J. Rufus Lion has dormancy problems. Artist: Ron Santi.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1944
Creator: Sheldon Mayer
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To lovers of population diversity, J. Rufus Lion, a DC Comics funny animal who was contemporary with The Terrific Whatzit and The Dodo & the Frog, stands as a far more exemplary individual than the average member of this planet's dominant species. Few if any humans would dream of marrying a …

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… member of even a closely-related species like a gorilla or a chimpanzee — but while Rufe was exactly what his surname implied, his wife belonged to a different species, a different genus, even a different taxonomic class, Avia as opposed to Mammalia. To be specific, she was a chicken.

It was part of the basic premise of the series that Rufe was henpecked, and she was the hen that did the pecking. But henpeckedness wasn't part of the description of Rufe that appeared in the introductory blurb describing each story as it opened. There, much was made of the fact that Rufe didn't always (or, in fact, very often at all) tell the truth. In fact, the initials D.S.P. (which stood for "Definitely Some Phony") were appended to his name in the title most of the time, just as F.O.M. ("Friend of Man") was appended to Ally Sloper's. The most prominent characteristic of J. Rufus Lion, especially in the early days was that he bragged a lot and often exaggerated his own importance.

But henpecked, he definitely was. An important aspect of it was the matter-of-fact way she refused to acknowlege any objection he may have to her nephew, Arsenic, coming to "visit" (permanently, as it turned out) in the second story. In keeping with the family's species non-discrimination, Arsenic was a giraffe.

Rufe made his initial appearance in the premier issue of Funny Stuff, the first DC/All-American comic book devoted to the funny-animal genre, dated Summer, 1944. (The title started with the DC imprint, but the companies began their brief split within six months, and Funny Stuff went with All-American before their eventual recombination.) The Three Mouseketeers, Blackie Bear and several others also started in that issue.

The first story was written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer, the young editor who is said to have talked DC bosses into taking a chance on the first Superman story, and who probably first had the idea of teaming up a broad selection of heroes as The Justice Society of America. Mayer was also the creator of Scribbly and Sugar & Spike.

But Mayer didn't stick with the character. In fact, after #1, the only story about him that Mayer created was in #5, and that was the all-Mayer issue of Funny Stuff. The next couple were done by Ving Fuller (Elza Poppin). Then a few by Ron Santi (Nero Fox), then Rube Grossman (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), Howie Post (Anthro) etc.

In the 24th issue (August, 1947), the dynamic of the series shifted, with the introduction of Rufe's next-door neighbor, Mortimer Ratt. Mort was a chiseler like many DC funny animal second bananas (e.g., Crawford Crow, Dizzy Dog's Amster the Hamster). This added a dimension of victimhood to Rufe's character. Arsenic was phased out as a supporting character, while Mort grew more prominent.

Rufe remained a Funny Stuff regular, not greatly changed once Mort was introduced, for the rest of the 1940s, and appeared, as well, in about a dozen post-superhero issues of Comic Cavalcade. In 1950, the series was transferred to Hollywood Funny Folks, where Nutsy Squirrel was the cover-featured star.

He continued there until #39 (October, 1951).


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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.