“All the Moose That’s Fit to Print”: Bullwinkle in Print

On July 24, 1962, the successful Rocky and Bullwinkle Show made its way onto the newspaper comics pages. Written and drawn by Al Kilgore, who had worked on the comic book iterations of the successful TV cartoon series, and some scripts for the show itself, it was a rare instance of faithfully translating popular cartoons to daily print. From this first strip, Kilgore embodied the wry self-consciousness of the Jay Ward Production. the inaugural story “Big Bomb” carried the same absurdist satirical tone and topicality of the TV series.

Kilgore had the visual style of the cartoon down cold. The wide-eyed innocence and expressiveness of “moose and squirrel,” the looming lankiness of Bullwinkle, the pint-sized solidity of Rocky, Boris and Natasha’s slapstick villainy – all perfectly pitched. And like the cartoon series, the essential comedy came from self-aware funny animals in a world of hapless humans.

Alas, readers did not embrace the strip with the same loyalty as they did the TV show. McClure Syndicate licensed the property from Jay Ward, and did what it could to promote it to newspaper outlets and their readers. But scant advance orders compelled McClure to yank initial plans for a Sunday complement to the dailies before launch, and the strip only lasted through 1965 because of tepid adoption. Nevertheless, it was a creative treat that any fan of the characters should check out. Last year, a two-volume reprint of its full run was published covering 1962-63 and 1964-65 respectively.

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