“I’m Betty Boop, and I Approved This Message…”

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(From POPEYE FOR PRESIDENT, 1956)

I scarcely need remind anyone that today is one of the most important days in the history of American presidential campaigns. Yes, today is…well, it’s the day that the new cartoon DAFFY DUCK FOR PRESIDENT (based on a 1997 Chuck Jones book) is released as part of the LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION VOLUME 2.

Yep, in this country, anyone can grow up to run for President – and sometimes it seems like being a cartoon character actually helps. Heck, if you were a Fleischer or Famous Studios character, the chances that you threw your hat into the ring were remarkably high.

Herewith, a look at some of the elections in which at least two cartoon candidates ran, the bottom line on who I would have cast my vote for if I’d had the chance, and a trivia tidbit or two:

Betty Boop versus Mr. Nobody versus Mutt versus Barney Google (1932)
As the country sunk ever deeper into depression, Betty Boop battled the eerie and unlikable Mr. Nobody in BETTY BOOP FOR PRESIDENT, while the funny papers chronicled the campaigns of Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Billy De Beck’s Barney Google, both of whom had run before. This time around, Mutt represented the Lion Tamers and Barney was the nominee of the Square Deal Party. The bottom line: I would have enthusiastically voted for Betty, and in fact, the end of the cartoon indicates that she did indeed become president in 1932. Fun facts: Betty’s victory presaged Grampy’s later election as mayor in THE CANDID CANDIDATE; Barney’s running mate was Fanny Annie Boggs.

Pogo versus Popeye versus Bluto (1956)
Walt Kelly’s practical possum ran for the second time in ’56; the same year, America’s favorite one-eyed sailor ran against his bearded arch-rival in the Famous Studios cartoon POPEYE FOR PRESIDENT. Popeye was the nominee of the Spinach Party, Bluto represented the Blutocratic Party, and it was all eerily prescient of the Bush/Kerry race – the candidates beat the tar out of each other only to find themselves tied on election day. (The tie is broken by Olive, who had herself run in 1948′s OLIVE OYL FOR PRESIDENT.) The bottom line: My heart would have been with Pogo, but I suspect that in the privacy of the voting booth, I would have opted for Popeye’s track record of courage. Fun fact: Popeye and Dwight Eisenhower (whom some reference works say won in 1956, although the cartoon shows Popeye in a victory parade) were both bald, genial military types.

Fremount and Pogo (1960)
If you can find a copy of Walt Kelly’s POGO ELECTION EXTRA collection, grab it – it chronicles the bizarre campaign of Fremount, boy bug, who only knew how to say “Jes’ fine,” and who was forced out in scandal when it was discovered he was a cannibalistic Ant Lion. Veteran candidate Pogo was drafted in his place. The book doesn’t definitively state who won the election, but in the Okefenokee Swamp, only Porkypine voted for Pogo (who voted for Porky). The bottom line: This year, I would have gone Pogo. Fun fact: Twenty years later, the 1980 stop-motion film I GO POGO pitted Pogo against Fremount.

Magilla Gorilla versus Yogi Bear versus Alvin (1964)
Hanna-Barbera squared off two of its characters in a comic book (here’s Scott Shaw’s excellent campaign analysis). And Don Markstein reports that Ross Bagdasarian’s cherished chipmunk also threw his hat in the ring in a Dell comic book that year. The bottom line: I have trouble stomaching Yogi or Magilla in five-minute cartoons, so the idea of four years’ worth of them in the White House is a non-starter – Alvin wins almost by default. Fun fact: I owned a 45-rpm recording of the Yogi Bear theme song as a kid, and can still sing most of it.

Snoopy versus Pogo (1968)
By 1968, Pogo was a positively Stassenesque figure, while Charles Schulz’s beloved beagle was the subject of “Snoopy for President,” one of the Royal Guardsmen’s last, least inspired Snoopy-related songs. The bottom line: Once again, I would have gone with the possum. Fun fact: Both Richard Nixon and Pogo ran in 1968 after having lost in 1960.

Winnie the Pooh versus Howard the Duck (1976)
Pooh ran in a promotion for Sears’ kids’ clothes and was the favorite son of Disneyland; Howard was the candidate of the All Night Party in Steve Gerber and Gene Colan’s classic comic book. The bottom line: Who was Pooh trying to kid? He was born in the UK and therefore ineligible to run. But I would have voted for Howard in any event – I liked his street smarts. Fun fact: Howard’s campaign collapsed when The Daily Bugle published a forged photograph of him taking a bubble bath with his close personal human friend Beverly Switzler.

So ends my history lesson – get out there and vote, everybody!