An INSIDE LOOK at one of the most beloved Batman parodies ever…
TwoMorrows’ RetroFan #19 is due Feb. 16 and included are the usual groovy selection of features celebrating pop culture from the days of yore. But the two I dig the most are a history of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse and an interview with the great Caroline Munro, a 13th Dimension favorite.
So, guess what? We’re running EXCLUSIVE EXCERPTS of each! (You can find the Munro interview here.)
Anyway, I loved Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse when I was Young Dan. Not as much as their inspiration, Batman and Robin, mind you, but well enough. My downstairs neighbor Lisa Clark — wherever she may be now — and I used to play the other Dynamic Duo almost every day and watch it in syndication on New York’s WPIX/Channel 11. I insisted on being Courageous Cat because I was pushy like that, but Lisa was cool with it. (Though who knows if she’s been harboring a deep resentment for the last 50 years!)
I’m guessing you had a similar experience if you’re reading this, so dig this EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from Will Murray’s ginchy profile of the animated Caped Crusader and Mouse Wonder:
By WILL MURRAY
The story of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse is a fascinating one. And to my knowledge, it has never been fully told.
Long ago, I interviewed Bob Kane. He described the concept in typically unabashed terms: “Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse were a miniature Batman and Robin. I readapted Batman and Robin.”
“Readapted” is a peculiar word choice, but that was Kane, an inveterate and shameless copyist. He was nothing if not up front about it.
After telling a reporter that Batman was a combination of Zorro, the Shadow, and the Green Hornet, Kane added defensively, “I know it sounds like I’m copying, but everyone saw what I saw. I was re-interpreting. It was my vision, my interpretation.”
Back to Courageous Cat’s origin.
“I was in Hollywood,” Kane told me, “and I was always interested in animation. I met this animated studio head—his name was Singer—and we were out one night and he said, ‘We’re looking for some new stuff. Do you have anything in mind?’ I said, ‘Why don’t we do a cat and a mouse in the kind of stylized cartoony image of Batman and Robin? We’ll have a Catmobile. And the Frog will be one of the villains, like the Penguin, and speak like Edward G. Robinson.’ It was very simple: I used the same format as Batman and Robin.” Kane had started out as a “big-foot” cartoonist, so it was no great leap for him.
Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse debuted as a cartoon included on The Tommy Seven Show on New York’s WABC Channel 7. The first episode was broadcast on Wednesday, September 14, 1960. Titled “Disguise the Limit,” it opened with Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse roaring out of the Cat Cave—its mouth is shaped like a cat’s head—in their fire engine-red Catmobile, which is equipped with supercharger coils 30 years out-of-date at the time the show aired.
Like the Batmobile, the Catmobile has a huge stylized head mounted in front. Instead of a bat’s black head, it’s a black cat-head with green feline eyes. The difference is hard to distinguish. They forgot to draw whiskers.
Title cards dispensed with, the story unfolds with the canine mayor of Empire City dedicating a statue to Courageous Cat. When word reaches notorious criminal “Flat-Face” Frog in his hideout in an
abandoned mine, he decides to ruin the crimefighting cat’s reputation.
Donning a Courageous Cat costume, he robs the pooch-faced Mr. Moneybags and succeeds in putting the blame on Courageous Cat. Then he pillages Fort Knox. Implausibly, considering that his green features are not masked, the Frog convinces Empire City to turn against their beloved hero.
Courageous Cat saves Mr. Moneybags from a giant rolling boulder by shrinking it with his “reducing ray gun,” and in the climax, miniaturizes the Frog so that he can be jailed in a birdcage.
Minute Mouse has very little to do except to comment on the action in an annoyingly squeaky voice.
Bob Kane saw Minute as an inept Robin. “Minute Mouse was his clumsy little helper who always bungled the case just when Courageous Cat was about to solve it,” he wrote.
The voice talent was uncredited, but versatile Dallas “Dal” McKennon is said to have assayed virtually every voice. He was also the voice of Gumby and Archie Andrews. Some sources insist that
music supervisor Johnny Holiday voiced the Frog and others, and he is credited with that role on a Courageous Cat record album, so that’s likely.
That’s just one part of the story. I highly recommend picking up RetroFan #19 for the entire piece. It’ll be available at comics shops and magazine sellers, but you can also order it directly from TwoMorrows. Click here.
— CAROLINE MUNRO Lifts the Veil on a Cult Fave Career — From HAMMER to SINBAD. Click here.
— 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: The Kitschy Kick of FILMATION BATMAN. Click here.