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Ask any fans of classic Looney Tunes to list their favorite theatrical shorts and it’s nearly guaranteed that Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953, directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese) will be included in there somewhere. Animation guru/historian Jerry Beck of CartoonBrew.com gave it the #4 slot in his 1994 book, The 50 Greatest Cartoons, and of course it made the cut again in Beck’s 2010 compilation, The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons. And if that still doesn’t convince you and you’re up to the task, try counting how many times Duck Dodgers is mentioned when Jerry asked for feedback in compiling his “100 Greatest” list.
In 1980, Warner Bros produced the first of three sequels, Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24½th Century (again with Jones directing and Maltese writing). And in 2003, Duck Dodgers deservedly got his own TV series, jointly produced by Warner Bros Animation and Cartoon Network.
What many Looney Tunes fans may not know is that there was another sequel — of sorts — produced in 1990. And even though it’s official Warner Bros’ product it’s a bit of a stretch to consider this an official addendum to Duck Dodgers’ “canon.”
It’s a kids’ book — Daffy Duck and Porky Pig in Duck Dodgers in Outer Space — published in 1990 by Longmeadow Press/Sammis Publishing as part of their “Looney Tunes Library.”
The first half of the book is a nearly a direct transcription of the original ’53 Duck Dodgers short, and actually continues the story after Dodgers pushes the Martian off what’s left of Planet X at the end of the original cartoon.
Y’know, as a kid I wondered how long Dodgers and Eager Young Space Cadet were stranded there in space.
What a relief that this book finally answers that question: somehow Bugs Bunny inexplicably arrives in a carrot-shaped rocket-ship to pick them up — nearly smashing into Marvin as he slowly tumbles through outer space.
On the next page, Dodgers decides to take a vacation and visits the “ACME TOURIST BOARD” whilst Cadet admires a poster featuring a female Martian (Marvin in a green wig). But Duty calls (“Juan Duty,” to be specific) and Dodgers is dragged back to HQ kicking and screaming, reluctant to be called upon to save the Earth from destruction by the Martians.
Dodgers and Cadet then fly to Mars and discover that it’s Marvin planning to blow up the Earth because it obstructs his view of Venus. Sound familiar? It should — it’s a gag direct from Hare-Way To The Stars (1958). In fact, almost the entire rest of the book borrows the plot and gags from that same cartoon (only without Bugs).
Then Mars blows up, although the narrative says that the Earth is saved and the galaxy is made safe again. Nevermind that the destruction of Mars would have adverse effects on the Earth and our solar system. But of course it’s only a kids’ book, so it doesn’t matter that cartoon characters don’t die without oxygen in space or that the Earth and other planets in the Milky Way would be thrown wildly out of orbit or get sucked into the sun after Mars explodes.
And in case you’re wondering, the “written by” credit for this book is given to author Gary A. Lewis. There is no mention of Michael Maltese, writer/co-writer for both of the original Looney Tunes shorts this book is based on.
But in spite of my nitpicking, this is still a fun book thanks to the colorful illustrations by Guy Gilchrist. His cartoony artistry captures the style of classic Looney Tunes without straying off-model, and he also adds/hides gags of his own almost on every page. So these books are like reading comic book versions of a handful classic LT shorts that were adapted for publication in the “Looney Tunes Library” book series.
For any interested, there are 6 books in the set — the other titles include:
Ducks of Yore
Nighty Night, Bugs
I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat
Happy Birthday, Bugs
Oh, and if you search for “Looney Tunes Library” on amazon, sellers are listing used copies of these books as “new” for $100-200. But I am pretty sure that if something is more than 20 years old, it is no longer considered “new.”
And we’ll go out on this: open-air cockpit on a spaceship. Scientists, make this happen! If I ever get to go into space, I want to feel space-wind blowing through my hair! And not die from it.