed and offers a meditation on how her days seem to be numbered. This is accentuated by the scene out the window of the sun setting and the skeletal leafless tree. It's not only the end of the day but the end of the season. Grandma looks tired. She's hunched over. Her eyes are tiny slits. Her eyebrows arching up in worry.

I hope you have enjoyed these comics by Bil Keane on the theme of death for his 86th birthday!

THE FAMILY CIRCUS is © Bil Keane, Inc.

Posted By Art Baxter


Kazuo Umezu  (楳図 かずお) - September 3, 1936

I never thought I would ever see the manga of japanese master of horror, Kazuo Umezu. I first learned of his work in a pair of articles in the COMICS JOUNAL a few years ago. At that time only the most popular or classic manga was being published in translated editions in the US. Some weird stuff had also been published but only a very small amount. The insane, over-the-top, post-apocalyptic children's manga of Umezu-sensei being published in the US seemed unimaginable.

Imagine my surprise when Viz started publishing his masterpiece, the DRIFTING CLASSROOM (1972-1974) in eleven volumes in 2006. When I read the first volume I was not disappointed.  It's LORD OF THE FLIES on crack. The simple premise is that an elementary school, students and staff, are mysteriously transported to an apocalyptic wasteland in the future. It is a story of survival, who will and who won't. The adults all loose their minds and begin to kill each other and the children, almost from the beginning. Food and water become issues early. The older children, for the most part, keep their heads and look after the younger students. Soon rival factions vie for power over the meager supplies and things start to break down. It is a thrilling "end of the world" survivalist story that ranks with the best of the George Romero zombie movies. It pulls no punches. People die and it isn't pretty but it isn't gratuitous either. What's amazing is that this is manga for children. Frankly, I don't think it would be bad for a kid to read. It would have completely enthralled me as a kid. I would never give a kid a copy though. It would be better to let them find it for themselves. It could really alter their world-view. Most likely for the better.

Child crucifixion on a pyre, anyone?

I have also recently read volume one of his earlier series, THE CAT EYED BOY (1967-1968).  The boy is a demon child who wanders into other stories and either takes part or comments on the action. There are some crazy and horrific monsters aplenty. The main characters are children as in his later DRIFTING CLASSROOM series and as in that series, adults are not to be trusted. The stories aren't as good as CLASSROOM, it was his first horror series, but it is a lot of fun. I find it excellent porch reading on a hot summer night.

A trademark image: the crazy-eyed scream of horror in close-up.

I'm hoping these books do well for VIZ and they continue to publish Umezu-sensei's work. I'm especially interested in reading, MY NAME IS SHINGO (1982-1986), LEFT HAND OF GOD (1986-1989), and FOURTEEN (1990-1995).

Why not check out some of Kazuo Umezu's manga for his 72nd birthday!

* THE COMICS JOURNAL #233 - May 2001
  "Umezu Kazuo: Japanese Overtures to Madness and Death" by Ng Suat Tong
* THE COMICS JOURNAL #248 - November 2002
  "Kazuo Umezu's FOURTEEN" by JamesThompson

Posted By Art Baxter


Mort Walker - September 3, 1923

To celebrate Mr. Walker's birthday I would like to present to you a strip from July 1, 1973, When I first saw it in the sunday funnies the top of my head blew off. It was one of the sexiest comics I had ever seen in the paper: a topless woman strolling down the beach as seen from the back. My early teenage imagination ran wild.

It may seem hard to believe that there was a time when BEETLE BAILY was a good strip. Mr. Walker's best work on the strip may have been between 1965 and 1975. Ironically, nearly the same decade as the Viet Nam war. While Beetle was up to his old tricks stateside in Camp Swampy the rest of the GIs were in 'Nam. But anyway, BEETLE BAILY was a good strip as were others of that era from the Walker and Associates factory: HI & LOIS and BONERS ARK.

Walker's work touched on sexuality more than most strips not that it happened all that often. Mostly it was in the form of General Halftrack's lusting after and sexual harassment of his secretary, Miss Buxley or the sexual prowess of the "pussyhound" character, Killer.

