When is the first issue also the twelfth issue? And more importantly, why WOULD it be? Today’s the day that we find out! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Atomic Bunny #12 awaits!
Writer: Joe Gill (?)
Penciler: George Wildman/Jon D’Agostino (?)
Inker: George Wildman/Jon D’Agostino (?)
Letterer: Jon D’Agostino
Editor: Pat Massuli
Publisher: Charlton Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $140.00
Previously in Atomic Bunny: Okay,fair warning: Today’s Retro Review has given me a headache, and not the usual “What is happening in this issue?” kind. It all begins in 1953, with legendary funny animal artist Al Fago, and the first issue of Atomic Mouse.
Owing more than a little debt to Terrytoons’ Mighty Mouse, who first debuted in 1944 (after a run as Super Mouse, which is a headache of its own), Atomic Mouse is almost certainly the most successful superhero character in Charlton Comics history. A very 1950s character, Cimota Mouse was empowered by popping pills of U-235, allowing him to to protect Mouseville with his mighty Atomic Powers! At the time this comic hit the stands, Atomic Mouse was still in print (and would be until 1963), but that didn’t stop Fago from going back to the well in 1955 for the first issue of… Atomic Rabbit!
We’re getting to Atomic Bunny, I promise. Atomic Rabbit avoided the problem of imitatable-pill-popping by getting his powers from the ingestion of U-235 carrots, and protected Rabbitville rather than Mouseville, but was essentially the same character. Fago even drew the first few issues of the book at the same time he was doing Atomic Mouse for Charlton, but then left the book in uncredited hands, though the last few covers were drawn by Maurice Whitman, best known as as a member of Jerry Iger’s studio, and later, Wally Wood’s. Atomic Rabbit’s book ended with issue #11, which FINALLY brings us around to this issue and the “first appearance” of Atomic Bunny.
Aside from closing the loop of his second chest-symbol letter, there’s not a whole lot of difference between Atomic Bunny and his predecessor/earlier incarnation, save for a change to carrot cubes rather than full carrots. Some of his adventures show the influence of Walt Disney’s cartoons, thanks to the art of George Wildman, one of Charlton’s house artists.
Wildman would go on to some notoriety as the artist of Chalrton’s long-running Popeye adaptation, eventually becoming Charlton’s executive editor. That Disney influence is important to note, given what happens AFTER this issue. Starting with Atomic Bunny #13, the character’s entire design changes. No longer is he an ersatz version of Atomic Mouse…
…now he’s an ersatz version of Bugs Bunny! Weirder still, this design change was only seen on the covers and not even every one. Issue #13 through #16 feature Atomic Bugsy, with #17 returning to the black-and-white Fago-inspired design, then back to grey-and-white for #18, then back AGAIN to black-and-whte for his final bow in #19. The interiors of all those issues feature the original coloring with WILD changes in proportion, ear-shape and overall design of Rabbitville. The reasoning behind these changes is probably best explained by pointing out the blurb on the cover of “Atomic Mouse #1” back in 1953: “Star of Screen and Television!”
No Atomic Mouse cartoons or TV shows are known to exist.
Thus, Atomic Bunny #12 is part of an ongoing to campaign by Charlton to cash in on marketplace confusion, roping young readers into thinking they’re buying Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny or other familiar characters and delivers on perfectly mundane Charlton funny-animal antics for the readers’ precious dimes, earning a confusing and somewhat unethical 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. Even without Fago’s linework or any standouts in terms of story, this issue makes for an interesting footnote into the practices of comic publishers in the 1950s and the creative ways that they courted the engagement of young readers and helps to explain why sometimes that mouse with super-powers had long ears.
Dear Spoilerite,At Major Spoilers, we strive to create original content that you find interesting and entertaining. Producing, writing, recording, editing, and researching requires significant resources. We pay writers, podcast hosts, and other staff members who work tirelessly to provide you with insights into the comic book, gaming, and pop culture industries. Help us keep MajorSpoilers.com strong. Become a Patron (and our superhero) today.
ATOMIC BUNNY #12
Nothing special in the stories, and the art is just okay, but trying to figure out where in the world it came from is worth the price of admission.