Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, as the great Warner Brothers animated cartoons were collectively known, have been back in the news lately, thanks to the wag who compared John R. Bolton, President Bush's embattled nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to the cartoon character Yosemite Sam, a mustachioed prospector given to epic explosions of sputtering wrath. Working with Sam and Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig and Daffy Duck and Tweety Bird -- the whole antic crew -- was part of the job description of Martha Sigall, an artist who got her start making $12.75 a week coloring cels (the celluloid "canvases" that make up animated films). She has evoked the old days in a memoir called Living Life Inside the Lines: Tales from the Golden Age of Animation (Univ. of Mississippi, $50; paperback, $20).

One of her anecdotes concerns the badly injured Mel Blanc, that genius among mimics, who lay in a coma for several weeks after being in a car crash in 1961. One day, when a doc asked how he was doing, Blanc signaled that he'd emerged from the deep by answering in Bugs Bunny's voice. As for the inimitable Bugs, where do you suppose he got his first name? A borrowing from "bughouse," slang for a lunatic asylum? Sounds plausible, but the truth is more mundane. According to Sigall, "Bugs" was simply the nickname of Ben Hardaway, the man who thought up the wascally wabbit.

-- Dennis Drabelle