Monday, May 21, 2012

At Last! Respect for Sniffles!

Way back in (“Dead Tree”) TIAH # 63 (2003) I wrote the following:

LOONEY TUNES # 100 [ Comic Book from DC Comics ] was a great package, assembled by editor Joan Hilty, with a special 24 page story featuring every Looney Tunes character and concept – literally from “A to Z” -- as a bedtime tale by Bugs Bunny to his little nephew Clyde.  From: “ACME, where Wile E. Coyote buys his stuff…” to “ZZZZ, the sound toons make when fast asleep…” Great stuff, by many different “regular” and “guest” artists on every page.

I could say so much more about LOONEY TUNES # 100, but for now, here's a fun little ironic tidbit to consider.

Who was the least successful "star" of the post-black and white era of Looney Tunes?  By "post-black and white", I mean to exclude such obscure toons from the earliest days of the WB theatrical shorts as Bosko, Buddy, Foxy, etc.

I’ll end the unbearable suspense, and tell you it's SNIFFLES THE MOUSE.  Sniffles was an early Chuck Jones creation (...from way back when Jones did "cute" more often than he did "funny"), Sniffles appeared in only 12 cartoons, from 1939 thru 1946. 
Though pretty much forgotten in animation, his career in COMIC BOOKS was remarkably long.  Teamed with a little girl named Mary Jane, Sniffles had a regular feature in the original DELL LOONEY TUNES comic from the early 1940s thru the early 1960s.  His last original comics appearance was in a 1967 issue of BUGS BUNNY. 

Sniffles lurks within!

Though Sniffles' longevity in the Dell comics might have more to do with the fact that editor Chase Craig completely reworked the concept into more of a "journey into fantasy" mode than Jones' then-relatively mild ( opposed to what would come later with the Road Runner) brand of slapstick.  Craig even named the character of Mary Jane (...yes, LONG before Spider-Man's "Mary Jane") after his wife. 

So, Craig's influence on the Dell comic book line might have had much more to do with Sniffles' comics career, than anything inherent in the character itself.

 Sniffles recently had a one-panel cameo ( a captive caged lab-mouse) in DC's LOONEY TUNES # 87 (April, 2002).

Anyway, to finally get to the point (...after all this background), LOONEY TUNES # 100 sports a magnificent cover of Bugs Bunny pulling himself out of a magician's hat, before a vast audience of his Looney Tunes co-stars, and lesser lights.

In all, there are 44 Looney Tunes characters pictured on this cover... BUT WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT, in keeping with the success (...or lack of same) of his animation career, Sniffles -- and ONLY Sniffles -- is about 7/8 COVERED AND OBSCURED BY THE UPC BOX!!!  
Sitting in the same row as Sniffles are such virtually unknown WB toons as The Mynah Bird, The Gambling Bug, Slowpoke Rodriguez -- pal of Speedy Gonzalez (...would they call him “S-Rod”, today?) and, ironically, Sniffles' sometimes co-star The Bookworm.  But it is Sniffles that gets to languish behind that bane of modern comic book covers -- the UPC box!  Poor Sniffles, he "just don't get no respect"!  Gee willikers! 

Of course, looking on the bright side, every price scanner in America that encounters an issue of LOONEY TUNES # 100 will be squarely focused on Sniffles – giving him more attention than he’s had in decades!   
        [ End of “Classic-TIAH” Material ]

Well, it appears that the “price scanners of America” are going to smile on Sniffles once more, with THIS COMING DVD SET that will feature him!   

I’ll be getting this – because you just can’t keep a good mouse down! 


Chris Barat said...


Uninspired and uninspiring Sniffles may have been, but the MARY JANE AND SNIFFLES comics had the benefit of great artwork by Al Hubbard (cf. that splendid cover). I give credit to Chase Craig and Western Pub. for putting Sniffles in a role that guaranteed him SOME "shelf life" long after his animated career was over.


Joe Torcivia said...

Agreed, Chris!

And, if you count up to that final appearance in 1967’s BUGS BUNNY # 111, Sniffles lasted 21 (!) years longer in COMICS, beyond his last cartoon in 1946! Kudos to Chase Craig – for this and MANY other things most fans and readers will probably never know!

Furthermore, this coming DVD set will include EVERY Sniffles cartoon!

Up to now, only ONE of the 12 that were made has appeared on DVD. “Sniffles takes a Trip” (1940) on Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 6.

Even BUDDY has done better than that, with THREE appearances on that same set – and one more on the James Cagney “G-Men” DVD! (…Never mind Buddy’s “appearance” on Animaniacs – DVD Volume 3!)

Now, really… Whatever you may think of Sniffles as a character, should he REALLY lag so far behind BUDDY in DVD appearances?

But now, Sniffles finally gets some respect… depending on where they place the UPC Code on the DVD box, of course!

Pete Fernbaugh said...

Hey Joe,

Let's not forget that TINY TOON ADVENTURES had a younger counterpart to Sniffles...Li'l Sneezer!

That's how I was first introduced to the character.

Anonymous said...

The Wikipedia article on Chuck Jones said that Sniffles evolved from the cute kitten protagonist in "The Night Watchman" (1938), the first cartoon that Jones directed. That cartoon was a rare case of a cat vs. mouse cartoon in which the cat was the hero.

Joe Torcivia said...

That’s both interesting and believable, Anon!

Yeah, I can see that evolution, or the same mindset producing both characters.

Jones may have been intrigued by the “Cat Being the Hero” thing into “Scaredy Cat”, the first of what I’ve long called the “Cowardly Sylvester and Stupefying Oblivious Porky in Danger Trilogy”. There, as we all know, he continually saves Porky from an army of gruesomely terrifying mice and routs them decisively at the end. This also carried into the second of said “Trilogy”, “Claws for Alarm”.

Indeed, it's odd that Jones’ use of Sylvester overall is as a non-predatory character, in direct opposition to most other uses of him.

But, as you so accurately note, cats are rarely the good guys!

Anonymous said...

Mary Jane is the forgotten character from Warner Brothers and did not have the same appeal as the other Warner Brothers characters.