Snagglepuss

Snagglepuss debuted in the Hanna Barbera Quick Draw McDraw cartoon series in the 1959 episode Lamb Chopped. Daws Butler voiced Snagglepuss, creating the voice to sound similar to Burt Lahr’s Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. One of Snagglepuss’ catch phrases, “Heavens to Murgatroyd” was a line spoken by Lahr as well in the 1944 movie Meet The People. It was common during the late 1950s and 1960s for cartoon characters to be licensed for either Dell or Gold Key comics and Snagglepuss was no different. He had only a handful of appearances in Yogi Bear and other Hanna Barbera licenses comics before a solo run lasting just four issues. In addition to cartoon and comics appearances, Kellogg’s licensed the character to appear in several TV commercials promoting Cocoa Krispies; he also appeared on cereal boxes for a period. Snagglepuss returned to comics at Marvel during a period in the late 1970s and then at DC when the Hanna Barbera properties were acquired by DC’s parent company.

Snagglepuss returned to comics with a six issue mini series from DC Comics in January 2018 written by Mark Russell and with art by Mike Feehan, Sean Parsons, and Paul Mounts. Russell reimagined the cartoon lion as a Truman Capote analog caught up in the Red Scare during the McCarthyist era of 1950s of the United States. Russell and Feehan crafted a setting which reflected the duality of queer life and culture in pre-Stonewall New York City, which itself can be traced back to at least the 1880s, and the necessity for LGBT people to distance themselves from it with a facade of heteronormativity. For example, Snagglepuss is married to actress Lila Lion who is first seen in issue #1’s intro out with Snaggle in front of the theater amongst a crowd on the closing night of his play “The Heart Is A Kennel of Thieves”. After the event is over, she returns alone to her apartment while Snaggle has the driver drop him off at the Village where he sneaks into the Stonewall Inn to enjoy the rest of evening with his boyfriend Pablo, a Cuban in exile from the Bautista regime. The story continues to follow Snagglepuss as he negotiates this largely hidden world, society at large, and the points where both intersect such as a private party thrown by socialite Peggy Guggenheim. Russell uses other characters, a mix of anthropomorphic and human, to reflect some challenging experiences and tragic fates of real queer people during this time period, notably Quick Draw McGraw who’s reimagined as a dirty, closeted cop taking protection money from the Stonewall Inn, and Huckleberry Hound who flees to New York after being discovered by his wife of having an affair with a man.

As a cartoon character. Snagglepuss was friendly, a bit egotistical, and a peaceful soul. He did not have any younger sidekicks like Yogi Bear’s Boo Boo and Quick Draw McGraw’s Baba Looey. Perhaps Hanna and Barbera implicitly understood that straight Americans could somehow rationalize or be completely oblivious to a character who sounded stereotypically gay as long as it appeared he was alone and not possibly serving to promote homosexuality by “recruiting” “red blooded American kids with a proxy sidekick. Hollywood was still ruled by the Hayes Code just as comics were subjected to the Comics Code Authority both of which prohibited open positive depictions of LGBT characters. Major Minor, a member of the Adventure Club, was Snagglepuss’ one recurring antagonist. As mentioned above, Heavens to Murgatroyd is one of Snagglepuss’ catch phrases. The other one is “Exit stage left…” or sometimes “stage right”. The difference in appearance of Snagglepuss as a brown colored zoo cat in The Party Lion episode of the Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy cartoon and other later cartoons is explained as being Snagglepuss’ brother Snaggletooth. This coloring difference was seen in at least two issues of Dell’s Yogi Bear series with short Snagglepuss stories in which he’s colored brown. Best not to get hung up on such details when comics at the time weren’t known for continuity.

Snagglepuss is similarly friendly in the Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles. Russell imbues him with an urbane wit, a jaded outlook that withstands challenges from Pablo and friends, and an overconfident ego best exemplified by his belief that he’d remain unscathed by the House Un-American Activities Committee. In the end, Russell uses Snagglepuss to show the power of forgiveness, resilience, and a renewed appreciation for life as he finds a new purpose.

Most details from the mini series have been left out of this profile to avoid spoiling anyone who has yet to read it. There are profiles for Hanna Barbera characters Huckleberry Hound and Quickdraw McGraw who also appeared in the mini series.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles has been collected.

This profile is written in part on information sourced from A Celebration of Animation: The 100 Greatest Cartoon Characters In Television History by Marty Gitlin and Joe Wos.

George Chauncey’s Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 is an in depth history of queer New York City.

Snagglepuss was created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. First piece of art by Mike Feehan. The Grand Comics Database doesn’t have any creator credits for the Snagglepuss comics.

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November 29, 2018
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