Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nutsy To You

I want to take a look at an early Woody Gelman comic book character today but this will also be a catchall Woody thread in a way. So hang on tight...

Sometime after his first major gig at the Fleischer/Famous animation studio, before he started doing work for Topps and likely just before the time he was partners at an independent art agency with Ben Solomon, Woody Gelman developed a comic character called Nutsy Squirrel in 1946. Woody wrote and an artist named Irving Dressler drew, although both apparently dropped out very early on.  I suspect Woody bailed when he started his art agency with Ben Solomon.

Originally introduced in the first issue of the DC comic Funny Folks in April 1946, Nutsy got his first cover with issue #4 and eventually was starring in two books as Comic Cavalcade, a superhero comic became a Funny Animal book commencing with issue #30 in December 1948. Funny Folks became Hollywood Funny Folks for a bit but became Nutsy Squirrel with issue #61 in September of 1954. After a dozen issues as the title character, Nutsy expired with issue #72 in November 1957 as TV continued its meteoric ascent as the primary entertainment vehicle for the kiddies..

Here is a good look at Nutsy, from Funny Folks #11:


The DC connection is interesting in view of some early Bazooka comic series featuring DC characters, among them some Funny Animals. It seems quite possible that Woody was the conduit through which the DC comics made it to Topps as this occurred around the middle of 1949, when Solomon & Gelman were already working on projects for the company.

These were not the worlds best strips, as one can imagine.  Here is another DC Funny Animal strip Topps used:



Note the small DC logo near the bottom right corner (above the "l" in "valuable"). I am trying to determine if Nutsy ever appeared on a Bazooka comic as that would be elegantly serendipitous. Nutsy did make it to TV though, albeit as a static image with voiceovers describing the action in what must be the cheapest show ever made.

I don't think Nutsy made it to any of the Nostalgia Press releases from Woody unfortunately. Nostalgia Press operated from the mid-1960's until Woody's death in 1978 and reissued what I would describe as "thrilling adventure" comic strips.  Perhaps even more thrilling was this book that Woody worked on:



I wonder if Barbara Jackson is the same as Barbara Gelman,who "edited" Topps Fan Magazine back in 1965? It's not Woody's wife (her name was Lil) but maybe it was his daughter. Or not.

Other interesting little tidbits: Woody was an advertiser (through Card Collectors Company) in both Popular Mechanics and Boys Life magazines as far back as the early 60's.  Here are typical examples from the June 1961 issue of Boys Life and the April 1962 issue of Popular Mechanics:



I'm not sure where Woody found the time to work at Topps! He even appeared on an episode of To Tell The Truth in early 1974; sadly I can't find a video of it on youtube.

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