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Wonder Wart-Hog (the Hog of Steel) is an underground comic book character, a porcine parody of Superman, created by Gilbert Shelton and Tony Bell. He is the son of the rulers of the planet Squootpeep, sent to Earth when Squootpeep's scientists predict the planet will soon explode. The infant porker is raised by hillbillies, not out of affection, but because his invulnerability prevents his being killed and cooked.
His secret identity is the mild-mannered reporter Philbert Desanex. (Occasionally, however, Shelton has depicted Wonder Wart-Hog and Desanex as two distinct individuals, with WW-H able to reside inside the reporter's body.)
Origin and history
The idea for Wonder Wart-Hog came to Gilbert Shelton in 1961, while he was living in New York. The following year, Shelton moved back to Texas to enroll in graduate school and get student deferment from the draft. He then collaborated with Tony Bell. The first two Wonder Wart-Hog stories appeared in Bacchanal, a short-lived college humor magazine, in the spring of 1962. Shelton then became editor of The Texas Ranger and published more Wonder Wart-Hog stories (but his first art in Texas Ranger was printed in the February 1959 issue).
Shelton moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s, and founded Rip Off Press with four friends from Texas (fellow underground cartoonist Jack Jackson, Fred Todd, and Dave Moriaty) in 1969. In 1976, Rip Off Press was located at 1250 17th Street at the foot of Potrero Hill in San Francisco, CA. A group of ex-Texans had migrated to the Haight-Ashbury in the 70's. Gilbert Shelton later moved to Paris, France. Fellow Underground Comix artist pioneer Robert Crumb also lives in France with his wife (but they do not live near Paris).
The first professional publication of Wonder Wart-Hog was in Pete Millar's Drag Cartoons in the early 1960s. Many of these were reprinted in 1968, when Millar Publishing Company brought out two issues of Wonder Wart-Hog Quarterly. 140,000 copies of each were printed, but distributors did not pick up the magazine and only 40,000 of each were sold.
The following stories from Drag Cartoons have never been reprinted:
- 26 Wheelie (1966)
- 27 Vietnam
- 29 Masked Meanie 4
- 30 Parakeet
- 31 Marine
- 32 Brain-bender
- 33 Funny Car
- 34 Nazi
- 35 Jail (1967)
- 36 Dreamcar
- 37 Fiends
- 38 Meanie Fuel
- 40 Weevel
- 41 Photogrampher
- 42 Flame Suit
- 47 Highway Tragedy (1968)
Drag Cartoons 43-46 had work by Gilbert Shelton, but no Wonder Wart-Hog.
Wonder Wart-Hog also appeared in the following one-shot underground comics:
- Feds 'N' Heads (1968). (Note that there are two versions of this comic, one with a 35 cent cover price and one with a 50 cent cover price, with slightly different contents, but the same WWH story.)
- Radical America Komiks (1969) (volume III, Number 1 of Radical America, an SDS magazine) (WWH story reprinted in Nurds of November trade paperback)
- Philbert Desanex' Dreams (1993).
- Underground Classics #12: Gilbert Shelton in 3D (1990).
Wonder Wart-Hog's adventures were serialized in comic strip form in many underground newspapers and college newspapers from the mid-1960s through 1977.
Rip Off Press
Wonder Wart-Hog appeared in Rip Off Comix #1-10 and in several of the magazine sized issues of Rip Off. His last new appearance in Rip Off Comix was in the 20th anniversary issue (#21) 1988.
Many of these Wonder Wart-Hog stories were collected in three comic books from Rip Off Press in the mid-1970s' (Not only) The Best of Wonder Wart-Hog. These three issues reprint all of the Rip Off stories (but not all of the covers and single page appearances) except for the following:
- Battle of the Titans Chapters 3, 4, and 5 (Rip Off 10 - 12) (also released as a stand-alone comic; a collaboration among Shelton, Bell, and Joe Brown that spanned 20 years from the start to the finish of the story)
- Philbert Dessanex and the Street Entertainer (Rip Off 14)
Rip Off also produced a trade paperback collection in 1980. It included the title "Wonder Wart-Hog and the Nurds of November" story in addition to a large collection of earlier material. That story was also released as a stand-alone comic book version in 1988.
Three stories about Philbert Desanex from the trade paperback collection were released as a stand-alone comic, "Philbert Desanex' Dreams." The stories center almost entirely around WWH's alter ego, with only a brief appearance by the Hog.
The most recent story of the Hog of Steel appears in Zap Comix (#15).