SF in all the Wrong Places -- The Bungle Family
by(c) 2016, Arthur L. Lortie
Blog : Amazing Stories
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Even WALKING DEAD characters read dystopian Wells to lift their spirits.

It didn't take long for the comic strip folk to catch up with H. G. Wells in the 1930's, though, strangely, it came in stages.

Early, there had been was a quick "thanks, guy!" sourced from the pulps with BUCK ROGERS re-working some ideas from THE SLEEPER AWAKES before that character goes planet hopping. Then the comic strip Powers-That-Be decided THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAUwas fair game for FLASH GORDON (Lion Men and Tiger Men and Bear Men! Oh my!).

BRICK BRADFORD and ALLEY OOP were the strips that would later become the most Wellsian, but in the mid-30's, Brick was content to play Alan Quatermaine in Edgar Rice Burroughs's Pellucidar and Oop's creator was happy drawing dinosaurs and dropping puns. Both creations inevitably bowed, kissed the ring of the Master and traded in the family sedan for a shinier Chrono-Coupe.

But, unexpectedly, in 1935, THE TIME MACHINE was rediscovered and became the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread! Heroes galore began to go time hopping via methods that Ebenezer Scrooge nor any Connecticut Yankee hadn't even 'dreamed' of. Maybe we can thank Hugo Gernsback and his magazine AMAZING STORIES for this. Or maybe it was H. G. himself whose dystopian THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME recently hit the best seller's list and put him back on the A-list at parties.

First out of the gate was artist Adolphe Barreaux and The Magic Crystal of History. It debuted in one of the first comic books, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's National Allied Publications' NEW FUN COMICS #1 (February, 1935). Wells' titular device had been powered by crystals, and since that still seemed a reasonable theory in the naïve 30's, our brother-sister act, Bobby and Binks -- who lacked the proper engineering skills to actually build a machine -- simply grab an unattended crystal in a creepy abandoned house. The precocious gem, as they are apt to do, immediately began transporting them to every important event in history. (Even crystals recognize the importance of education!) The series is laid out episodically as a Sunday strip and was likely offered in syndication to newspapers first.

Barreaux thought this was a great idea and wasn't content to have just a single time travel strip running, so beginning July 5, 1935, he syndicated THE ENCHANTED STONE OF TIME. A second pair of 20th century tykes, Mickey and Meg, simply had to rub yet another crystal to visit the age of dinosaurs. There they teamed up with a stone age boy, Sun, to battle cannibals, saber toothed tigers along with the giant lizards. This probably should have been a LOST WORLD story a la Conan Doyle, but there's only a couple of letters separating the Mesozoic and Mesolithic Ages -- and, besides, what's a few million years amongst friends?

BRICK BRADFORD's creators, Clarence Gray and William Ritt, were running out of subterranean lost worlds. As a change of pace, they began a new series called THE TIME TOP on April 21, 1935 that ran in tandem with BRICK. In this one, Dr. Horatio Southern is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the Doctor Zarkov School of Mad Scientists, and can whip up futuristic inventions in his secret lab on a whim. He easily manages to turn an apparent hot air balloon into a time machine with little effort or funding. But as well-versed as he is in cutting edge physics and high tech wizardry, he is equally unaware of even the most basic safety features or the inquisitive tendencies of bored young'uns. Thus, his daughter April and her boy toy Alan (the floozie never even got his last name!) easily creep aboard the unguarded and unlocked Top, push a lever just begging to be pushed, and off they go to Atlantis!

In December, publisher Wheeler-Nicholson was at it again, this time in NEW COMICS #1 (apparently publishing wasn't nearly as much 'FUN' the second time around). THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF MISTER WEED by Sheldon Mayer, also originally offered up as a syndicated strip, is included. Inventor Uriah Mowcher builds a time sphere that he proclaims can "take one back to any year in history". Despite this, Mowcher and Weed follow the established Buck Rogers precedent of only going forward and back in increments of 100 years. Destination - 1835!

And then there's THE BUNGLE FAMILY, a daily and Sunday gag-a-day strip that historian Bill Blackbeard called "the finest, most inventive and socially critical of the family strips". Having already been around for nearly two decades -- it launched as HOME, SWEET HOME back in 1918 -- it was originally a semi-autobiographical story of apartment life by creator Harry J. Tuthill. The central character, George Bungle, saw his family grow through the years to include a wife and daughter.

The strip also holds the distinction as probably only the second franchise brought back by a campaign from its fans after its creator or distributor tired of it -- the first being Arthur Conan Doyle's SHERLOCK HOLMES. The Bungles ceased on August 1, 1942, but Tuthill was forced to revive it on May 17, 1943, finally ending it permanently two years later on June 2, 1945 when he retired at age 59.

But in 1935, this humor strip decided to appropriate a Wellsian topic without any massive exposition presented to its readers. Though the Bungles would eventually use other storylines featuring science fictional tropes, this was the first.

The story, which overlapped with others in a continuous narrative, ran approximately July 8, 1935 to October 12, 1935. Our Bungling hero boards Count Salamander's rocket and, after "recharging the batteries of the potentiometer of the infra-red ray", accidentally hits the launch button. I'm not sure if he found a wormhole or did that "flying counter-clockwise around the earth super-fast" thing but he soon finds himself in the year 7324 -- an odd 5389 years in the future, boldly defying The Buck Rogers Time Traveling Act of 1929. What remains of the USA is ruled by Chloe XIV and men are fighting for the right to vote in a feminist society. After lots of commentary on reverse sexism, George joins forces with Dominacker the Great, the self-proclaimed Mogul of Mexico, and head back to George's own time, making a brief stop in 1955. Its an alternate future, where George has been missing for 20 years. Those flying cars we were all promised are everywhere, of course.

And then he comes home, where, naturally, nobody believes him.


None of the comic book reprints of THE BUNGLE FAMILY includes any part of this story. The comics concentrated on Sunday reprints, obviously because each was a stand-alone feature:

Famous Funnies (Eastern Color) #12 (July 1935) - #37 (August 1937)
Feature Funnies / Comics (Quality Comics) #1 (October 1937) - #31 (April 1940)
Big Shot Comics (Columbia) #1 (May 1940) - #30 (December 1942)
Comics (Houghton Mifflin Company) (1973)
The Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics (Harry N Abrams) (1977)
Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969 (Harry N. Abrams) (2006)

Its all on Mediafire at http://www.mediafire.com/download/q340vy5afr9q8j4/Bungle_Family_Rev_1.rar