10 Comic Books Featuring the One and Only Easter Bunny in a Starring or Supporting Role
1-4. Four Color #103/140/195/220 (Dell, 1946-49)
Walt Kelly is not a name that’s familiar to a lot of comic fans today, and that’s a shame — not only was he the man behind Pogo, the long-running political strip that blazed a trail for the likes of Bloom County and Doonesbury, he was also a talented animator and comic artist. He did a five-year stint at Disney Studios (where he contributed to Fantasia, Dumbo, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) in the 1930s and early ’40s before moving on to Dell Comics, where he created several books based on fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and holiday characters. Four Easter with Mother Goose issues appeared annually in the 1940s, and each one featured stories that brought nursery rhyme characters together with chicks, bunnies and colorful baskets of eggs. In several of the stories, the Easter Bunny is positioned as the Forrest Gump of Fairy Tale Land, interacting with other characters and moving their own stories forward while completing his Easter duties; witness the tale in which he sends Goldilocks into the Three Bears’ House to deliver his eggs because he’s afraid of Papa Bear. In other stories, he’s using his mad egg skills to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, or rushing to duty when Old Mother Hubbard needs help filling her cupboard (no prizes for guessing which food item he chooses). Meanwhile, “The Lost Chick” stars a baby chick who wanders off into the forest to find the Easter Bunny… only to find the unspeakable horrors that dwell within. Well, maybe not, but I’m pretty sure that’s how the story would go if Alan Moore or Garth Ennis were hired to reboot the series for modern audiences.
5. Four Color #175 (Dell, 12/47)
Apparently because Easter wasn’t enough to contain him, the Easter Bunny made a special guest appearance in the Christmas-themed Santa Claus Funnies for entirely logical reasons that have nothing to do with the bunny’s seething envy of the jolly old elf’s higher Q rating, I’m sure. See, it’s Christmastime but the weather around the world is still rather pleasant and summery — a definite problem when you use a sleigh to deliver your goods. So Fuzzychin the Elf enlists the Easter Bunny’s help (who, it should be noted, would be perfectly at home in a perpetual summer and therefore has no dog in this fight, but let’s just go with it for now) to find out what’s going on. Their journey takes them to the house of the “Weatherman,” where they discover the season machine is stuck on “summer.” It’s easily fixed, but then they discover the snow machine can’t work for lack of raw materials. So quicker than you can say “Suck on this, you lactose-intolerant wusses,” Santa and the elves bring the materials needed to blanket the world in snow with the chemical composition of ice cream. And suddenly Kelly’s decision to refocus his career on a polemical opossum makes a lot more sense.
6. The Fox and the Crow #97 (DC, 04-05/66)
Hard as it may be for DC fanboys to believe, there was a time when the company was quite proud of its extensive line of funny-animal books. Some starred original creations (hello, Peter Porkchops!), while others were licensed from the then-popular theatrical shorts. The Fox and the Crow fell into the latter camp, appearing in DC anthology titles and their own long-running series (1952-68) after starring in a string of cartoons produced by the Screen Gems studio. The setup in both the cartoons and the comic book was fairly simple: the streetwise Crow constantly tried to pull scams on the more gullible Fox, with Fox occasionally getting his revenge on Crow. A four-page story in this issue finds Crow coercing the Easter Bunny’s help in his latest scam (it seems this bunny has left Crow off his delivery route for years because he figured Crow would just steal Fox’s eggs anyway, and so Crow threatens to report him to the Easter Bunny Association if he doesn’t play along). In a nutshell, Crow has the Easter Bunny paint him to look like a polka-dot chick and deliver him to Fox’s house, where Crow is free to mess with Fox’s mind and steal his Easter eggs. You would think it takes more than a coat of paint to convince your arch-nemesis you’re actually a magical baby chicken, but those were apparently simpler times.
