Monday, February 19, 2007

Duckman, Rex the Runt and the sexual attractiveness of cartoon characters

Ah yes. Duckman.

Do you remember Duckman? Chances are that you do not, unless you've stumbled upon my blog by googling the name 'Duckman', in which case you know exactly who I'm talking about: the cartoon character of that name, who was a hard-boiled, sexually obsessed yellow duck, very much in the Spillane/Sam Spade mould, who operated from a downtown city office, ably assisted by a small fat pig called Cornfed. Makes perfect sense to me.

Incidentally, trivia fans, Duckman's son Ajax is voiced by Frank Zappa's son, Dweezil.

Here's the Official Line on the show, from the Duckman website:

If you need anyone but a guy who knows the streets, who can handle a gun and a dangerous dame, then you need... "DUCKMAN" (Jason Alexander), a hard boiled, tough talking, cowardly, bumbling, arrogant, selfish duck detective who makes a terribly poor living, taking cases that no other self-respecting detective would ever take...

Working with Duckman is his pig Friday, Cornfed (Gregg Berger), a tireless, even-keeled, straight man to the excitable duck. Also along for this ride are Fluffy and Uranus (Pat Musick), Duckman's annoyingly cute, incredibly politically correct office assistants, a pair of stuffed animal temp workers who were mistakenly hired as a result of a computer error.

Duckman lives with his deceased wife's identical twin Bernice (Nancy Travis) who hates him and vows to make sure that the downy deadbeat doesn't destroy the lives of his children. The kids, Charles (Dana Hill) and Mambo (E.G. Dailey) are Duckman's preadolescent, two headed, twin sons whose main interests are computer games and arguing with each other. Ajax (Dweezil Zappa) is Duckman's goofy teenage son, a basically good, but bumbling kid who's constantly getting in trouble and bugging his dad about borrowing his car.

Duckman was shown at a stupidly late hour by a C4 who obviously had no idea how to market it. Pre-dating Family Guy, South Park and American Dad, and produced around the same time as the excellent Beavis and Butthead and Ren and Stimpy, the show was hugely influential and ground-breaking, in it's aimed-directly-at-adults, decidedly non-pc (ironic?) comedy (now so widespread in the late noughties).

It eventually got dropped for...what? Sexism perhaps, in a Britain still suffused with post 1980s political correctness? God only knows, but I miss him and it's time he was on our screens again. Somehow I feel the UK is more ready for Duckman that they were a decade ago.

Duckman was created originally as a comic strip by genius cartoonist Everett Peck. I won't go into reams of descriptive prose at this point. If you're interested, visit this site to find out all about him and his associated characters. Meanwhile here's a few pics...

Oh, and a YouTubed episode for your delight...

He was slightly reminiscent of the Warner Bros character Daffy Duck, except he was obsessed with sex and the desire to shag voluptuous women. Or ducks. Or indeed, anything.

Voluptuous women (or ducks) featured heavily in Duckman's life, much as they did in that of Bogart's hard-boiled detective character. The difference between the two is that, whereas Bogey had to contend with the scorching heat of feminine supernovae such as Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman, the 'women' who torment Duckman's desires so hotly tend be ducks. Sexy to another duck, perhaps, but how are we to perceive them? Well, for the whole plot to work, we have to share Duckman's vision, at least to an extent, and see these curvaceous female ducks as erotically charged, sexually desirable. We have to, somewhere in the dark padlocked corridors of our mind, carry the desire to fuck a cartoon duck.

A Duckman quote..."Sorry, I didn't hear you, I was staring at your breasts."

Below: Duckman loses it with a sexy chicken...

OK, so you don't do ducks, chickens or other domestic fowl. Neither do I, but sex is sex and if you throw in the right ingredients, even other species can be made attractive.

I saw the mountaineer and author Joe Simpson on TV recently, encountering a friendly teenage female Lowland Gorilla in Africa. She had big brown eyes, a very human expression, and she was flirting with him, I swear! She was a gorilla, covered in hair and probably a bit pungent, but the feminine signs and signals were overt, and the fact that she wasn't of our species didn't matter. She was HOT!

Below: Phew what a scorcher! Flirty Naomi gives her best 'come to bed' look...

I would like to say at this stage that I am not advocating bestiality or inter-species sex of any shape or form, merely pointing out that the things we find attractive in people, are pretty fundamental, and common also to other species than Homo sapiens.

