The Return of the Unexpectedly Bizarre World of GUMBY

Weirder than you think…

Can I tell you a little secret?

It’s not an important one or anything, but, um, well, I’ll just say it:

I have no idea what the hell Gumby is.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I know that he’s a stop-motion claymation legend and that he used to have his own show and that Eddie Murphy gave him a riotous amount of publicity in the ’80s, but I can barely remember watching him when I was a little kid. I remember bits and pieces but very little.

Saturday Night Live: Gumby (Murphy) on David Letterman (Joe Piscopo).

But really, what is he? He’s not a human and I don’t think he’s an alien and he’s not an animal because he has plenty of animal friends. I guess he’s just a walking, talking, shapeshifting, green beanstalk with a misshapen head.

Yet, I love Gumby all the same. I can’t help but smile every time I see him.

This year, we’re gonna see a whole lot more of Art Clokey’s creation too. Papercutz just announced a new comic book and Dynamite will be publishing a retrospective art book. There’s also a new TV show supposedly in the works and perhaps a feature film. It’s all kinda-sorta tied to Gumby’s kinda-sorta 60th anniversary (which was actually a couple years ago).

Anyway, the folks who’ve been flying the Gumby flag the longest these days (since 1983) are the ones who actually make Gumby himself: NJ Croce, one of my favorite toy manufacturers.

These are the people who make the bendable figures I write so much about. (Click here for the latest example, featuring Batman, Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn.)

They have a wide array of Gumby items — Gumby solo, various sets of Gumby and his pals — and just looking at them gives me a sense of quiet giddiness. (Click here for the full line.)

Just check out their retro Gumby and Pokey set. Gumby’s design and color are closer to the original and Pokey is also colored to match the first one. (Neat old-school styling on the packaging too.)

You can find this in the $20 ballpark.

Don’t you think Gumby and Pokey would share a Goody Blue Pop? I do.

But my favorite item is their Many Moods of Gumby boxed set, which features our green hero in a rainbow of hues. I mean, this is just happiness in a box.

Lists for $29.99 but you can find it for closer to $20.

NJ Croce’s Gumbys (Gumbies? Gumbi?) are soft and pliable too, making for easy poseability.

Sigh. So sweet.

Now I know there’s a lot of video out there, so I went — pardon the phrase — poking around the official Gumby website and found some retrospectives.

And let me tell you: This is some seriously wacky shit. I mean, Art Clokey was definitely ahead of his time with the surrealistic, psychedelic animation.

No wonder the kids weaned on The Gumby Show turned into a nation of potheads 10 years later.

I kid. Or maybe not.

Either way, it’s fun to see Gumby endure. Just his mere existence means that there’s still room for nonsensical whimsy in this world.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. “What is Gumby?” It’s right there in the theme song! “He was once a little green ball of clay…” “…he can walk into any book…” “…if you’ve got a heart, then Gumby’s a part of you!” So Gumby is a enchanted piece of your heart, which is actually made from green clay. Obviously!

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