Bugs Bunny #39: Bugs Bunny & The Money Bunnies

Once again I delve into the economic underpinnings of a typical funnybook story. This time our opus is from Dell's Bugs Bunny No. 39, Oct-Nov 1954, entitled "Bugs Bunny and the Money Bunnies."
We join Bugs on the showroom floor of his local car dealer. Bugs is admiring the new Bobcat Eight, an open-top roadster with some of the styling of a PT Cruiser. The test drive has Bugs sold.
"Only five thousand dollars, sir!" (This seems low for a premium automobile, even in 1954, but I suspect the figure was chosen to be readily graspable by a kid audience.)
This is a little beyond Bugs' reach, seeing as he only has $1.73 to his name. The salesman shoves him out the car door.
"Take good care of that Bobcat," says Bugs, "Because I STILL aim to buy it! Just wait! You'll see!" (As we know from several cartoons, it's not a good idea to thwart Bugs. At least he didn't say, "Of course you realize, this means war!")
Later, Bugs is shown at his table, figuring. "Why, I'd be an old decrepit bunny before I could ever earn enough money to buy that car!" (Not to mention, it'd be years out of style by then. Not to further mention, in a few years' time inflation will really skew those figures. At least Bugs doesn't need it to commute. In fact, one wonders why a bunny who can tunnel to Antarctica needs a car anyway. Maybe it's so he won't miss that turn at Albuquerque.)
A little further cogitation, and "Say, if I got THREE JOBS and worked day and night, I could get a Bobcat in no time! … Aw, that won't work! I'd burn myself out in no time tryin' to do the work of three bunnies! But if I had three bunnies workin' for ME… Nope! Wouldn't work! What bunnies would give ME all their dough?"
And that's when Bugs gets a eureka moment: robot rabbits! He grabs his compass and T-square and drafts a simple image. (But very sharp. Love those metal printing plates.)
"There! A MONEY BUNNY! Now to get the parts for his 'lectric insides!" And Bugs scrounges through the trash cans behind the local TV repair shop. (Just one of several, I imagine, since Bugs gets enough parts to build three robots and a monitor bank. Bugs doesn't usually do the Gyro Gearloose bit, but whatever the story calls for.)
Next Bugs makes a full-body plaster cast of himself and molds three plastic Money Bunnies. They look like Bugs, except they're dead white, and look vaguely futuristic with their radio antennae and stovepipe joints. Plus they have big friendly numbers on their chests, 1, 2, and 3.
"Now to see if my plastic pals can do their chores!" And Bugs sits down at his monitor array. In a double-size panel we see Number One sweep the hole, Number Two drive a nail into a board, and Number Three open a door. "YIPEE! They can do anything!"
Bugs leaves the bots to recharge while he lines up some "good-payin', hard work!" He accomplishes this by knocking on doors in the neighborhood. He arranges to saw down a tree, paint a house, and work at a construction site. (At that last, he responds to the foreman's warning of the risk by saying, "I'm fearless, Doc! I'll report bright and early tomorrow!" So we see he actually means to misrepresent himself.)
Next day the Money Bunnies head out, properly attired. "Forward, men! An' let's have no tube blowouts or short circuits on the job!"
The Money Bunnies go to work. Bugs starts to discover that overseeing three robots is a full-time job in itself. "Whew! I don't know who's workin' HARDER… those guys or ME? (pant!) But things are sure goin' swell!"
And that's when Number Two paints the customer's face.
And Number One falls out of his tree.
And Number Three falls off the scaffolding.
Bugs assures the reader, "'Course, we can ALL stand a little practice!"
While Bugs dusts off his tele-workers and sends them back on the job, let me take a minute and describe where I would see this story going without the upcoming twist. (Yes, I'm rewriting the story. Any critic who says they don't do this probably lies about other things, too.)
Bugs has already discovered that low-paid is not the same as unskilled. (Barbara Ehrenreich could've told him that.) Plus, soon he'll have to drum up replacement work for the house-painting and tree-felling robots while the third is still working merrily along on the high iron. This should send Bugs to find factory work, the more mindless, the better. And he does, and for a while all goes well. But soon the factories' management discovers that "Bugs" isn't real, but mechanical. (Although anyone who would knowingly hire Bugs Bunny, I would argue, deserves what they get.) There is a possible fraud case here.
And let's not even think about what the unions will say.
But some on the management team have a few brain cells to rub together. They ask Bugs what he wants. He tells them, a Bobcat Eight. They buy him the car in exchange for all rights to his Money Bunnies. He agrees. Management is congratulating themselves on their cleverness when they discover that no one can get the Money Bunnies to function – no one except Bugs, that is, and he's already got his car so is in no mood to work.
Back to the original story. Number Three, the high steel rabbit, has had his fall witnessed by a couple of men, a needlenosed type with slick hair and a pencil mustache, and a burly joe in a cloth cap – stereotypical thugs, in other words.
The robot's resilience has the newcomers amazed: "He's gettin' up like that hundred foot fall was nothin'! … He'd be a natcheral in our line o' business! Let's talk to him!"
Slickster is trying to put forward their proposition when his partner notices something: "See, an aerial! This guy's not for real, Joe!"
"It's a mechanical ROBOT! No wonder he could take a flop like that!" Joe is elated: "This is even better yet! All we do is find out who's runnin' that rabbit…"
"…An' we takes over an' have us a new silent BULLETPROOF pardner!" his friend finishes.
