Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Magazine Comics: Cubby Bear
Comfort magazine was one of those really cheaply printed $1-per-year monthly magazines that existed mainly to sell rural housewives alcohol-based cure-alls, and miracle plant seeds to their farmer husbands. For your buck, you got twelve issues worth of badly written fiction, plus columns about anything of interest to the rustics, from female troubles to needlework to animal husbandry.
Apparently from about the late 1910s on, you also got a monthly installment in the charmed life of Cubby Bear, a bear cub who gets involved in little adventures that teach the kiddies all about ethics, the Golden Rule, and how animals don't eat each other but love and cooperate with each other. Well, except worms. Unlike all the other animals in the forest, they can't talk. So it's perfectly okay to eat them.
Originally the Cubby Bear series, which was written by Lena B. Ellingwood, seems to have been in the form of text story, accompanied by a cartoon by Harrison Cady. Later the feature changed into a comic strip. I don't know when that was, but I have a handful of examples here from 1938-39, and by then the art was by the very good artist Enos B. Comstock.
I don't know when Cubby Bear was retired, and can't even figure out when Comfort magazine expired.
The animated Cubby apparently owed nothing to the comic strip, aside from a possibly coincidental name. Either the animated cartoon wasn't big enough to catch Comfort's attention, or Comfort wasn't big enough to make a legal issue out of it. It says he was renamed Brownie Bear for 16mm home distribution but appeared on early TV under both names, so there might have been a lawyer's letter at one point.
The reason he had two names is that When VanBuren went belly up in 1937, all their films became public domain. The home use distributor (Official Films)changed the names and titles of the Van buren films, I guess in a bid to recopyright them, in titles they controlled.
In early television, (Dumont's SMALL FRY CLUB in 1947 to be exact), the old VanBuren cartoons appeared first, and it didn't matter if the prints had the original or recreated titles, they were all PD. The VB package was a staple of inexpensive kid programming for years afterward.