Saturday, December 30, 2017

Adventures in Comic-Boxing: Merry Cats-Mouse!

After OUR LAST POST, we really need one more “Christmas Extension” before bringing the Season of Peace and Good Will to a close for another year… and here it is, courtesy of Harvey Comics’ MUTT AND JEFF JOKES # 3 (Cover Date: February 1961). 

Most MUTT AND JEFF comic books, published by DC Comics, Dell Comics, and finally Harvey Comics, reprinted Daily and Sunday MUTT AND JEFF newspaper comic strips – usually with a “topper” introductory gag-line added.  Some, mostly those from Dell, produced new stories, but strip reprints certainly predominated. 

CICERO’S CAT was a “sister strip” to MUTT AND JEFF, running (I believe) as an additional Sunday supplemental feature.  These usually appeared in the MUTT AND JEFF comic books – and Dell even published two issues of CICERO’S CAT with all original stories, in the late 1950s. 

Here is a particularly nice Christmas strip…

Would that we all might find some way to emulate this! 


rodineisilveira said...

Do you think Harvey Comics was only Casper, Wendy, Spooky, Hot Stuff, Richie Rich, Little Lotta, Little Dot and Little Audrey?

Elaine said...

Aw, that's cute. Far more child-appropriate than the "children's movie" in your previous post! I felt really sorry for the smaller kiddies dropped off at the matinee.

What strikes me about the "Cicero's Cat" strip is that it did lose some of its impact by virtue of being reformatted (as I assume it was) for the comic book page. Especially with the second part, I couldn't help seeing the Christmas tree when my eye moved to the second panel above it. The suspense would have been better maintained if it were printed horizontally. Your eyes moving from left to right would have been less likely to see the denouement ahead of time.

If you post for New Year's, I'll tell you my two favorite New Year's movies!

Comicbookrehab said...

Comic book "Jokebooks" seem like a lost art. I don't know if Dell/Gold Key tried a "Jokes/Jokebook" for any of the Disney Comics lineup and I guess "Mad" counts as the lonest running humor magazine, but not necessarily thought of as a "jokebook" per se..

I remember trying to find "Jughead's Jokebook" and only finding "Jughead's Jokes", and I think I was convinced there was a "Jughead's Jokebook" because Erik Larson dropped it in "Savage Dragon" a few times, but it's always just "Jokes".

Joe Torcivia said...


In the 1950s, into the ‘60s, Harvey Comics was far more than just “their own characters”. There were comic-strip titles such as Dick Tracy, Blondie, Joe Palooka, and Mutt and Jeff! And there was also the “Sad Sack Line” of various comedic military titles. Eventually that all went away… and they published a thousand Richie Rich titles per month! Ugh!

Joe Torcivia said...


Pity the poor kids in those pre-cell phone days, if they didn’t have a dime to call home to be rescued from K. Gordon Murray Presents “Santa Claus”! ...And that thing continued to play theatrically into the 1970s, according to Keith Crocker! It may have scarred a generation!

I never thought of the reformatting issue you cite… but yes! Except for those really early days of dim memories, I’ve never seen Mutt and Jeff strips in original newspaper format. Even the daily strips are “two-to-the-comic-book-page” with a “title panel” added. And the Sundays are converted to one-page-gags, as you see here.

There WILL be a post on New Year’s Day, so I look forward to hearing about “movies-you-don’t-need-to-be-rescued-from”!

Joe Torcivia said...


I believe there was ARCHIE’S JOKE BOOK, but it was (as you say) JUGHEAD’S JOKES.

To my knowledge neither Dell nor Gold Key ever tried an issue of only one-page gags. Certainly not for its major licensees, the one’s we’re most familiar with: Disney, Warner Bros. Hanna-Barbera, MGM, and Walter Lantz.

But, there could always have been something more obscure that I'm not aware of.

if there's one thing I've learned about Western Publishing in the many years I've studied their Dell, Gold Key, and Whitman comics, it is that there's ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW TO LEARN!

Achille Talon said...

Cute story indeed. This is an unusually non-cartoony mouse, by the way, in the panel where Cicero's Cat is shining his flashlight into the houle. Also, a quick question from someone who'd never heard of Cicero's Cat until today — was it a recurring element of the strip that this was an unusually sweet-natured cat who was friendly with birds and mice, or is this strip a "Christmas truce" sort of thing no less surprising even to long-time readers than if, say, Tom baked Jerry a (non-booby-trapped) birthday cake?

On a less cheerful matter, I see over on GeoX's blog that Vic Lockman sadly passed away on June 1. …Have you heard? It… seems like something you ought to know, but I haven't seen any reference to it on the blog…

Joe Torcivia said...


Cicero’s Cat actually had a name. It was Desdemona, or usually “Desi” for short! Desi was, as the strip’s title states “Cicero’s Cat”. Cicero being the son of Mutt – of “Mutt and Jeff”. She can be seen on a number of the covers – particularly from the DC Comics period of 1939-1958 – as a background (or, perhaps more accurately, “foreground”) character – not unlike Gyro Gearloose’s Helper.

Like THIS, THIS, and THIS!

As you might guess from their appearance, Augustus Mutt and Jeff (no last name that I’m aware of) were both dimwits in their own different ways. Mutt *appeared* to be the more intelligent of the two, and was, thus, the “Bud Abbott type of straight man” to Jeff’s more humorous antics. Jeff, on the other hand, was obviously more of a “dope” – but was given to unexpectedly clever flashes of peculiar logic that ultimately worked for him.

Where it gets complicated is that, depending on what the strip (or any particular gag) called for, Mutt either lived with – and had his misadventures with – Jeff, OR he lived domestically with “Mrs. Mutt”, son Cicero, and Desi. (You can see them all on the cover reproduced in this post!) This sort of switched on and off at Bud Fisher’s and Al Smith’s will. Smith being Creator Fisher’s assistant, who eventually took over the whole thing. When there were occasional new stories to replace or supplement the strip reprints, those were by Smith – as were most of the strips, too. Not to mention the comic book covers!

But, on to “Cicero’s Cat”…

The fact that the Mouse and Children in this strip ARE seen as less cartoony than mice in this strip would otherwise be makes the strip far more effective! Very well done by Al Smith!

It was more of a “Christmas truce sort of thing”. Normally, Desi chased mice, and dogs chased Desi – with never a predictable winner in any of the contests. Oh, that doesn’t mean that, when Desi “won”, she actually ate the mice. More like she would have outsmarted them, or showed them up.

As I mentioned, Dell actually published two issues of CICERO’S CAT. You can see them HERE and HERE!

I had both of them originally, and reread them both around 1999-2000 or so! I also wrote about them on that rereading for my old APA and Fanzine column THE ISSUE AT HAND – this Blog’s predecessor. Maybe I’ll use that piece here someday. Oddly, just as Mutt alternated between wedded bliss (or “blitz”?) and living with Jeff, Desi alternated in these stories between being The Mutts’ house-pet and living in a world of talking animals. It was interesting, to say the least!

Vic Lockman’s death was very sad for me, as he was – and IS – such an influence on my work, and was very likely the “most-read” author of my misspent youth. I only delayed posting on his passing because I had a number of “Christmas and New Year’s” posts already stacked-up.

I have a HUGE tribute post for him coming on January 03, 2018! Including my thoughts on his passing, the inclusion of an old APA and Fanzine TIAH column that I wrote about him in January 2001, his influence on my current writing… and what I believe is “The Ultimate Vic Lockman Story”! I hope everyone will enjoy my tribute – coming VERY soon!