It’s Debate Day on Trope and Dagger! This week we’re discussing the best Looney Tunes character. If you want to view the correct opinion, by all means read on. If you find yourself perversely attracted by wrong opinions, then you can certainly view Aaron’s here.
Looney Tunes has amused us for more than half a century, with the directorial talents of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, and the voice talents of honestly pretty much just Mel Blanc, the Man of 1000 Voices. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Looney Tunes were the most popular animated shorts in theaters, surpassing even Disney. The reason why is pretty simple: they’re funny as hell. Looney Tunes combined hilarious sight gags with amazing writing and voice acting to create a series of cartoons that are still funnier than pretty much anything being put out today.
But one question remains: which Looney Tunes character reigns supreme? For the purposes of this discussion, we’re excluding Bugs Bunny. It’s just unfair to include the wascally wabbit, sitting as he does at the top of the animated comedy heap. So with Bugs having made that left turn at Albuquerque, which of the remaining toons will reign supreme? There’s only one correct answer: Marvin the Martian (voiced, of course, by Mel Blanc).
I rewatched a bunch of classic Marvin cartoons to prep for this post, and the whole time I was struck by this thought: what exactly is it that I find so appealing about the short little Martian guy? When we decided to do this topic for Debate Day, Marvin immediately jumped out at me as my favorite non-Bugs character. But why? What is it I love about the mouthless little dude? He’s definitely not the funniest character, nor does he have that many appearances in the classic shorts or even much dialogue. All the same, there’s something about Marvin that makes me love him.
I’ve always been fascinated by speculative fiction, so alien villains already have a leg up on the competition in my book. Marvin’s wacky space hijinx appeal to my escapist side. I love his bizarre red-pathway space station (which is clearly not Mars) from “Hare-way to the Stars.” Who built that place, anyway? What demented architect thought a network of zig-zagging red sidewalks with no guard rails was a good idea? I’d like to believe it was Marvin himself. Anyone who can come up with a base of operations that weird and sadistic is A-okay in my book.
I also love how unrepentantly evil Marvin is. Other Looney Tunes villains can be interpreted as sympathetic or misunderstood: Wile E. Coyote and Sylvester Pussycat, for example, are just hungry. But Marvin? Dude is fucking evil as hell. In almost all of his appearances, he blasts someone with a disintegrator gun. His entire motivation is blowing up the earth (with his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator) because it obstructs his view of Venus. That’s right: he wants to kill everyone on earth (with an earth-shattering kaboom) so he can have a better view of the hellish nightmare planet that is Venus. No kidding, Venus is a shithole with a runaway greenhouse effect, sulfuric acid clouds, and a molten surface. PSA kids: Venus sucks.
Marvin’s design is pretty funny in and of itself. He’s known as “Marvin the Martian,” and is clearly stated as being from Mars in his first appearance in “Haredevil Hare,” but we pretty much never see him on Mars or interacting with other Martians. He has a Roman skirt and centurion-style broom helmet to evoke the Roman god of war, Mars, but Marvin is so puny that the whole outfit just looks comical. Combine that with his soft, nasally speaking-voice (“That makes me very angry, very angry indeed!”), and he’s probably the most unintimidating villain in the Looney Tunes canon. But Marvin is apparently oblivious to how ridiculous he seems, which is part of his charm.
Another thing I adore about him is that he never gives up. No matter how many times Bugs Bunny thwarts his plans by blowing him up with his own Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator (which is not just a stick of dynamite, despite appearances), he just keeps at it. He’s been bested by Bugs and Duck Dodgers over and over, but nothing will deter him from his quest to destroy earth. And he states in “Hare-way to the Stars” that he’s been working on the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator for 2000 years. That makes Marvin old, and dedicated, as hell. Unflappable, this guy.
He also has a dog. A big, green, talking space dog. Granted, the dog is stupid as hell and falls for the classic Bugs Bunny wordplay switcharoo (“Oh yes you will!” “Oh no I won’t!” “Oh no you won’t!” “Oh yes I will!”), but still, how many villains have a talking dog sidekick? Marvin also has a seemingly limitless supply of just-add-water Instant Martians, which is pretty cool. It raises another question though: are those guys from Mars? If so, does Mars have two sentient, indigenous species? Ah, who cares, it’s Looney Tunes.
Marvin is just the perfect villain. Even though he didn’t even have a name until decades after he was introduced as a character, he’s stood the test of time as a go-to bad guy for Bugs and co., appearing in video games, movies, and cartoons to this day. I love space, and I love villains that betray your expectations. Marvin is a character made just for me, and I adore him. But don’t take my word for it: check out the classic shorts “Haredevil Hare,” “Hare-way to the Stars,” and “Duck Dodgers in the 24½ Century.” You won’t be disappointed.