The first panel just about says it all.
Above Perogy Cat creator Gareth Gaudin’s illustration of himself, he explains “J. Fred Muggs bit Al Feldstein.”
The comic goes on to explain that Muggs was a chimp with a talent for painting who co-hosted NBC’s “Today Show” in the ’50s. Several of the chimp’s works were published on the cover of MAD Magazine, which at the time was edited by Feldstein.
But the job didn’t last forever. As Muggs explains in Gaudin’s last panel, he bit Feldstein.
If the images of a paintbrush-wielding chimp in beret invoke a laugh, that’s all right – but not necessarily the comic’s desired intent.
“I think it’s more sad,” said Gaudin, the first local comic creator to contribute his work to Panels for Primates, a fundraiser for a primate sanctuary. “They’re like these humans that are ignored and treated poorly in the world. I was happy to find some people who were putting some effort into reversing that.”
People like Troy Wilson, a regular at Gaudin’s shop, Legend’s Comics. Wilson is the editor of Panels for Primates, an online anthology of primate-themed comics promoting animal care at the Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, Ken.
Wilson, who lives in Gordon Head, has compiled work from comic creators in Mexico, Israel, Germany and the U.S. to create the comics, released weekly on the site ACT-I-VATE.com. While the content is viewable free of charge, Wilson asks readers to follow the links to PrimateRescue.org, where they can leave a donation.
Wilson’s original intent for the project was to publish a print selection of comics featuring monkeys for charity, a goal that has evolved since he first conceptualized the project with artist John Schlim Jr. in 2007. WIth Schlim Jr.’s comic career gaining momentum, Wilson took over steering the online project.
“We’ve got material that you wouldn’t necessarily find in a charity anthology,” Wilson said.
He credits the Rescue Center with openness to material that’s “more eclectic, maybe a bit goofier in some ways, and free-wheeling,” submitted for the cause.
“We hear a lot of different things that people want to do for and about us, and it was one of the more unusual concepts, and once we got our minds around what it was, we were thrilled,” said April Truitt, executive director and self described cook/bottle-washer for the Primate Rescue Center. “I think (the comics) are incredibly creative and none of us here had any idea. It’s like a whole other world out there.”
Since Panels for Primates readers are encouraged to let the centre know their donations are a result of the site, it’s difficult to track funds generated by the comics. Truitt attributes a marked increase in donations since Panels for Primates began. The cash goes directly towards food and medical supplies for the sanctuary’s 11 resident chimps and 40 monkeys.
“It definitely has drummed up interest and we’ve seen more activity from north-of-the-border contributors,” Truitt said.
Wilson, whose own work appears in Panels for Primates, hopes the comics will one day become a print charity project, as other ACT-I-VATE strips have done.
“We’ve been successful in raising awareness, but if we were able to raise some more money, that would be fantastic,” he said. “Certainly another goal is to entertain.”
Fifty years since Muggs’ days in the spotlight, the entertainment industry remains a source for many of the sanctuary’s residents.
“I find it sad that there was a monkey that used to host a T.V. show in the ’50s,” Gaudin said of his inspiration. “That borders on animal cruelty to me.”
Muggs’ legacy lives on
The J. Fred Muggs and Al Feldstein story isn’t over for Gaudin, whose Panels for Primates comic caught the attention of editors at MAD Magazine. Keep an eye out for Muggs, who might just appear in an upcoming issue of the iconic publication.