Hitting A Hundred: Characters Celebrating Their Centenary In 2019

by Oliver MacNamee

You’d have to have hidden under a moon rock for the best part of last year if you hadn’t got the memo that Batman will be celebrating his entry into his octogenarian years with the publication of Detective Comics #1000. But, he’s just a kid when you consider the other famous funnies celebrating their centenary in 2019. Here’s a shout out (and I do mean that, as they may have some hearing loss at their age) to those characters from comics and beyond celebrating their big one-oh-oh.

Felix The Cat

Felix The Cat was create in the year of 1919, although his origins – and ownership – are disputed by many. Owned by Pat Sullivan as part of his Sullivan Studios, one of Sullivan’s animators, Otto Messmer, claimed that he created this iconic cat and forerunner for Mickey Mouse, who was partly to play in Felix’s downfall once silent film were eclipsed by the ‘talkies’. Something Mickey was very good at when compared to the muted cat. Currently in the hands of Dreamworks, surely such a big studio as that wouldn’t forget to mark Felix’s birthday in some way, right?

 

Zorro

Another character beating Batsy by 20 years is the masked swordsman known as Zorro. Alright, alright, not necessarily a cartoon or comic book character, but one that is relevant for its inclusion in this list given the part he plays in Batman’s own origin story. Created by writer Johnston McCulley, Zorro was a modern day Robin Hood and, arguably, one of the 20th century’s first ethnic adventure heroes who defended the poor and lower classes from rapacious landowners and corrupt officials. And, like Bruce Wayne, Don Diego de la Vega (originally Don Diego Vega), Zorro’s civilian secret identity, he had the money to finance his exploits being the richest landowner in California when these original stories where set (during the era of Spanish California; 1769–1821).

Debuting in the 1919 novel, The Curse of Capistrano, by the time Zorro made it onto the silver screen he was white-washed and played by Douglas Fairbanks. Although, it was Fairbanks’s portrayal of Zorro that encouraged McCulley to go on and with many more adventures for his creation over the next 4 decades, ensuring his legacy as a character would live on. For a 100 year at least! As long as the tradition of washing in Hollywood, more or less too. 

Olive Oyl

Along with the other cast members of a little comic strip called “Thimble Theatre” that first appeared in The New York Journal on December 19th 1919, was the introduction of Olive Oyl, predating her long-time boyfriend, Popeye, by a decade! Created by E. C. Segar, arrguably Olive Oyl became one of the most iconic female characters of the 20th century – and one forever trapped in the representation of the era as a Roaring 20’s flapper – even though her humble beginning saw her as simply one more member of a rather large family with a completely different boyfriend in the shape of one Harold Hamgravy. Often having to play second fiddle to Popeye for years to come, maybe this is the year Olive Oyl is reassessed and even reinterpreted as something more than the damsel in distress? She’s certainly crying out for a makeover, don’t you think? It would be ridiculous to think that IDW – currently the publishers of Popeye comics – doesn’t do something to mark the occasion. If France’s Asterix Magazine can created an art book for everyone’s favourite diminutive Gaul for his 60th (also celebrated this year) then surely a similar book could be created and published ahead of her birthday in December? Hint, hint.

Happy Birthday, then, to Felix, Zorro and Olive. All looking remarkably good for their ages, don’t you think?

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