7. The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera #2 (Marvel, 1978)
Right around the time the children of the ’70s were chuckling at the crazy antics on the Laff-a-Lympics cartoon show, Marvel got into the business of publishing several series starring Hanna-Barbera’s stable of characters. The more popular ones like the Flintstones got their own series, while the Quick Draw McGraws and Augie Doggies of the bunch scored guest-starring roles in the three-issue Funtastic World series. In “Yogi Bear’s Easter Parade” (written by Mark Evanier, later of Groo fame) the H-B gang is called into action when Yogi discovers baskets full of undelivered Easter eggs in Jellystone Park; after a quick call to the Easter Bunny hotline gets him nowhere, our smarter-than-the-average bear decides it’s up to him and his pals to deliver the eggs — and to find out what happened to the bunny who left them behind. As the rest of the critters make their Easter rounds, Snooper and Blabber follow the missing bunny’s trail, which leads them right to the cigar-chomping businessman running the only Easter egg concession stand in town — a man, it should be noted, who bears more than a passing resemblance to George Jetson’s boss, Mr. Spacely. Coincidence? Ye– well, probably.
8. Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew in the Oz-Wonderland War #2 (DC, 02/86)
Then there are the comics so bizarre you marvel at the fact that someone actually convinced someone else to publish them. A comic about a superhero team of funny-animals with names like Captain Carrot and Yankee Poodle? No problem. A mini-series starring that same team fighting alongside the many denizens of two series of classic childrens’ books? Now we’re getting weird. Merging characters and plots from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and L. Frank Baum’s first three Oz books, E. Nelson Bridwell’s O-W War finds Captain Carrot visited by the Cheshire Cat, who asks for the Zoo Crew’s help in defeating the evil Nome King (the mean underground monarch from Ozma of Oz). There’s a lot of plot and a lot of characters to keep track of (far more than you’d expect in a three-issue mini-series), but for our purposes all you need to know here is that at one point in the story Captain Carrot is whisked away to join some of the greatest rabbits in fantasy fiction in battle, including Wonderland’s White Rabbit, the March Hare, Hoppy the Wonder Bunny (from old Captain Marvel books), Wonder Wabbit (don’t ask), Bo Bunny (from DC’s funny-animal books)… and, of course, E.B. himself. The mini-series is almost impossible to find nowadays (and I’ve tried, believe me), but it’s worth seeking out, if only to admire the many ways in which artist Carol Lay effortlessly meshed the styles of John R. Neill and John Tenniel (the original Oz and Wonderland illustrators) into her work.
9. Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special #1 (DC, 01/91)
Why is it, he wondered one day, there are so many more comics starring or featuring Santa Claus than the Easter Bunny? It’s a valid question, since (based on my own unscientific research) the Easter Bunny has not scored nearly as many starring roles or guest appearances in the comics as St. Nick. There’s probably an element of species-ism involved (imagine how silly it would look to have Superman team up with a talking bunny known for pushing sugary foodstuffs… oh, wait), and it might also have something to do with writers having an easier time writing stories about a magical toy factory at the North Pole than chronicling the adventures of an egg-shlepping mammal. At any rate, it’s not hard to imagine the bunny becoming a little resentful of Santa’s popularity, which is probably why Alan Grant and Keith Giffen cast him in this special holiday issue as the client that engages Lobo’s services to liquidate the old elf. “It’s Santa Claus, see… he’s gotten way too big for this britches,” the bunny drunkenly explains. “He’s killing us. How can we compete? What’sh colored eggs or an early shpring compared with tinsel? Turkey? Snow?” Good question, that. Lobo is convinced… not that he ever needs much incentive to sing a “slaying” song tonight.
10. Sugar Buzz #4 (Slave Labor Graphics, 09/98)
As the name suggests, Sugar Buzz was a frenetic, retro-tinged anthology series featuring strips that gloriously skewered/deconstructed the Saturday morning cartoons of the creators’ misspent youth. Over the course of the nine-issue series by Woodrow Phoenix and Ian Carney, readers could thrill to the adventures of geriatric good guys battling the dual threats of evildoers and poor bladder control, an ant that dons special techno-pants to fight crime, or a mayfly that literally sleeps its 24-hour life away thanks to a malfunctioning alarm clock. In the fourth issue, Phoenix and Carney introduced the Holiday Heroes, a team of holiday icons charged with protecting our sacred holidays: Santa (of course), the Easter Bunny, Halloweenie and the Whitsun table lamp (Whitsun being an ancient pagan holiday celebrating the beginning of summer; it was later incorporated into the Christian Pentecost celebration). I’m not entirely sure why Whitsun is symbolized by a table lamp (lamp=light=sunshine, maybe?), but the addition of a domino mask to the lampshade pleases my inner child greatly.