MUFFY

Real Name: Mufler

Identity/Class: Robot

Occupation: Unrevealed

Group Membership: None

Affiliations: Burt, Eddie, Matt, Wendy

Enemies: Unidentified robot/armored individual

Known Relatives: None

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: Unrevealed

First Appearance: Comics Feature#33 (January-February 1985)

Powers/Abilities: Muffy can transform from a Volkswagen Beetle to a robot and back. 

Height: Unrevealed (see comments)
Weight: Unrevealed
Eyes: Red
Hair: None

History:
(Car and Cable) - Muffler, or Muffy for short, was a robot that could transform to disguise himself as VW Beetle. He was friends with the humans Matt, Eddie and Wendy, and the dog Burt.

  

Comments: Created by uncertain - maybe Jeffrey Scott, though he may have been given the basic character concepts someone else had come up with - see below for details.

   "In the summer of 1980, Marvel Entertainment Group President James E. Galton and Marvel Comics Publisher Stan Lee,...traveled west from their New York corporate headquarters to establish an animation studio in Los Angeles. In conjunction with the Emmy and Oscar-award winning animator David H. DePatie and his longtime production associate Lee Gunther, Galton and Lee formed Marvel Productions, Ltd.... The primary reason why Lee and Galton wanted to start a production company was that they had been repeatedly disappointed with the ways in which other producers had portrayed the Marvel Comics characters in cartoons, live-action TV and feature films, and they felt they could do a more accurate job of bringing their characters to the large and small screen." - Robert Strauss, Comics Feature#33

   If the idea of Marvel setting up a Marvel studio to make movies around their characters so they could do a more better and (generally) more faithful versions of them sounds familiar, then it should, because that's basically the story of how we've ended up with the MCU. Naturally, Stan Lee had the idea decades earlier, though with far more mixed results, not least because while they developed ideas, they were then still trying to get other studios to buy them and pay to turn the ideas into finished products. They had numerous live-action movies in early stages of development - Captain America, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four, Roger Corman's Spider-Man and X-Men are mentioned in Strauss' article in Comics Feature - but the only one mentioned that actually made it to the screen during the lifetime of Marvel Productions was...Howard the Duck. They also got ABC sold on a live-action Daredevil series to the point where a pilot script was completed, but it was in animation that they had the most success, both with Marvel characters (1981's Spider-Man, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, 1982's Incredible Hulk, and later Pryde of the X-Men) and developing cartoons on behalf of others (Dungeons and Dragons, G.I. Joe, Transformers, etc.). However, more successful doesn't mean completely successful, and there were still a lot of ideas that never made it beyond the development stage. There's not a ton of information available on most of these, but the article in Comics Feature#33 did at least provide concept art for a few, and snippets have emerged over the years from those who were involved in the development stage.

   The background to Muffy and the show he was intended to appeared on, Car and Cable, is slightly obscured and so the below is what I think is the chain of events, as pieced together from multiple second-hand sources. For clarity, confirmed information is in regular text, while my speculations of how the confirmed info links together is in italics:

   In 1963 David DePatie and Friz Freleng founded DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, which went on to produce such noteworthy cartoons as The Pink Panther. In 1981 Freleng left the company, and Cadence Industries, who at this juncture owned Marvel Comics, bought DFE and used it to form the basis of the new Marvel Productions Ltd. DePatie stayed on as Head of Production, but apparently he didn't much care for the comics end of the new business, particularly the main Marvel Comics people back out east in Manhattan. 

   Then, in 1982, per Jim Shooter's blog, Knickerbocker Toys asked Marvel to develop a toy property called the Mysterions "for comics, animation and other entertainment." The Mysterions were based off Japanese toys Knickerbocker had gained the license to, toys which were vehicles that unfolded into robots... So Shooter developed a backstory and a treatment for the first Mysterions story, with the intention being to do comics while Marvel Productions would produce a tie-in animated series, all timed to launch slightly prior to the toys themselves. Knickerbocker loved the concept they were shown, and arranged a meeting for it to be formally pitched and details pinned down. Shooter and others from Marvel Comics attended the meeting in person, while Dennis Marks, head of development at Marvel Productions, joined in via a conference call. After the comics end explained their plans, Marks had his turn to explain what the animation studio proposed, which turned out to be to completely ignore Shooter's stuff and instead do their own, completely unrelated thing, "with cute, wacky kids. And a goofy dog." This was a formula that had become cliched, as cartoon series after cartoon series copied the format originally established by Scooby-Doo. Heck, Marvel Productions also produced Dungeons and Dragons at this time, and the studio had originally planned to include a dog with the kids in that show until D&D creator Gary Gygax forced them to at least change the overused cute animal schtick to a unicorn instead. Knickerbocker didn't like this, as they'd liked Shooter's version and wanted the cartoons based on that too, but it all proved moot as the day after the meeting Hasbro announced they had bought out Knickerbocker, which put the Mysterions plans on indefinite hold.

   However, several months later Hasbro came knocking on Marvel's doors. Just like Knickerbocker, they wanted tie-in comics and cartoons to their proposed new line of transforming robots. Thinking that some of the same people might be at the Hasbro pitch meeting and not wanting to look like a "one-trick pony," Shooter did a completely different backstory for the new Transformers toys. However, it seems that Marvel Productions were less original, and did exactly what they had before, not only trying to ignore the backstory the comics end of things was providing, but just recycling their prior pitch. As noted in his book "How to Write for Animation," screenwriter Jeffrey Scott was paid in 1984 by Marvel Productions and CBS to produce a "series bible" for Transformers, complete with a script for a pilot episode titled "A Robot's Best Friend is His Dog." He couldn't recall any real details beyond these by the time he wrote the book, but the later Transformers production bible for the show that eventually did get made suggested that they might want to include an older brother, "A la Matt Conroy in the network presentation" as well as "We suggest the main character be a fifteen year-old boy modeled after Spike [Witwicky] in the Specials and / or Eddie Fairchild in the network presentation." Since the subsequent script for Car and Cable mentions Matt and Eddie as the older male and young boy respectively, it seems that the "network presentation" mentioned in the Transformers production bible was Marvel Productions original pitch for the Transformers cartoon.

   Skip forward to 1985, by which time DePatie has left Marvel Productions and things there are a lot less negative about their comic book cousins. Comics Feature runs an article on the company, and in it they include artwork for various series being pitched, including two identified as being for "Car and Cable," depicting a transforming Volkswagen Beetle called Muffy and his three human friends - an older man, a young boy and a teenaged girl - and a dog. The artwork provides the vehicle's name, but not the other characters. Then in 2020 a collector and Instagram user called consumercollectibles posted images from his memorabilia collection that included some additional production artwork and a page from the show bible identifying all the characters by name. As noted above, the fact that Matt and Eddie are mentioned in the Car and Cable bible while Matt Conroy and Eddie Fairchild are mentioned as being part of the "network presentation," combined with the C&C bible including Burt the dog which ties in with both Shooter's mention of "cute kids" and a "goofy dog" and Scott's Transformer's pilot also mentioning a dog, combined further with Muffy being a yellow VW Beetle, just like Transformer Bumblebee, makes it feel virtually certain that Car and Cable began as a Transformers pitch, but one that was rejected and then likely retooled in an attempt to sell it as its own show.

   Who now owns Muffy and the other characters from Car and Cable? Could they potentially turn up on Earth-616 (the mainstream Marvel universe). It's not certain, but I suspect it is entirely feasible that the rights remain with Marvel, given that they were never used for the Transformers. However, even if Marvel has the rights, I doubt there's any great desire among anyone to drag the character out of the development hell archives.

   I did give it a go trying to figure out his stats, but got a lot of contradictory information. Checking online, Volkswagen Beetles seem to have averaged around 160" long, or 13'4", and if you look at the main image above it does appear like his robot form is basically twice as high as the car form is long, so that'd be around 26', right? Even allowing that he might not be twice as long, he's definitely taller as a robot than his length as a car. But then there's the second image above, of him dancing with Wendy, and he's maybe two to two and half times her height. She's meant to be a normal teenager, so even if she was absurdly large for a teenage girl, say 6' tall, then we should only be looking at Muffy's robot height being somewhere between 12' and 15'.

Profile by Loki.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Muffy has no known connections to:


Burt

  

Burt was a dog who was friends with Muffy.

 

--Comics Feature#33


Eddie "Conroy"

  

Eddie was a young boy who was friends with Muffy.

 

--Comics Feature#33


Matt "Fairchild"

  

Matt was a man who was friends with Muffy.

 

--Comics Feature#33


Wendy

 

Wendy was a teenage girl who was friends with Muffy.

  

--Comics Feature#33


Unidentified robot or armored villain

  

An unidentified robot or being in a suit of powered armor threatened Muffy and his friends.

 

--Comics Feature#33


images: (without ads)
Comics Feature#33, p22, pan3 (main image/Muffy transforming)
Comics Feature#33, p22, pan2 (Muffy's birthday)
Production art released online by consumercollectibles (all other images)


Appearances:
Comics Feature#33 (January-February 1985) - credits unknown


First Posted: 08/07/2021
Last updated:
08/07/2021

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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