Comics about comics

Recently in Zippy, two poignant strips about cartoonist Bill Griffith’s childhood and the cartoon character Little Max; and then today, a strip in which Zippy wakes up three days in a row transformed into a cartoon character, only to emerge from these dreams on the fourth day — but as yet another cartoon character.

The strips:



(#3) Felix the Cat, Petunia Pig, Sad Sack — and Zippy/Sluggo

Joe Palooka and Little Max. The Palooka background, from Wikipedia (with a note on the noun palooka):

(#4) Max and Joe in Little Max #4 (1949)

Joe Palooka is an American comic strip about a heavyweight boxing champion, created by cartoonist Ham Fisher in 1921. The strip debuted in 1930 and was carried at its peak by 900 newspapers.

… Fisher originally changed the appearance of Palooka to fit each reigning real-life champ – until the coming of African-American Joe Louis in the 1930s, at which time the image of the cowlicked blond Palooka remained unchanged. Though his adventures were mostly low-key, he was pumped up by a supporting cast led by girlfriend Ann Howe, boxing manager Knobby Walsh, his mute orphan sidekick Little Max, Smokey, his black valet and later sparring partner and lovable giant Humphrey Pennyworth, a smiling blacksmith who wielded a 100-pound (45 kg) maul. Like Ozark Ike McBatt in baseball, Joe Palooka was intended to exemplify the sports hero in an age when uprightness of character was supposed to matter most.

… Found in print as early as 1923, the word palooka was widely used to mean a lout or an inept fighter. Of uncertain origins, the word may originally have derived from the ethnic slur polack.

(#5) Resourcefully ice-fishing (with a plumber’s plunger) in Little Max #70

Days of dreaming. Three days of Zippy awakening as a cartoon character (Felix the Cat, Petunia Pig, and the Sad Sack), followed by an apparent real awakening — but as yet another cartoon character, Sluggo. The overall theme is the false awakening; from Wikipedia:

A false awakening is a vivid and convincing dream about awakening from sleep, while the dreamer in reality continues to sleep. After a false awakening, subjects often dream they are performing daily morning rituals such as showering, cooking, cleaning, eating and using the toilet. False awakenings, namely those in which one dreams that one has awoken from sleep that featured dreams, take on aspects of a double dream or a dream within a dream.

Now, the characters, with a linguistic bonus for the last one.

Felix the Cat I have already written about, in a 7/26/16 posting “Comicat”.

Petunia Pig. From Wikipedia:


Petunia Pig is an animated cartoon character in the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros. She looks much like her significant other, Porky Pig, except that she wears a dress and now has braided black hair, although the character did not originally have hair.

… Petunia was introduced by animator Frank Tashlin in the 1937 short Porky’s Romance.

Sad Sack. From Wikipedia:

(#7) Sad Sack #24

Sad Sack is an American comic strip and comic book character created by Sgt. George Baker during World War II. Set in the United States Army, Sad Sack depicted an otherwise unnamed, lowly private experiencing some of the absurdities and humiliations of military life. The title was a euphemistic shortening of the military slang “sad sack of shit”, common during World War II. The phrase has come to mean “an inept person” or “inept soldier”.

… Originally drawn in pantomime by Baker, The Sad Sack debuted June 1942 as a comic strip in the first issue of Yank, the Army Weekly. It proved popular, and a hardcover collection of Baker’s wartime Sad Sack strips was published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. in 1944, with a follow-up, The New Sad Sack (1946). The original book was concurrently published as an Armed Services edition mass market paperback

… Harvey Comics published original Sad Sack stories in the Sad Sack Comics comic book series, which ran 287 issues, cover-dated September 1949 to October 1982.

Sluggo. I posted here on 1/11/13 about (among other things) Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy and Sluggo. Here’s Sluggo on his own:

(#8) Sluggo strolling jauntily

Unlike the first three figures in #3, which have Zippy’s clothing and the head of a cartoon character, the figure in the fourth panel has Sluggo’s clothing but Zippy’s head: it’s “really” Zippy, dressed as Sluggo and acting like him.

Another Sluggo. Sluggo is also (unsurprisingly: slug go) the name of a poison bait for slugs and snails:

(#9) Note the Spanish: babosas y caracoles ‘slugs and snails’

Spanish vocabulary notes:

fem. noun babosa ‘slug’ (lit. ‘slimy thing’)

adj. masc. baboso, fem. babosa ‘drooling, slobbering; slimy’; Central America, Mexico slang ‘silly, dumb’

masc. noun caracol ‘snail’ – probably from Lat. cochlea ‘spiral, snail shell’ (Engl. noun cochlea ‘the spiral cavity of the inner ear containing the organ of Corti, which produces nerve impulses in response to sound vibrations’) > Fr. fem. noun caracole Equit. ‘a half turn’ (Engl. noun caracole ‘a half turn to the right or left by a horse’)

The spiral of a snail’s shell takes us to the anatomy of the inner ear and equestrian routines.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: