This is the first in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) of pieces giving you the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.”
It’s basically like Meta-Messages, except that this is about references in old comics that have nothing to do with other comics, but rather the popular culture of the time. To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of Seinfeld will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal). Here is an archive of all the Foggy Ruins of Time installments so far.
Today, we look at the impressively wide influence Hugh Herbert had upon popular culture, including Wonder Woman’s sidekick, Etta Candy…
First of all, here is Wonder Woman’s obese sidekick, Etta Candy, from various scenes in Wonder Woman #1 and 2.
As you can see, Etta was noted by her incessant “woo woo.”
This was a reference, however indirect, to the great vaudeville comedian Hugh Herbert.
Herbert’s routine involved a bit where he would often emit the noise “hoo hoo” to punctuate a gag.
Here he is doing the bit in an old serial…
(He’s trying to trick the fellow next to him to use an exploding cigar, and he’s just gotten off the phone – he is saying “Wrong number, wrong number, hoo hoo.”)
When Daffy Duck first began appearing in serials, he used Herbert’s “hoo hoo,” as well, only Mel Blanc exaggerated it, making it a more aggressive “hoo hoo!” (Blanc is on the record as saying it was Herbert he was basing it on).
In the above cartoon, from 1938, Daffy is looking for work as an actor.
“Are you looking for a duck actor? Hoo hoo!”
However, ALSO during the 1930s, Curly Howard of the Three Stooges ALSO adopted Herbert’s trademark “hoo hoo,” only Curly adapted it to “woo woo,” and used it differently, more as a manic sound effect.
Here he is going all out with the “WOO WOO woo woo woo woo woo woo woo”…
“Woo woo” became SO popular that Herbert himself actually changed HIS bit in 1940 to now say “woo woo” instead of “hoo hoo.”
Etta Candy debuted in late 1941, so it is interesting to note if William Moulton Marston was basing her “woo woo” on Herbert, or on Curly.
From the usage, it appears as though it is Herbert, but even if it was Curly, it would still, in effect, be Herbert, ya know?