Everyone who ever avidly read comic books has a couple of issues in their past that made a big impression on them; that linger
forever in the memory like a favored childhood toy. They may not be the best comics ever done but they hit you at just the right moment with
ideas and imagery that were at least new to you. Just like a guy never forgets his first girl (or vice-versa), you never quite forget your
first favorite comic book.
For most folks who are around my age — I hit the half-century mark last March — that favored first comic is usually a DC or
Dell from the late fifties/early sixties. My friend Al Vey — the comic book artist with the shortest name in the biz, one letter less
than Jim Lee — always remembered a Dell/Disney special called Donald Duck in MathMagic Land, which came out in 1961. He told me
this some years ago at a party at one of the San Diego Conventions and, by one of those loopy coincidences, we were standing next to Don R.
Christensen when he said it. Don is a lovely, older gent who has been in animation and comics forever, and who was an extremely prolific
funnybook author. When Al said what he said, I immediately turned him around to face Don and made him repeat it. The conversation went as
Al: I was just telling Mark that my favorite comic book when I was growing up was a special called Donald Duck in
Don: (after a moment of reflection) Oh, yes, I wrote that.
I love moments like these: Al was thrilled to meet the man who'd created his favorite comic book. Don was thrilled that someone
Al's age (and in the business) remembered the book all those years and loved it so.
Anyway, it wasn't the first comic I bought or even the hundredth but I always liked Around the World With Huckleberry and his
Friends, a Dell Giant that came out the same year as Al's fave. The book was drawn by Pete Alvarado, Kay Wright, John Carey and Harvey
Eisenberg. Years later, when I began writing comics, I got to work with the first three of these gents and — I have to admit —
there was a giddy little thrill there. It was the same as the thrill I got working in TV with people like Stan Freberg and June Foray, whose
work I vividly recalled loving as a kid. Never got to write a comic drawn by Harvey Eisenberg — he died before I got into the field
— but I did work with and became good buddies with his son, Jerry.
The writers are unknown but, at the time, a lot of these comics were being written by Vic Lockman, Jerry Belson, Del Connell, Lloyd
Turner and several others. Lockman and Don R. Christensen were the most prolific writers but Don tells me he didn't work on this particular
Its contents may seem unremarkable — short stories of various Hanna-Barbera characters of the day, each dispatched to a different
foreign clime. Huckleberry Hound went to Africa, Pixie and Dixie to Switzerland, Yakky Doodle to Australia, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy to
Ireland, Yogi Bear to Egypt, Snagglepuss to Spain, Snooper and Blabber to England, Hokey Wolf to Italy and Quick Draw McGraw to the Sahara
Desert. I can't tell you what I found so delightful about it and I really don't want to oversell it, since the joy of most of the stories was
in their simplicity. But the Hokey Wolf tale, to name one, was about a criminal who was running around Rome, chopping up all the spaghetti so
it was impossible to get long strands. At age 9, that premise and its resolution (the culprit was a messy eater, traumatized by having stained
his clothes, determined to make chopped-up spaghetti popular) struck me as outrageously funny.
I'm not suggesting you seek this comic out. Unless you're nine, it probably won't have the same impact on you...and it also helps
to have a certain fondness for the early H-B characters, as I still manage to retain. I don't like everything that I liked then but somehow,
the early Hanna-Barbera output — the characters primarily voiced by Daws Butler — still strike
me as amusing. And of course, when I devoured the comic books of them, I had Daws's superb voice and comic delivery in my head, and was able to
read the word balloons accordingly. It all made for a comic that has stayed with me for more than forty years. Best twenty-five cents I