Click HERE to view the whole strip

In this strip, the only way Beetle to get his friend Killer off his ass is to present something that just about any red-blooded heterosexual American male would stop at nothing to see: a girl's exposed tit.  And Mort, god bless him, even gives us a hint of ass crack just above the bikini line. It was just too much for my barely teen brain to process. I still find the image of the girl and the scenario pretty damn sexy, yet in some way, wholesome. Note that the rest of the seaside background becomes irrelevant and vanishes in the final panel. The girl is all. It's interesting to also note that Killer is the one with his tongue hanging out not Beetle. He is also winning. Is Beetle only in it for the exercise? Hmmm.

Why not check out this strip for Mort Walker's 85th birthday!

This comic strip is reprinted in Mort Walker's excellent, long out-of-print book on living the  cartoonist's life BACKSTAGE AT THE STRIPS. I highly reccomend it.


by Mort Walker
A & W Visual Library
1975 - 311 pp.
ISBN: 0-89104-057-9 (SC)

BEETLE BAILY is © King Features Syndicate

Posted By Art Baxter


 Virginia Lee Burton -  August 30, 1909 - October 15, 1968

One of the reasons I started this blog was to highlight some of the artists who influenced me at a young age and are perhaps not so well known. Virginia Lee Burton is not a name you hear much anymore but she wrote and drew a number of notable children's books in the first half of the twentieth century. MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL is perhaps the most famous. Another is the Caldecott Medal winning THE LITTLE HOUSE from 1942.


I got my copy of THE LITTLE HOUSE as part of a WEEKLY READER BOOK CLUB three book package in the early 1960s. The books were hardbacks and probably cost a buck apiece or less. A great price to get books in the hands of kids cheap and get books into homes that probably didn't have many. The books were often of an older vintage and had made their money. It was cool because the books were shipped to your home. This strategy of getting people to buy books worked at least on my sister and me because we've been book buyers ever since.

So, I got my copy of THE LITTLE HOUSE by Virginia Lee Burton. The book is incredibly sophisticated in it's simplicity. It's the story of a small cottage on a hill in the country surrounded by farmland. We see the house in day and night and in the four seasons. The house is always depicted in the same place on the page; slightly below the center. Soon we start to see signs of early twentieth century progress. A new road is put in and cars appear. Then the farms are replaced by tract housing, then tenements and an elevated train. The house becomes abandoned, boarded up  and is ultimately surrounded by high-rises. One day, a woman and her family see the house. The woman grew up in the house when she was a young girl. She wants to live in the house again with her family so she has it lifted and moved by truck back out to the country. The story is based on Burton's own experiences.


The story of the Little House in the books's endpapers. R. Crumb's famous A SHORT HISTORY OF AMERICA resembles it.  Ironically, today is also Crumb's birthday (August 30, 1943).

Posted By Art Baxter

As a kid, I liked to look at the detailed landscapes that surrounded the house. There were always lots of little people running around going about their business. There was a front yard in the foreground and the background seemed to go on for miles. Before the coming of "progress," the landscape had a certain kind of woven harmonious order. The colors soft and tastefully easy on the eyes. As the city approaches the colors get brown then dingy gray and the landscape becomes coldly rigid. I used to like to look at the pictures for a long time and experience the feelings they invoked.


The Little House before.

As an adult, designer and illustrator I began to appreciate Burton's economy and sophistication in the actual storytelling. The house remains in the same location for most of the book. As time moves forward, the landscape changes. The house also has some facial expressions. The curtained windows are eyes, the door is the nose and the front steps are the mouth. Early on the mouse seems happy and contented on a blanket of green grass. When the house is in the city, the grass is brown, the windows are broken and the steps aren't upturned into a smile. Soon the house is boarded up. The book is about time, entropy and rebirth.


The Little House after.

Burton's art is in the style of the American gothic. There are cues from Albert Pinkham Ryder, Thomas Hart Benton, the modernism of the Ashcan School, artists of the WPA, and the naive style of painters like Grandma Moses. Her art is a designed cartoon realism. She can be carefree but isn't afraid to face the dark. The timeline of the story suggests the optimism of the progress of the early twentieth century evolving into the depression. But hope was never lost as the house gets a new lease on life at the end.

