Bambi’s twitterpated second banana gets a moment in the sun – Thumper Follows His Nose (Four Color #242)
This is one of two Golden Age Thumper offerings published by Dell under their Four Color banner. Bambi’s little scene-stealing rabbit got a chance to step out of his young deer pal’s shadow in this 1949 book (Bambi never appears in these pages, though others from the Bambi-verse drop by), and made the most of his time, in several short features and multiple one-page strips. It’s your typical kid mag fare, with cute, fuzzy animals with big eyes going through the daily hijinks of their forest lives — at least until the last of the features, where things take a somewhat darker twist, though nothing that would send children into hours of therapy. We’ll get to that in a moment.
(I should pause to confess that I have some affection for Thumper, as that moniker became the family nickname for our dog and his loud scratching. That’s probably something that’s played out in other households over the years. So, though most Disney crap outside of Donald Duck is revolting, Thumper is okay.)
The first story is a play on the old Goldilocks and the Three Bears trope, and is what gives the book its rhinal title. Thumper wanders into a cottage with bowls of warm porridge on the table, has an internal debate with the devil and angel inside him on whether or not to eat it, opts not to, meets the Big Bad Wolf (in a collision with Little Red Riding Hood’s tropes), goes back to the cottage to hide, eats the porridge, and accidentally locks himself in the bears’ freezer. His discovery there could have gone a whole hell of a lot worse (art by Jim Pabian):
Are we supposed to believe the bears saw Thumper thawing in a warm broth and didn’t think about saying to hell with it and making stew? I CALL SHENANIGANS.
The second story (art by Ton Strobl) has Thumper coming to terms with his diminutive size, thanks to some psychological help from new, even tinier pals (is Jiminy Cricket in there?):
I imagine this would have subconscious — or conscious — resonance for young readers.
The last entry gets a bit hairier (figuratively). MAN IS BACK IN THE FOREST AND HE’S READY TO KILL AGAIN (Strobl art once more):
With hunters invading the forest, all the woodland critters take refuge chez Thumper. (Hey, wait, Thumper has a house? With a roof, four walls, a table and chairs? Must have been a deleted scene.) Our eponymous coney has his own ideas about courses of action, and hops out to meet the danger head on. In his wandering he extinguishes a carelessly tended fire in his own special way, one left burning by the hunters:
I’m reminded of George Costanza’s lament, after he fled a fire at a child’s birthday party, knocking down old ladies in his panic, that Eric the Clown (played by young Jon Favreau — Iron Man connection!) stomped out the flames with his big red shoe. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Thumper’s act of heroism touches the hearts of the forest rangers (wearing their matching Stan Lee flannels), and they make the forest a wildlife preserve, barring hunters from ever again bloodying it up and orphaning fawns. At this point, millions of children breathe a sigh of relief.
Though no comic could ever dream of capturing the awesome fluidity of early Disney animation, the magic that was so new in its day and still electrifies in a new millennium, the comic does its best to transfer what it can. It’s cute animals in cute situations doing cute things. Children will love this crap until there aren’t any more children. And so what if the last story is a watered-down retread of the harrowing hunting/fire scenes from the film?
So endeth our Thumper post. Sometime today, slam your foot on the floor repeatedly in his honor.