Thursday, June 07, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: Pink Panther
The heyday of making comic strip spin-offs of licensed characters was long gone by the 2000s, but a trickle of them continued. One that tested the waters was the Pink Panther. The character originated in an unusual way, as the animated intro to the 1963 movie The Pink Panther, starring Peter Sellers as the hilariously inept police detective, Inspector Clouseau. The Pink Panther was actually the name of the diamond that figured in the plot of the movie, but was visualized as an actual pink panther in the animated title sequence.
The movie was a big hit, and the animated character migrated to a series of theatrical shorts, and then to a successful Saturday morning cartoon series. The Saturday morning cartoons were very popular ion the 1970s, but by the end of the decade interest had pretty much run its course. A few attempts were made to revive the franchise with lukewarm success. The character remained alive in the popular imagination primarily as a series of TV ads for an insulation company.
Eric and Bill Teitelbaum, creators of the long-running business cartoon Bottom-Liners, were fans of the Pink Panther animated cartoons, and helped spearhead a drive to bring the character to the newspaper comics page. The owners of the franchise worked with the Teitelbaum's syndicate, Tribune Media Services, to come up with a version that was a Sunday-only strip format (though it was generally a single-panel).
The feature debuted on May 29 2005* (as Pink Panther, not 'The') in a very small number of client papers. My guess is that this modest rollout had a couple reasons: first, the character was really only iconic to the 40-and-over crowd, and second, the feature frankly didn't recapture the surreal comedy magic of the old cartoons. The muddy computerized color looked terribly out of place, and the gags were often based on subjects totally foreign to the 'classic' character -- online dating, for example. I also wonder if younger feature editors might have seen the promo material and were mystified why a character that hawks Owens-Corning Fiberglass insulation would merit his own comic strip. Buy an ad if you want in the paper, Owens-Corning!
Eric and Bill gamely kept with the feature, but it never gained any traction. Finally after four years of a completely cold reception the strip was cancelled, last appearing on May 10 2009**.
* Source: mycomicspage.com
** Source: gocomics.com
I always wondered about "Robotman", which existed as a line of toys and what looked like the pilot for a TV series as well as the comic strip, which was totally unrelated to the toys and show. In time the strip evolved into "Monty", and the former title character made his exit in a "Star Trek" parody.