Wednesday, 5 August 2009

"It's the most worthless thing I ever saw!" Pudgy Pig and other annoying animals

And now, chums, the long-awaited second in my occasional series of posts devoted to the detailed (and entirely pointless) assessment and analysis of the dismallest, lamest, what-were-they-thinking-est, dustheap-of history-est comics of all time (which, oddly enough, are all qualities which seem to compel me to purchase them and gather them together).

I was at the London Comic Mart on Sunday, shuffling quietly amongst my seedy, aromatic, vaguely embarrassed child-man brother-collectors, when I came upon Pudgy Pig. Though the issue is numbered Number 1, Volume 1, I can't imagine that anybody genuinely believed they would ever need to put an order in for a leather binder (proudly embossed, perhaps, with Pudgy Pig Volume I in gold leaf on the spine). Even the least critical kid would surely have spurned this publication, and it would seem they did: the 'volume' ended with Number 2.

The signs couldn't have been good for any comics-savvy prospective purchaser, back in September 1958 - it's a Charlton Publication, for a start, and you know what that means - but to the purveyor of all things odd, obscure and culturally bereft, it has a certain desperate something that is hard to resist. Take a look at that splendidly idiotic cover. Did you ever see such a blank-faced and emotionlessly conceived porcine hero? Blatantly and specifically designed to rip off Dell's successful Porky Pig comic book, this was surely a magazine created for one purpose, and one purpose only: to be purchased by mistake by a parent in a hurry or a half-blind grand-mama.

They didn't even bother to be consistent. As you can see from the cover, Pudgy sports a ridiculous Donald Duck-esque sailor hat, to disguise his exceedingly Porky Pig-esque coat and bow-tie. Perhaps the headgear was an attempt by the chaps at Charlton to deter the Warner Bros. lawyers from paying a visit. Intriguingly, by page 3, Pudgy has had a complete make-over, and sports instead a distinctly unPorky-like red jersey with a 'P' on it. Perhaps WB's lawyers did see the cover and did pay a visit.

Gone is the jacket and bow-tie. But his new outfit doesn't do him any favours. In fact, he doesn't even look like the same pig. That jersey fits where it touches, and Pudgy seems to have aged somewhat and put on a considerable amount of bacon around his somehow vaguely distasteful hips. Most disconcerting. No wonder his girlfriend favours Packing-House Pig III; by comparison, the rich fop seems to have sleek, snake hips, if such a thing is possible for porkers.

The stories are bewildering; I couldn't make much sense of them. It was like they were never intended to be read. Particularly the weird highlight of the issue, It's a Trade, which seems to have been written by an out-of-work absurdist playwright.

Gee whiz, there's an old boat full of holes at the bottom! I wonder if it's any good? Hmm, that's a tricky question. It's a boat, but it is full of holes at the bottom. And stop jumping around turning your head in three directions at once (none of which would allow you to see the boat you seem to know so much about). Anyway, here's the answer:

It's horrible! Calm down, Pudgy Pig, it's only a boat with holes in the bottom! A simple "no, it's not any good" would do. But Pudgy is kinda extreme, claiming that it is the most worthless thing I ever saw. You reckon? Taken a look in the mirror lately, Pudgy?

That's enough of that. Also in this bumper fun package, Pudgy gets erstwhile support from Atomic Bunny (not at all reminiscent of Fawcett's Marvel Bunny), who features in his own story, of a similarly high standard.

Mmm, delicious irradiated vegetables. And as Atomic Bunny is such a great, original idea, why not have Atomic Mouse (not at all reminiscent of Paul Terry's Mighty Mouse), too? You can't steal too much of a good thing, eh? Flip a few pages, and you'll come across this -

Erm...daily habits, Atomic Mouse? What kind of 'Fun with Pop' daily habits? Should I call Social Services?

Oh, those kind of daily habits. You mean if I do my exercises, I'll grow up to look as good as pudgy-cueball Pop? Maybe I'll just stay in bed after all. Reading Pudgy Pig comics.

But seriously folks, Atomic Mouse even does charitable work for the community. A whole page is devoted to this important public service announcement to the nation's youth, as part of the Fun With Pop scheme. What do you mean you've never heard of the Fun With Pop scheme? You been living under a rock or something, pal?

Poor Charlton. Whereas their hi-tone competitors (DC, et al) were actually sponsored to publish genuine sanctimonious governmental advert pages to brainwash the nation's youth, it looks like our pals at Charlton had to make up a nebulous, wholesome scheme of their own to get in on the act, complete with an official-looking logo, accidentally-on-purpose printed in a smudgy, indistinct fashion, I suspect, to hide the fact that there was no official endorsement of the initiative by anybody at all other than the hacks in the Charlton editorial office.

Well, at least the Pop in the logo has some hair. And doesn't wander about in his vest all day.

All very wholesome. But supposing you're not able to go out for 'Fun with Pop'? Supposing 'Pop' is an alcoholic, or something? What then? The next page has the answer. A horrible and unusual gift in a box.

Or, in keeping with the cheery atomic theme, how about this?

Just like an A-Bomb. I'm glad to hear it. Anything less would be rather a disappointment.

And once you've stolen 20 cents from Pop's wallet to pay for your A-Bomb, flick over another page and there's a ghastly written story, Annoyed Animals, which, once I'd detected that the words 'happy zoo' were included, I certainly didn't bother to read.

But the "illustration" is in another league entirely - definitely worth a look.

A masterpiece of stylised ineptitude, you have to admire the total lack of care taken over its execution: it looks like the 'artist' had a quick go at a couple of 'annoyed animals', did them a bit wrong, then drew funny lines over his mistakes. And shoved in a tree and a moon, because they're easier to do. Except the moon went a bit funny and looks a bit like a banana. A superb piece.

All in all, another Charlton classic. And which gifted comics-auteur came up with Pudgy Pig, I hear you cry? Sadly, we'll never know for sure, but perhaps there is a clue on the cover: the proud, prominent signatures of the cover artists (and creators?) of Pudgy Pig.

Yes, dear reader, one of these names is already familiar to the ever-growing legion of discerning readers who follow this blog: D'Agostino.

Could it be Jon D'Agostino, the key figure behind Charlton Comics' Freddy? Do I detect the hand of the master?

You might find this comic in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS. Or I might shred it. I just don't know.


  1. Should this blog still be active, I just wanted to thank you for the fine review. I happen to be researching earlier Charlton comics featuring Pudgy Pig strips that are much, much worse than the 1958 version, and I am indebted to you for this key passage: "It was like [the stories] were never intended to be read." It's nice to know that someone has the same reaction to this era of Charlton humor as I did.

  2. Greetings Mr. Anonymous. I still lurk out here in cyberspace....I intend to return to blogging as soon as I can figure out what on earth is going on with the redesigned blog-dashboard. Meanwhile, it warms my heart to know that there is someone out there researching early Pudgy Pig stories. At last, some truly useful research!