Friday, August 10, 2012

"Looney Tunes" (Dell) # 244, February/March 1962: "Bellboy Bust"

If you know anything about my love of Warner Bros. cartoons, you know that I enjoy the Speedy Gonzales cartoons. Many years ago, the Cartoon Network (then under the reign of Ted Turner) got a political correctness bug up their butt and decided to snap up the broadcast rights to every classic Warner short ever made, and then cease to air any one of them that they deemed offensive. Speedy's cartoons got the axe entirely. I raised a stink about it, wrote them an email, and it resulted in me getting a bunch of fans together to sign a petition. It could have easily fizzled after that, but the thing took on a life of its own. A Hispanic activist group caught wind of it and not only agreed with my argument that the Fastest Mouse in all Mexico was not racist, but a positive role model for Latinos. It made national news. Newspaper comic strip artists weighed in on it. Rush Limbaugh even said something. In the end, Cartoon Network couldn't argue with over 2,000 signatures and a flood of bad press calling their censorship moronic.

Such is the nature of Speedy's popularity. It turned out he was just as popular in 2000 as he was in 1960. Even the man who directed most of Speedy's best shorts, Friz Freleng, couldn't figure out why Speedy was so popular THEN. I think the reason is that he's a likeable, unique character. He's not particularly deep or complicated. He IS a Mexican stereotype, but he's not negative or mean-spirited, just sort of a mouse superhero who happens to be Mexican and speak fractured Spanish. If Robert McKimson and Friz Freleng were trying to offend Mexicans, it backfired...because the Mexican community found it funnier than they did.

Anyway, Speedy also appeared in comic book form a few times in his heyday, including his own one-shot self-titled issue in 1960. The story below comes from a 1962 issue of the Dell "Looney Tunes" title, and explores a concept that could have been a great cartoon: Speedy taking a job as a hotel bellboy and failing miserably at it because he's TOO fast. Perhaps Friz Freleng, who thought the Speedy character was too one-dimensional, should have tried this twist: let him fail once in a while.

Incidentally, we all know about Speedy's cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez. Here, we learn that he has another cousin named "Spoofy".

I've also included two one-page "topper" gags from the same issue, in which Speedy has some fun with a cat (not Sylvester.)

*Update: Art by Pete Alvarado.

1 comment:

  1. Pete Alvarado art on this one – and we almost have a “Speedy / Mister Jinks (sans bow-tie and plus sombrero) crossover” in the color gag page!