Woody Woodpecker #73

October 1962
80 Pages
Special County Fair Issue

Okay, let's go through the stories, then look at the package as a whole.


WOODY WOODPECKER – COUNTY FAIR.  Woody is a street sweeper at the County Fair. With the help of a trained gorilla, he captures a couple of crooks. As a reward, he becomes "Chief Custodian of all Underfoot Areas." "Man, oh man!" he enthuses. "I'm practically on the board of directors!"

ANDY PANDA & CHARLIE CHICKEN – SKY-DIVING DAREDEVIL. Andy has devised a stunt whereby Charlie leaps from their plane and glides to the ground on big green batwings. "You're a natural for this stunt!" says Andy. "Millions of years ago, your ancestors probably soared like eagles!"
Two points: Usually it's Charlie who dreams up these crazy schemes. And what's with this talk of ancestors? Charlie started out as a barnyard fowl -- in fact, in the cartoon "Meatless Tuesday," Andy tried to eat him! However in the comics he became Andy's pal and presumably a member of society, for all that he's usually naked.
The stunt starts off as planned, but Charlie catches an updraft and heads out to sea, Andy following in his plane. They wind up on a deserted island where a mad scientist is planning to pull satellites right out of the sky with a magnetic orbit-deflector beam. (How space-racy.)
Our boys manage to escape and flag down the Coast Guard using Charlie's wings (and at least one prayer).

CHILLY WILLY - UNTITLED. For once in his life, Chilly is a success; he's the weatherman of his polar commmunity. His scientific method (so-called) is to row out to the middle of the ocean on his beach ball and listen to the Weather Chiefs in person: King Cold Wind, Sir Snow, and Cap'n White (Whitecap, geddit?).
Geez, how childish. Why couldn't they be more like Carl Barks, who told us that earthquakes were caused by Terries and Fermies.... uh...  Lemme get back to you on this...

TEXT PAGE: THE FUNNIEST SIGHT, with Windy and Breezy, a father-son pair of bears. As per the name Windy is a blowhard; he also has a muzzle more like a dog's.

WHIZZARD AND WINGDING. Mark Evanier has said that Woody Woodpecker was held in such little regard, Dell/Gold Key/Western used to commission Donald Duck stories and then perform a plumage-change operation. You might think this story was the result of that practice, but that's unlikely as shall be apparent. Woody's bespectacled cousin Whizzard -- think Ludwig von Drake without the Swedish accent -- discovers a "Yinca" relic that was really pecked by woodpeckers! Woody scoffs, but Whizzard says, "There's not one spot where it says they WEREN'T woodpeckers! Do you deny that?"
Next panel, Woody, Knothead, Splinter and Whizzard are in the "Yandes" Mountains. A trail of stone tablets leads them to a whole ancient city, carved out of stone. "This discovery will win me a Snobel Prize, at least!" says Whizzard.
But the ancient city is inhabited, by Bizarro Woodys, it seems. They have long, zig-zag necks and beaks, and call themselves rock pokkers. Centuries of carving out imitation Yinca temples have left them more than a little scatterbrained.
Our heroes are left under the care of Wingding, who's nutsy even by rock pokker standards.  (And his cognate would be Dimwitty Duck.) With Wingding's help, Whizzard re-introduces the pokkers to the joys of wood. "My head doesn't even rattle," rejoices one.
This is actually a very '60s theme, helping out a benighted native people a la the Peace Corps. (Barks did a devastating sendup of this attitude when he put Gyro in the "Tutor Corps" for one story.) You might think that natives know what suits them best, but it is possible for a civilization to make wrong choices -- cf. COLLAPSE with its account of the Easter Islanders destroying their ecosystem.
All of which is overthinking a pleasant little story. I just wish they'd sprung for half-page panels; Barks would have had a field day with these not-quite-ancient temples.

