I can't believe I remember this strip after not thinking about it for ages, but I do. (If only an isolated image of a little blonde girl reciting a mantra that shrank her down to mouse size.) As a child, I would read anything I could pin down in front of me, including magazines and newspapers that I did not begin to understand but which my brain was hungry for. I devoured a lot of "funny books" as well as super-heroes or science-fiction or horror. HOT STUFF THE LITTLE DEVIL, ARCHIE, SUGAR AND SPIKE, SAD SACK... it was all grist for the mill and I learned to read that way.
MARY JANE AND SNIFFLES was a back-up strip in Dell's LOONEY TUNES. I liked it as much as I liked everything else in those years before any sort of critical discrimination developed. It was a gentle, pleasant little strip. The fantasy element of a talking mouse and a girl a few inches tall appealed to me, not to mention the living toys and Candyland and talking animals and so forth were interesting. There was a little bit of jeopardy in each story, but things never got really dangerous and everyone was happy in the final panel. Sometimes that was just what you wanted in a story. (Looking at it now, I love the hand-lettered dialogue with lower case letters, so decorative and appropriate.)
MARY JANE AND SNIFFLES had a ridiculously healthy run. They first appeared in the first issue of LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES in October 1941 and they were still there in the final issue #238 in July 1961. Dang. Only a half dozen super-heroes survived those years (plus the Blackhawks, of course.)
Sniffles appeared in some animated cartoons that played in theatres in the 1930s and 1940s but he was never a star the way Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig were. I didn't care for him myself, he tried to hard to be loveable and win audience sympathy and that always turns me against a character. Mary Jane was not in the cartoons, she was added for the comics and she made the strip the charmer it was. I pray that no one decides to revive and update this strip today to make it grim and relevant and shocking. We'd learn that Mary Jane was retreating into a fantasy land of shrinking because she was being abused by her alcoholic stepfather or that she was actually being manipulated by hellish demons posing as cute talking animals and they have a horrible plan for her. This would make the writer feel clever. God forbid. I'd rather see it forgotten completely.
A little bit like ALICE IN WONDERLAND with the creepy bits and the social satire omitted, MARY JANE AND SNIFFLES accomplished its goal of providing a few minutes of amusing reading for children. And I'm sure, just as many kids tried shouting "Shazam!" when they were sure no one was around, more than one little girl hopefully recited the "Poof poof piffles" rhyme, thinking that just maybe....