Where are they now?

Illustration: Ruairidh Bowen

Olly Lennard gives cartoon continuity a darkly funny kick in the teeth. This week: Wile E. Coyote & Roadrunner

America first became aware of Wilbur Ethelbert (later “Wile E.”) Coyote esquire in 1949 when he was caught on camera pursuing a roadrunner through the Mojave Desert by a young David Attenborough. Attenborough returned to the Mojave again and again over the subsequent years to film Wile E.’s increasingly desperate attempts and then sold the tapes to Warner Brothers for a small fortune that he used to buy the Amazon. The series that emerged touched the hearts of millions and soon Wile E. was a well-known celebrity, with crowds lining the roads nearly every day to watch him pursue his quarry. It was during one of these typical performances that Wile E. fired himself from a giant slingshot in an attempt to match the roadrunner’s speed, but fell into a canyon and badly damaged his spine. Doctors told Wile E. he might never walk again. He subsequently sued the Acme Corporation on grounds of poor manufacture and was awarded seventeen million dollars in damages and loss of livelihood. The trial was eventually adapted into the famous Harper Lee novel To Kill a Roadrunner.

Miraculously, Wile E. recovered from his injuries and returned to the Mojave in 1952 thanks to medical care provided by Dr. Zhivago. On June 10th, 1953 he finally caught the roadrunner running at top speed by stretching a piece of cheese wire across a road. “I’m surprised I didn’t think of it sooner!” he is reported to have said whilst scraping roadrunner guts off half a mile of highway. However, shortly after consuming the roadrunner Wile E. was hospitalised in a serious state. It was later revealed that the extensive nuclear testing in Nevada had highly irradiated the roadrunner, granting him his extreme speed but also resulting in Wile E.’s radiation poisoning. Though he recovered, he was left sterile, which eventually caused the dissolution of his relationship with Lady, who left him for the Tramp. In a press statement Wile E. later said: “Good luck to them. I’m done with that bitch.”

Personal mishaps notwithstanding, in 1955 Wile E. was the proud owner and operator of a national pest-control business that specialised in roadrunners. He was a great success, despite a case of mistaken identity that led to the accidental extermination of Tweety the Canary. But in December of 1965 Wile E. was drafted into the US Marine Corp and deployed to Vietnam alongside Donald Duck and He-Man.  He was in Saigon during the infamous Tet offensive, during which Bugs Bunny was wounded and the Vietcong killed Porky Pig. He is then thought to have been captured by Communist forces and moved to a POW camp, after which his movements are unknown. Reports emerged after the war of a group of POW escapees reaching the Cambodian border, among their number a grizzled, tenacious coyote, but these stories are unconfirmed. Today, Wile E. is listed as Missing In Action. The 2008 film WALL-E was a biography of his remarkable life, and a remake has already begun filming with Scarlett Johansson as Wile E. and Eddie Murphy as the voice of the roadrunner.

Olly Lennard is a second year comedian and actor. You can follow him on Twitter, @OllyLennard.


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