You know not to play with matches, right? If you do, it's probably, in part, because of Smokey the Bear. The friendly, fuzzy fire prevention advocate has been watching over the American forests for decades. But how did it all start for our hairy hero? Like many great characters, his origin has been told in comic book format:
The setting was Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico in 1950. For a story like this it's best to have an omniscient narrator...possibly an animal...and the comic delivers in the form of our storytelling hawk (or possibly some other kind of bird):
The comic goes into detail about the efforts of firefighters and soldiers who fought the great blaze of the Capitan Gap Fire which destroyed 17,000 acres of forest. Once the inferno was under control a lone survivor was found:
Yep, the once and future Smokey survived the fire and was rescued by the friendly fire fighters but he was still burned and need medical help. And once he was brought to the ranger station he began the healing process.
He was originally named "Hotfoot Teddy" but the U.S. Forest service already had a "Smokey the Bear" awareness campaign and, even back then, synergy was synergy and his name was quickly changed. Stardom followed soon after...
And the rest...well, you know. Smokey has appeared in pretty much any medium you can think of and is still going strong today. As far as mascots go, he's changed very little and his message has remained consistent...