Tuesday, 27 May 2008


Big Bad Wolf has been one of my favorite Disney characters. Despite being a villain at the outset, there was something of an underdog in him which probably appealed to me. This partially had to do with his non-bourgeoise outfit, not to mention that he lived in a hut in the forest, and partially with the fact that he was always being outwitted by the squeky-clean pigs. Curiously, he was also the only father-figure in the entire Disney comics universe (where we have inexplicably -and rather pathologically- endless cases of uncles & nephews , but never fathers & sons).
Today is the 75th anniversary of the release of Three Little Pigs, the cartoon that introduced Big Bad Wolf to the screens from where he would eventually sprang to comics where he still roams after 75 years. I commomerate this anniversary with this blog.

Of course, the Disney Studio had not created the Three Pigs vs Big Bad Wolf saga out of nowhere, the cartoon was based on a European folktale, first published in the 19th century in England. The tale had also been somehow incorporated into the 'Uncle Remus' tales, collecting the oral tradition of the African-Americans; however, since Africa (except the region of Egypt which nevertheless was not among the African regions part of the slave trade to America) was not a habitat of neither the pig nor the wolf, the story does not seem to have true African origins. Click here for several versions of the tale from 19th century: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0124.html
The first tie-ins with the cartoon, which was a huge box office hit, appear to be the 1933 publications of a sheet music of its tune (first image below) and two illustrated story books, one in hardcover (cover scan in tomorrow's post above) with color as well as b&w illustrations and one with only b&w illustrations:

Walt Disney filed for patent rights of the Big Bad Wolf in December 1933 (his claim was officially granted on April 17th, 1934). This indicates that Disney had initially considered the Big Bad Wolf as simply a character in a one-shot cartoon, but, by the end of the year, he had already decided to make further use of it. Below is the 'official' figure of the character as patented by Disney:
The first sequel, which came out less than a year after the earlier cartoon, was titled after our antagonist this time: The Big Bad Wolf and was an adaptation of 'Little Red Riding Hood', another European children's tale featuring a wolf, even though the pigs were also featured in this cartoon as well (this cartoon would also spin-off illustrated story books). Two more sequels would follow up in the coming years: Three Little Wolves (1936) and The Practical Pig (1939).
The Big Bad Wolf (and the Three Pigs) made their first comics appearance in the Silly Symphony Sunday half-pages prior to the release of the second cartoon sequel. This Sunday continuity, titled as 'The Further Adventures of the Three Little Pigs!' was drawn by Al Taliaferro, one of the most talented artists of the Disney staff, best-known for his work on Donald Duck. It was carried out in the major Disney comics magazines of Europe. A 1937 Italian comics album is probably an early reprint of 'The Further Adventures of the Three Little Pigs!':
Another Sunday continuity, titled as 'The Practical Pig', was run in 1938, once again with art by Taliaferro. It was published in album format in Italy the same year.

The Big Bad Wolf and the Three Pigs did not make any significant appearances neither on the screen nor in print during the 2nd World War era, other than abridged reprints of the previous Sunday continuities in Walt Disney's Comics in 1941. However, they made a full-fledged and re-vitalized come-back in comics in 1945.
The January 1945 issue of Walt Disney's Comics introduced Big Bad Wolf's son Lil Bad Wolf as the title character of an 8-pages comics story, written by Chase Craig and with art by Carl Buettner. Even though three malicious siblings of Big Bad Wolf had been featured in the sequel cartoons of the 1930s, the new comics series completely ignored them, giving way to one single son. More significantly, L'il Bad Wolf was 'bad' in name only: he was not only a benign character, but was even the best friend of the pigs. This enabled far more creative story-telling potential than the simple 'Tom & Jerry' antics of the earlier cartoons.
Buettner continued with the new comics for more than a year, with a succession of other artists picking it up after him. Eventually, Gil Turner emerged as the most enduring Wolf artist with close to one hundred L'il Bad Wolf comics for 10 years from 1947 onwards.
In the US, 'Li'l Bad Wolf' spawned three one-shot comics magazines in the early 1950s in addition to its continuous run in the Walt Disney's Comics:

The father and son wolves were also very popular outside the US, probably even more popular than they were in the US (admittedly, Disney comics in general has become more popular in parts of the world such as continental Europe and Latin America than ever in the US). Interestingly, outside the US, the Big Bad Wolf himself seems to be more of an attraction than L'il Bad Wolf as several non-US comics covers feature pap wolf without his son. Below are sample of my favorite Big Bad Wolf covers from around the world:

Right now, that's all for this round-up of the history of the Big Bad Wolf to celebrate his birthday. However, I will continue this blog with more in-depth looks at specific venues of his appearance as well as an overview of Big Bad Wolf's publication history in Turkish edition comics. So stay tuned...


ramapith said...

Man! Wonderful stuff!

I hope you cover the brilliant Dutch Wolf stories produced by Dick Matena and company in the late 1970s. We're trying to publish some of those at Gemstone these days... almost no task is more fun than writing the English language "country idiom" for our versions of these stories!

Congratulations, Zeke. Don't huff and puff too hard on those candles... we know real wolves don't want to spend time scrubbing splattered birthday cakes off of walls. (Then again, why scrub it off? Real wolves leave messes to get messier!) (-:

Kaya Özkaracalar said...

Hi there!
Unfortunately, I am not really familiar (other than looking up COA indexes) with the work of the artist you mention, but it appears he was even more prolific than G.Turner! If you have a site or blog about him, I'll gladly link up or if you send over some stuff, I'll post them up. Cheers

Pmspg said...

Very good ! Please go on !
It's really interesting to see how Big Bad Wolf is known all over the world. And so much is to be said about his numerous stories...

I re-discovered BBW's stories 4 years ago and since I am a big bad fan...

Once again, congratulations !
(I'll add a link on my blog)


Kaya Özkaracalar said...

Hi Pmspg!
I will go on with updating this blog, there is still stıff I want to share..
Btw, I've already added link to your site.

Pmspg said...

Thanks for the link on your site.
I've added 1 link on my Favorite sites (Sites Recommandés) and 1 link on my list of Disney comics fans sites (Sites de fans de BD Disney).