THE PIE-FACE PRINCE OF PRETZELBURGMedium: Comic Books
Published by: Eastern Color Printing
First Appeared: 1942
Creator: George Carlson
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Comic book scholar Michael Barrier called George Carlson, creator of The Pie-face Prince of Pretzelburg, "a kind of George Herriman for little children". Good one — Carlson's
work is reminiscent of Herriman's Krazy Kat, and very young children do enjoy hearing it read aloud. At least, those who have the opportunity do. Carlson has been mostly out of print for more than half a century.
Barrier's observation was made in A Smithsonian Book of Comic-book Comics, which he and Martin Williams edited, and which included Carlson among only a dozen highlights in the history of comic books. Others of the select company included John Stanley's Little Lulu, Jack Cole's Plastic Man and Will Eisner's The Spirit. Carlson is the most unjustly obscure of the lot, even managing to edge out Sheldon Mayer's Scribbly & The Red Tornado.
Carlson only dabbled in comics — his true fame in children's literature came from illustrating Howard R. Garis's "Uncle Wiggily" books. Of the credited work he did do in comics (he was the uncredited ghost for many years on Gene Byrnes's Reg'lar Fellers), most is buried in the back pages of Jingle Jangle Comics, published by Eastern Color Printing, the company which, in 1934, had put out the first modern-style comic book, Famous Funnies. Jingle Jangle ran 42 issues, dated February, 1942 through December, 1949. Carlson did two series — "Jingle Jangle Tales", which had no continuing characters, and "The Pie-face Prince of Pretzelburg".
In the latter (the precise title of which was changed to "The Pie-face Prince of Old Pretzelburg" in #23, October, 1946), Prince Dimwitri cavorted through an anarchic landscape that sort of resembled a middle-European pocket kingdom around the turn of the 20th century, but in an alien dimension. His father, King Hokum, ruled a realm that included Princess Panatella Murphy (Dimwitri's true love), the villainous Green Witch, the equally villainous Second Story Sam (Pretzelburg's most popular burglar), Sir Razzo Razzh-Berri (the Raging Rajah), and a host of bakers, jewelers, trolley car drivers and the like.
Dimwitri's stories weren't long on plot, if by "plot" you mean something with a beginning, middle and end, all of which make sense. But they crammed plenty of incidents into their six pages, and certainly managed to keep the young readers interested. Carlson had a wonderful gift for constantly throwing absurdities into the mix, in both art and dialog. He always managed to find an excuse to have Dimwitri run desperately down the street carrying a gift-wrapped warming pan, fly through Pretzelburg dangling from a jet-powered kite, or have an ice cream cone explode in his face — not that he really needed an excuse.
The Pie-face Prince of Pretzelburg wasn't one of Jingle Jangle's more prominent features — in fact, he was only on one cover (#4, August, 1942). But today, he's the only character from the title that's remembered at all.