Watch as we pull a podcast out of our hat—and look at some classic Rocky and Bullwinkle comics.
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Now it’s time for something really different. I’ll be taking a look at Rocky and Bullwinkle Classic Adventures from IDW straight ahead.
Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.
In the 1950s and ’60s, almost any media property could be a comic book, whether it’s Have Gun with Travels, Star Trek, I Spy, And today’s entry Rocky and Bullwinkle. Sometimes the transition to the comic book medium could be very rough. Oftentimes it didn’t feel like the original story – it was missing a certain something. I remember reading some gold key Looney Tunes comics several years back and they just didn’t feel all like Looney Tunes: they weren’t funny, they seemed to miss the whole point of Looney Tunes. If you read the early gold key Star Trek comics and even some of the later ones, it doesn’t feel at all like the show. They used words that don’t quite seem like Star Trek, and it feels like the people who wrote and drew it just kind of had seen some pictures and decided to make up a story. That, thankfully, is not the case with these classic Rocky and Bullwinkle comics that were reprinted by IDW.
The book collects issues One through Twelve of the Gold Key Series of Rocky and Bullwinkle stories. They managed to capture the tone of the series perfectly. Each issue contained four stories, just kind of like the TV show often had for segments. Each has two Rocky and Bullwinkle segments, and in the middle you have Sherman and Peabody, and either Dudley Doright or Fractured Fairytales.
The only thing really missing from the equation is the use of serialized stories on the TV show. You can’t really have that. These comics actually were published between 1962 and 1976, so you couldn’t really carry on a multi-part story. It does seem like a curious model by Gold Key, and they did a lot of big gaps on the books they sold; but I think they were less intended to be ongoing serial stories and things that you read every month. I suppose they were, I think more something that you had in stores that you could buy and give to fans of a series or which might catch the eye of a fan. As such, the closest we have to a long-form story is one where the first and second Rocky and Bullwinkle segments tied together in a story that ties into the Moon Man.
To go over the plots of all these comics would seem to be kind of redundant. Rocky and Bullwinkle was never really about the plots, even when they were traveling along ways on an adventure they were just traveling so they could get from one gag to the next gag. What’s important is the tone and the humor and they do a great job capturing that, and there are some hilarious stories in there. My favorite is probably the one where Bullwinkle accidentally buys a laundromat and this ends up leading Boris into thinking that Bullwinkle is secretly a Pottsylvanian spy. Or the story where Snidely Whiplash is hypnotizing Dudley Do Right to do his bidding and commit robberies in his sleep, and Dudley is going around with a picture of the suspect drawing based on witness accounts and is showing it to people, saying, “If you see this man, report him” – no clue that it’s actually him. So these are the type of stories that they really would use on the TV show.
The criticisms or, I guess, questions…one thing that came up when I was reading this is they had a couple of stories where they had Dudley dealing with modern things: he went on TV in one episode and another he went up in a modern aviation program, and it seems like maybe the writers forgot that Dudley Do Right was supposed to be a period piece set around the turn of the century, but it’s equally as possible if you’re writing in the style of Rocky and Bullwinkle that you just kind of forget about that and think, “Hey, there is a joke to be had here. We’ll introduce an anachronism and just have fun.
My one serious complaint with the book is the way that it handled the reprinting of issue Twelve. Issue Twelve was actually an issue that reprinted all but one story from issue One. It’s understandable why Gold Key would do this given that they didn’t have trade paperbacks back then and that issue One had been fourteen years previously. However, for IDW to print both issue One and issue Twelve just as pages to the book without actually adding content, so it’s a bit of a rip-off to the fans. I would’ve preferred that they went ahead and did what comic book companies normally do when they reprint a comic that has a reprint in it that’s been reprinted somewhere else, and that is that they will actually just reprint the cover and the one original story, and then IDW could have reprinted issue Thirteen. Well, maybe they were superstitious about that. Still there was no reason to include all of those extra pages for a story we already have.
Still, despite that, this is still a book I’ll give a rating of Classy to. It is a book that has really both the classic look of the original Rocky and Bullwinkle stories, and it’s also got that same style and feeling to its humour. It is that rare adaptation from this time that really captures the spirit of the original, and that definitely makes it a classy comic in my books.
That will do it for today. If you do have a comment or if you’d like to suggest a book for me to cover, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. After this many episodes I think listeners have a pretty good idea of the type of books that I like and will at.
Well listener comments now and have a tweet here from Ben who tweets to me, “Hey Adam, I know you’re a very busy man and probably have all your episodes planned out far ahead of time, but I was wondering if you could do a review of The Watchman graphic novel, thanks.” And I will go ahead and I gave him a definite ‘Maybe’ on Twitter. I have to admit I’ve read a little bit about Watchman and I’ve heard quite a bit of conversation around it, and it’s honestly not a book that I’ve ever found like ‘I’ve got to read this’. It’s never sounded fun to me and it has also…it’s credited, I think, somewhat justly with having taken comics into a much darker direction.
That said, I do intend on reading it this year for two reasons: first, because I am curious about The Doomsday Clock event which does involve the DC Universe – particularly Superman – going up against and dealing with The Watchman characters, and Dr. Manhattan being the one behind so much of the problems in the DC Universe, I think Doomsday Clock’s probably a pretty important event, and to understand Doomsday Clock I think I’m going to have to read Watchman. And the other thing is that if I’m going to be reviewing comics it’s important to understand that this is one of those books that, whether it’ going to be fun or not, it’s still important if you’re going to be critiquing that comics.
I think it definitely has that reputation. And I don’t know whether I will like it overall or not. It might be very brilliant in what it does. There are some people I’ve heard who say it doesn’t quite hold up as much as its reputation does, but I will go into it with as open a mind as possible. It is possible to not like the direction that has come out of something without having an issue with the thing itself. A good example of that would be Crisis on Infinite Earth. Crisis on Infinite Earth is a great story, but what it led to is constant reboots, gigantic crossover events by people who were just a lot less skilled at it and so they messed up characters, messed up continuity, and just created really big, expensive, disappointing events.
And in many ways it all started with Crisis on Infinite Earth: A Very Wonderful Story.
So, it could be like that. Whether I’ll do a review, I don’t think I’ll do a standard review of Watchman. If anything I might do kind of like a highlight thing where I highlight say three to five things I like about Watchman, and three to five that I don’t. And just kind of provide an honest opinion in that regard. Depending on the overall content – if I can find a good way to discuss it that works pretty well with the way we do this show – I don’t want to, if I absolutely hate it I don’t want to do some ranty episode because that just doesn’t tend to be what we’re going for with this series. So, I am going to read it and we’ll see if we incorporate it at all into the series.
Thanks so much for the question Ben. Follow us on Twitter @ClassyComicsGuy and be sure and check out our website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.