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Dopey Duck #1-2 (Sept 1945 – April 1945) continued as Wacky Duck v1 #3-6 (Sept. 1946 – June 1946), Wacky Duck v2 #1-2 (Aug. 1948 – Oct. 1948).
Funny animal is a cartooning term for the genre of comics and animated cartoons in which the main characters are anthropomorphic or talking animals, with human-like personality traits. The characters themselves may also be called "funny animals".
While many funny animal stories are light-hearted and humorous, the genre is not exclusively comedic. Dark or serious stories featuring characters of this sort can also be grouped under the "funny animals" category, sometimes referred to as anthropomorphic to avoid confusion over the range of genres. These stories may intersect with any other genre or group of genres, including historical fiction, science fiction, superhero, western, slapstick comedy, children's entertainment, and satire.
The funny animal genre evolved in the 1920s and 1930s, as blackface became less socially acceptable. Early black-and-white funny animals, including Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse (perhaps the most enduring of the kind), Foxy the Fox, Felix the Cat and Flip the Frog, maintained certain aspects of the blackface design, including (especially with the advent of sound film) heavy emphasis on song and dance routines. The increased use of Technicolor and other color film processes in the 1930s allowed for greater diversity in the ability to design new "funny animals," leading to a much wider array of funny animal shorts and the near-total demise (except for Mickey Mouse and a few other Disney characters of the era) of the blackface characters. Song and dance fell out of favor and were largely replaced by comedy and satire. The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts by Warner Bros. Animation, for instance, introduced dozens of funny animals, many of whom have reached iconic status in American culture. Other notable funny animals from the color film era included Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker, MGM's Tom and Jerry (among many others), and Paul Terry's Heckle and Jeckle.
Television changed the dynamic of animation, in that although budgets were much smaller and schedules much tighter, this prompted a shift from the physical comedy that predominated film shorts to more dialogue-oriented jokes (including celebrity impressions and one-liner jokes). Hanna-Barbera Productions focused almost exclusively on these kinds funny animal TV series in the late 1950s and early 1960s, creating an extensive line of funny animal series (Yogi Bear being one of the most enduring franchises). Jay Ward Productions also produced The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, a series representative of the genre (albeit with much stronger Cold War overtones than Hanna-Barbera).
By the 1970s, most funny animals had lost their lead status and had been relegated to members of an ensemble cast of mostly humans (e.g. Scooby-Doo) or supporting characters. Funny animals and animal-like characters made a brief comeback in the late 1980s and into the 1990s (most notably through various Warner Bros. and Disney television creations, and through the decidedly cruder work of Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi). The subsequent years also had numerous successful animated feature film franchises that featured funny animal characters like DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar, Shrek and Kung Fu Panda and Blue Sky Studios's Ice Age. Animators have created increasingly more unusual examples of funny animals in this era, including Perry the Platypus (from Disney's Phineas and Ferb) and SpongeBob SquarePants (from the Nickelodeon TV series of the same name).
In the 1940s, Fawcett Comics published a comic book entitled Funny Animals, featuring such characters as Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, an anthropomorphic rabbit version of Captain Marvel. Beginning in the 1980s, there was a subgenre of original funny animal comic books with subject matter that were created largely for mature readers. These creations included the political science fiction allegory in Albedo Anthropomorphics, the sexually explicit serial drama of Omaha the Cat Dancer and the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic Holocaust narrative, Maus.
Comic strips have long been an outlet for funny animal characters. Krazy Kat was a popular early comic strip featuring the titular cat and its companionship with a mouse named Ignatz. Snoopy, from the Peanuts comic strip, was frequently used as comic relief. Almost all of the non-human characters in the comic strip Garfield fit the category. In the cases of Peanuts and Garfield, the animal characters' words are portrayed in thought balloons instead of spoken dialogue.
From Walter Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker to Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, kids and their parents loved anthropomorphic cats, dogs. And mice—although there was debate about exactly what species Mickey’s friend Goofy might be.
Ducks were popular characters. Donald Duck made his appearance in an animated cartoon back in 1934, but his ﬁrst American comic book appearance wasn't until I942 with Western Publishing. There. the character was assigned to a former Disney artist named Carl Barks, who did ten-pagers for Walt Disney’: Comics and Stories. He created Scrooge McDuck in 1947, and by 1952 the “World's Richest Duck” had his own title with Uncle Scrooge #1.
Ignoring Disney's famous duck family, Marvel had been publishing Dopey Duck Comics for years, renaming it Wacky Duck Comics in 1946. Later, in 1973, the company introduced Steve Gerber's Howard the Duck, an anthropomorphic character in a humanoid world. The ill-tempered quacker got his own title (Howard the Duck #1) in 1976. Known for its tongue-in-cheek style and metaﬁctional awareness of the limitations of the medium, the series developed a cult following. A Howard the Duck movie followed in l986—executive produced by none other than George Lucas. It’s considered to be among the one hundred worst ﬁlms ever made.
Previously known for its stories about The Flash. DC’s Comic Cavalcade was revamped completely with issue #30 (January 1949), becoming a Funny-animal humor book when super-heroes faded from popularity in the postwar era. Animal characters in the new version included the Dodo and the Frog, Nutsy Squirrel, and the Fox and the Crow.
