Saturday, March 22, 2008

Steve Muffatti: A Friend's Salute to an Unsung Genius of Cartooning

Who was Steve Muffatti (sometimes listed in credits as Muffati)? He was a first-rate animator at Fleischer Studios. Anyone who has had the pleasure of watching the Fleischer Superman cartoons will recall the thrilling introduction scenes that were animated by Steve Muffatti. He was instrumental in streamlining the Superman costume design for the silver screen and modernizing Clark Kent's love interest, Lois Lane. Muffatti is credited with animating the most exciting and world famous episodes including, Superman, Mechanical Monsters, Electric Earthquake, Showdown, and Secret Agent. Along with contributions from comic book "super ghosts" Fred Ray and Jack Burnley, Steve Muffatti's sleek designs helped refine the Golden Age Superman. Muffatti also worked at the later incarnation of Paramount's Famous Cartoon Studios where he was an animator on such cartoon series as Popeye, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Little Lulu.

In 1952, at Harvey Comics, the "Harvey World" phase of their publishing history began. Harvey acquired two properties from St John Publishing and published Little Audrey #25 (8/52), Casper the Friendly Ghost #7 (12/52), as well as their own title, Paramount Animated Comics #1 (9/52). In 1953 Little Dot was redesigned and given her own title. Richie Rich and Little Lotta started as back-ups in Little Dot. Sid Jacobson started at Harvey as an editor and took over the departing Matt Murphy’s titles. Harvey considered creating its own animation studio and hired Steve Muffatti. Warren Kremer came in to work with Muffatti, and as a result, learned Muffatti's animation style (Little Max is an example of Kremer’s pre-Muffatti art style). The "Harvey World" style was a mixture of Muffatti and Kremer, as ultimately refined by Kremer. This art style sustained Harvey Comics for decades.

Although disputed, many historians cite Steve Muffatti as the original artist who created the design of Richie Rich, following Alfred Harvey's lead. Muffatti drew the earliest Richie Rich stories in Little Dot during the fifties. It has also been alleged that Muffatti created Little Audrey for the animation studios.The "Harvey World" inkers included Lee Donahue and the "girl inkers" recruited from the animation studios. The three main inkers were Helen Cason, Ruth Leon, and Jacqueline Roettcher.

With his trend-setting contributions to the Superman, Richie Rich, Little Audrey, and other "Harvey World" characters, Steve Muffatti's lasting contributions to comic books and animation were immense and his superb work should be more recognized and celebrated by fandom at large.


Fun Ideas said...

Thanks for posting this. Muffatti is virtually ignored today, despite his obvious contributions to art and animation.

Dave Karlen said...

Mark,it is too bad that more people don't know about this great artist.Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

This was a great blog. I am Steve's Great-Niece. I never met him, sadly, but my family often speaks of him, and his talents so fondly. It is wonderful to know that there are many others out there who appreciate him and his work as much as we do.

scott roberts said...

Steve Muffatti was one of my two favorite Harvey artists- the other being Howie Post. I sometimes tire of fans singing the praises of Warren Kremer. Not to slight Kremer's work or influence. But when one artist so completely overshadows all others, including mentors like Muffatti- it's time to put the record straight and broaden our focus