Bucky Bug by Carl Buettner
Bucky Bug (Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #50, 1944) - © Disney

Carl Buettner was an American comics artist who worked in two vastly different genres. At the start of his career he drew saucy erotic cartoons for pulp magazines. Later he worked on various children's comics based on popular cartoon characters, most notably launching the comic book careers of Disney's 'Li'l Bad Wolf', 'Bucky Bug' and 'Pinocchio', and setting the artistic standard for comic stories with Warner Bros' 'Bugs Bunny' and 'Porky Pig'.

Carl George Buettner was born in 1903 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the son of German-American immigrants. Later in his career he would occasionally use the suffix "Von" in his name, but this was merely a joke as this wasn't part of his original name. Buettner's father was a factory machinist at the North Star Shoe Company. From an early age the boy showed talent in writing and drawing. In 1919 he won a free correspondence course in lettering at the Federal Schools of Minneapolis, which he followed up with other courses in art, graphics and cartooning. By 1925 he was considered excellent enough to be hired as a teacher at the very school where he had studied.

Hooey #2, 1934Saucy Stories #2, 1936
Hooey #2, 1934 and Saucy Stories #2, 1936

In 1926 Buettner became illustrator for Fawcett Publications in Robbinsdale near Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he drew cartoons and illustrations for several of their joke books and magazines, including 'Captain Billys Whiz Bang', 'Smokehouse Poetry', 'Jim Jam Jems' and 'Hooey'. In 1934 he moved to New York City where he worked as an art editor for one of Fawcett's magazines. Among his colleagues were Norman Saunders, Allen Anderson and Ralph Carlson. Many of his cartoons were naughty and featured erotic innuendo. On the side he secretly drew similar risqué cartoons for pulp books of rival company Donenfeld and even more explicit drawings for other companies like Paul Sampliner ('Saucy Stories') and Warren Angel ('Saucy Movie Tales'). Most were unsigned, though some of them can be identified by his initials: CB or the pseudonym "Carl Blaine". The name "Blaine" referred to his colleague Allen Saunders' middle name.

Mortimer and Charlie (12 November 1939)
Mortimer and Charlie (12 November 1939)

In 1937 Buettner ended his brief but memorable entry in sex literature and moved to California. There he made the most contrasting career move possible: he joined the Walt Disney Studios! Buettner only stayed for a year, after which he joined the animation studios of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising. In 1938 he married and met famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen who had a double act with his puppets Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Buettner and Chase Craig joined forces to succeed Ben Batsford on the newspaper comic strip based on Bergen's creations, called 'Mortimer and Charlie' (October 1939-1940). The gentlemen also made a short-lived newspaper comic named 'Hollywood Hams' in the Los Angeles Daily News.

Joe Carioca, by Carl Buettner
Joe Carioca - The Carnival King (Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #27, 1942) - © Disney

In 1942 Buettner and Craig joined Western Publishing, where Buettner eventually became art director. As editor, Buettner acted as a mentor to artists like Walt Kelly who'd later become world famous as the creator of 'Pogo' (1948-1973). He was one of the early artists for Western's new line of Disney comic books, which appeared under the Dell Comics imprint. Dell's 'Walt Disney's Comics and Stories' had commenced publication in 1940, but the early issues contained only reprints of the newspaper strips by Al Taliaferro and Floyd Gottfredson. Original material popped up in the issues from September 1942 onwards, with contributions by Buettner, Kelly and Carl Barks. Buettner's first published story ('The Carnival King', 1942) starred the parrot Joe Carioca from the animated features 'Saludos Amigos' (1942) and 'The Three Caballeros' (1943). While Carioca didn't really catch on worldwide, he became a major star in the Brazilian production of Disney comics, where the character even got his own magazine. New Carioca stories are also produced in The Netherlands.

Bucky Bug by Carl Buettner
Bucky Bug (Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #42, 1944) - © Disney

Between 1944 and 1946, Buettner wrote and drew the first comic book stories with 'Bucky Bug'. The character was created by Earl Duvall and Al Taliaferro for the 'Silly Symphonies' newspaper Sunday page in 1932, and later also appeared in the animated short 'Bugs in Love' (1932). Buettner's first story in 'Walt Disney's Comics and Stories' #40 introduced the colony of red ants and their king, who have remained the arch enemies of the Junkville inhabitants to this day. Later regular artists for the feature were Vivie Risto, George Waiss and Ralph Heimdahl. While the US story production of 'Bucky Bug' came to an end in 1950, regular new adventures about the little insect society are produced in the Netherlands since 1978.


