At a recent event, someone asked me what it meant on my official biography that I was an "internationally recognized Disney historian." Did it just mean that people around the world read what I write? Well, I hope that people around the world read what I write. I have done some podcasts for Alan Hooper in the United Kingdom that I know got some distribution.
Actually, my articles and interviews have been translated and reprinted overseas since the early 1980s in magazines like"Carl Barks & Co, edited by artist Daan Jippes in Holland. (One young historian, whose material I respect and enjoy, recently wrote to me to my dismay after I praised his work with the comment "you've been writing stuff about Disney since before I was born!" Yikes! I guess I have been writing about Disney history for more than three decades.) .
However, I am primarily internationally recognized because I write original articles on Disney history for foreign publications.
In the last six months, I wrote a lengthy article on the history of Disneyland's monorail for the Disney licensed full-color glossy magazine Disney ParadeLand, which is only available in Japan (just as I wrote dozens of articles for its Japanese predecessor, Disney Dream Files).
I also wrote an article about meeting Disney Legend Floyd Gottfredson when I was just starting out as Disney researcher for a German book showcasing Gottfredson's work (published by Egmont). For the Scandinavian branch of Egmont, I wrote an article that included a special sidebar covering the Tarzan parody, Barzan, about the comic book character Super Goof for a book featuring some of the character's stories.
One of the other things that makes me unusual as a Disney historian is that I have an interest and expertise in a wide variety of Disney-related topics. Many people who write about Disney history only focus on theme parks (or a particular theme park like Disneyland) or animation or comic books or merchandise.
As frequent readers of this column know, I am as likely to write about Disney music as I am about a live-action film or an aspect about the theme parks or an insight into the life of Walt Disney. I have had a special affection for comic books from a very early age and I have written frequently about comic book history for a variety of publications over the years.
Since American readers will probably never see the pieces I have written for foreign publications, I have decided that occasionally I will take one of those articles and extensively revise and update it and share it with MousePlanet.
Invariably, after I write something and it is published, I run across additional information that I would have liked to incorporate into the original article and this will give me the chance to do so.
While I was especially pleased with the article I wrote about Super Goof, because he was a Disney character that has really not been documented previously, I felt there was more that should be shared because of the Disney acquistion of Marvel and their superheroes (who were created at the exact same time as Super Goof).
In the mid-1960s in the United States, it was the Silver Age of comic books. Both old publishers and new publishers were flooding the newsstands with countless top-selling comic books that were filled with the thrilling adventures of distinctly attired superheroes. The popularity of these colorfully costumed icons soon spilled over into other areas, as well, from fashion to television shows to college campuses and more.
This was the time period where writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby (along with other talented artists like Steve Ditko and Wally Wood) were creating Spider-Man, The Avengers (and the individual adventures of its members like The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, etc.), The Fantastic Four, X-Men, Daredevil and more that became the cornerstone of Marvel Comics.
News reporters and even some comic book professionals jokingly referred to these heroes who wore body length costumes as "long underwear characters." Long underwear was a garment with long legs and long sleeves that was normally worn during cold weather under a person's regular clothing just like a superhero costume. Traditionally made of red flannel, long underwear had a button-up flap in the rear allowing the wearer to eliminate bodily waste without removing the attire.
Truthfully, with the seemingly neverending outpouring of increasingly outrageous superheroes, the genre was ripe for a humorous perspective. Even the two major American comic book publishers (DC and Marvel) each created a popular comic book whose primary purpose was to satirize the eccentricities of superheroes.
When Disney comics decided to parody the fascination with the outlandish world of the superheroes, it was obvious that the honor should go to the exuberant klutz who had already left his distinctively large footprints on occupations as varied as a sports star, a sailor, a big game hunter, a farmer, a gaucho, a detective and countless other odd jobs.
In whatever situation, Goofy thinks long and hard… before doing the wrong thing every time. His willingness to help others made him a natural to take on a new role as a befuddled superhero.
According to Cathy Sherman Freeman, her father George Sherman, head of Disney Publications at the time, along with Peter Woods, Disney United Kingdom Merchandising representative, came up with the initial proposal for writer Del Connell to develop.
"Superheroes were popular and they thought Disney could use one. Peter and Father came up with the concept for a superhero, using some magical device to give plain ole Goofy super powers. This was the birth of Super Goof," Sherman Freeman wrote.
