Friday, May 29, 2009

The Question Must Be Asked: Is Our Children Watching?

I have only ever seen this rare Wally Wood illustration for an article about Saturday morning television as a poor-register photocopy in books and old fanzines. I liked it enough to snag a pristine copy for myself and scan the art and the article. The art is classic Wally Wood and enjoyably cartoonish. The resolute and unafraid Mouse standing his ground against a tidal wave of Super-Heroes is a great sight-gag. The article is one typical of the era though a bit late in coming. It is from the perspective of the generation that is just beginning to become aware what the teens and college students already knew for several years, that comic books were not for children anymore.

Click the picture to give yourself some giant Wood.

The accompanying article complains mostly about the violence in the new generation of cartoons featuring the "weirdies", the Super-Heroes. While the piece does mention both sides of the argument about the effects of violence on children it comes down in favor of the classic and presumably more kid-friendly characters from animation. The author seems to have forgotten how incredibly violent the old cartoons were. They were astonishingly brutal even with the heavy editing that was performed prior to network broadcast to ensure all the explosions and maiming of bunnies at the hands of crazed opera singers were not shown and all the horror occurred between scenes or off-screen.

Additionally, the heroes practiced a morality that the funny animal characters never did. More often than not the anthropomorphic critters are portrayed as amoral, homicidal manipulators and every bit as immoral as the villains the super-heroes battle. At the time of this article some groups may have been of the opinion that a rodent setting off a stick of dynamite in a cat's mouth in order to steal a piece of cheese was harmless, but using a fist made of stone to stop Dr. Doom from conquering the planet was irredeemably damaging to the psyche of children.

Here is the entire hand-wringing article:

Mickey Mouse, Where Are You - pg 1- Tv Guide ( March 23-29 1968)

Mickey Mouse, Where Are You - pg 2- Tv Guide ( March 23-29 1968)

Mickey Mouse, Where Are You - pg 3- Tv Guide ( March 23-29 1968)

TV Guide ( March 23-29 1968).

7 comments:

  1. Never saw (or at least can't recall) seeing that Wally Wood illo before -- thanx!

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  2. I remember this from when it was published! I remember being impressed at how accurate the illustration was, getting all those characters right, not realizing at the time it had been done by an actual comics artist. And I remember taking umbrage at my favorite tv cartoons being disparaged, though I couldn't have made the counterargument as cogently as you do here.

    (Back in 1968, I was praised for reading at a Sixth Grade level, and a few years later in middle school I was praised for reading at a Ninth Grade level. I always assumed that by now people would be telling me "You're reading at a 53rd Grade level, that's so impressive!" but this has yet to happen.)

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  3. The Three Stooges. Way worse than anything that ever came after.

    Thanks for sharing these, because people with Wood's POV crop up every generation to take away fun for everyone.

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  4. I don't think the Mouse is standing his ground but trying to decide which way to run.

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  5. Funny that the artist puts Popeye with the kiddie cartoons, given that virtually every episode was about Bluto trying to rape Olive until Popeye beats him to death.

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  6. Although I mostly agree with your opinion, I need to point out that the anthropomorphic animals live in a world of pure toon physics. You can shove a stick of dynamite in someone's mouth and not kill them. You can run off a cliff and not fall until you realize you are standing on air.

    The superheroes live in a world with mostly normal physics. Actions have more serious consequences.

    I think the kids watching the cartoons intuit this difference, so violence in the former doesn't affect them as much as violence in the latter.

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  7. LOL, RAB! 53rd grade rules!

    The poor folks who thought Bugs Bunny would run like a punk from the Fantastic Four must just be soiling themselves at the antics of the Punisher, Eric Cartman, and Master Shake.

    I really want to live long enough that all the things we panic about today will seen as quaint as this. Or...maybe that's not such a great idea.

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