SPACE MOUSEOriginal Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Dell
First Appeared: 1960
Creators: Chase Craig, Carl Fallberg and John Carey
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In 1960, the question on every comic book reader's lips — well, not every set of lips, but at least those of comics readers whose tastes were broad enough to include more than just the few available superheroes of the time, and who paid reasonably close attention to the characters'
sources — was "Who the heck is Space Mouse? It says on the cover that he came from Walter Lantz's studio, but I never heard of a Lantz cartoon about this guy."
Cartoon buff Mark Evanier, who grew up to write comics such as DNAgents, animated TV such as Garfield, and much more, put the question directly to Western Printing & Publishing editor Chase Craig (Magnus, Space Family Robinson), and finally learned the answer.
Craig had been looking over licensed properties Western was putting out through its publishing affiliate, Dell Comics, and reflecting that there was a dearth of properties from Lantz. Warner Bros. supplied Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and many others; Hanna-Barbera supplied Yogi Bear, Pixie & Dixie and lots more; and other licensors, such as Disney, had a host of characters being adapted into their comics. But the only Lantz characters they were doing as comic books at the time were Woody Woodpecker, Chilly Willy and Andy Panda.
He set out to remedy the situation by looking over Lantz's available properties. But he found Maw & Paw, Sugarfoot and Inspector Willoughby uninteresting, and passed on them. But the title Space Mouse, which Lantz had used for a cartoon released September 7, 1959, was intriguing. The idea of a mouse flitting around in outer space sounded like good comic book material. Closer inspection showed the cartoon was nothing but routine chase material, about two mice named Hickory and Dickory, and a cat named Doc. But he decided what the heck, and brought in writer Carl Fallberg (Mickey Mouse, Chip'n'Dale) and artist John Carey (Donald Duck, Yakky Doodle). Together, they outlined the scenario for his space-flitting mouse, which Fallberg and Carey then scripted and drew.
That's because relations between Western and Dell were growing strained, and ownership of original characters, such as Turok and Brothers of the Spear was an important issue in the dispute. Craig didn't need the headache, so he offered it to Lantz on the basis of the cartoon title that had set the fully-original creation in motion. The dispute culminated a couple of years later, with Western leaving Dell and forming its own imprint, Gold Key Comics.
Space Mouse had no personal life — he was Space Mouse all the time, because, as he put it more than once, he liked outer space, the outer the better. He worked for King Size, who resided in Camembert Castle. This was located in the city of Miceapolis, capital of the planet Rodentia. His days were mostly spent in national security activities, such as foiling invasions from the cat planet, Felinia, but there was still time to keep King Size's nephew, Rodney, out of trouble. The name of his one-mouse spaceship was Lunar Schooner.
The comic book was published as Dell's Four Color Comics #1132, dated October, 1960. Four Color was the catch-all title where Dell published licensed properties such as Crusader Rabbit, original material such as Santa Claus Funnies, and practically everything else. Dell devoted one more issue of Four Color to Space Mouse, #1244, and did a #1 issue, dated November, 1962, before the final split. After the split, Gold Key published five issues, the last one dated November, 1963. That was the entirety of Space Mouse's comic book career, unless you count an even more obscure character of that name, which Avon Periodicals (Penny, Space Detective) had done for five issues between 1953 and '54.
Lantz was so pleased with his free property that he made a cartoon about Space Mouse, The Secret Weapon, which was directed by Alex Lovy (Cool Cat, Merlin the Magic Mouse). It was aired on Woody Woodpecker's TV show in 1963. Despite initial hopes, it didn't lead to a series. Lantz never made another Space Mouse cartoon.
But that wasn't the end of him. In 1999, when Lantz had been dead five years, Fox TV (Mad Jack the Pirate, The Tick) aired a new Woody show, in the traditional format of three segments with different characters. Woody's back segments starred Chilly Willy and Space Mouse.