The main story in Gold Key's The Phantom Blot No. 2 (April 1965), written by Del Connell and drawn by Paul Murry, spoofed the current obsession with superhero mania. In the adventure, the villianous Phantom Blot, a villianous adversary completely garbed in black who plagued Mickey Mouse,commits a series of crimes in the Wild West. Good natured Goofy accidentally drinks a super-fuel created by inventor Gyro Gearloose and mistakenly believes that thanks to that experimental formula, he has been given super powers.
Literally doning long underwear with a potato sack as a cape, Goofy decides that he is Super Goof, a mighty defender of justice with the powers of flight and super strength. The original interior front cover of the comic book proclaimed: "Get ready…get set…here he is…good old Goofy in an exciting new role as the amazing Super Goof!".
Through a series of odd coincidences and freak circumstances that reinforce his belief in his superpowers, he helps Mickey Mouse triumph over the Phantom Blot. While this story is often listed as the first Super Goof story, Goofy did not actually have any superpowers. To regular readers, it was just another clever story idea with no expectation that there would be a follow-up adventure.
That first story was so well received that Super Goof was brought back in a four-page story in Donald Duck No. 102 (July 1965) titled "All's Well that Ends Awful," also by Connell and Murry. The premise of Goofy just thinking he was a superhero would have been too difficult to explain in the limited amount of pages so another solution was devised.
This time Gyro has invented a cape that gives the wearer special abilities just like tradtional superheroes. Goofy puts it on to perform deeds like saving a tiny ant from being crushed by an oncoming car while he badly dents the car. Super Goof also saves a freight train from running off a washed out bridge into a shallow gully but completely wrecks the engine in the process.
Western Publishing was testing to see if its readership would accept the concept of Super Goof.
Finally, the lovable character was given his own comic book series beginning with Super Goof No. 1 (October 1965). Ignoring the first two misadventures completely, Super Goof received his final origin story, thanks to input from editor Chase Craig that would not only define how Goofy got superpowers but why he didn't have them when he appeared in other stories. Goofy's powers would be only temporary and his source for them would be extremely limited.
Craig determined that Goofy had a "goober patch" in his backyard that had been irradiated by a strange meteorite from outer space. That mysterious radiation had imbued the goobers with the ability to give anybody who ingested them superpowers. Goober is a slang term for peanut sometimes used by residents in the Southern part of the United States. Having Goofy use that term and wear long underwear usually associated with rural farmers reinforced the character idea that he was an unsophisticated, more simple personality than the more urban Mickey or Donald.
Other Disney characters over the years, including the Big Bad Wolf, Pluto and Huey, Dewey and Louie, sampled these same goobers and briefly became superpowered as well to either help or hinder Super Goof.
Just as Popeye would grab a handful of spinach to munch to increase his strength temporarily to superhuman proportions, Goofy would pop one of these rare super goobers in his mouth and find himself magically transformed into the fully costumed Super Goof.
Some of the humor came from the fact that there was no way of determining how long the transformation might last. It was never explained whether it was the size of the peanut or how much radiation it had absorbed or what else might speed up or slow down the goober power from passing through Goofy's system.
It was necessary for Goofy to always carry additional goobers under his hat in case his powers embarassingly wore off while he was in the midst of some super task. Most often, Super Goof would be flying high in the sky or using his super strength when without warning, the powers would vanish and he would return to being just normal Goofy.
In his earlier two appearances, Super Goof didn't wear his famous hat and had only a big "G" on his chest. Starting with issue No. 1, he not only wore his hat but his emblem was changed to an intertwining "SG" and that is the verison of the costume that has lasted for decades. His cape now resembled a blue blanket tied around his neck with a simple knot.
More importantly, editor Craig assumed that eating a peanut, in the decades before peanut allergies became so prominent, was an act that would be reasonably harmless if a child decided to imitate it. After all, it was felt that young children were the primary readership for the Disney comic books and that they might have a tendency to try to mimic what they read. Even if they ate the entire peanut shell itself like Goofy did, there would be little harm.
Also adding to the humor was the fact that even though he wore no mask, once Goofy transformed into Super Goof, others saw him as a completely different person. In issue No. 3 (May 1966), the crafty villains cannot see any similarity at all between Super Goof and his uncostumed alter ego of regular Goofy, even when the transformation happens frequently throughout the story at inopportune times.
It is a conceit found in regular superhero comic books where all it took to disguise Superman's distinctive facial features from everyone was a pair of ordinary eyeglasses.
One final twist with the origin story appeared in issue No. 31 (August, 1974), where the concept of the glowing meteorite giving the goobers their power was discarded and Goofy's goober plant was said to have originated from a special crop grown by a Mexican superhero named Superior Señor.
