COUNT SCREWLOOSE OF TOOLOOSEMedium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: The New York World
First Appeared: 1929
Creator: Milt Gross
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cartoonist. Only two of his many creations for the papers were ever animated — the very early Phool Phan Phables, back in the silent era and virtually unheard-of today; and this one — Count Screwloose of Tooloose.
The Count was first seen on Feb. 17, 1929, as the star of a Sunday page in The New York World (Hogan's Alley, The Captain & the Kids). He was a resident of a looney bin called Nuttycrest Sanitarium, where he kept a pet dog, Iggy. He'd escape at will (to Iggy's dismay) for an adventure among the "smart folks", but they invariably proved whackier than his everyday associates back inside. He'd always wind up returning, requesting that his welcoming pet help prevent a recurrence of the foolish act with the words, "Iggy, keep an eye on me!" This became a catch-phrase nationwide.
But not for very long. Like the vast majority of Gross's features, this one was short-lived — not because the public didn't take to it, but because the cartoonist's anarchic imagination couldn't be fettered for long. Unlike the vast majority, tho, this one was back a couple of years later, this time from King Features Syndicate (In the Land of Wonderful Dreams, The Katzenjammer Kids). King distributed Count Screwloose (the location of his countdom was lopped off the title) through the early 1930s, but it was gone by '35, replaced by more recent creations.
But the Count had a third run, which was more unusual yet for Gross's characters — in fact, possibly unique. In 1939, Gross directed animated cartoons for MGM (Tom & Jerry, Droopy), and managed to get two out before succumbing to the studio's rigid strictures, and moving on to a more congenial (i.e., looser) environment. Both of them (Jitterbug Follies and Wanted: No Master, released during February and March, respectively) starred Count Screwloose. Mel Blanc (Speedy Gonzales, Marvin the Martian) did his voice, but eschewed screen credit because it would violate his contract with Warner Bros.
In this venue, the Count was a little different from before. Tho he was as goofy as ever, he lived in an ordinary house rather than an insane asylum. Also, Iggy was out, replaced by J.R. the Wonder Dog.
And the Count had even a fourth run! In the late 1940s, The American Comics Group (Commander Battle, Herbie) published several comic book stories, in the range of a half-dozen or so pages, about him. These appeared in the back pages of various titles, but he never did have a title of his own.
Other than taht, Milt Gross continued creating and dropping characters at a rapid rate. Eventually, even Count Screwloose, undoubtedly his longest-lasting creation (unless you count the graphic novel He Done Her Wrong), was lost in the crowd.