There's no denying it. Despite his often-illegal doings and his gang of ne'er-do-well pals, we're just moony for Moon (short for Moonshine) Mullins. And, as a matter of fact, 2003 marks 80 years since Frank Willard's cigar puffing, derby sporting leisure lover debuted in the Chicago Tribute Syndicate back in 1923. He went on to enjoy a career that spanned nearly seven decades - a feat that we think deserves some recognition. So, let's take a closer look at the one and only Moon Mullins.

Moon was a tough talking - if generally good natured - kind of guy who took (and dealt) plenty of punches during his run. And actually, those are very appropriate characteristics. See, back before Moon was created, Frank Willard was working on a strip called The Outta Luck Club for King Features Syndicate. That's when he got the notion that some of his ideas were being slipped to fellow cartoonist George McManus. So, in typical Moon Mullins fashion, Willard approached McManus and gave him a wallop that knocked the latter out cold and got the former fired.

That little episode didn't stop Captain Joe Patterson's interest from being piqued, however, and Willard soon set to work on a new strip for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. That strip was Moon Mullins. Just a few months later, Ferd Johnson came on as Willard's assistant. It was he who continued the strip after Willard's death in 1958, and saw it through until it ended in 1991.

Ah, Moon Mullins. He made a horrible role model but a hilarious star nonetheless - as did his assorted pals. First, there was the lanky, beak-nosed Emmy Schmaltz, who ran the boarding house where Moon and many of his cohorts lived and played. There was also Moon's kid brother Kayo, a tiny little doink of a boy who looked exactly like a pint-sized Moon, save for his eyes. While Moon had giant eyes that resembled fried eggs (in fact, in many strips, he was even called "banjoeyes"), Kayo had tiny little dots for eyes. Full of mischief and bad grammar, Kayo was about as adorable as they came. There was also Mamie, the portly, scraggly-haired boarding house cook, Willie, her equally portly and horrendously lazy husband, the distinguished Mr. Otho Pumpkin and his bully of a brother-in-law Louie, and the prim Englishman Lord Plushbottom (or Plushie, as Moon liked to call him).

Adventures included stints in jail, trysts with stolen cars, failed employment opportunities, misunderstandings and plenty of black eyes for all. Yet, there was a certain lightness to all of Moon's debaucheries that made his low-down ways pretty charming. Moon went on to make his mark in comic books, Big Little Books, and even a 1927 board game. He had a brief run with Saturday morning cartoons in the early 1971, and continued in the newspapers for 20 years after that.

Today, Moon Mullins strips and original Willard art can still be found, but are on the rare side and are highly valued. For fans who like the dark side, however, a trip to the small Illinois town of Anna may be worthwhile. There, on Frank Willard's tombstone in the Anna Cemetery, there's actually an engraving of Moon Mullins!

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