Thursday, August 7, 2014

"The Creator of Bugs Bunny" Comes to Midway Mall – August 1969

Here's the ad promoting the 1969 appearance by Les Barker, "Creator of the World Famous Cartoon Strip Bugs Bunny" from August 11 thru 16 at the Midway Mall in Elyria.

It looks like Bugs is saying, "Ehhh, who is dis guy anyway? Never hoid of him!"

August 20, 1960 article
from the Ottawa Citizen
It's not surprising that the wascally wabbit looks confused. What is this guy's relationship to Bugs Bunny?

I'm still not sure that there is one. But strangely enough, Barker had enough fame and accomplishments as a comic book artist that he didn't really need it.

According to this Wiki entry, Les Barker's real name was Leo Bachle. He was a talented Canadian comic book artist, best known for his World War II hero character Johnny Canuck. Johnny Canuck – with no super powers at all – battled secret agents and fought for democracy, becoming an important national symbol credited with helping the war effort.
After the war ended, Leo Bachle changed his name to Les Barker and became a comedian, giving up his art career. He achieved a certain amount of fame as he traveled around the United States, rubbing elbows with movie stars, and performing a nightclub act in which he entertained using an overhead projector.

And that's exactly what he did at Midway Mall back in August 1969. We caught one of his Saturday performances.

My autograph of Les Barker
His show consisted of him doing drawings on clear overlays that were projected on a screen as he talked and made jokes. It took him a while to actually get around to drawing Bugs Bunny. If I remember correctly, he did a very rough sketch of Elmer Fudd as a hunter getting attacked by bees coming out of a hive manipulated by an even rougher sketch of Bugs Bunny. He drew them all on separate overlays, so he could manipulate the drawings to achieve a sort of primitive animation.

I remember being very excited to see him, and being slightly disappointed that Bugs Bunny was such a minor part of his show. That didn't stop me from getting his autograph, though!
It wasn't until I began to pay attention to reading the animation credits on Bugs Bunny cartoons that I noticed that the name 'Les Barker' was suspiciously missing. Maybe Barker drew some Bugs Bunny comic books or advertising art at some point to legitimize his claim. But it doesn't really matter – I had a lot of fun at the Mall that day.

Les Barker was immortalized when his beloved creation – Johnny Canuck – was featured on a postage stamp issued by Canada Post. Here's a live interview with Les Barker that appeared on CBC Television at the time back in 1995. He was justifiably proud (and he didn't bring up Bugs Bunny, either).

He passed away in May 2003.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Johnny Canuck is coming back to print! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/96364695/johnny-canuck-the-return-of-canadas-hero