For a classic example of the evolution of a comic book character, and to see how the antics of a given character often coincide perfectly with the events of their time, one need look no further than the Fox and the Crow - those mischief making rascals who were always at each other's throats for one reason or another. But to understand the popularity of the Fox and the Crow, it's important to look at their glory days in the '40s and '50s.
Though they made their screen debut in 1941, the green-hatted Fox and his cigar-puffing companion made their first comic book appearance in Real Screen Funnies #1, published in the Spring of 1945. World War II was still a few months from ending, and the United States was feeling the ravages of the past few years. Food was scarce. And the entertaining adventures of the comic book Fox and Crow, just like the screen Fox and Crow, provided the kinds of charmingly antagonistic gags that were lighthearted enough to capture the hearts of an emotionally stressed audience. Their popularity grew, and they were even given the very dapper first names of Crawford Crow and Fauntleroy Fox. Of course, the fact that most of their trickery revolved around either food (as the Fox called it, "beautiful, wonderful, vitamin enriched food") or money made them all the more appropriate to their times and helped seal their popularity.
With his cigar dangling from his gigantic yellow beak, the Crow loved nothing more than to idle around and wait for the Fox to fall into one of his harebrained traps. Of course, the Fox was no dummy - and he was always quick to turn the tables on the instigating Crow - whether that meant swindling him out of still more money or replacing his beloved cigars with sticks of dynamite.
By 1948, the Fox and the Crow were starting to fade out of the screen scene...but their comic book hey day was just beginning. The Fox and the Crow had proven so successful in Screen Funnies that the two appeared as the main feature in Comic Cavalcade #30. Even with the War over and the US victorious, theirs was still the type of cockamamie humor that America needed. And sure enough, three years later at the end of 1951, the scheming duo got their own title.
With this title, the Crow gains a purple top hat and loses his cigar. Hilarity still abounds, however, and The Fox and the Crow stays on top for the next several years. But alas, the constant attempts to outsmart each other, the thinly veiled disguises and once tried and true formula of the Fox and the Crow started to lose its momentum in the '60s. Slowly but surely, they began to be phased out of their own title. A look at the covers alone shows the new characters of Stanley and his Monster start to overtake the Fox and the Crow. They begin as a small blurb and picture on the cover of The Fox and the Crow #95, getting bigger and bigger with each issue until sadly, in The Fox and the Crow #102, the towheaded Stanley and his mangy fuchsia monster dominate the whole cover, with the faces of our old pals merely tiny mugs at the top of the book.
In The Fox and the Crow #103, things get even worse: the actual letters in the title The Fox and the Crow become smaller, and the letters in the title Stanley and his Monster become bigger - so they are the same size. Things continue in this way for the next few issues, and in May 1968, the inevitable happens. The "wide weird wild world" of Stanley and his Monster take center stage, signifying the end of our beloved Fox and Crow.
Of course, in retrospect, the fairly simple gags of the Fox and the Crow couldn't possibly have lasted any longer than they did. One look at the cover of Stanley and his Monster #109, that definitive May 1968 issue, shows this. With Stanley's pom-pom and go-go boot sporting pal Marcia featured dancing in the center of a gaggle of hideous monsters, it's clear that a new era of entertainment is being ushered in - an era of mysterious happenings, eerie settings and grotesque creatures. But while they couldn't have lasted much longer, there's no denying that the Fox and the Crow were a fantastic team while they did last. And to us, that's something to crow about.