First appearance of the Li'l Bad Wolf (Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #52, 1945) - © Disney

Buettner's most notable contribution to the Disney universe is the (graphical) creation of 'The Li'l Bad Wolf'. The little wolf is the goody two-shoes (and vegetarian) son of 'The Big Bad Wolf', the classic fairy tale character who had appeared in at least four animated shorts in Disney's 'Silly Symphonies' series: 'The Three Little Pigs' (1933), 'The Big Bad Wolf' (1934), 'Three Little Wolves' (1936) and 'The Practical Pig' (1939). 'The Three Little Pigs' had a tremendous influence on popular culture. Virtually all adaptations of the classic fairy tale nowadays follow the family friendly Disney version in which the pigs are not only individualized, but none of them get eaten by the wolf either. It also inspired adaptations by other cartoon studios. Tex Avery directed 'The Blitz Wolf' (1942) at MGM, while Friz Freleng's 'Pigs In A Polka' (1943), Bob McKimson's 'The Windblown Hare' (1949) and Friz Freleng's 'Three Little Bops' (1957) parodied the same fairy tale at Warners.


Zeke telling his son about his childhood heroics (Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #65, 1946) - © Disney

The original comics appearances in Ted Osborne and Al Taliaferro's 'Silly Symphonies' Sunday feature followed the cartoon setting rather faithfully. For the comic books, the concept was expanded with the introduction of the wolf's son. In the animated short 'Three Little Wolves' (1936) the Big Bad Wolf had three sons, each just as evil as their dad. Scriptwriter Chase Craig reduced these three to just one son and named him Li'l Bad Wolf. The character's personality was changed as well. The little wolf is far more intelligent, honest and friendly than his father. He doesn't want to harm the pigs, who are his best friends, and often helps and saves them. The first comic book story was written by Dorothy Strebe and illustrated by Carl Buettner in 'Walt Disney's Comics & Stories' #52 of January 1945. Buettner continued to draw (and write?) the feature until April 1946, along the way giving the big bad wolf a name: Zeke. After Buettner, other artists took over, most notably Gil Turner. European Disney licensees have been producing regular new stories since the 1950s. Yet again the Netherlands stand out with their production of over 600 stories since 1955.

Pinocchio, by Carl Buettner
Pinocchio (Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #63, 1945) - © Disney

Buettner furthermore illustrated comics and covers for comic books starring characters from the Disney films 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' (1937), 'Pinocchio' (1940), 'Dumbo' (1941) and 'Bambi' (1942). Buettner remained involved in Western's production of Disney comics until 1952, although in later years only as an inker or cover artist. From 1943 on, the German-American artist was also involved with a newspaper comic strip based on Tex Avery's 'Bugs Bunny' (1944-1947), while drawing comic book stories starring other Warner Brothers characters for Western's 'Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Comics' as well. While previous Looney Tunes comics artists like Ed Volke, Veve Risto, Chase Craig, Roger Armstrong and Tom McKimson drew their characters in a rather crude way, Buettner raised the bar. His artwork was not only better, but he also expected them to maintain his artistic level. This benefited Dell's Warner Brothers comic books considerably.

Bugs Bunny by Carl Buettner
Dell's Four Color #33 (December 1943) featured only Buettner 'Bugs Bunny' stories

Carl Buettner left his job as art director in 1947, but continued to write, edit and illustrate for the Little Golden Books line, a joint children's book venture of Western Publishing and Simon & Shuster. He served as the collection's editor from 1950 to 1955. He worked on books starring Walter Lantz's 'Woody Woodpecker', Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'Tarzan', and installments based on celebrities like Bozo the Clown and the western stars Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. He also wrote installments such as 'Donald Duck Private Eye' (1961). Carl Buettner passed away on 21 January 1965 at the age of 62.


Porky Pig (Four Color #78, August 1945)

Inducks entry
Carl Buettner on pulpartists.com
Carl Buettner on Ger Apeldoorn's blog

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