Tuesday
Sep112012

Writing the Mouse

Back in the eighties I began to grow weary of my chores as comic strip writer of the Mickey Mouse Comic Strip. The strip was distributed by King Features Syndicate as it had been for decades. However, by the late eighties the comic strip business was truly in decline and Mickey Mouse along with many other venerable strips was holding on by a thread.

King Features Syndicate had degreed the market place wanted what they termed, “Gag-a-Day” comic strips. How they came up with this idea nobody knows. It was pretty clear nothing was really selling in the comic strip business. There was one exception, however. A brilliant little strip created by cartoonist, Bill Waterson was doing gangbusters. Calvin and Hobbs seemed to prove the marketplace wrong. However, not everybody was Bill Waterson and not every strip was Calvin and Hobbs.

It spite of the obvious decline in sales and marketability we managed to convince King Features to allow us one last shot at doing a Mickey Mouse continuity. Although we pitched a number of new ideas in the hopes of getting a Mickey Mouse reboot, all our approaches were declined for one reason or another. In one last gasp, we convinced King Features to allow a simple three to four week narrative in the hopes of bringing back the Mickey Mouse I knew as a kid. Eventually, King Features relented and I was able to pen several Mickey stories in the grand tradition of Floyd Gottfredson and Bill Walsh. These were the types of stories I had read as a kid and had grown to love. If Mickey Mouse were to die as a syndicated comic strip then at least allow the famous mouse to go out with a bang.

Over the years the Mickey strip had grown old and stodgy. The strip was not funny, nor was it allowed to be funny. With scrappy little Mickey reduced to an animated Ozzie Nelson it was no wonder the strip was on its last legs. When I began writing the series of Mickey stories with the mouse as a scrappy adventurer much like Indiana Jones, suddenly new life had been breathed back into the dying comic strip.

Sadly, there’s no happy ending here. The Mickey Mouse comic strip eventually came to an end sometime in the early nineties. I don’t think anybody even noticed the strip was no longer being published. Times had changed and media had seen a revolution. Yet, I think Mickey could have survived the revolution had we only had creative leadership that would allow us to take the mouse in a bold new direction. Personally, I think Mickey would have survived. However, this is something we’ll probably never know.

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