Al Kilgore’s Scrappy

(Click to enlarge–and please do)

Normally, I would not publish a drawing featuring Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Gertie the Dinosaur, Porky Pig, Woody Woodpecker, Willie Whopper, Farmer Alfalfa, and Katharine “Bo Peep” Hepburn on Scrappyland. But this drawing is special–it’s by Al Kilgore.

And hey, you’ve probably already spotted Scrappy in there, too, down in the lower right-hand corner next to fellow Columbia alum Gerald McBoing Boing–a character my wife loves so much she mentions him in her Twitter profile, which is more than I do for Scrappy.

Al Kilgore with his wife Dolores

Al Kilgore (1927-1983) was a wonderfully gifted cartoonist who mostly worked on projects that weren’t all that widely seen. In the 1960s, he wrote and drew the syndicated Bullwinkle comic strip, as good a dead-tree interpretation of an animated cartoon as anyone has ever done. He also illustrated book covers (including this one), designed the glorious Sons of the Desert escutcheon, drew a monthly panel for a magazine for the floor-covering trade, created paper-doll books featuring Elvis and the Reagan family, and did some of the world’s kindest, most charming caricatures for a syndicated feature and film-fan magazines.

I’m guessing that the drawing above, which I recently acquired after learning about it from Jerry Beck, may have been a preliminary sketch for a piece in such a magazine–conceivably Alan G. Barbour’s Screen Facts or Leonard Maltin’s Film Fan Monthly. It seems likely that it dates to the 1960s. But I don’t know for sure. Come to think of it, I’m not positive that Kilgore ever turned this rough into an inked drawing, though I can’t imagine why he’d produce something so ambitious and not finish it for publication, unless he had second thoughts about copyright issues. (It’s drawn on the back of a giant piece of illustration board preprinted with blueline panels for some comic-book publisher–perhaps Gold Key.)

Another Kilgore crowd scene

Kilgore loved old movies (especially those starring Laurel and Hardy), comics, and related pop-culture artifacts and imbued his work with his passions every chance he got; even the later part of his Bullwinkle run was crowded with allusions and in-jokes that feel deeply personal. So he must have enjoyed the opportunity to draw so many cartoon characters in one place. At least some of the poses are borrowed from elsewhere, but the composition has a Kilgorian feel–he often did crowd scenes of familiar figures–and it would have been even more distinctive in finished form. (Along with everything else, Kilgore was a great inker.)

Kilgore in Captain Celluloid vs. the Film Pirates, a 1966 serial parody with a cast of film buffs

At the time Kilgore would have drawn this, Scrappy was even more forgotten by history than he is today. But Kilgore remembered him, and appears to have had enough reference material handy to draw an excellent, on-model version of the character. I’m so glad their paths crossed.

I’ve owned this Kilgore original for years

If you’d like to see more Kilgore–way more Kilgore–you must check out Drew Friedman’s incredible assemblage of his art. Over on eBay, the people I bought my drawing from have scads of other Kilgore originals for sale, all of them fascinating and some costing as little as $20. And if you happen to know where my sketch might have appeared in completed form, do tell me, won’t you?

Two Columbia kid stars, together again for the first time

4 comments to Al Kilgore’s Scrappy

  • Mark Kausler

    I have the inked version of this rough, Harry. I think it was the center spread in a Screen Facts magazine. I have it on file somewhere, but don’t know where it is right now. I hope you can find it.

  • Harry McCracken

    Thanks, Mark, I should have known you’d know. I’l try to track it down.

    I loved your Cartoon Logic podcast!

  • Debra

    I still have a scrappy doll for sale!

  • rnigma

    I remember seeing ads for Alan Barbour’s “Captain Celluloid” film (“Whirlwind Fist Fights! Explosions!”) And he plugged it in his “Cliffhanger” book. It wasn’t so much a parody, but more a fond pastiche of Republic serials.

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