Batfink by Hal Seeger
Still from Batfink

Hal Seeger was director of the animation studio Hal Seeger Productions, best known for the TV cartoon series 'Milton the Monster' (1965-1966), 'Fearless Fly' (1965) and 'Batfink' (1966-1967). He was also active as a comics writer and artist in the 1940s and 1950s, mostly for the 'Betty Boop' comic strip and 'Leave It To Binky'.

Seeger was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1917 into a Jewish family. His father sold stockings. As a child he already loved attending art class and designing posters for the basketball team and school dances. He dropped out of high school when he was 16 years old. Seeger studied at the New York Illustration Studios in the Flat Iron Building at 23rd Street in New York City, where one of his classmates was Bob Kane, the future co-creator of 'Batman' (alongside Bill Finger). Seeger was not a very skilled artist, but his cartoony drawings were perfect for advertising boards in metro stations. Among the products he promoted were Eberhard Faber pencils, Beech-nut chewing gum, Ken-L-Ration diners, White Rose peanut butter...


Betty Boop strip by Bud Counihan and Hal Seeger

One day Seeger's father happened to see a performance of singer and actress Mae Questel, who was already famous as the voice of cartoon character Betty Boop. He talked to her and soon Seeger was allowed to show his artwork to Max and Dave Fleischer, creators of the 'Betty Boop' and 'Popeye' cartoons. The young man was hired instantly as an assistant-writer and artist of Bud Counihan's comic strip adaptation of 'Betty Boop' (1934-1937). At the Fleischer animated studio he worked on various of their cartoons until the studio went bankrupt in 1941. Seeger found a new job as a screenwriter for various films starring African-American musicians such as Cab Calloway and comedians like Dusty Fletcher and Moms Mabley. He was the director of the live-action short film 'Hands Tell the Story' (1950), where a story is told with just the use of human hands.


Comic strip from 1939 by Hal Seeger from the Fleischer Animated News, the in-house organ of the Fleischer Studios

During the late 1940s Seeger briefly ventured into comic books. DC Comics launched the teen humor comic book 'Leave It to Binky' (1948-1954), which was largely written by Seeger and Sheldon Mayer, and drawn by Bob Oksner. For the small comic book company Stanhall Publishing, Seeger created and wrote the funny animal comic about 'Muggy Doo, Boy Cat' (1953), with art by Irving Spector. The character and his side-kick Osh later reappeared in Seeger's animated short 'Boy Pest with Osh' (1963). Seeger also wrote scripts for Stanhall's short-lived humor titles 'Oh, Brother!' (1953), 'The Farmer's Daughter' (1953) and 'G.I. Jane' (1953), which had art by Spector and Bill Williams.


Muggy-Doo #1 (1953, artist unknown)

As television became more popular in the 1950s Seeger established his own animation studio, Hal Seeger Productions. One of his early contributors was Charles Addams, the future creator of 'The Addams Family'. Other people who once worked for Seeger's studio were scriptwriter Nick Meglin, animators Irving Dressler and Milt Stein and director Myron Waldman. Seeger also kept close ties with Max Fleischer and visited the old cartoon veteran regularly in his nursing home. He therefore could get the rights to revive the classic Fleischer character Koko the Clown as an animated TV series: 'Out of the Inkwell' (1961-1962). Despite his efforts the series only ran for one season and Fleischer scorned it for its bad quality. More popular and long-running were the opening end end credits of 'The Porky Pig Show' (1964-1967), based on the original stuttering pig from the Looney Tunes series, who was designed by Friz Freleng.


From the 1966 Milton the Monster comic book (artist unknown)

Seeger also created his own characters. One of his most popular series was 'Milton the Monster' (1965-1968). It starred a Frankenstein-like monster, Milton, and his humorous endeavours with Professor Weirdo. The show inspired the spin-off series, 'Fearless Fly' (1965), which should not be confused with the 1937 British comic strip 'Freddy the Fearless Fly' by Allan Morley. In 1966 the Seeger Studio cashed in on the popularity of the 'Batman' TV series by creating an actual bat as a superhero: 'Batfink' (1966-1967). The show also borrowed elements from other spy series like 'Get Smart' and 'The Green Hornet'. While 'Batfink' had a short run in the United States it became quite popular on the British TV channel ITV, who re-ran the show for decades. As recently as the 2000s it had been broadcast on the BBC's children's channel CBBC too.

In terms of comic adaptations Seeger's animated series received few spin-offs. In 1966 Gold Key Comics published a comic book about 'Milton the Monster and Fearless Fly', which failed to catch on and thus only one issue was created. Its writer and artist are unknown. A comic book series of 'Batfink' was never created, presumably since the character was so similar to Batman and Paul Terry's 'Mighty Mouse' that publishers feared to be sued for plagiarism.

Hal Seeger passed away in 2005, at the age of 87.

Series and books by Hal Seeger in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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