THE LITTLE HOUSE is still in print and easy to find. Check out this fine book for Virginia Lee Burton's 99th birthday!

Note: Click on Little House detail(s) to view the entire image.

THE LITTLE HOUSE is © 1942 by Virginia Lee Demetrios

Posted By Art Baxter


Gerd Oswald - June 9, 1919 - May 22, 1989

Gerd Oswald is notable for his directoral work on the early 1960s TV show, THE OUTER LIMITS. Mr Oswald was what you might call a journeyman director. Someone who could turn in better than average work on time and on budget.

His work for THE OUTER LIMITS was visually unique and more or less set the visual template for the show. Teamed with the young cinematographer Conrad Hall, his results were impressive and gripping. He was most challenged when directing the dramatically odd scripts of series co-creator Joseph Stefano. Stefano's scripts didn't follow the standard TV script formula and often ended on an off note. His best scripts were psychological studies. "Don't Open 'Til Doomsday" is, frankly, all about sex or rather all about not having sex, as every character is sexually frustrated including the monster who ultimately "un-creates" himself. "The Invisibles" is a paranoid piece about losers who are implanted with aliens to become political operatives in an alien invasion. It's hard to describe what "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork" and "The Forms of things Unknown" are about as they are so abstract.

Oswald was one of the first directors I became aware of when it began to dawn on me exactly what a "director" did. I was very fond of his work when I was a teenager and I still am today.

Why not watch a Gerd Oswald episode of THE OUTER LIMITS today for his 89th birthday.

Oswald as Director with Conrad Hall as cinematographer
O.B.I.T. ( November 4,1963) - w: Meyer Dolinsky
Corpus Earthling (November 18, 1963) - w: Orin Borstin
It Crawled Out of the Woodwork (December 9, 1963) - w: Joseph Stefano
Don't Open Till Doomsday (January 20, 1964) - w: Joseph Stefano
The Invisibles (February 3, 1964) - w: Joseph Stefano
• The Forms of Things Unknown (May 4, 1964) - w: Joseph Stefano

THE OUTER LIMITS COMPANION by David J. Schow,  Crescendo, 1998.
THE OUTER LIMITS: THE OFFICIAL COMPANION by David J.; Frentzen, Jeffrey Schow, Ace, 1986.


Miriam Hopkins never got laid and never will...


...thanks to this monster in  "Don't Open 'Til Doomsday"

Posted By Art Baxter

Posted By Art Baxter

fox photo

Fontaine Fox - March 3, 1884 - August 9, 1964

Fontaine Fox is famous for his cartoon panel, TOONERVILLE FOLKS, which ran from 1915 to 1955. The comic panel began in 1915. A Sunday color comic strip was added in 1918. Fox emploed an assistant, Arthur Clark, on gags and inking and used a code to indicate how much of a cartoon was his: six parallel lines over Fox's signature meant the cartoon was all his - fewer meant some participation by his assistant. The comic was most popular in the time between the two world wars. Fox changed syndicates twice and eventually gained all rights to his creation. TOONERVILLE FOLKS is almost completely forgotten today.

Toonerville is a small rural town full of eccentric characters. Each character spotlighted has his or her own schtick. Characters include the "Powerful" Katrinka; Pop Whortle and the entire enormous Whortle clan; the Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang, toughest kid in town, Mickey (Himself) McGuire; "Tomboy" Taylor; Grandma Futty, the demon chaperone; "Snake-Tounge" Saunders; Snag Sanders, the town's famous mustache artist, Grandpaw Sims, the hidebound Republican; "Hams" Henderson and  Cynthia Snoop, just to name a few. Perhaps the most famous part of the strip was the rickety Toonerville Trolly run by the white-bearded, Skipper.

It took quite a while for me to warm up to TOONERVILLE FOLKS. In my younger days I preferred comics that favored the clean line. TOONERVILLE was just too sketchy, dashed off and way too corny. Somewhere along the way I had picked up a copy of TOONERVILLE TROLLY by Galewitz and Winslow which collected a sampling of the the panel cartons. As I read I warmed up to the town and it's characters. The humor is broad slapstick but it is really funny. I like the outrageous characters the best. I'm less interested in the Trolly cartoons and the Sunday strip.

Fox's art is sketchy and his line is loose. He is great at body language and capturing a scene as economically as possible. His cartoon is frequently set outdoors with the viewer above the scene looking down at the tiny characters scrambling around. Amazingly, Fox frequently draws six to twelve people interacting in this small panel cartoon. I like how he often has some kid in the foreground commenting on the action in crazy gestures.

Check out some TOONERVILLE FOLKS cartoons for Fontaine Fox's 124th birthday!

fox self portrait

Posted By Art Baxter


Guy Maddin - February 28, 1956

The films of Canadian director, Guy Maddin, are about delirious swooning emotions worn on the cuff and seething repression gone to the point of madness. His films are insane dreamlike melodramas that go up to the line of the barest acceptability and then leap over it into gleeful morosity. They are the kind of films a young David Lynch might have made if he had been apprentice to James Whale at Universal in 1932 and his home town was Winnipeg Manitoba and he had a depressive Nordic temperament. His films aren't for everybody. If fact they appeal to almost no one. When I recently screened his latest film Brand Upon the Brain! here in Philadelphia on a Sunday night there were six people in the audience. My wife and I were the only couple. Two thirds of the way into the picture, a woman got up and left never to return. That woman missed what turned out to be one of my absolute favorites of Maddin's films.

The first of Maddin's film I saw was his first feature Tales of the Gimli Hospital. I was intrigued when I read about the film in one of the local free weeklies. It was playing that weekend at a midnight show. It was just the sort of thing I was itching to see. Gimli is a resort town outside of Winnipeg where the young Maddin spent his summers at the family's cottage on a lake. The story concerns itself with two young men who are in the hospital's care for various ailments. Naturally, a romance is at the center of the story which includes many odd local customs like slicking down ones hair with goose grease and combing it with a fishbone. The film was the grainiest black and white and looked like it was made in 1928. The film was a very modest critical and financial success which sent the young filmmaker on his way.

You can imagine my excitement when his next film Archangel appeared two years later. The central theme of the film is forgetfulness as most of the cast has amnesia of one form or another. It takes place in a small Russian village after World War One. A town so remote they haven't yet learned the war is long over so fighting continues. It bombed even by art house standards. Perhaps it was it's long meandering pace that turned people off. Or perhaps it was a scene where a disemboweled man strangled the Huns who invaded his house with his own intestines before dying. It certainly couldn't have been the scene where the Russian townspeople were invaded by an army of rabbits as they waited in their snow filled foxholes. Could it? Well, I liked it!

Ironically, Maddin's next film Careful is the one that cemented his reputation as a filmmaker. Ironic, since the film takes place in the Alps and is pro-incest. It's in color but the colors are over vivid and wrong. The mountains were created by draping cloth over wood. The film received praise in the form a fan letter from none other than legendary female film director and unrepentant nazi, Leni Riefenstahl, director of Triumph of the Will and Olympiad, who cut her own film making teeth on "mountain climbing" pictures. Of course what's not to like when you have a main character who, out of guilt, sears his own lips with a hot poker then cuts off his hand after lustfully watching his mother bathing in a bathtub, through a mirror while being suspended upside down.

I was fortunate enough to see his highly praised short film The Heart of the World at a local theater in 2000. It is in black and white, filmed in 8mm and blown up to 35mm and is silent. It's an amazing six minutes.

Posted By Art Baxter

It wouldn't be until 2002 when Maddin came roaring back with another feature, Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary. A retelling of the Dracula story as a filmed ballet performance by the Winnipeg Ballet Company. Maddin returns to grainy black and white and takes a further evolutionary regression. The film is silent save an orchestral soundtrack. The film is also the first feature to use the quick cutting techniques he first employed in his short, The Heart of the World. Leave it to Maddin to find something fresh in a story that has been done to death. It's perhaps the only version of Dracula to burnish in relief the theme of xenophobia at the heart of Stoker's novel. With Heart and Dracula, Maddin got his second wind and was on a roll.

