A History on the Comic Book Father of Tom & Jerry

The cover of OUR GANG #1 (1942). Click to enlarge.
Tom & Jerry's first comic book appearance was in OUR GANG #1, and the story and art were truly lackluster. Nothing improved in the stories of America's favorite cat-and-mouse team for several years.

An early example of typical Tom & Jerry fare, from OUR GANG #26 (1946). Click to enlarge.
The two characters still retained their primitive "Jasper & Jinx" designs from "Puss Gets the Boot", their first film, throughout the mid-1940s. The two mice of the stories, Jerry and Tuffy, were frequently miscolored, sometimes even both being brown or gray. Tom's owner, "Mammy-Two-Shoes" was drawn as a severe stereotype and referred to as 'Dinah'. As you can see, very poor treatment was given to these characters. Things slightly changed in 1947 when the New Funnies artists began drawing the Tom & Jerry stories. But seeing as they were the same people responsible for churning out dreadful looking Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, and Homer Pigeon artwork, you can see it wasn't much of an improvement, though the characters at least slightly resembled their animated counterparts.

Then things completely changed for the better for Tom & Jerry.

The first page (slightly modified) from Eisenberg's adaption of the "Mickey & the Beanstalk" from Four Color 157 (1947).
Before turning to the comic book medium, Harvey Eisenberg (1912-1965) was an animator at Fleischer, Van Bueren, and MGM studios. He remained at MGM until 1945, and then began doing artwork for Western Publishing until his death. Having experience as an actual animator at the studio responsible for Tom & Jerry made him an ideal choice for doing artwork for the characters. His first Tom & Jerry story was for Dell was 1948's "Double Trouble" (Four Color 193). Eisenburg was already doing artwork for Disney books in 1947, so it might be possible he did a Tom & Jerry before this.

It is quite obvious though, that the writer for "Double Trouble" is the same writer that Tom & Jerry had for their previous stories. Notice how "Double Trouble" is not really an adventure story, like the other Four Colors with Donald Duck or Bugs Bunny, but just three stories made into one long one. It conveniently breaks up into 'days' and 'hours' as well. 'Part 1' is Jerry and Tuffy being kicked out of the house in a rainstorm, and their struggles to make it back into the attic. 'Part 2' is Jerry and Tuffy disguising as ghosts to scare Tom out of his icebox guarding duties. 'Part 3' is Tom sending the mice out of the house on a rocket, and the two landing in a taxidermist shop. They come back disguised as a baby wildcat to trick Tom into feeding them. All of these could be broken up into separate books without any need for continuity formatting.

One of Eisenberg's beautiful covers of Tom & Jerry, this one for TOM & JERRY #68. Click to enlarge.
While the story itself is mediocre, but memorable, take a look at the improved artwork. Notice how 'animated' Tom, Jerry, Tuffy, and even Mammy (by the way, we do get to see her official face in two panels of this story) look. The writing that accompanied Eisenberg's artwork would dramatically improve over the next year, including one successful attempt at a continuity in a funny animal comic book, in which Tom and the mice move out of Mammy's house. Eisenberg's artwork would become more streamlined as the years went on, but still very well done.

The other output for Eisenberg's work would be made for Disney and Hanna-Barbera (he has actually been dubbed by several 'The Carl Barks of Hanna-Barbera comics'), where he would illustrate stories starring Lil' Bad Wolf, Chip 'n' Dale, Huckleberry Hound, and Ruff and Reddy. Eisenberg's work on Tom & Jerry ceased in 1958, just seven years prior to his death.

For the first time since its original publication, Golden Age Funnies presents you this historic story, "Double Trouble" in its entirity. Please feel free to leave feedback via e-mail or on GAF's message board.

Tom & Jerry in "Double Trouble"!