At five o'clock, Bugs calls the Money Bunnies home "to rest their weary little electrons." As it happens, Number Three is the first to return. "Ahh, here's Number Three, with OUR dough in his shiny little fist! Let me have it, boy!" And Joe obliges with a blackjack. ("Kerwhomp!")
Joe and his friend grab robot Number Three and his monitor box and beat it when they hear somebody coming. As it happens, it's Numbers One and Two, so the crooks just missed making the hat trick.
The remaining Money Bunnies nurse Bugs back to health. "I can't figure what anybody would want with my plastic bunny! Ow! Easy with that ice bag, boy!" Bugs shows a limited imagination in the use of his Money Bunnies, but that was apparent  when he sent them out to saw down trees.
And how are the Money Bunnies functioning without Bugs directing them at their monitors? Previously recorded subroutines, of course. (Actually, if this were a cartoon, at some point the robots would turn to the camera and make a snide comment. If Bugs' "Oscar" could, anything's possible.)
Next day Bugs is walking the shopping district when he hears a newsboy (with a Jughead-type beanie, yet) blare about the "Bunny Bandit!" Bugs grabs a copy of the "Morning Blurp" and reads: "BULLETPROOF BUNNY BREAKS BANK! Bullets Bounce Off Rabbit Robber as he robs bank of $500,000!"
Bugs runs off, crying, "Bank Robbery? Why didn't I think of that?"
No, actually, he says, "Why, somebody made honest old Number Three into a robbin' robot! I'd better tell Chief Fudd the whole thing!"
CHIEF Fudd? Yeah, in this story Elmer Fudd is the police chief. Well, anything to shoehorn in another member of the Looney Tunes gang. Plus, it predisposes him to believe Bugs: "Gwacious! No wonder bullets can't stop him! He's not human… er… he's not WABBIT!"
"Hey, Chief!" (How about that, they got a real policeman to play along.) "The Bulletproof Bunny struck again!" (You think we could see one of these bank robberies in action? Or are they limiting the violence to Bugs getting blackjacked?)
"We've got to stop that wascal! But HOW?"
"Hold everything, Doc! I got a HOT IDEA how we can stop him COLD! C'mon!"
Back at Bugs' burrow, he rewires Number One's channel for Number Three, and zeroes in on the crooks counting their ill-gotten gains. "Money," says Chief Fudd, "Gweat oodles of money! And those two guys… They're Joe and Moe, weal bad cwooks!"
Weal bad cwooks.
That's what he says.
"I wecognize their hide-out! It's a wegular fortwess … my men could never get in THERE!" (Elmer's dialogue is driving my spellcheck nuts.)
"Maybe your MEN can't get 'em, but ol' Bugsy sure can!"
First step is to take out the indestructible Number Three. He starts to unscrew Joe and Moe's lightbulb from its hanging socket.
Joe: "What're you havin' him do that for?"
Moe: "I'm not havin' him do anythin'! He's doin' it all by himself!" (Come now, you ought to realize that Bugs controlled him once, he can do it again.)
Joe: "Then he's short-circuited an' runnin' wild! Stop him!"
Moe: "He won't stop!"
And Number Three fits the light socket to his antenna and explodes with a horrific BLOOP! (Bloop?) Well, it knocks Joe and Moe off their feet anyhow.
Moe: "He blew himself into a…"
Joe: "Puddle o' plastic!"
Elmer: "Hooway! That took care of that CWOOKED wobot!"
Bugs: "Easy, Elmer! He was ONCE a pal o' mine!"
Elmer: "What are you going to do about Joe and Moe? They're weally loaded with wevolvers!"
Bugs has the answer. "If bullets can't stop a plastic bank bandit, then bullets can't stop plastic crook catchers, either!" And off go Numbers One and Two.
One panel later, back come Numbers One and Two, arms full of greenbacks, dragging Joe and Moe behind them.
Elmer hasn't really done much beyond identifying Joe and Moe and fobbing off responsibility for their capture onto Bugs. But now he shows his in-story reason by giving Bugs his ten thousand dollar reward immediately. (Police chief or no, Elmer Fudd with ten G's in his kick is an accident waiting to happen.)
Of course, Bugs heads right to the dealership. "You want T-TWO Bobcat Eights?" (Deliberately or not, the salesman is playing this just right, letting Bugs see how much he's rattled him. Most clerks would be too busy adding up their commission.)
For one last time, we see Chief Fudd and Bugs at the monitor bank. "But why did you buy TWO cars, Bugs?"
"Aw, my Money Bunnies earned them, and besides, this way I can have TWICE as much fun drivin' a Bobcat Eight!" And sure enough, Numbers One and Two are shown at the wheels. Bugs has just created the world's most expensive RC Racer set. But of course, for Bugs it was all about proving he could do it. If he had to do it again tomorrow, he create a brand-new scheme to generate five thousand dollars.
I remember reading one of those career advice books that recommended getting your own personal robot to rent out to factories. Of course there are many things wrong with this idea; for one, it would double the number of jobseekers in line! (I see George Jetson and Rosie nervously waiting…)
More seriously, no business is going to allow backdoor capitalization of their process. They're going to want complete control of any mechanization, not least to make sure all robots are compatible with each other.
We've had anxieties about automation for some time; this story is actually an attempt by the "little guy" to take advantage of technology. The story was shortened by introducing a couple of cheap crooks, but the fact still stands that Bugs achieved his financial goals through his own brain power. Let's hope we can call on a little of that ingenuity in our present crisis.