Harry Rinker’s Hopalong Cassidy price guide suggests in its subtitle that Hoppy was the King of the Cowboy Merchandisers. This well could be true. There’s a ton of Hoppy stuff out there. But taking other collectible characters into consideration, was Hopalong Cassidy also King of ALL the Merchandisers?
Others to be considered for this lofty title would have to include Buck Rogers, Mickey Mouse and the Lone Ranger (I think he was short changed in the original Harry Rinker assertion), all of whose origins go way back: Buck Rogers to the August 1928 issue of the pulp magazine Amazing Stories where he first appeared in the story Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan; Mickey Mouse to 1928 when he was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks to replace an earlier Disney animated character creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, that he lost to Charles Mintz at Universal Studios; and the Lone Ranger to the 1933 WXYZ radio show of the same name conceived and produced by George Trendle and developed and written by Fran Striker.
Let’s list some of their credits- Buck Rogers and the Lone Ranger both had appearances in the pulp magazines, but Mickey had early magazines of his own as well. All three had their own strips in daily and Sunday newspaper comic sections, and their own comic books and Big Little Books. All three had their own radio shows, although Mickey’s was short-lived (only 20 episodes)- Mickey Mouse Theater of the Air produced by the Disney Studios in 1938. All three had their own television shows. All three had either movie serials or movie shorts, full length films, books and all three also appeared on their own gum cards.
Hopalong Cassidy, on the other hand, has an origin that goes back even further to 1904 in a short story by Clarence Mulford. It wasn’t until 1935, when William Boyd took over the screen role as Hopalong Cassidy for a total of 66 films, that “Hoppy” really became known to the public. In 1944, William Boyd bought the rights to the Hopalong Cassidy character from Clarence Mulford and the bulk of the films from producer Harry Sherman. A few years later, Boyd bought the rights to his old films for use on television where they were a huge success.
Going back to our comparisons, Hopalong Cassidy was also in his own pulp magazines, had his own daily and Sunday newspaper comic strips, his own comic books, radio shows (for only 2 years), television shows (mostly reruns of his movies), many, many full length films through the years (although no serials), books (but no Big Little Books), and the much collected series of Topps Hopalong Cassidy gum cards. It should also be mentioned that William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy made many public appearances as did Brace Beemer and Clayton Moore for the Lone Ranger. Buck Rogers had a few that played him through the years- Buster Crabbe in the serials and Gil Gerard on TV and the pilot film, but none with the intensity of William Boyd and Clayton Moore. To be fair, I guess you’d have to count Mickey’s appearances at Disneyland and Disney World.
So you be the judge. All four characters had an unbelievable slew of stuff- lunch boxes, costumes, premiums, toys, guns, gadgets and other gizmos. But who was really King?
A few selections from our Bookshelf page: