We don’t do nearly enough of these, and I hope to remedy that in the future. So, please forgive a few amateurish comic page scans to come, and let’s return to our classic title header and say:
THE ISSUE AT HAND IS: DELL FOUR COLOR # 410 “Porky Pig in The Water Wizard”. (Cover Date: July-August, 1952).
The best known and most fondly remembered period for the line of comic books known as DELL FOUR COLOR Second Series (1942-1962) was an approximate ten-year span, ending somewhere in the latter part of 1952, which gave us some of the very best issues of DONALD DUCK (to be sure!), MICKEY MOUSE, BUGS BUNNY, PORKY PIG, WOODY WOODPECKER, and the first three issues of UNCLE SCROOGE. At the time of DELL FOUR COLOR # 410, this historically great period was about to come to an end.
|You don't need to be a MOUSE, to have your own PHANTOM!|
Preceding it was a run of independently numbered First Series of FOUR COLOR issues (1939-1942) that included the first comic book printing of “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot” (FC # 16 First Series), which not only gave the Floyd Gottfredson daily newspaper serial the title it carries to this day, but even christened the dark-cloaked villain formerly referred to as merely “The Blot”, as “The Phantom Blot”.
|FOUR COLOR # 16 (First Series)|
|FOUR COLOR # 16 (Second Series)|
The Dell Four Color Series would continue on through the remainder of the original “Dell Comics” run in 1962 and, of not inconsiderable note, would give us the earliest Hanna-Barbera comic titles such as RUFF AND REDDY, HUCKLEBERRY HOUND, QUICK DRAW McGRAW, and YOGI BEAR. The run would conclude, with the introduction of Western Publishing’s new line called “Gold Key Comics”.
From the end of the prime period of the Dell Four Color run in 1952, new ongoing eponymous, independently numbered titles for Dell’s mainstay characters like DONALD DUCK, BUGS BUNNY, etc. would emerge, with most of them running through the Gold Key and later Whitman years.
|Who's eponymous, Doc?|
DELL FOUR COLOR # 410 “Porky Pig in The Water Wizard” was even more of a transitional issue from that prime period than it appears, because its indicia indicates a BI-MONTHLY frequency and a cover date (characteristic of the later titled and numbered series) but retains its numbering as part of the DELL FOUR COLOR series. It was also the Next-To-Last PORKY PIG FOUR COLOR issue, before the numbered series would commence with Number 25 (Cover Dated: November-December, 1952).
As with some of the cartoons in THIS DVD COLLECTION, Porky Pig has made the character conversion to “fifties suburban homeowner” in the stories contained herein. And, while Daffy Duck is not along to harass and heckle him, Porky seems to have fallen into a pattern of hanging-out with Sylvester. Not the scared, mute version that can’t seem to warn the Pig of murderous mice (twice) and jumping Jupiterians in the series of Chuck Jones cartoons I call “The Cowardly Sylvester and Stupefyingly Oblivious Porky in Danger Trilogy”. But instead, we are presented with an odd, alternate version of the Pussycat that was popular in forties and early fifties comics that I’ve described as an “eloquent and eccentric vagabond”.
|In the comics, I'm usually more eloquent, Guv'nor!|
As it is our custom in our DVD Reviews, and because I like the format, we’ll conduct our series of Comic Book Reviews by breaking it down into CONS and PROS.
By no means a “perfect” comic book, it’s nevertheless hard to find any true “CONS” to pin on DELL FOUR COLOR # 410 “Porky Pig in The Water Wizard”.
Those now accustomed to a steady diet of the legendary works of Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson – the two true geniuses of the “funny animal genre” in comic books and newspaper strips, respectively – might find the stories contained herein to be wanting. Too simple, or too fanciful, and perhaps lacking that overriding logic that was characteristic of Barks. But that doesn’t make them “bad” stories. They’re just different from Barks and Gottfredson, and representative of a type of storytelling that is no longer exhibited in any current and/or popular form. There’s nothing wrong with that. I daresay it has a charm all its own.
|Okay, so it ain't this! So what?!|
32 Pages – All Comics: One *could* carp that earlier issues of the DELL FOUR COLOR series were 52 pages for the same dime (…Dime?!) but I’ll never see this as anything but a “PRO”. Anyone who disagrees can fast-forward to the late seventies, and discover 32 page comic books with as little as 17 pages of story material inside.
The Art: Tony Strobl in the first two stories, and another good artist whom I’ve never been able to name, who was primarily associated with Warner Bros. and Walter Lantz comics of the period (Tom McKimson, maybe?), handles the third tale; a shorter backup. Writers are, alas, unknown.
Visually, these stories are a delight to behold. Strobl, in particular, is at his very best. The simple cover art is in no way indicative of the joys waiting inside. (…and how often does it work the OTHER way around?)
The STORIES: The first two stories typify the “Dell Comics Adventure Template”. Two characters (one smarter – or at least more logical – than the other) travel to a foreign land, or get mixed up in a crime closer to home. In this issue we have one of each type. A short backup, where the punch line is a character using an item or device for something it was not intended to do, rounds out the issue.
Click on any of the comic page scans to enlarge.
Click on any of the comic page scans to enlarge.
“Porky Pig in The Water Wizard” (16 pg.): Does anyone below the age of 40 know what a “divining rod” is? Read this story, and find out…
A rival Sheik learns of this and wants some “found water” of his own, but the first Sheik (fearing he’ll no longer have a profitable water monopoly) breaks the stick (…Aw, couldn’t he have spared the rod?) and has Porky and Sylvester thrown into a pit of desert quicksand… Huh? IS there even such a thing? If it’s just desert SAND, how can it be murky enough to sink into? Maybe the “found water” below? Wouldn’t tying them out in a sandstorm accomplish the same thing… and allow the story to retain more of its marginal believability?
Communicating with a family of buzzards, the pair escape the pit, appropriate a camel and take an extremely bumpy ride outta-there! Strobl makes the ride look all the more uncomfortable by drawing P&S largely defined by “jiggly lines” and pained expressions as they bop along. Finally home, their butts are too sore to sit down to dinner with Petunia. “Travel to a foreign land”? … Check!
…Okay, so what WERE you expecting? “Lost in the Andes”?
“Porky Pig and the Safecracking Goat” (12 pg.):As a labor saving device to help fifties suburban homeowner Porky cope with his growing grass and piling trash, the eccentric version of Sylvester turns up with a GOAT. The goat does indeed level the lawn and make a repast of the refuse but, in the grand tradition of perpetually-hungry goats, does not stop there. He begins eating (or eating THOROUGH) anything made of metal on or in Porky’s house.
Goats that eat anything made of metal have always been popular in cartoons like THIS ONE, THIS ONE, and THIS ONE. Now, it’s time for one in comics.
Two burglars hear of this and kidnap the goat to eat through commercial safes – which in incredible animated goat fashion, it does. As the goat’s owner, is Porky on the hook? “Get mixed up in a crime closer to home”? Yep-a-roonie!
Petunia Pig (untitled, 4 pg.): Jealous of Petunia’s attentions toward a deep-sea salvage diver, Porky intends to spoil their outdoor get-together by luring a mess o’ mosquitoes to the spot. Anyone see how they overcome Porky’s plot by “using an item or device for something it was not intended to do”? …Think about it a moment, and get back to me.
Three one-page gags (on the inside front, inside back, and back covers) round out the issue.
THINGS I LIKED: Some good dialogue for a comic of this vintage. Here are some examples:
An exchange from “The Water Wizard” between the Sultan of the Desert Kingdom and his servant:
SERVANT: “O’ Noble One, what wouldst have this morning?”
SULTAN: “Water… Stupid One!” (He gulps down a drinking glass and CHOKES.)
SERVANT: “I am afraid you must be content with your usual GLASS OF DUST, O’ High One!”
(The Sultan spits out the dust!)
SERVANT: “A thousand pardons… but I would have sworn there was a DROP OF DEW in it!”………………
Porky and Sylvester make some “fifties suburban homeowner” plans with their wondrous Divining Rod:
SYLVESTER: “Say, pal… why don’t we find some water in your backyard, and put in a SWIMMIN’ POOL!”
PORKY: “Swell! I’LL find the water, and YOU dig the p-pool!”
SYLVESTER (thinks): “Oops! Methinks I’m getting the WRONG END of the STICK!”
In “The Safecracking Goat”, Porky considers how Sylvester’s gift-goat can help him with his (all together now) “fifties suburban homeowner” chores:
PORKY: “W-well, I’ve got to admit he m-might work out okay, Sylvester, b-but…”
SYLVESTER: “Butt! That’s right! He can BUTT, too!”
OVERALL: DELL FOUR COLOR # 410 “Porky Pig in The Water Wizard” is a solid, by-the-numbers example of the Dell funny-animal comics (Non-Barks Division) of its period.
It is neither great, nor poor. The art tends to be superior to the stories. In certain spots, it is vastly superior. But, if you’re looking for a good Saturday afternoon read you can’t go wrong with this.