There is a general impression that POWERHOUSE PEPPER was Basil Wolverton’s favorite character, but cartoonist, illustrator, writer and editor Monte Wolverton, Basil Wolverton's son and a respected authority on his father’s work and career, has said that Wolverton once told him that “Mystic Moot was his favorite feature, and... he felt it had a lot more potential.”
In 1944 Basil Wolverton, always on the lookout to expand his client list as a freelancer, had succeeded in breaking into the pool of talent working for Fawcett Publications’ growing line of comic books. He’d queried Fawcett Executive Editor-In-Chief Will Lieberson in the Spring of that year with a proposal for the unique strip THE CULTURE CORNER, which was accepted that November by Lieberson and Editor Virginia Provisiero to run as a half-page in Fawcett's flagship title WHIZ COMICS. The strip first appeared in the title’s 65th issue in May 1945 and ran almost uninterrupted for seven years.Wolverton had been needing to reverse his fortunes after Novelty Press cancelled his long-running outer-space superhero strip SPACEHAWK, and he was running humorous comics in several of Martin Goodman’s books, Lev Gleason’s books, and had the Fawcett feature in WHIZ. And then Fawcett added to his workload, and it was welcome.
Fawcett always had at least one humorous backup feature in its books, and they’d tried and failed in their title IBIS THE INVINCIBLE for the 1st two issues. (Ibis had been spun out of WHIZ COMICS, where it had appeared since the 1st issue.) Whether it came from a suggestion made by an editor to Wolverton or tWolverton suggested it to Fawcett, Winter 1945’s issue #3 of IBIS featured the debut of a new Basil Wolverton character in an untitled four page story that unmistakably poked fun at the book’s title character, IBIS himself.
Basil Wolverton originally created the character as “MYSTIC MOSE and His Magic Nose,” and a Fawcett editor changed the name of the character to the one he bore for the rest of his published career: MYSTIC MOOT and His Magic Snoot.Any comparison shows he was created for Fawcett Publications as a parody of their own IBIS the Invincible, but Moot is distinctly Wolvertonian in nature and delivery, adding a refreshing dose of Funny to the dramatic action of the rest of the Ibis book. By the Spring of 1946, Moot turned up once again in the fourth issue of Ibis, and then in the 2nd issue of a new Fawcett humor anthology title, Comic Comics, dated May 1946.
Mystic Moot, with his curled sideburns and goatee, looks like the cliche of an Eastern Mystic, if that mystic is a cartooned Basil Wolverton caricature. He could even pass for one of today’s urban hipsters. Unique to most creators of the era, Wolverton had created an ethnically diverse character without relying on poking fun at the character's ethnicity for the humor of the strip. Wolverton hammers home Moot’s ethnicity immediately: early in his first episode Moot complains about not having even “a Rupee to buy a pair of shoes!” and by his ninth story, in Comic Comics #7 Moot meets a Tiger from his past and exclaims “My old friend! I haven’t seen you since we left India!” While Moot may not be colored as being any darker-complexioned than the other characters in his stories, Wolverton makes no attempts to hide the ethnicity of his character, and in fact flaunts it in ways that are unstintingly positive.
Wolverton’s four-pagers are wonderfully drawn little gems. His bold delineation, delicately tapered outlines and ornately hatched shading are prime examples of the artist’s humorous style at its very best, and his character designs are wonderfully goofy yet solid, carved with his tapering lines, and without a single example of the artist taking any shortcuts when it came to delineating Moot’s adventures. Examination of the entire run reveals Mystic Moot is a veritable index of the brilliance of Wolverton’s comedic character design.
Wolverton’s remarkable artwork is always the first notable feature his work, but his creative way with words is, if anything, equally important to the singular flavor of his work’s humor. In Moot’s first appearance, Wolverton’s manic wordplay is right there at the outset, both conveying necessary information and with rhymes and alliteration flying fast and furious, never spurious for the curious. “From out of the mysterious East,” Wolverton intones introducing Moot’s 1st episode (before parenthetically adding “East Walla-Walla,”) “waddles... a weird wonder of wizardry. He’s that strange galoot – Mystic Moot, on whose astute butte grows a beaut of a magic snoot!” He’s got magic in his nose, we get told, and as we’re catching our breath after that dizzying wordplay we’ve been given all we need to know to get the story, and Moot’s introduction, off and running.
Mystic Moot and his Magic Snoot ran in issues 3 through 6 of Fawcett's IBIS The INVINCIBLE, and simultaneously in Fawcett's COMIC COMICS # 2 through 10, from 1946 to 1948. Thirteen issues of four page stories that sing with all of Basil Wolverton's genius for humorous comics storytelling and humor.
And even with Wolverton's glorious humor, the strip's intention was always deeper than that. He wanted MOOT to set an example of how to be a good and decent person, sugar coated in hilarious comics that need to be seen and appreciated.