In addition to Krazy Komics, Timely's funny-animals department cranked out such titles as Komic Kartoons. Funny Frolics, Comedy Comics, Comic Capers, Krazy Krow, Funny Tunes. Animated Movie Tunes. Dopey Duck. Silly Tunes, ideal Comics, and Comics for Kids. Funny animals even crossed over into the superhero genre with Mighty Mouse, originally a Terrytoons animated cartoon but becoming a comic book with Timely in 1946, St. Johns in I947, and Pines in 1956. A similar character was Charlton's Atomic Mouse, a super powered rodent making his ﬁrst appearance in I953. Standard Comics published Supermouse the Big Cheese. Timely also had Super Rabbit, while Fawcett claimed Hoppy the Marvel Bunny.
Early comic strips had already embraced animal protagonists by the time comic books came to print. Most notably, George Herriman’s strip Krazy Kat, launched in 1913, had captured a national audience in the pages of America’s newspapers. Yet the ﬂedgling comic book industry did not turn to its newspaper forerunners for funny animal material to fill its pages, but to the popular animated film shorts of the day. The first film studio to lend its characters to comic books was Walt Disney, who licensed stars like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to Dell Publishing. In 1940 Dell launched the first funny animal comic book with Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. Dell quickly followed up its successful relationship with Disney by establishing contracts with Warner Brothers Studios to use characters like Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, beginning with Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies (1941), and then enrolled MGM’s Walter Lantz creations like Andy Panda and Woody Woodpecker for the first issue of New Funnies (1942). Other publishers tried to catch up to Dell’s initiative, with first Timely and then St. John Publishing taking on 20th Century Fox’s Paul Terry creations like Mighty Mouse in Terry-Toons (1942). National Periodicals got into the contest late with Columbia Pictures’ the Fox and the Crow in Real Screen Comics (1945).
While such adaptations may have been popular with audiences, particularly young children, the translation did not always fare well when moving from one medium to another. For instance, part of the thrill of a Bugs Bunny animated romp is the pacing of the slapstick comedy and masterful vocalizations by voice actor Mel Blanc, but comics cannot convey these qualities. Indeed, the best remembered of the original spate of funny animal comics ultimately proved to be characters that emerged indigenous to the medium. To that end, two creators became synonymous with the genre: Walt Kelly and Carl Barks.
Walt Kelly is highly regarded for the creation of Pogo Possum, an original character who debuted in Dell’s Animal Comics #1 (1942). Pogo became highly successful in comic books and, beginning in 1949, migrated into a syndicated newspaper strip as well. In fact, while Pogo’s comic book career came to end by 1954, his newspaper strip ran nationwide until 1975. Part of the strip’s appeal was the genuine satire that Kelly introduced into the Okefenokee Swamp that Pogo inhabited, particularly as he skewered political ﬁgures of his day. For instance, Pogo took on Senator Joseph McCarthy during his infamous communist witch-hunts by parodying the senator and his crusade through the character of Simple J. Malarkey. Kelly’s savvy satire made Pogo popular enough over the decades that the publishing house of Simon BC Shuster issued dozens of collected editions reprinting his adventures.
Another cartoonist who had an enduring impact on the funny animal genre was Carl Barks, whose work for Dell’s Disney line of comics earned him the title of “the good artist” from fans. Disney policy left artists’ contributions uncredited -except for Walt himself- in their initial printings. But as fans learned to distinguish the care and style of Barks’ work over time, he earned fan recognition despite his anonymity. Between 1942 and 1967 Barks drew hundreds of Donald Duck features and, in December 1947, he introduced fan favorite character Uncle Scrooge McDuck. To this day, Barks’ work is still appearing in reprinted editions of his comics.
The earliest funny animal comics, like the fables that preceded them, often focused on some moral lesson: be kind to one’s neighbors, always tell the truth, etc. But the appeal for the audience might have been more utilitarian than moralistic. According to historian Les Daniels, “At an age when children had little on their side except the ability to dissemble and a repertoire of alternate fantasy identities, and were surrounded by dumb adults or neighborhood bullies, these images released, quite simply, the power to do infinite things with minimal resources” (Comix 53). Funny animals thus became equipment for the imagination, allowing readers to break free of an otherwise confining life. In regards to their quality of wish fulfillment, then, they may not have been all that different from the superhero comics with which they competed.
The popularity of funny animal comics reached its highest levels during the1940s and 1950s, though their influence continued throughout the ensuing decades, particularly as subsequent artists began to use the juxtaposition of talking animals interacting with the idiosyncrasies of human society. A new generation of cartoonists tapped into this satirical vein, including Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck for Marvel Comics (beginning in 1973) and Dave Sim’s epic Cerebus (1977–2004), which featured a talking aardvark who held vocations as varied as barbarian warrior and pope. Funny animals continue to allow cartoonists the freedom to explore the human condition, and later examples such as Reed Waller and Kate Worley’s sexy soap opera Ohama the Cat Dancer, Jim Woodring’s anthropomorphic creature Frank, and Jeff Smith’s adventurous Bone have found a forum among comics’ independent publishers.
Wikipedia and “A Complete History of American Comic Books” by Shirrel Rhoades