Monday, October 03, 2005

Who's Casper's Daddy?

Writer Seymour Reit went to his grave insisting it was he, not Joe Oriolo who invented Casper the Friendly Ghost. I am a big fan of Oriolo's work, and tend towards his version of events... let's remember that Oriolo was quick to give credit where credit was due in regards to his other major character, Felix The Cat. But Joe's story of the Hallowe'en night that he came up with Casper just doesn't wash. In his recollection, he claims to have cut a cute ghost out of cardboard and hung it in a tree one Hallowe'en night, and brought out his young daughter to introduce her to a friendly ghost named Casper. The problem with this tale is that the first two Paramount cartoon shorts , 'The Friendly Ghost' (1945) and 'There's Good Boos Tonight' (1948)... both written by Reit and animated by Oriolo... feature an unnamed , Friendly Ghost. The character wasn't named 'Casper' until his comic book debut in 1949 (shown here), so Joe simply couldn't have named him on that first night. The name Casper at the time had a timid, nerdy connotation... like 'Eugene' or 'Poindexter'... clearly meant to emphasize how harmless the ghost was. The meekness of the name had been popularized by H.T. Webster's 'Casper Milquetoast' character. Considering that the name wasn't very original, the idea wasn't new, and the look of the ghost didn't 'take' until much later, there really isn't that much of a claim to fight over anyway.