While Superman had a blue costume with a red cape, Super Goof reversed those colors and had a red costume with a blue cape. However, Super Goof had a similar array of incredible super powers just like the more famous Man of Steel including super strength, super vision, super hearing and the ability to fly.
Unfortunately, those abilities did not always compensate for Goofy's naturally limited mental faculties or his inate clumsiness. Murry took pleasure in drawing Super Goof's lack of grace, even when flying. Beneath the costume, despite the powers, it was still Goofy who was handling the situation.
Murry was an outstanding cartoonist who had worked at the Disney Studio in animation starting in 1938 and became an assistant to the legendary Fred Moore, the acknowledged master of the Mouse at the time. Like some other Disney employees, Murry left the Disney Studios in 1946 for a new career drawing comic books for Western Publishing. While he drew thousands of pages of comic books featuring many different Disney characters, he was best known as one of the most notable artists to draw the comic book adventures of Mickey Mouse.
Since Mickey often teamed up with Goofy especially in the Murry-drawn serials in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, Murry was very proficient in illustrating that character, as well as Mickey. That experience may be one of the contributing reasons for Murry being given the assignment to design Super Goof and illustrate the character's first adventures.
Connell and Murry set the tone and appearance of the character that would be continued by a variety of writers and artists including Vic Lockman, Bob Ogle, Mark Evanier, Roger Armstrong, Pete Alvarado, Kay Wright, Jack Bradbury, Jack Manning, and Tony Strobl.
The stories themselves were often quite serious adventures with only the addition of Goofy as a superhero making them truly humorous. Super Goof foiled the schemes of numerous villains like Black Pete, the Beagle Boys, Mad Madam Mim and even Super Goof's arch enemy, Emil Eagle.
In the tradition of realistic superheroes like Batman, Captain America and so many others, Super Goof even briefly got his own kid sidekick, his diminutive genius nephew Gilbert. Discovering his uncle's secret in Super Goof No. 5 (December 1966), Gilbert gobbles a goober and dons a similar costume to his uncle and calls himself "Super Gilbert" and later "Super Gilly." He assisted his uncle doing super-good deeds for a few years before disappearing from the stories.
The comic book Super Goof lasted almost 20 years until issue No. 74 (July 1984), one of the last issues ever published under the Whitman label.
Over the years, references to Goofy appeared in other Disney comics. In Beagle Boys No. 17 (July 1973), the dastardly criminals publish unauthorized editions of Super Goof comic books in which the hero is defeated by the Beagle Boys. They hope to destroy children's faith in Super Goof so that he will be too depressed to stop them from robbing Uncle Scrooge's Money Bin. Fortunately, the red-suited Goof was able to foil this evil plot in this story written by Mark Evanier and drawn by Kay Wright.
Reprints of the original Super Goof comic book stories appeared in Walt Disney Comics Digest, one of the Dynabrite deluxe comics issued by Western in the late 1970s, and Disney Comic Album No. 8 (1990) from Disney Comics.
The Super Goof character was so well loved that he occasionally appeared in new adventures in stories produced just for the European market and was recently revived in the United States in new comic book adventures as part of Disney's Hero Squad. Check out all of Super Goof's many appearances (including overseas versions).
Super Goof's first animated appearance was a 2002 episode of the Disney television series House of Mouse that was devoted to him, including showing how a meteorite empowered his bowl of peanuts. At the end of the episode, Clarabelle Cow determined that Super Goof's secret identity must be Dumbo, since that character loved peanuts and could fly.
In another Disney television series, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Super Goof is seen on the cover on Goofy's comic book and in "Goofy's Super Wish," Goofy reveals his dreams of becoming a super hero. Mickey and the gang try to grant that wish by using balloons to help Super Goof fly and Rollerblades for super speed. Goofy uses his "powers" to save his friends from Clarabelle's berserk muffin-making machine.
In another episode, Super Goof helps Mickey and Minnie Mouse solve Puzzler Pete's challenging puzzles. In this show, Super Goof's costume is orange with a green hat emblem on his chest and everyone knows his true identity.
Whether he was smashing lightning bolts, untwisting twisters, battling crooks or flying to the moon, Super Goof captured the hearts and imaginations of Disney fans. Perhaps with the success of the Marvel superheroes, it is once again time for the original somewhat quaint Super Goof to once again take to the skies to protect the citizens of Duckburg.