Saturday, September 20, 2008

Examining the Weird Bizarro World of Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist

This being the internet, several other folks have already posted online regarding
Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist, a curious little footnote in the history of comic books and
animated cartoons. I figure I'll take a turn anyway...

One interesting facet about J. Evil Scientist and his family was that the characters were one of the few Hanna-Barbera properties to appear in their own comic book without ever having had a series of cartoons devoted to them.

Gold Key Comics (who published many
Hanna-Barbera cartoon-based comics in the '60's) printed only four issues of the title, releasing one a year just prior to Halloween from 1963 to 1966.

Looking back on the mid-1960's, the ghoulish clan fit right in with assorted monster crazes and popular creepy families like the Addamses and the Munsters on TV.

(◀ Cover to issue #3, 1965.
A couple of excerpted story pages from this issue follow below.)

As the mining of hit sitcoms for animated series scenarios was a tried-and-true method for Hanna-Barbera, it would be natural to assume that had been a key to the creation of 'the Scientists'.

In fact, the characters' history in cartoons and in comics predates those television comedies.
Their origins go back to 1960, when the characters began as 'supporting players' to established H-B stars in a few various 'tryouts' (or pilots) for their own series.

Though unnamed in the cartoon, Mr. and Mrs.
J. Evil Scientist and their son, Junior made their first appearance in a
7-minute animated Snooper & Blabber cartoon,
'Surprised Party', which (according to The
Big Cartoon Database) premiered on TV's
Quick Draw McGraw Show on December 3rd, 1960.

This was shortly followed by another 'guest appearance', opposite Snagglepuss in
'Fraidy Cat Lion'
, which had its premiere on The Yogi Bear Show on February 20th, 1961.

(See video clips at the end of this post!)

In those days, the most likely influence for the creation of the
'J. Evil Scientist' characters would have been the pre-TV
'Addams Family' seen for many years in the Charles Addams
one-panel cartoons that ran in the New Yorker.

Mr. and Mrs. Scientist would turn up a few times in Gold Key-published Hanna-Barbera comic books as supporting characters or as a back-up feature, but in April of 1963 they had their 'official' comics debut in the anthology 'Hanna-Barbera Band-Wagon', ▶
issue #3.

The first issue of their own title appeared just a few months later. ▼

Given that the earlier comics pre-date 'The Munsters' and such on TV, I wonder if part of the 'Scientist' formula had perhaps come from the 'Bizarro' stories running in various Superman comics in those days.

Some of the backward 'good=bad' / 'pretty=ugly' machinations seem similar, though maybe this
over-estimates the popularity and influence the Bizarro World may have had at the time.

(From issue #1, interior page below ▼ ganked from Uncle Ernie's Creature Ink)

Although their characters may have pre-dated the proliferation of monster-family TV sitcoms, certainly by the second or third issue of 'The Weird World of Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist' Hanna-Barbera had caught up to the bandwagon.

The strongest evidence would come in 1964 with the morphing of J. Evil and his crew into
The Flintstone's new neighbors, the Gruesomes.

That the Gruesomes looked slightly less reminiscent of The Addams Family could only work in H-B's favor.

(Cover to issue #2, 1964. ▶
A small excerpt from this issue follows below.)

Adding insult to injury in the demise of the
J. Evil Scientist franchise was Gold Key Comics spinning the concept into their own
non-Hanna-Barbera-owned property,
Little Monsters, a comic book which ran
from 1964 to 1978.

See also:
- An entry at Scott Shaw's
Oddball Comics
'J. Evil Scientist' #1.

Scott identifies the issue's artwork as being by Pete Alvarado and fellow Gold Key workhorse Dick Hall.

- Comics creator Jay Stephens loves him some J. Evil Scientist, but as of this writing a couple of related posts archived at his Monsterama blog are missing their image links.
Perhaps that will change.

- As previously referenced, here's a couple of video clips featuring early cartoon appearances of the
J. Evil Scientist family.
(Catch 'em
while you can)

Below, ▼ Snagglepuss in 'Fraidy-Cat Lion'

- - followed by ▼ Snooper & Blabber in 'Surprised Party'


Lee Ann said...

I remember reading this comic book series, plus (and don't be jealous), I had the Mr. & Mrs. J. Evil Scientist paper dolls.

I don't remember where mom got them, I just remember having them.

rodineisilveira said...

All these materials shown on this topic were drawn by Pete Alvarado.

Firebird said...

Like The Munsters and the Addams Family a mad scientists and their family living their normal lives

Freshly-stirred links