Thursday, 23 September 2010
BONGO, BIPPO AND MR. CHERRY (1949)
When Britain's Mickey Mouse comics magazine's page count was increased to 12 from 8 with no. 499 (dated Sept. 3rd, 1949), one of the new strips added to the roster was 'Bongo, Bippo and Mr. Cherry' (above scan from no. 499). This humorous British-made b&w strip, which entailed a gag-week format within a loose continuity over the weeks, featured the Disney character Bongo the bear in the company of two traveling showmen. It was however shortlived as such. By early 1950, the strip's cast had been dispersed into two separate strips. While the two human characters gained their own two-row strip titled ''The Big Top featuring Mr Cherry & Bippo The Clown' in the central color pages, Bongo began his solo b&w strip career as 'Bongo - The Wonder Bear' (the below scan is from no. 508, dated Jan. 7, 1950):
The reason for the break-up is perhaps explained in the concluding episodes of the 'Bongo, Bippo and Mr. Cherry' strip, but I don't have those issues unfortunately. Perhaps the editors thought that putting Bongo in the company of showmen was incompatible with the character's authentic origin: Bongo was a run-away bear from the circus in the animation movie Fun and Fancy Free (1947) where he had debutted (his segment was based on a story by nobel-winnner author Sinclair Lewis).
While 'The Big Top' was clearly the work of Basil Reynolds, the artist(s?) behind 'Bongo, Bippo and Mr. Cherry' and 'Bongo - The Wonder Bear' is not determined. However, Reynolds appears to have a hand in at least some strips of 'Bongo - The Wonder Bear' as in the below example from no. 538 (dated Sept. 3rd, 1950) which betrays his lettering:
'Bongo - The Wonder Bear' would cease in 1951, the last strip appearing in no. 574.
In the US, Bongo had two one-shot comics in 1956 and 1958, but his comics appearances became scant in the 1960s and 1970s. He hasn't been seen since 1979.
As a bonus, I close this post with a scan of a cover of a Turkish comics magazine from 1963 which mark the only solo cover appearance of Bongo anywhere in the world. The cover illustration is actually a reworking of the splash panel of a comics of American origin: