Monday, April 9, 2012

Introducing: Paul Bunyan!

In 1942, Gene Ahern introduced a new character  who would take The Squirrel Cage to new heights of surrealism: Paul Bunyan. At first, Paul had a hard time convincing people he was who he claimed to be. Unfortunately, I don't have many of these pages, but here's one example:

The Little Hitchhiker would be seen in these for awhile, but later he would disappear and the focus would shift completely to Paul and his feats of superhuman ability. Paul originally had a shorter beard, but it grew as the months progressed (how odd). Here are several strips from the Paul Bunyan "feats" period. This first one shows why it may have been so hard for him to keep his beard short...

I don't think the Surgeon General would approve of this next...

Ahern occasionally referenced the war, as in this strip.

This next is one of my favorites, largely for the anvil-inhaling stunt.

And as the months passed, things started to get more and more surreal. This one is fantastic - Bunyan's shadow can't keep up with him!

And what seems an obvious nod to Winsor McCay, creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland and Dream of the Rarebit Fiend. Ahern must have seen those strips when he was young. The last panel would always show the dreamer waking up, often complaining that the dream had been the result of a late night rarebit snack or cheese sandwich. In Paul Bunyan's case, something a tad stronger was needed - though the cheese appears in the dream!

Back to gags with anvils. Try this one at home, kids. I also like the shadow business. And could that possibly be another Winsor McCay nod? Little Nemo was his most famous, but McCay also created Little Sammy Sneeze, which always ended in a similar way to this strip.

I'd like to know what Ahern ate before he went to sleep.