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NO. 782
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Ed Roth's Mr. Gasser -- box art by Ricardo Diaz
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RAT FINK -- CHAPTER ONE OF TEN
Pete Millar

Welcome, reader, to an all-new ten part series revealing the secret origins of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's RAT FINK. You may not think good old RF deserves ten whole issues, but I think I can safely say that by the end of this series, you will change your mind!

The roots of the Rat Fink lie in the world of custom cars and drag racing, so that is where we'll start! Teenage boys have always been into cars, but in the late 1950s/ early 1960s, drag racing became a national obsession. Naturally, the trend showed up in plenty of comic books...

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Everyone from Snapper Carr to Bugs Bunny was into racing!
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Hot rod comics proliferated as Superboy raced hot rod chariots, and Archie Comics devoted a new title to auto mechanics.
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Of course, Marvel and the Fantastic Four were also in on the trend.
Below: a page from Fantastic Four #3.
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Comic book ad: Build your OWN hot rod -- only $1.00!!! And it goes 120 miles per hour! But if you read the fine print, it does mention that this is a SCALE speed.
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At age 16, Kenneth Howard taught himself to pinstripe on bicycles and later shirts, starting a new fad in California. In 1951, Kenneth set up his first pin striping studio, taking for himself the nickname “Von Dutch,” because he was often called “stubborn as a Dutchman.” Von Dutch soon became the go-to guy for customizing motorbikes and automobiles.
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BELOW: An airbrushed shirt by Kenneth Howard aka Von Dutch.
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The most popular car magazine at this time was CAR CRAFT, In August 1959, the magazine (cover pictured below) did an article on a new fad sweeping the hot rod world. The cover blurb said: "Latest Craze -- Weirdo Shirts!"
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In an era when any kind of design on a shirt was completely unheard of, the new hot-rod fashion were becoming wildly popular. Here's the article…
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As you can see, the article features Ed Roth, Dean Jeffries and Pete Millar as the kings of wierdo shirts -- but they left out a MAJOR player in the Wierdo Shirt field... Stanley "MOUSE" Miller. He's pictured below, selling beatnik and monster hot rod shirts from his booth.
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BELOW: Mouse Monster Club membership certificate, featuring Mouse's wild, bug-eyed monsters in a race car. The artist always signs his work with a tiny drawing of a mouse (lower right corner). Drawing copyright Mouse Studios.
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The Weirdo Shirts exploded in popularity, and it got to the point where even mainstream national magazines such as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED were taking notice of the trend. Pictured below, SI from April 23, 1961, cover story "HOT ROD CULT," with two members of Ed Roth's staff wearing hand-painted Weirdo Shirts, signed "Roth" and "Roth Studios."
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Drag racing illustrator Pete Millar was born in Oakland, California in 1929. He started drawing when he was just a boy, and began drag racing in high school. After convincing his father to sign special permission papers, Pete joined the army when he was just 16 years old. He eventually became an engineer at Convair aircraft manufacturing company, where he met his future wife, Orah Mae. They were married in 1954.

Pete Millar's "Weirdo Shirts" made him famous, and in 1959, he and Carl Kohler were asked by Petersen Publishing to create an ongoing monthly magazine about cars. They co-created "CAR-toons," a black and white magazine devoted exclusively to hod rod humor. Here's the cover of the first issue…
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ABOVE: Roth joins CAR-Toons! The cover shows Ed surrounded by weirdo shirts featuring crazy monster characters. No Rat Fink though -- he hadn't been created yet!

BELOW: November 1963, a weirdo shirt comes alive and eats its creator, Ed Roth.
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Although the art in this mag was often quite beautiful, and technically superb, most of the contributing writer/artists remained unknown — but a few were destined for big things. Pictured below, from CAR-Toons #13, November 1966, a story written and drawn by comic superstar, the great Alex Toth.
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Carl Kohler left the magazine after a single issue, but Pete Millar continued to produce "CAR-toons" from his home for the next four years. Then, in 1963, Petersen Publications informed Millar that they were taking over production of "CAR-toons."

Millar responded by creating other drag mags, starting with "Pete Millar's DRAG CARTOONS." This new monthly was successful, and Miller continued producing it until the 1970s (the mag ceased publication in 1991). Here's a cover gallery, starting with the first issue:
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BELOW: Pete Miller (center) poses with movie stars Frankie Avalon and Anette Fuinicello on behalf of the NAAFH -- National Association for the Advancement of Flat Heads. (A flat head is a type of car engine). This tongue-in-cheek ad ran on the back cover of Drag-toons #7.
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In July 1963, Millar's fellow "weirdo shirt" designer, ED "BIG DADDY" ROTH, joined the magazine with great fanfare. The ad below was drawn by Pete Millar. And as the ad below mentions, Millar was about to come out with yet another magazine, this one titled after and devoted exclusively to the man who had become the national face of weirdo shirts: ED "BIG DADDY" ROTH!
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RF CHAPTER TWO
HERE COMES BIG DADDY!
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