A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can post on a horse, of course, that is of course, unless the horse is the famous… – Mister Ed #1
This is the 1,000th post here on the blog. [Forlorn solitary noisemaker blows.] In lieu of confetti and streamers, I had envisioned — as the countup took place over the last couple of weeks — that I’d devote this output milestone to something truly worthwhile, a comic that defined the medium and transcended the artificial boundary between “funnies” and “serious literature.” Something like Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Or Alan Moore’s and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell. I was actually just about ready to pull the trigger on the latter, and had scribbled down some notes on what surely would have been the finest bit of comic book criticism ever to grace the World Wide Web concerning Moore’s Jack the Ripper opus.
Then I realized that the 1,000 marker was one of quantity, not quality. And I thought back to much of the dreck that’s been covered here, and the all-too-frequent failure on my part to say anything of value about, well, anything. Odd, middling material seemed appropriate. So, seeing as I already had scanned selections from a Mister Ed comic, a talking horse book it is.
The Mister Ed premise really needs no setup, but, in the unlikely event that there are novitiates to this TV classic out there, here’s the Cliff Notes: Wilbur Post (played by Alan Young), an architect, owned a horse named Mister Ed, who had the power of speech for reasons unknown. (Lightning strike? Mutant? Aliens? Freemasons?) Ed (a Palomino, which wasn’t obvious in black and white) would only talk to Wilbur, which got the poor guy into any number of sticky situations with his wife, friends and neighbors. The show ran for six seasons from 1961-66, and along the way Ed ran up against no lesser stars than Clint Eastwood and Mae West.
There. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and the theme song so permeated the American pop consciousness that, though I never once saw the show growing up, I still knew the tune and the words. Go figure.
Gold Key published six issues of their Mister Ed comic book (Dell also produced one under their Four Color banner), and they happily kept the horseshoe font on the logo. That’s about all that carries over, though. Here in the first installment, the art on all the Mister Ed stories (there’s a Lucky the Dog one as well) is provided by Joe Certa, who’s perhaps best known to comic audiences for drawing some of the most painful J’onn J’onzz House of Mystery stories. The good news is that his art plays much better when it’s not cursed by the orange sidekick blight known as Zook (J’onn’s nude, antennaed friend with — the less said the better). The bad news is that there’s no bad news. There’s nothing in Mister Ed’s comic misadventures to really get worked up over, for better or for worse. It’s middling material aimed at kids, long form versions of what could be found throughout the Sunday funnies.
That said, Ed is still imperiling poor Wilbur’s social and physical well-being in these pages as well, so if you’re a fan of that, you get your money’s worth. Here he is getting his owner into hot water (as they’re on their way to a barbershop quartet engagement, hence the mustache) and out of it all in three panels:
Here he is cracking wise on the Posts’ stuck up, well-to-do neighbor, Roger Addison:
Cue the canned laughter!
Maybe the “best” of the stories here — if we can truly use that term — is one where Ed’s big mouth puts himself and Wilbur in a man-and-horse versus machine matchup with a bellicose general and his tank. Shades of John Henry, the Steel-Drivin’ Man:
Do Wilbur and Ed triumph over the tank? Does Ed die in the process and get sent to the glue factory? You’ll have to read the comic to find out.
There’s an odd dynamic at play here, where the magic of seeing a horse talk (which still has its charm, even fifty years on) gets neutralized on newsprint. Talking animals are so common in comics, there’s little to separate Ed from the pack. There’s no peanut butter or strings working his lips? Then what’s the hook? Without that goofy Ed voice, it’s perhaps no surprise that the comic failed to find much of an audience.
In that vein, and in a bit of a twist, the most effective of the Ed tales is this silent, one-page short that comes towards the end of the book:
There you go: Mister Ed. The horse, the myth, the legend — the comic book. Was there a Francis the Talking Mule comic? (Answer: Yes.) Maybe that will be post #2,000.