Saturday, October 4, 2008

Weird Huck Tales – Part 1 of 2. “Huckleberry Hound for President”

We continue our 50th anniversary celebration of Huckleberry Hound with a look into his comic-books, starting with an unusual book-length tale in which our favorite Hound-of-All-Trades runs for President of the United States! Yes, really! From my column The Issue At Hand # 70, at election time 2004, comes the following:

The Issue at Hand Is: DELL FOUR COLOR # 1141.
32 pages. Writer: Unknown. Cover and Story Art by Harvey Eisenberg.

As the Eisenhower years were rapidly drawing to a close, Dell Comics released this little gem to the nation. At the time, Hanna-Barbera’s Hucklebery Hound was television animation’s greatest rising star – and one of television’s rising stars in general. The first truly successful animated series produced under the budgetary constraints required by the new medium of television, Hucklebery Hound garnered a wide audience of children and adults alike. This was accomplished by a strategic placing of this syndicated program in the “early evening hours”, and a more sophisticated “all-ages” type of humor than the average kiddie-fare of the day. More information on Hucklebery Hound appears in earlier posts HERE and HERE.

To the story: During a severe housing shortage, friend Yogi Bear advises a home-seeking Huck that there will “…soon be a vacancy in the White House!” So, making that sort of major leap in logic that comic characters are wont to do, Yogi decides to conduct a campaign to elect Huck as President of the United States.      
Hmmm… thinking about it, between 1960’s choice of John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Californian Richard Nixon, Huckleberry Hound’s plain and simple southern drawl and folksy values might have resonated with voters at that! It seemed to inexplicably work for George W. Bush, so you never know!

The campaign gets off to a slow start as Huck falls short of evoking the idealized images of past presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The former, by failing to throw a Silver Dollar (…followed rapidly in unsuccessful succession by a half-dollar, quarter, dime, and three nickels!) across the Potomac River, and the latter with his inability to lift a symbolic rail-splitting axe.

However, Huck’s fortunes rise when he turns to the medium of television to deliver his message. After all, it’s not as if he hasn’t “taken TV by storm” before! In a televised appearance arranged by Yogi, the matter of Huck’s past heroism (…Yes, we were talking about “past heroism” BACK THEN, too!) is addressed with a five-page comic-book adaptation of the 1958 Huckleberry Hound cartoon “Freeway Patrol”. The story of Huck’s capture of a fleeing bank robber, while a member of that organization, was apparently enough to swing many of the “swing voters” of the day over to his side.

On the stump, Huck’s views on education are presented in similar fashion, via an adaptation of the 1958 Huckleberry Hound cartoon “Hooky Daze”, in which he um… “doggedly” worked as a truant officer to return a pair of spoiled rich kids to school.

His positions on crime and “sticktoitiveness” (…Yes, that’s how it’s written in the comic!) are presented in original vignettes on pursuing a western outlaw with fellow “Hanna-Barbarian” Quick Draw McGraw, and finding a lost dog in Jellystone Park, respectively.

Finally, on the eve of the election – when it looks as if the “People’s Choice” might not be a “people”, but a dog – Huck decides his heart simply isn’t in it, and makes the following announcement:

“…I couldn’t possibly be president! I don’t know beans about FISHIN’… I can’t play the PIANO… and I don’t care a hoot an’ a howl about GOLF!”

(…Nice references to Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower for a supposed “kids comic”!)

And, with that, he walks away from the most successful dark horse (…or would that be “Blue Hound”?) presidential campaign in history. Seizing the unexpected moment, an opportunistic Yogi decides to take his place as the candidate, launching into an impromptu speech that takes us through the story’s final panel.
How does YOGI BEAR FOR PRESIDENT sound to you folks? I’m an expert fisherman… I can play the piano and I golf in the low eighties. Furthermore, I’m for lower-type taxes and higher-type missiles! [This WAS the Cold War Era, after all!] I promise a CHICKEN IN EVERY POT! In fact, if you vote for me, I’ll even COOK YOUR GOOSE… Blah… Blah… Blah…

Well… I guess we all know how well Yogi did, eh? Sometimes being “Smarter than the Average Bear” just isn’t good enough. Besides, if he REALLY WERE as smart as he claims to be, he would have been branded an “Elitist” by the opposition, rather than the type of Bear “…you’d like to have a picnic basket with”!

One final note on Huck’s comic-book campaign: In 1968, Gold Key Comics (…the successor to Dell Comics) reprinted 1960’s “Huckleberry Hound for President” as HUCKLEBERRY HOUND # 35 (October, 1968), with the “Hooky Daze” flashback sequence cut in favor of advertising and promotional pages.

One interesting note: When Huck makes his exit speech, the “…I don’t know beans about FISHIN’” 1960 reference to Franklin D. Roosevelt is CHANGED to “…I don’t know beans about RANCHIN’”, making it a 1968 reference to Lyndon Johnson instead! I suppose it was a good thing that Ol’ Huck never actually met LBJ, as the former president would almost certainly have picked our favorite hound up painfully by the ears!

Next time, we’ll examine Huck’s short but exceedingly strange journey through American history. Be there, or be “bear”… “Yogi Bear”, that is! Hey, hey, hey!

Like Richard Nixon, Huck tries it again in 1968! Alas, he wasn’t nearly as successful! Cover of HUCKLEBERRY HOUND # 35.

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