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365 Reasons to Love Comics #161

Anthropomorphism abounds! I’m going to skip the final rabbit for right now and discuss a walking, talking tiger. He’s grrrrreat. (Urgh, I’m gonna feel that joke in the mornin’…)

Today’s column is part of your complete archive.

6/10/07

161. Tawky Tawny

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Mr. Tawky Tawny is my favorite member of the Marvel family– moreso than Uncle Marvel or even Hoppy the Marvel Bunny. Created by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck, two fantastic creators, Tawny first appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #79, published in 1947, as a tiger who could talk and wanted to get out of the zoo and live a life as an anthropomorphic chap, even donning a suit and hat. That sentence got away from me.

Tawky was a staple of the Captain Marvel comics in the Golden Age, and also reappeared in the 70’s revival. And, dude, check ‘im out! Look at his snazzy threads! He is a classy tiger, of that you can be sure. Yeah, he was played as comic relief, but c’mon, he’s a talking tiger who nobody but Captain Marvel appreciates and understands. It’s a fun little supporting niche that could be worked with.

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(Awesome stuff about these pictures: “Pistols at dawn” with a talking tiger in a sportcoat; Captain Marvel punching a bear; Tawky Tawny in a Marvel outfit; that dude’s hair and trousers.)

Jerry Ordway brought him back Post-Crisis, as a sort of “spiritual guide” for the Marvel Family, and that sort of worked. Jeff Smith is doing something similar with Tawky Tawny in his terrific Shazam! vs. the Monster Society of Evil mini, in which our tiger friend is a mentor/guardian for Billy Batson, and can take on multiple forms: human, tiger, cat, etc.

These approaches to the character are fine, but nothing beats the simply, whimsical Tawny from the Golden Age, who was just a tiger that wanted to live like a man. It has that tone of innocence and fun that the Marvel Family was all about. Of course, modern comics have killed that dead, but what can ya do?

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If I got to write Tawky Tawny in something… well, I’d use the original Golden Age characterization, but I’d also make sure I remembered that he was a tiger. After all, a talking tiger walking around on his hind legs could still bite your face off if he happened to feel like it. Tawky should be fun, yes, but also scary when the time calls for it.

I figured this entry would go longer, but I guess not. Tawky Tawny is cool. I can’t seem to find any appreciations of him online. He’s got one now, though.

8 Comments

A talking-tiger sidekick? Equal parts Shere Khan and Babar?

…wow, the Marvel Family just became, like, x1000 more interesting to me. I now totally understand why people get nervous at any hint of ‘darkening’ this universe. That first cover is so innocently awesome it’s almost scary.

Boy, I hope Judd Winick uses him in Trials soon!

Does the sarcasm come through on this well enough?

Tom Fitzpatrick

June 10, 2007 at 8:11 pm

What about the talking animals in TELLOS whose names escapes me at the moment?

You want a disturbing take on Tawky Tawny? Check out the Astro City issue with Loony Leo. Nothing beats a living cartoon lion being found in a hotel with a dead, 13-year-old hooker.

Black Lutefisk

June 11, 2007 at 7:22 am

I particularly enjoyed the moment towards the end of 52 when Black Adam threatened to feed Sivana to Batson’s talking tiger.

I always wondered if Calvin and Hobbes would have come into existence without Talky Tawny having paved the way?

Kelly Kinstrey

June 12, 2007 at 7:40 am

Hey Bill—loved your blog! I’m glad to see such an enthusiastic comic book lover! I work with a company called 80sTees.com–which sells great 80s novelties. The website has a great collection of superhero t-shirts featuring Captain Marvel, the Hulk, Flash Gordon, Shazam! and the rest of your favorite comic book heroes. Visit 80stees.com and let me know if you are interested in any gear offered on the website! Thanks for your time!

I liked the whimsy of the Golden and Silver Ages.

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