McSnurtle makes a lightning-fast costume change. Artist: Martin Naydel.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: All-American/DC Comics
First Appeared: 1944
Creator: Martin Naydel
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Storekeeper Merton McSnurtle was the last person you'd suspect of leading a double life — a turtle by species, he could never …

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… muster up the energy. But little did anyone guess, McSnurtle was equipped with an Automatic Conscience. Whenever evildoers were afoot in Zooville, it would nag him until he set aside his shell, donned a near-duplicate of The Flash's costume, and assumed the identity of The Terrific Whatzit. McSnurtle the Turtle was DC Comics' first funny animal superhero.

(He was actually published by Max Gaines's All-American Publications, which had recently split off from DC. But DC re-absorbed it in 1945, buying most of Gaines's comics properties and leaving him free to go off and found EC Comics.)

The conscience, the removable shell, and the super powers (a variety, but with an emphasis on super speed) were all bestowed upon McSnurtle by Prince Highness (governor and director of all the good on Earth) and Prince Lowness (boss an' big shot of all de evil on Oith). They did it to settle a bet as to whether a completely honest person would be corrupted by power; and McSnurtle, far too lazy to step off the straight and narrow, was the only completely honest person they found.

McSnurtle was the creation of cartoonist Martin Naydel — not to be confused with Martin Nodell, who created Green Lantern. Naydel was a frequent contributor to DC's funny animal line, as well their westerns, war comics and human-shaped superheroes, such as The Justice Society of America. He was the brother of editor Larry Nadle, although they chose to spell their names differently. Naydel went on to create Jumble, a syndicated word puzzle that still appears in many daily newspapers.

McSnurtle debuted in Funny Stuff #1 (Summer, 1944), along with The Three Mouseketeers, J. Rufus Lion and Blackie Bear. The big difference between McSnurtle and those other features is, they were still there after McSnurtle was gone. The Terrific Whatzit fought crime and/or evil, usually in the hindmost story slot of the magazine, for only 17 issues of Funny Stuff, and never once appeared on the cover (tho his non-super self did turn up there once, in the third issue). Starting in #18 (February, 1947), that slot was occupied by The Dodo & the Frog; and at the same time, Bulldog Drumhead, who also started in #1, was replaced by a second dose of Dodo & Frog. They went on to become the main stars of Funny Stuff (monopolizing the covers) while McSnurtle (and Bulldog) never appeared in its pages again.

The name "McSnurtle the Turtle" turned up in other DC funny animal stories from time to time during the 1940s and '50s, but they must have been Merton's relatives. "The" McSnurtle wasn't seen again until 1982, when he made a guest appearance with Captain Carrot & His Amazing Zoo Crew, which his nephew was a member of.

Nowadays, DC barely even acknowledges the existence of its funny animal characters. Although interest in this particular one is much higher than one would think, considering how little impact he made back in the 1940s, there's not much chance of seeing him again soon.


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Text ©2001-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DC Comics.