o lucky (piltdown) man!
A creation of Maple Leaf Publishing’s Jon St. Ables (aka Jack Stables), Piltdown Pete is a jolly series that would seem to start in LUCKY COMICS Vol. 2, No. 8 (February-March ’44). The featured character, as the name suggests, lives in a fanciful prehistoric era. Then Pete meets Yot, the woman of his dreams, in LUCKY COMICS Vol. 5, No. 4  (April-May ’45). And the rest is prehistory.
Piltdown Pete and Yot by Jon St. Ables:
–Pete on the cover: It’s New! Piltdown Pete, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 2, No. 8 (February-March ’44)
–story? No idea about the story inside this issue.
–Pete not on cover, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 2 , No. 9 (April-May ’44)
–story? No idea what story if any is in this one.
–cover? LUCKY COMICS Vol. 4, No. 1 (August-September ’44)
–story? No info available on this ish.
–Pete on the cover, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 4, No. 2 (October-November ’44)
–story? No inside information, as yet, on the story.
–Pete on the cover, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 4, No. 3 (December ’44 – January ’45)
–story: An Ancient Dream—
One sunny afternoon, ages and ages ago, Piltdown Pete sat down beneath a shady tree, . . .
So begins An Ancient Dream and, in this tale, Pete dreams about a wolf and then the dream takes a strange turn. The wolf stands up like a modern hunter in modern dress and drives an anthropomorphized car.
This weird fantasy ends with Pete waking up hanging over a tree limb and on the tree is carved . . .
One sunny afternoon, ages and ages ago, Piltdown Pete sat down beneath a shady tree, . . .
–Pete not on the cover, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 5, No. 4 (May-June ’45)
–story: The Proof’s in the Pudding—
Pete is the power behind the throne. His father, Lugmug, is chief of the tribe. But Lugmug gives up on life, because he’s lost his precious berries. Pete’s mom is all for burying Lugmug alive–as is the custom of the tribe when someone becomes useless.
Pete says No–at least hold off on the funeral until Saturday.
Seeing it was Friday afternoon, Pete’s mother gently agreed to this…and went on making bamboo pudding.
His young brother and mother spit out acid berries that have fallen in the soup. But Pete picks them up. Lugmug uses these to stuff in his ears in the drafty cave at night to prevent ear-ache. [These were the very berries that he lost.]
–Pete not on the cover, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 5, No. 4  (April-May ’45)
[note: despite the numbering and the dates, this is the correct order]
Pete is slightly higher up on the evolutionary tree than his parents. He offers his services as a dentist to Wub. Or is it Dub? [Wub and Dub are twin brothers.] When all goes wrong Wub runs away. Pete and his little lisping companion–Fip–give chase. But before they catch up to Dub, they see–
–Pete, Yot and Fip on back cover: Buy War Savings Stamps. Watch for Piltdown Pete in Lucky Comics, BING BANG COMICS Vol. 5, No. 1 (May-June ’45)
Yot is even more evolved than Pete, physically speaking. Unlike everyone else in this big foot humour world, Yot is realistically drawn. Well, naturally drawn–she seems all too beautiful to be real. She’s like a Dorothy Lamour in leopard skin two-piece. Yot has come across the river from the other tribe looking for a dentist.
Across the river, Pete and Fip extract the tooth of Widdy–Yot’s pet dinosaur. And they meet King Nob and Queen Boo–Yot’s parents. Nob and Pete strike a bargain.
–cover? LUCKY COMICS Vol. 5, No. 7 (October-November ’45)
–story: Fuel Fable—
On Nob’s side of the river, they have no Fire-Earth [coal, I think], so Pete will get some over on his side of the river–and in return Nob won’t make war on Pete’s tribe and Yot will marry Pete.
But when Pete and Yot start to cart off the Fire-Earth–in a wagon invented by Pete and pulled by Widdy–Pete’s dad, Lugmug, exclaims such things are
agin the laws of nature.
Nor does Lugmug agree with giving Fire-Earth to Nob. And so Lugmug leads his tribe in an attack on the other tribe.
Yot stands between them and the cart full of fuel.
–cover? LUCKY COMICS Vol. 5, No. 9 (February-March ’46)
–Pete not on cover, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 5, No. 10 (April-May ’46)
–Pete on the cover, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 5, No. 11? (June-July 46)
–Pete not on cover, LUCKY COMICS Vol. 4, No. 33 (August-September ’46)
–no story: Piltdown Pete does not appear in this issue of LUCKY–and probably doesn’t appear in the following issue, Vol. 3, No. 34 (October-November ’46), which is the final issue of the title; however, at the bottom of the page in the Circus Girl feature, there’s an announcement that Piltdown Pete will appear in the September-October ROCKET COMICS.
