In the annals of cartoon history, there are certain characters that were originally never intended to have a recurring role, much less a character name. I would like to focus this entry on the origins and ultimate quirky fame of one such character – Looney Tunes’ Marvin the Martian. The short, stout Martian we now know as Marvin first appeared in the cartoon “Haredevil Hare” (released July 24, 1948), in which Bugs Bunny became the first living thing to set foot on the Moon, only to become immediately involved in a struggle with the second, an odd little alien who landed moments later. Just by looking at him, you may not have initially guessed he was a Martian; but there are two giveaways as to his planetary origins in this cartoon: The first being his spaceship which was labeled “Mars to Moon Expeditionary Force”; and the second, not quite as obvious, was that he was dressed like classical renditions of the Roman god of war Mars (after whom the planet was named), with a brush-topped helmet and a Roman cuirass battle dress – though it fit him more like a tutu. This Martian, later to become known as Marvin, had the look of an upright, four-limbed ant with a squeaky voice and no outward sign of a mouth, who wore white gloves on his hands and tennis shoes almost as big as his head – as the picture below attests.
Marvin made a total of five appearances during the classic era of Looney Tunes animation between 1948 and 1963. Chuck Jones is credited as the creator of Marvin, and directed all five of the original cartoons with Marvin the Martian. Marvin’s other co-creators were Michael Maltese, who wrote the scripts, and Mel Blanc, who provided a geeky voice for the last two appearances of Marvin the Martian in Hare-way to the Stars (1958) and Mad as a Mars Hare (1963), as he played against his original nemesis – Bugs Bunny. Take a look below at Mad as a Mars Hare, and see Marvin the Martian and Bugs Bunny at their best, as a reluctant Bugs attempts to conquer Mars for the planet Earth, but Marvin has other ideas. Please note the use of the Dis-Integrator weapon, and Marvin the Martian’s now famous saying – “Being disintegrated makes me very angry, very angry indeed!” One of Looney Tunes famous ACME weapons also makes an appearance in this cartoon, when Marvin attempts to use the ACME Time-Space Gun on Bugs with the normal unintended consequence. Take a look at the background of this cartoon and note the highly stylized space city, apparently made of glass – an interesting offset to the standard cartoon planet setting.
Perhaps Marvin the Martian’s best-known role was in Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953), where he battled Daffy Duck, assisted by Porky Pig, vied for control of Planet X in a very funny take-off of sci-fi shoot-’em-up. I would consider Marvin the Martian to be one of a two initially obscure Looney Tunes cartoon characters to make it big after the Looney Tunes heydays of the 1950s – the other would be the Tasmanian Devil. Each of these characters appeared in exactly five theatrically-released cartoons, but I think Taz is less obscure because at least he had a name from the outset. Marvin’s name made its debut decades later, in the 1979 The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie, a Chuck Jones’s directed compilation of classic Looney Tunes shorts. Marvin the Martian’s name appeared under a picture of him in a portrait gallery in the movie.
Marvin the Martian was known for years only because of his image on those five original cartoons quite well over the years, as they ran repeatedly on TV, and the yet-unnamed alien gradually began to catch-on. When Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck started popping up in occasional new productions in the 1980s and 1990s, some of their supporting characters started popping up with them — including Marvin. This included the 1980 TV airing of Bugs Bunny’s Bustin’ Out All Over, which contained the animated short Spaced Out Bunny, Marvin’s first new appearance in 17 years. The reappearance of Daffy Duck in the 1981 Duck Dodgers in the Return of the 24½th Century seemed to establish Marvin as a star.
I have also seen Marvin in numerous reruns of the Looney Tunes classics, on Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Space Jam, and even a cameo appearance on the most famous animated series – The Simpsons as pictured below in an FBI line-up.
In my opinion, Marvin’s cameo in The Simpsons only furthers his status as a Looney Tunes legend.