Which brings me to the point I was wanting to make about the objects of Duckman's lust. The cartoonist has simply taken the same elements that we find attractive in a woman, and drawn them in the form of a duck. Just as it works with a real female gorilla, it also works with a cartoon animal. The elements of basic sexual attraction in humans are that basic, that simple, that you can draw them and get a real response!

Take Jessica Rabbit. Most blokes would. OK, she's a woman, not a cartoon animal, but hey, she's a bloody drawing! Whatever, it works, right?

Damn right it works!

So attractive, in fact, is the imaginary character of Jessica Rabbit; a mere drawing, lest we forget, that there is a plethora of erm...imagery of her, available on the internet, which definitely did not come from the Disney studios, if you get my drift. Just do a Google Image search for 'Jessica Rabbit' (Safe Search off!) to see what I mean. Just a drawing, but she gives so many men so much pleasure. Presumably.

May I at this point note that I stumbled across these...unofficial pics of Jessica whilst searching for some legit ones for this article, and was hitherto totally unaware of their existence.

It's nothing new, all this provocation via cartoon media. Back in the 1930s, we had this little character on our screens...

Yep. Miss Betty Boop. OK, so she isn't as pornographically come-to-bed as Jessica, but for the 1930s she was dynamite! Curvy figure, skimpy costume, big eyes, BREASTS! She was about as far as you could go without breaking obscenity laws of the day. I'm sure that in her time, she aroused as much private passion as did Jessica Rabbit.

In my own adolescence in the 70s, I freely admit that I did have a thing about Daphne from Scooby Doo (see below). She's about as 2-d as they get, but I do remember cracking the odd one off over her. Look at the way she stands, for chrisssakes! To a 14 year old boy with a permanent erection, it's too much, it's an open invitation and, at 14, I was never one to look a gift horse in the muff.

Left: Daphne. Yikes!

Do I still get twinges in my man-wallet from cartoon characters, or was it an adolescent thing, akin to sneaky peeks at the Lingerie section of Kay's Catalogue? Weeeeellll....Jessica Rabbit was only 10 years or so ago, at a time when I was, by any stretch of personal conceit, well beyond adolescence.

Which brings me round to the original thought that inspired this article, which is, I suppose, a sort of confessional. A confession that yes, I still do get crushes on cartoon characters. My fiance, Jude, is quite understanding about it, and as long as I don't start buying pink plasticene, I don't think she'll be worried. You see, the wonderful and prolific Aardman Animations, a few years back, created an animated TV series called 'Rex the Runt', about a dog called Rex, his girlfriend Wendy and his mates Vince and Bad Bob.

Here are 7 whole episodes of the show.

Wikipedia entry about Rex the Runt.

The show is BRILLIANT. Surreal, funny and for my money, as good as anything Aardman have done, including The Wrong Trousers and Creature Comforts.

Rex is the often exasperated straight man to Vince's unhinged lovable lunatic, Bad Bob's stoic pillar of strength and logic, and lastly, Wendy's downbeat feminism and feisty sexuality.

I love Wendy. She may be a rectangular, almost abstract representation of a female dog, made of pink plasticene, but I find her very attractive. The creators have given her breasts, red lips, fluttery eyelashes and a bow in her 'hair'. That's all that separates her from the 'male' characters, but it's enough. Oh, that, and the wonderfully deadpan voice-over, provided by Elisabeth Hadley, which gives Wendy her personality. It's that personality, as well as the obvious female attributes, that makes the character of Wendy work on a sexual level as well as a comedy level, because she's brought to life as a woman. Just look at the pics below... phwoar, eh?

Below: Wendy being flirtatious...

Below: Angry Wendy. We all know that look...

So there you have it. Jessica Rabbit may be glamour personified in two dimensions, but she's unattainable, a Hollywood icon, as remote and beautiful as Sophia Loren. Wendy however, has all the flaws of a real woman. She's moody, illogical, occasionally a bit thick, but also sits at the top of the pecking order and twists poor Rex round her little finger (or would, if she had fingers). We all know a Wendy, and that makes her, for me, the queen of cartoon characters.

I may as well unburden myself here: other female cartoon characters who have given me the horn over the years include:-
  • A single frame sketch of a nameless female character in a Marvel comic in the 1970s (Planet of the Apes, appropriately enough). I had a brief fling with her. A four minute stand. She was very well drawn.
  • Lois Griffin, from the hilarious Family Guy. I hardly noticed her until she did a nude scene. She has a fine body.
  • Peggy Hill, the bespectacled wife and mother from King of the Hill. Not an obvious one, but she's a strong cartoon woman with hidden depths. A cartoon MILF. Maybe it's my age. Nice tits though, and the Texan accent certainly brings me out in a flush.

