Mary Jane says her magic words. Artist: Roger Armstrong.

MARY JANE AND SNIFFLES

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell Comics
Licensed from: Warner Bros.
First Appeared: 1941
Creator: Chase Craig
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When the Warner Bros. cartoon characters were licensed for Dell Comics'

continued below

… monthly anthology title, Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies Comics, it was a given that the book's stars would be Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. But since Foghorn Leghorn, Wile E. Coyote and Tweety & Sylvester didn't exist yet, filling the back pages of the first issue (October, 1941) wasn't so easy. Some very minor characters, such as Petunia Pig and Little Pancho Vanilla, wound up part of the mix.

One of them was Sniffles the Mouse, whose tenure in comic books far outlasted, and is far more fondly recalled than his rather inconsequential career in animation. That's because in comics, he was teamed with a little girl named Mary Jane, who could shrink to his size and have fantasy adventures with him in a land of living toys. At first, the series was titled "Sniffles & Mary Jane," but eventually that was reversed, giving its true star top billing.

Editor Chase Craig (Magnus, Robot Fighter) created and wrote the "Mary Jane & Sniffles" series, naming its human protagonist after his wife. (There is some speculation that he based the character on the little girl in Beauty & the Beast (no relation), a 1934 Merrie Melody directed by Friz Freleng, but the connection, consisting mostly of hair color and the fact that "Beauty" used a similar method to shrink into the toy world, seems uncertain.) Through most of the 1940s, the series was drawn by Roger Armstrong, whose other credits include stints on the Ella Cinders, Napoleon and Scamp newspaper strips. In the '50s, Al Hubbard, whose credits, by an odd coincidence, also include Scamp (as well as comic book stories about Chip'n'Dale, Jiminy Cricket and practically every other Disney character), took it over.

Mary Jane's exact technique for shrinking varied. At first she would sprinkle magic sand on herself, saying, "Magic sand, magic sand, make me small at my command!" or sometimes "Oh, magic sand upon me fall, and make me very, very small!" In 1949, the words became "First I shut my eyes real tight, then I wish with all my might! Magic words of poof, poof, piffles, make me just as small as Sniffles!" During Hubbard's tenure, the magic sand was omitted, leaving just the words, which Mary Jane would pronounce with her fingers crossed.

Mary Jane & Sniffles far outlasted the other non-headliners that began in the first issue. In fact, they actually got a couple of headlines of their own, appearing as the title characters in Four Color Comics #s 402 (1952) and 474 ('53). And even after the Looney Tunes comic itself shrank, from 52 pages to a mere 36 (sinking a couple of back-up series), there was still room for them. Eventually, however, the series was retired. It last appeared in the 238th issue (July, 1961), only eight issues before the Warner Bros. comic book license was transferred to Gold Key Comics, and the anthology title was discontinued. After that, it continued briefly in the back pages of Bugs Bunny's comic. It was seen in occasional reprints as recently as the 1970s, but is now just a fond memory.

Ask the average comics and cartoon buff who Sniffles the Mouse is, and the chances are he won't even mention the dozen or so cartoons the character appeared in during the late 1930s and early '40s. If he knows the character at all, it's probably because of this comic book series.

— DDM

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