–Pete and Yot on cover, ROCKET COMICS Vol. 4, No. 30 (November-December ’46?)
–story? No information on the inside story at this point in time; however, this is the last issue of this title and would therefore be the last appearance for Pete, Yot, Fip and all the others.
the theory of evolution
right: Alley Oop (21st of October ’34); story and art: V. T. Hamlin.
However, the more obvious precursor, in name, is Peter Piltdown.
below: Peter Piltdown original art (28th of February ’37); story and art: Mal Eaton.
A Sunday strip created by Mal Eaton, Peter Piltdown begins in 1935, on August 4th, carried by a Canadian newspaper syndicate, Miller Services. This syndicate is relatively small but lasts from the ’20 to the ’60s, with its greatest success in the ’30s and ’40s, carrying over ten different syndicated strips at the time.
In 1946, Peter Piltdown changes its name to Pookie–for the little kid who has taken over Peter’s strip by then. The Sunday strip soon dies off after that, but it has another life a few years later when it returns in the magazine for the Boy Scouts of America, BOY’S LIFE. By then Peter Piltdown is now Rocky Stoneaxe–given that Piltdown Man had been exposed as a fraud. And the strip continues in this form into the ’70s.
right: Prehistoric Pete: Pete’s Toll Bridge, RED SEAL COMICS No. 20 (August ’47), published by Superior, reprinted from Chesler’s RED SEAL COMICS No. 14 (October ’45); art: Joe Beck and Otto Eppers.
Prehistoric Pete is drawn by Joe Beck–sometimes inked by Otto Eppers and sometimes scripted by Ken Fitch. The earliest appearance listed in the Grand Comics Database for this feature is SPOTLIGHT COMICS No. 1 (November ’44).
Yet another piece of prehistoric fantasy that may be behind certain ideas for Piltdown Pete, is the 1940 movie, ONE MILLION B.C.–-the product of Hal Roach, who directed the picture along with his son, Hal Roach, Jr. As well, D. W. Griffith, although uncredited, is reported to have had a hand in the production.
For its time, the movie is quite ambitious and uses trick photography for some of its key scenes–while in other scenes present day animals are made to look like their prehistoric counterparts.
Victor Mature stars in one of his first leading roles–although the script doesn’t call for much dialogue–and Mature has no beard, despite all other adult males in both tribes being bearded.
A remake of ONE MILLION B.C–ONE MILLION YEARS B.C–was released in 1967, starring Raquel Welch. For more on that movie, see: IT’S THE CRAZE!
a saint by design
Born in Ulverston, England, on the 23rd of December, 1912, John Stables comes to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, when he is thirteen, after his father and brother have moved there. Later, as Canada is building ships during WW II, Stables works in Victoria, B. C. [or most probably in nearby Esquimalt, where the naval yards are located] as a sign writer and painter.
In 1942, Stables marries and goes to work at Maple Leaf Publishing in Vancouver, residing in the Mount Pleaant area of the city. As stated on CAN COM 101, John or Jack Stables has different pen names he uses for the stories he writes and illustrates–the most common monicker being Jon St. Ables–but he’s listed elsewhere in the funny books, under his real name, as Maple Leaf’s production designer.
right: BING BANG COMICS Vol. 2, No. 9 (November-December ’44); cover art: Jon St. Ables.
The major features St. Ables creates for Maple Leaf are fantasy adventures like Brok Windsor and action adventures like Bill Speed. In addition, he contrbutes single page features about miltary heroes and the like.
left: Brok Windsor: The Horned Lions of Ganshee Valley, BETTER COMICS Vol. 3, No. 7 (December ’44 – January ’45); story and art: Jon St. Ables.
Besides Piltdown Pete, another comedy feature the artist works on is Nip, Flip and Zip—a funny animal feature about three monkeys which appears in BETTER COMICS.
right: BETTER COMICS Vol. 7, No. 3 (December-January ’45-’46), cover art: Jon St. Ables.
As well, given he also produces covers and promotional ads for the whole Maple Leaf line, St. Ables draws characters associated with other artists and renders them in their styles.
In Piltdown Pete, after Yot enters the feature, Jon St. Ables is able to use his usual realistic style for her, in comic contrast to the rest of the cast who are all rendered in big foot style. Yot looks like she was modeled after the starlets and pin-ups of the day.
In 1946, after Maple Leaf folds, Jack Stables runs a production studio for colouring books [he’s listed in the phonebook as an artist]. In 1950, he leaves for California and attempts to find work at Disney, before settling in Seattle, Washington, where he works for Boeing’s art department.
Retired in 1975, John Stables passed away in 1999. In 2006, John Stables, aka Jon St. Ables, was inducted into the Joe Shuster Award’s Hall of Fame.
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