Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Woodsy Owl - or at least Woodsy Owl comics - aren't particularly my cup of tea. Like most kids, I've grown up with a desire to give hoots and, simultaneously, not pollute. Where I've picked up that particular instinct is anyone's guess, but I like to give at least a little credit to Woodsy Owl's popular slogan, "Hooting and Not Polluting, Consider It, Won't You?" As far as his four-color adventures, however, I wasn't even aware that they existed prior to finding this comic and probably wouldn't have been interested in reading it had I known about it, despite our mutual interest in hooting and not polluting.

To be perfectly honest, the only reason I picked up this particular copy of Gold Key's Woodsy Owl (Woodsy Owl vol.1 No.7, May 1975, and number "90289-505" in Western Publishing's absolutely incomprehensible cover numbering system) is because it was sticking out of the top of the bin at the used bookstore in such a fashion as to suggest that Woodsy was enthusiastically tugging his cock, to wit:

That being said, I now had the opportunity to dig into the seemingly simple world of Woodsy Owl, only to find that it was a complicated place of dark deeds, desperate men and attempted murder.

The individual stories in this issue star Woodsy, primarily assisted by his nephew Bitsy. We all remember Bitsy's famous slogan, I'm sure: "Give a bit, don't pull it." I believe, in fact, it was illustrated on the cover above.

Bitsy is a junior-level Woodsy, in the manner of cartoon nephews, but Woodsy's other assistant is a whole different beast. I'm not sure if Woodsy ever had a regular cartoon, a feature, or a bunch of pals to hang out with in his original promotional material, but the unfortunately named "Hot Lion" seems to have fallen directly out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Dressed in motorcycle gear, prone to meaningless spoonerisms and given to fits of horrible temper apparently, "Hot Lion" plays the feckless foil to Woodsy's permanently-upbeat war on filth.

I looked real hard for a Hot Lion spoonerism that sounded dirty.
Woodsy's good temper, and the crimefighting skills of his associates, get a good workout in the first tale "The Gold Trophy Ripoff." While the owls are wandering around the forest and watching Hot Lion talk lovingly to plants and trees - with the same level of curiosity and concern one associates with carefully monitoring a profoundly disturbed individual who's already been arrested twice for masturbating at a bus stop near a public library - some apparently gun-toting brush-tailed fox has broken into Woodsy's home and stolen the trophy for an upcoming ecology contest.

The trophy, by the way, is pure gold, and it's because of this that we learn that Woodsy is an independently-wealthy prospector. I think folks were generally discouraged from panning for gold, even as a pasttime, because of the possible impact panning operations had on river life, but I'm not the eco-conscious owl here. Whatever the case, Woodsy clearly has a backstory.

This is the first occasion when Hot Lion gets to show off his martial prowess, by absolutely murdering the burglar off-panel in a fit of pique. This kind of preemptive brutality may have come in handy with the second story, "Air Raid," in which evil jewelry makers descend on the woods in order to loot the petrified forest, and resort to attempted murder when rebuffed. Stealing a crop-duster, they pepper the forest with STRAIGHT FUCKING POISON SON, in an effort to kill off any animal who may try to stop them from stealing the petrified wood. NO EARRINGS ARE WORTH THE DEATH OF HUNDREDS. Maybe some are, what do I know from earrings?

Is this a cult?
The third story, strangely, involves the forest denizens descending on the beaver who runs their hydroelectric plant to complain that the electricity provided thereby is insufficient for their needs. Now, Woodsy, I would expect, would suggest they simply try harder to ration themselves. Instead, he suggests they flood a nearby plain, riddle the forest with overflows, and line a bunch of it with concrete. I guess maybe they're gonna dam up the part of the forest full of animals who weren't warned about the poison crop duster, may they rest in peace.

It's worth mentioning that Woodsy, Bitsy, Hot Lion and a small handful of other creatures in this book are done in the general Hanna-Barbera style which the Gold Key folks were so good at mimicking, but the other animals in the forest often look like they were copied wholesale from a Pogo strip. Like, literally, a propped-open copy of "I Go Pogo" and one of those lamp things they used to advertise in comics, and you have the background characters for any page-wide panel in the story.

Anyway, the end result of the damming is that a blocked drain floods the entire forest, but they unplug the garbage causing the problem and that's the end. I thought ecology was more nuanced than that, but everything I learned about it I got from one of those comics where Popeye explains to you what different careers are good for.

Lastly, there's a story where Hot Lion's sister brings fruit in from across state lines, releasing two fruit flies. Luckily, Woodsy knows a bat he can hire for high-priority hits. Straight up, the bat just murders the fruit flies - I guess not all the animals of the woods are particularly equal.

So what have we learned? Well, Woodsy's life and the life of those he loves is often on the line from his enemies, he hates crime, he's a wealthy philanthropist and he's close pals with bats. I'm not sure, but I think Woodsy might be the animal version of Bruce Wayne. Let me know if anyone does The Woodsy Owl Returns ...

Also, like Batman, he thinks it's helpful to jump on mentally ill people.


James W. Fry 3.0 said...

Curse you, Jon Morris, for never giving your readers an unmasked, fully-lit image of Hot Lion. Never mind why I want one, goddammit! I just do!!!

Calamity Jon said...

Only for you would I return to the scanner, James: Hot Lion, perving it up in the bushes

James W. Fry 3.0 said...

Funny---the images in your post created an air of mystery about the character's appearance. To such a degree, in fact, that I was anticipating something more Jonah Hex-y. Once again, my hopes have been brutally dashed by the baby-eating bastards at GOLD KEY. Thanks, Jon.

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