The Secret Origin of Woody Woodpecker

I spent much of yesterday at WonderCon, the San Francisco comics event which has become sort of a junior-sized San Diego Comics Con. While there, I picked up a cheap copy of Oswald Rabbit Plays G Man, a 1937 Big Little Book. (It’s missing its first 17 pages, but hey, it’s only going to increase in value–it’s a Disney collectible now.)

The book is illustrated with stills from Lantz cartoons–and I was startled to discover that a large chunk of them feature…Woody Woodpecker.

Well, a character named Woody Woodpecker, at least–this Woody doesn’t look much like the one in 1940’s Knock Knock, and he’s a heavy–he spends much of the book’s narrative terrifying Oswald and bullying a community of insects led by a fairy queen. (Oswald, meanwhile, spends very little time playing G Man: The author of the book had to string together the plotlines of multiple cartoons into something approximating a storyline.)

David Gerstein has identified these scenes as probably originating in the 1936 Oswald cartoon Night Life of the Bugs. Has anyone seen this? Is the character called Woody in the short itself? Should we revise history and come to the conclusion that Woody Woodpecker didn’t first show up in Knock Knock, or is this just an entirely different woodpecker who happens to be named Woody? Let the debate begin…

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