Charlie trapped in a web of his own making.

CHARLIE CHICKEN

Original Medium: Theatrical Animation
Released by: Universal (Walter Lantz)
First Appeared: 1943
Creator: Alex Lovy
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Elmer Fudd was a much bigger cartoon star than Charlie Chicken. While it's true that Elmer starred (as opposed to playing second banana) in very few cartoons, Charlie only appeared in a couple altogether, and he was nothing but a supporting …

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… character even there. His greatest fame (such as it is) came from comic books, and he wasn't much of a star there, either.

Charlie made his first appearance in a Walter Lantz Studio cartoon titled Andy Panda's Victory Garden, which Universal Studios released on September 7, 1943. The director was Alex Lovy, who wasn't one of the industry's superstars, but spent decades working for such studios as Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. Among his later creations were such very minor Warner characters as Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse.

Later that year, he again played against Andy in what may be his most prominent role. In Meatless Tuesday, directed by Shamus Culhane (Rocket Robin Hood), he played potential prey as he and Andy, driven by hunger, saw each other as a possible food source. But those two cartoons constituted his entire career in animation.

It was about that time, that he started appearing as Andy's co-star in comic books. Dell's New Funnies, which (under the title The Funnies) started out with Major Hoople, Tailspin Tommy and the like, had recently started featuring a few Lantz characters. But other than Andy and the grossly offensive (by today's standards) Li'l Eight Ball, Lantz didn't have a lot of stars, so Dell found it necessary to pull Oswald the Rabbit from near-oblivion to fill up the comic. In 1946, when the title was completely given over to Lantz's characters, the availability of Woody Woodpecker wasn't enough, to the point where even a nonentity like Homer Pigeon got a shot at stardom, so Charlie's position as Andy's co-star became permanent.

In the mid-'40s, Andy started appearing in an occasional issue of Four Color Comics, the title where everybody from Donald Duck to Tiny Tim starred in an issue or two. Charlie remained his co-star, and when Andy started having quasi-serious adventures to fill up the longer stories, Charlie became his partner in adventure.

By the '50s, Andy's comic was appearing on a regular basis, and Charlie was still with him. In the early '60s, Western Printing transferred the Lantz licenses to its own imprint, Gold Key Comics, and the Andy Panda property became dormant.

In 1973, Gold Key revived the Andy Panda title in reprint form, even tho it had been many years since either Andy or Charlie had appeared in an animated cartoon. The new Gold Key title continued until 1977, with Charlie Chicken still in his role as Andy's partner. But after that, both were gone in comics as well as animation. Neither has been seen since.

— DDM

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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Walter Lantz Studio.