Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cady's Peter Rabbit

Panel from Cady's Peter Rabbit Sunday strip (1922)

Peter Rabbit was the iconic Burgess character. While other artists offered versions of Peter Rabbit (see the one below by the original Boston Globe artist for Little Stories for Bedtime (1913))

it was Cady's version that stuck. As seen below, however, even Cady's would change over time.

Here is the original (1913) approach: waistcoat and bowtie, not particularly cute, uses his paws like hands. He is also white, and would be painted white in full color versions, even though he is supposed to be a brown cottontail.

In a few year (1917) he would be simplified, with larger eyes, but maintained his waistcoat and exaggerated pear-shape. (Jimmy Skunk, for a while at least, would be able to walk around sans clothing).

Things change dramatically in the 1920s. Peter is cuter and he has acquired his distinctive comma-shaped eyes.


During the 1930s, he becomes more slender, with longer ears.

Sometime in the mid 1940s, he loses his suit and gains some pants.

He would retain the single suspender look and gain a little weight during his final decade.

I think it goes without saying that Cady's Peter Rabbit, regardless of the appearance changes over his 40-plus years, was thoroughly anthropomorphized as well as domesticated (a tame white rabbit, not a wild brown one). It also made him a distinct and license-able character (remember the Quaddies).

Indeed, in the 1920s when Cady had the chance to make Peter Rabbit his own, he moved far away from Burgess's natural settings. From 1920 to 1948, Cady wrote and drew a Sunday Peter Rabbit strip that was more or less a domestic comedy in "funny animal drag." Below are a couple of examples from 1922 (click on them to read).

Epilogue: When Harrison Cady retired in the late 1940s, the Peter Rabbit strip continued, drawn by Vince Fago. Fago's early versions (below left) strongly resemble Bugs Bunny; I wonder if readers protested and forced him to return to the Cady version (below right).

[UPDATE: Here's an even earlier (1912) Cady Sunday strip featuring a Peter Rabbit-like character]

Next: Peter Rabbit in Dreamland

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