Phil Neel’s Aubie was One Bad Tiger


As you’ve heard by now, Phil Neel, the legendary artist and creator of the Aubie cartoon, passed away yesterday at the age of 84. His works were seen on Auburn football programs from the late 50’s all the way until the mid-1970’s, but they were more than just a simple cartoon Tiger noting who Auburn was playing that day. They told a story. Seeing one cover was like reading an entire comic book.

Phil Neel’s Aubie started out as a naked tiger, as all tigers are, who basically growled at and scared the mascot of that week’s opponent. After a few years, he began to walk upright and become more human-like, wearing an Auburn uniform. He also became pretty mischievous with a hardcore sense of pranking. Most would call it downright mascot-slaughter.

I found most of Phil Neel’s collection over at weagleweagle.com and as I traversed through years of program covers, it became apparent that Aubie was a mean character. He didn’t hold back when letting other mascots know who’s boss, kind of like with his mascot championships today.

Living in a day of political-correctness, it was refreshing to see harmless drawings of Aubie cutting a yellow jacket’s stinger off with a pair of scissors or burying a Bulldog alive. It was just fun in the name of rivalry. They remind me of Spy vs. Spy. It shows a time where people didn’t get all bothered by any little thing. It almost feels like the covers are from another world, given what wouldn’t fly today.

I’ve compiled a pretty hearty list of some of my favorites, showing off the skill and wit of Neel, along with the ferocity of our beloved Aubie. Have a look…


1960

Neel was obviously a psychic, as I’ve suggested before, because he knew that the Tennessee Volunteers would come looking for squirrel when they came to play Auburn. They were just about 50 years too early.

This is one of the first examples of the imposing Aubie. And causing a Seminole to take an arrow directly to the face? I told you Aubie was a bad dude.

As we continue through the years, you’ll notice that Aubie must have had a huge stash of explosives back in his tiger den. He loved to trick opponents into blowing themselves to bits.


1961

Aubie welcomed “Cousin Clem” to Cliff Hare Stadium with a nice stogie… that blew the purple tiger’s head off.

Somebody is going to have to explain this one to me. I must be over-thinking it. It’s too simple just to be Aubie pouring out some “Crimson Tide.”


1962

Snake in the grass? Aubie just grinds him up the lawnmower. Fertilizer?

Was this after the natural passing of Bully, the Mississippi State mascot, or did Aubie have something to do with it? It takes some stones to knock somebody off and then sing at their funeral.

Notice the headstone calls them the “Maroons.” Looking at other covers, it appears this was either a harmless nickname welcomed by Bulldog fans, or something Aubie jokingly called them. I’m thinking the latter, so let’s go back to that.


1963

Oh look, a Seminole. Let’s scorch his skin across an open flame while making smoke signals. I wish Auburn still played Florida State.

Apparently, in 1963 the Auburn Engineering Department made booby traps that shot unsuspecting kitty cats looking for a good meal.


1964

Donning a football uniform didn’t change a thing about Aubie. In this almost mafia-style “prank,” Aubie makes the Chattanooga Moccasin swim with the fishes.

I know this is a pretty touchy subject, but it’s one of the biggest signs of the times of any of the program covers. After doing some research, I found that Southern Mississippi was still a segregated institution in 1964 (they desegregated in 1965, Auburn in 1964). It appears that Aubie is coming down on the “Southernor” (USM’s mascot at the time) and telling him to get with it. I can’t believe this was acceptable ever, but again, it was the times. Aubie, a tiger for all people.


1967

Hey Cousin Clem, welcome to the club. Let me stab this pin through your beating heart.


1968

Continuing with the theme of sticking things in others’ chests, Aubie threatens to put a tack through Georgia Tech’s yellow jacket.


1969

Hey Bully, we’re in need of a few heads in the Veterinary department. You up for it?

It’s tough to physically harm a body of water, but Aubie feels like blowing it up is good enough.


1970

Taking a Tennessee football player and impaling him with a juicer is totally cool, right?


1971

Chattanooga, now using a Native American instead of a snake as their mascot, is about to get stoned by (not with) Aubie. Those stones just happen to have the names of Auburn legends on them.


1972

As if stoning them wasn’t enough, why not just nail their shoes to their feet?

As an aspiring magician, Aubie got a Tennessee Volunteer to agree to a little magic trick.


1973

As someone who has had braces, the tools Aubie is holding is a little overkill.

No violence, just a good reminder of one of the top two comebacks in Iron Bowl history.


1974

War Eagle I (one) couldn’t have been too happy about this.

Auburn sure did play Chattanooga a lot. I just thought this one was funny, given Aubie’s sign.


1976

Smoking is bad for you. Aubie just wanted to remind the Seminole of that… with a lead pipe to the skull.


1989

This is probably the most well-known – and nonviolent – piece involving the cartoon Aubie because of it’s significance to the rivalry.

Phil Neel was a great talent and will always be remembered as part of the Auburn Family. He gave us one the most important pieces of Auburn tradition and he will forever be missed.