OSWALD THE RABBIT AND GABBY GATOR. Oswald bakes a pie for the fair and Gabby tries to eat it. The end.
Well, I've got more to say about the stars. Taking Gabby first: they've left off his Southern accent. In the cartoons, Gabby is based in the Everglades. He's also a Woody villain. Funny how Woody's main villains parallel Bugs Bunny's: You've got stuffy (Elmer Fudd/Wally Walrus), surly (Yosemite Sam/Buzz Buzzard) and savage (Tasmanian Devil/Gabby Gator). Oswald should be happy all Gabby wants is his pie; in the cartoons he's usually trying to eat Woody.
If there is a more petit bourgeois character than Oswald, I don't know who it is. As I'm sure most people here know, he started at the Walt Disney Studios, looking much like the Mouse would. When Disney lost the rights to Oswald, Lantz took over production, creating films that resembled Disney's with something of the Fleischers' anarchy about them. Some of these cartoons had pretty high body counts.
Oswald was redesigned as a slightly more realistic and much younger bunny, but it didn't last. His cartoons fell by the wayside, but he continued on in comics, usually wearing a three-piece suit (no shoes). He also picked up two adopted sons, Floyd and Lloyd. (I didn't know they were adopted until I researched this; at least it explains why they always called him "Poppa Oswald," as if to differentiate him from their birth father.)

Another text piece: THE LAST LAUGH, starring Homer Pigeon. It's really remarkable how long Homer lasted, considering he had ONE theatical release. (Voiced by Pinto Colvig, no less.) Western made a real effort to flesh out the character lists of all their licensed properties, playing up such obscurities as Windy and Breezy, Space Mouse, The Beary Family and others for Lantz; Pancho Vanilla and Soozy for Warners; Wuff the Prairie Dog for MGM/Tom & Jerry. Just for variety's sake? To grab rack space? Probably both.

INSPECTOR WILLOUGHBY - UNTITLED. With his Droopy eyes, Droopy mustache, and hangDog expression, the Inspector is a real original. He and Woody foil some stage bandits.

SPACE MOUSE - UNTITLED. I deconstructed this in a separate post.

WOODY, WINNIE AND THE KIDS. This makes the third Woody story in the book, fourth if you count the Inspector Willoughby. Woody accidentally grabs the Hopeless Diamond, whose famous curse, while not as spectacular as Bad Luck Blackie, is troublesome enough.
Why is it that Woody is always naked, but Winnie always wears a dress? (In the comics at least -- in the latest Woody TV series, they made a few Winnie cartoons with her au naturel, no doubt trying to make her more of a female version of Woody. It worked too well, you couldn't tell them apart.) 

I left out the puzzle pages, which give these books so much of their nostalgic flavor, on the grounds they'd take too long to describe.

Now as to the package as a whole. This is a Gold Key book, and there seem to be a lot of changes to the Dell format just for the sake of change. The speech balloons are square; the panels have no frames, but plenty of white space around them (with the exception of the three later Woodpecker stories, that have 12-point multicolored panel borders); the chapter heads have transfer lettering; the cover is abstract, not painted; many of the backgrounds are single-color and otherwise lacking in detail. Overall, Gold Key seems to be trying for a "modern" look, which of course dates very rapidly.

Also this marks the start of a deterioration in the artwork. Let me explain; I have to hand Golden Comics Digest #44, July 1975, which reprints WOODY WOODPECKER FAMILY FUN FEST from 1961, just one year before WW #73. The biggest change is between the Chilly Willy stories; in the 1961 there's greater depth of field, more heft to the animals. The 1962 story, while not bad in and of itself, shows the start of a simplification that will lead to downright shoddy work when Gold Key finally folds. (I don't know if Gold Key started printing with plastic plates instead of metal, and shooting artwork from twice published size to half again, in 1962; but the trend is there.)
The 1961 lineup differs from '62 in offering comic (not text) stories of Homer Pigeon, Windy and Breezy, and Buzz and Wally (with another space-age maguffin, yet). The '62 has Inspector Willoughby, Space Mouse, and two extra Woody stories; I guess they figured out who the draw was.

All in all, I love these old books. Yes, they are formulaic; yes, they had bland leads in Andy and Oswald, and some of the others, especially Woody, owe their characterization more to Western than to Hollywood. But they reflect adult concerns in surprising ways -- as in the space race mentions -- and at their best they provide a pleasant, and ready, escape.