Looney Tunes #141, October 2006, DC Comics
When I hastily burst into Borders just a few hours ago to find today’s comic book, I was already determined to avoid the superhero material. I know from experience that most mainstream bookstores have little to offer in the newsstand edition variety; you’re lucky to find anything more than superheroes, Star Wars, and cartoon-based books, like The Simpsons issue I reviewed earlier this week. I flipped through a few Dark Horse offerings but opted for the latest Looney Tunes. I figure I would’ve resorted to it sooner or later anyway. I guess I’m glad it was sooner, because after tonight’s review it will be behind me.
When I was a kid, I studied the classic Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons. I can draw, but I don’t have the talent or the patience to complete a comic book, so I was intrigued by the slow and steady cell-by-cell process of animation. Someone else paints the backgrounds while I just draw the characters over and over again? Sign me up! Kids draw the same cartoon characters all the time, usually in a subconscious attempt to hone their reproduction of the character to the point of perfection. This was me. I reckon I sketched model sheets for Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny more than their actual animators did. I mean, I was no Chuck Jones, but in retrospect, I could’ve been onto something. Now, I’m stuck exclusively sketching caricatures of myself. Maybe I’ll get around to finishing a flipbook of myself drawing myself.
It would be better than Looney Tunes #141. Featuring four short stories starring your favorite Warner Bro. characters, each by a different creative team, Looney Tunes #141 struck me as a rush job, an obligatory title that DC Comics is contracted to publish as a subsidiary of the WB. I didn’t expect an opus or anything; I just imagined that a comic book starring characters as old as the medium itself would exude more artistic integrity. Warner Bros. cartoons relied on more than sight gags and pratfalls. In the context of their heyday, the ‘50s and ‘60s, Bugs and company were the Simpsons of cinema, boasting a subtle social commentary that attracted adults as much as they enraptured their younger audience. Maybe humor was simpler then, sans the satiric complexities we’ve constructed to maintain our ever-waning attention spans. Nevertheless, the next time Boomerang airs a Foghorn Leghorn marathon, watch it. Really watch it. I dare you not to utter an astonished “huh” when you realize how sophisticated those old ‘toons really are.
But I digress. Looney Tunes #141. Four short stories. In the first, Porky Pig brings an ailing Sylvester the Cat to a dentist that turns out to be a mad scientist on the hunt for brains. Sylvester disguises himself as the Tooth Fairy, and while the scientist and his aid, the big red lovable monster Gossamer, rush to their teeth collection to cash in, Porky and Sylvester split for ice cream. The second story stars Honey Bunny (I think that’s her name – Bugs’ girlfriend from Space Jam) as “Beauty” to the Tasmanian Devil’s beast. In this incarnation, Taz can’t eat any of the enchanted food in his castle, so Honey suggests he leave the fortress for a bite to eat in town. The transformed help don’t appreciate her advice, however, and in the end, it looks like she’s for dinner. Ha.
The third tale is a Porky/Daffy buddy piece, in which Daffy represents a failed ACME drain cleanser, and I should start a new paragraph here to say that, at this point in the issue, the quality of the work from both a writing and illustrative perspective unravels. Porky is inconsistently drawn, and he isn’t too hard to draw, while Daffy’s goofy dialogue is downright annoying. I wish I jotted down a few of the incomprehensible lines, but trust me. Daffy’s usual bravado gave way to sheer stupidity. Finally, in the last tale, Bugs and Daffy, who in this yarn is written with his lisp intact, visit Yosemite Sam’s short staffed roadside restaurant, where in typical fashion Bugs dons a waitress uniform, mixes up the orders, and a chaotic food fight ensues. The writer doesn’t bother to actually end the story. Instead, Bugs inexplicably pulls out a black and white camera and snaps a shot for young readers to color. In my opinion, a comic book truly intended for kids shouldn’t be so text intensive, but space permitting, the text should be something a parent could read to their child without sounding like an idiot. The Roadrunner’s “beep beep” is more amusing than this trite.
Obviously, my disappointment in Looney Tunes #141 comes from my fond childhood memories of original cartoons. Even the C-list characters, like the Bookworm or that kangaroo with the boxing gloves that Sylvester often mistook as a big mouse, had a touch of class, like one big rat pack (pardon the pun) of classic animation. This clout isn’t respected anymore. These characters have been too franchised for their own good, repackaged in ridiculous molds of modern interpretation to really matter as the founding fathers they actually are. Case in point: the Loonatics. Check out this upcoming Saturday morning’s Kids’ WB! season premieres if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Have we forsaken our childhood tendencies to achieve perfection? Yes, if drawing comics tries my patience, it’s no wonder I can barely watch the cartoons in which I once took refuge. When I behold today’s excuses for Bugs, Daffy, and Porky, sometimes I wonder, “Is this really all, folks?”