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Foggy Ruins of Time – Where Did Etta Candy’s “Woo Woo” Come From?

This is the first in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of pieces giving you the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.”

It’s basically like Meta-Messages, except that this is about references in old comics that have nothing to do with other comics, but rather the popular culture of the time. To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal). Here is an archive of all the Foggy Ruins of Time installments so far.

Today, we look at the impressively wide influence Hugh Herbert had upon popular culture, including Wonder Woman’s sidekick, Etta Candy…

First of all, here is Wonder Woman’s obese sidekick, Etta Candy, from various scenes in Wonder Woman #1 and 2.

As you can see, Etta was noted by her incessant “woo woo.”

This was a reference, however indirect, to the great vaudeville comedian Hugh Herbert.

Herbert’s routine involved a bit where he would often emit the noise “hoo hoo” to punctuate a gag.

Here he is doing the bit in an old serial…

(He’s trying to trick the fellow next to him to use an exploding cigar, and he’s just gotten off the phone – he is saying “Wrong number, wrong number, hoo hoo.”)

When Daffy Duck first began appearing in serials, he used Herbert’s “hoo hoo,” as well, only Mel Blanc exaggerated it, making it a more aggressive “hoo hoo!” (Blanc is on the record as saying it was Herbert he was basing it on).

In the above cartoon, from 1938, Daffy is looking for work as an actor.

“Are you looking for a duck actor? Hoo hoo!”

However, ALSO during the 1930s, Curly Howard of the Three Stooges ALSO adopted Herbert’s trademark “hoo hoo,” only Curly adapted it to “woo woo,” and used it differently, more as a manic sound effect.

Here he is going all out with the “WOO WOO woo woo woo woo woo woo woo”…

“Woo woo” became SO popular that Herbert himself actually changed HIS bit in 1940 to now say “woo woo” instead of “hoo hoo.”

Etta Candy debuted in late 1941, so it is interesting to note if William Moulton Marston was basing her “woo woo” on Herbert, or on Curly.

From the usage, it appears as though it is Herbert, but even if it was Curly, it would still, in effect, be Herbert, ya know?

15 Comments

Great idea for a new column!

Yeah, I agree. I’d never heard of Herbert. I look forward to future columns!

Speaking of meta-messages, there was a pretty good one in the most recent issue of Mighty Avengers regarding “Reality Punches.”

This is awesome! I’ll be putting this in my news feed.

Wow I only now get the Understudy Seinfeld references. Jerry’s girlfriend crying at her shoelaces is now so much funnier!

Oh Cronin, you Dylan-quoting such and such.

This is an awesome new feature. I cannot get enough of stuff like this.

@jazzbo: Ya, my first thought at reading it was the meta-messages column.

Why is college closing in October?

Why do I get the feeling that even with the missing panels that comic would still make little sense.

I love contextual things like this, references that are so outdate that they don’t even seem like references. I was reading all of the panels to try and figure out what might be the thing that you were noting, and I never guessed it was “woo woo” I thought it was the baseball game on the radio.

More Meta-Messages Please!

Also, this is another great topic for an ongoing column! Thanks for all the kool stuff Brian!
DFTBA

This is fascinating – great column Brian. And in a nice twist – Gail Simone had Etta Candy saying ‘woo woo!’ in Wonder Woman #40 this week – and without you the reference would have been lost on me.

Great idea for a new column. I never knew Curly’s woo woo and Daffy’s woo woo both stemmed from another source.

thesnappysneezer

January 31, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Ah Fi-Fi was my mother’s name…

Hugh Herbert was in the great Wheeler & Woolsey film Diplomaniacs, I strongly suggest everyone go and watch the classic as all performers in it are at the top of their game.

Hugh Herbert had his own series of shorts at Columbia but they weren’t the best examples of his work yet some had small charms I remember one with Dudley Dickerson that seemed to stand out, can’t recall the name.

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