Maddin soon followed Dracula with The Saddest Music in the World and Cowards Bend the Knee. The former a big budget (for him) color production featuring Isabella Rossellini and a silent black & white, ten part gallery installation. Although Saddest Music features Rossellini as a double amputee who wears prosthetic glass legs filled with beer it's tone is a tad too glib thanks to the mugging of Mark McKinny and the look is oddly too slick for a Maddin production. It does, however, have it's moments. Cowards fares much better as a fictional autobiography with requisite hand transplant/ice hockey/incest/beauty salon plot machinations in ten thrilling chapters. Cowards was originally presented in a gallery as a peep show where viewers would have to get on there knees to view each chapter from holes close to the ground.

Maddin's latest feature Brand Upon the Brain! is one of my personal favorites, is another fictional autobiography. In this film, an adult Maddin rows back to his childhood home, a lighthouse on a remote island, to carry out his mother's final wish and to give the lighthouse a fresh coat of paint. With every brushstroke he relives the horror of his childhood when his parents ran an orphanage there. His father used the children for his mysterious experiments while a famous girl detective disguised as as her twin brother investigates. It's black and white and silent again this time with a narration by Isabella Rossellini. Don't miss it!

Check out a Guy Maddin film today for his 52nd birthday!

Feature Films:

• Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988)   
• Archangel (1990)
• Careful (1992)
• Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997)
• Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary (2002)
• Cowards Bend the Knee (2003)
• The Saddest Music in the World (2003)   
• Brand Upon the Brain! (2006) - Trailer
• My Winnipeg (2007)

Select Short Films:
Odilon Redon or The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity (1995)
• The Heart of the World (2000)



Cowards Bend the Knee (2003) - Boy, do they BEND!

Posted By Art Baxter

Avery portrait

Tex Avery - February 26, 1908 – August 26, 1980

Frederick "Tex" Avery was the Anti-Disney. Avery took the homespun sweetness of Disney and not only turned it upside down but pulled it inside out. He was unsentimental and he was a smartass. A classic American smartass. His cartoons were rude and vulgar. His characters exhibited unapologetic lecherous, gluttonous  and violent behavior. He warped reality and was ironic before anyone knew what that was. His cartoons are among the finest ever made. He was an alcoholic who alienated himself from his family. He was blind in one eye.

The cartoons are uproariously hilarious and are just as funny today as they were in the 40s. They've aged well. Made for world weary adults who liked to laugh at the wrong things, they were ultimately spoon fed to a generation of children every afternoon on television.

Avery was a perfectionist and worried about every single cartoon he made. The gag was paramount and the story just a framework for them to hang. He created "Bugs Bunny" and had a hand in many of the other Warner characters. "What's up Doc?" was an expression from his high school days. Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones were his apprentices. He left Warner Bros. after his cartoons were censored and eventually went to MGM where he produced his finest work. His characters at MGM were generally nameless except for "Droopy" the dog and "Screwy Squirrel". The lascivious antics of his "wolf" and "girl" characters at MGM made the glands swell.

After he left MGM, he went to the Walter Lance studio and created "Chilly Willy" but he felt burt out. He went to work in advertising doing TV commercials where his best bits were removed by ad execs. Often he held court to the new generation of animators who were raised on his cartoons. He died just as people were beginning to know just who the hell he was and appreciate his genius.

Check out a Tex Avery cartoon today for his 100th birthday!

Warner Bros.
• Thugs with Dirty Mugs (1939)
• A Gander at Mother Goose (1940)
• A Wild Hare (1940)
• The Heckling Hare (1941)
• All This and Rabbit Stew (1941)

• Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)
• What's Buzzin' Buzzard? (1943)
• Screwball Squirrel (1944)
• Happy-Go-Nutty (1944)
• Swing Shift Cinderella (1945)
• The Shooting of Dan McGoo (1945)
• Wild and Woolfy (1945)
• Uncle Tom's Cabaña (1947)
• King-Size Canary (1947)
• Bad Luck Blackie (1949)
• Little Rural Riding Hood (1949)
• Daredevil Droopy (1951)
• Drag-a-Long Droopy (1954)

TEX AVERY: KING OF CARTOONS by Joe Adamson.1975.
TEX AVERY: THE MGM YEARS 1942-1955 by John Canemaker,1998.
PORTRAIT OF TEX AVERY documentary, 1988.

Wolf & Girl




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