Superman is back and as a result there is a renewed
interest in the power of cartoon characters in influencing society and
culture. I thought of that when I read a
letter to The New York Times Book Review entitled
“Good Grief” complaining that Snoopy had not been included with Superman and
Mickey Mouse in a recounting of the world’s most famous cartoon characters.
I have always loved cartoons and continue to do so
(Family Guy is a must see and South Park with its smart / gross humor is a dose
that I simply have to choke down) so the question of the most important cartoon
characters of all time is not lost on me.
I think they are important in their ability to express the anxiety of a
generation through humor and adventure.
The fact that they are not real people allows for a range of emotions, actions
and words that would be unacceptable in actual human terms.
As I pondered the question I decided to do a Google
search. I tried asking the question in
different ways: “Who are the most
important cartoon characters?” or “Who are the most famous cartoon characters?”
It seemed that no matter how I asked the question, the same lists came up. I chose two to share with you as a means of
considering the question.
“Top 50 Cartoon Characters of All Time” was created by Nancy
Basile who describes herself as “…a professional writer who has been watching
TV cartoons since the days when they were relegated to only
and she's been writing about them for almost 10 years. Nancy is also
editor-in-chief of Media Medusa.” Here are
her top 5:
Now here is a list entitled “The 40 Best Cartoon
Characters of All Time” by Josh Jackson.
“Josh is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Paste magazine. He blogs at High Gravity and Tweets at
As I reviewed their lists I looked for their criteria but
could not find any. It seems that their
lists were subject to idiosyncrasies like when they were born and how
broadly they had traveled. Here is why I
say that: Ask any five year old child
today who Bugs Bunny is and you will get a blank stare. He is gone from the consciousness of a
generation. By the way, in 30 years,
someone may well be writing their Top 5 list with Peekachoo listed as number 1.
And don’t get me started on Tom & Jerry. A Tom & Jerry cartoon is, at least for
me, about as boring as Pepe Le Pew (just how many times can a cat have paint
splashed down its back and be confused for a skunk!?) Probably the most telling satriric cartoon
about the boredom of cartoon violence is “Itchy and Scratchy” with its
depiction of endlessly gory, bloody, mouse-driven cartoon mayhem.
So, what are my Top 5; that in my next posting?