  • And here, gentlemen, is one I think you'll all agree on: one you've all, at some time or other, fancied in however hypothetical a fashion. That is, of course, apart from those perverts and degenerates who preferred Wilma...
Below: Betty Rubble. YABADABADOO!

  • Lastly, no self-abusing adolescent boy in the 1960s could have failed to consider the tri-fold possibilities of the Scooby Doo house band, Josie and the Pussycats...
Below: Josie and the Pussycats. Often got the cream.

Above: a cover from the Josie and the Pussycats comic book. "Keep your eye on that fish tank" indeed!

Damn! I almost forgot Leela, from the wonderful Futurama!

Any bloke who's ever been out with a purple haired cyclops chick will understand my liking for her.

I guess this is a tribute of sorts, to the artists who have created female characters from scribbles and plasticene, which manage to transcend the cartoon medium, and project a genuine sexuality. Or maybe it's just me.

The Japanese, of course, cottoned on to the sexuality inherent in the medium many years ago, but as they so often do, they went over the top. The allure and abstraction of the characters I've mentioned was replaced by a brutally graphic, if superbly drawn, genre of Hardcore Porn. Think of a possibility involving sex, and there is a Japanese anime version of it. I guarantee it. Search Google if you don't believe me, but be warned, there's some twisted shit out there, even if the protagonists and often, the victims, are merely drawings.

As a footnote, Jude has often asked me what it is I find attractive about her, why I love her. There are so many things it would be impossible to summarise them. The other day however, she looked at herself in the mirror, at her plunging cleavage, and wailed"Oh god, look at me! I've got cartoon breasts!"

All the best women do, Jude.

PS. Late addition: just for you, Irk, the lovely Rosemary, from Hong Kong Phooey...


  1. Anonymous5:28 PM

    Thanks for sharing your experience

  2. You're welcome, slyam. If my bloggy dribblings entertain you (or anyone), then I see it as a bonus. I just blog about whatever stuff is drifting through my head on the day. Cartoon sexuality one day, heavy metal the next. It's an endless world to us animals.

  3. *applause* :)

    fabulous, darling, fabulous :) a perfect example of the difference between art and craft.

  4. Ah yes, the other love that dare not speak its name.

    I agree on Betty Rubble vs. Wilma but I'm afraid I was a Velma Dinkley fan. Geeky girls in glasses are irresistible. I can leave the All-American prom queen look well alone.

  5. know Clive, maybe Velma does have er...hidden depths. After all, if All-Texan Republican cartoon housewife Peggy Hill can raise a sweat, then why not the bookish and, let's face it, quite buxom, Velma?

  6. I always dug the short skirts worn by Rosemary the telephone operator in Hong Kong Phooey, sadly overlooked in your otherwise excellent piece...

  7. Ah, Rosemary! Sigh...yes. To be honest, Irk old chap, writing this piece has sarted to remind me of the many 2-d babes I've had the hots for over the years.
    If I said I preferred the Ogre version of Princess Fiona in Shrek, would that place me out of step with the mainstream? I do hope so.

  8. > If I said I preferred the Ogre version of Princess Fiona in Shrek, would that place me out of step with the mainstream?

    jude gives brian the folded arms wendy look.

  9. Of course the ogre version of Fiona!

    There's two dimensional and there's two dimensional! Who'd have a cartoon airhead when you can have a cartoon woman with vulnerabilities, complexities...a personality for crying out loud?

    I'll get my coat...

  10. Absolutely. The cartoon women of the recent past are so much more real. Even Leela. Princess Fiona was a vain, preening self-important little madam. As her ogre self, she was warm, generous and to me, physically more attractive anyway (the athletic look never really floated my boat).

  11. jude calvert-toulmin10:49 AM

    clive...i can see youre really getting into this, luv ;)


    > Princess Fiona was a vain, preening self-important little madam. As her ogre self, she was warm, generous and to me, physically more attractive anyway

    oh yeah! i was having a blonde moment then, i thought you were saying that generally you liked ogrish women, LOL!

    mind you, before me, you did ;)

    i will join clive in the cloakroom.


Sorry about the verification bollocks but I was getting so much spam!