Tuesday, April 10, 2007

THE WORLD OF ARCHIE: Many Teen Comics Have Come And Gone, But Archie Is Forever!!!

Just over sixty-five years after his birth, ARCHIE, and his related friends and other characters, continue to be published in the ARCHIE COMICS PUBLICATIONS comic books.
PEP COMICS #22 arrived on newsstands in December 1941, heralding the first appearance of the red-headed teenager, and making the character competitive historically with such comics favorites as SUPERMAN, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and many others.
It became apparent very quickly that ARCHIE was a hit, so ARCHIE COMICS, later just called "ARCHIE" was published very shortly after PEP #22.
PEP COMICS originally featured "mystery men" oriented stories, a la SUPERMAN and BATMAN, but these characters were later supplanted by Archie and his cohorts. The original publisher of the titles was known as MLJ, and, named initially after it's three partners' initials, soon changed it's name to ARCHIE.
A long-running debate about who created the characters in the world of Archie has been going on for some time.
The late Bob Montana is a cartoonist who was long associated with the haracter, but the original publishing partners, Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit, and John Goldwater are often discussed as having a major role in the creation of the characters, including rumors that ARCHIE was developed based on the box-office success of the ANDY HARDY theatrical movie series.
Many of the series that emanated from the ARCHIE publisher have become embroiled in litigation over the years, I am currently working on artucles devoted to that theme.
Archie Andrews, with his alliterative first and surname combination, and his friends populate the suburban town of Riverdale. Such characters as Archie's best pal, JUGHEAD, his "galpals" BETTY & VERONICA, who form a love triangle with Archie, Reggie Mantle (Archie's rival), the innocent giant "Big Moose", and his girlfriend, Midge, help populate Riverdale, along with the kids' various parents, and the Riverdale High School Principal, Mr. Weatherbee, and the long-suffering spinster schoolteaher, Miss Grundy.
The character SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH also hails from Riverdale, she appeared originally during the 1960's in the comic books, then some made-for-television cartoons, but, more recently, had not only new tv cartoons, but a made-for-cable tv movie, and a long-running ABC Network American tv series, in live-action, and is still on the air in many areas.
Other characters that came from the "Archie" group include JOSIE & THE PUSSYCATS, who also appeared in animated cartoons, and a live-action theatrical film in recent years. More will be discussed about these characters in future blogs.
Going back to the original group of ARCHIE characters, they also appeared in animated cartoons, in a radio series, a number of unsuccessful live-action tv programs, a made for television movie that featured them as adults, TO RIVERDALE AND BACK AGAIN, in the 1980's, and are often referred to as being "in development" for their own big-screen film adaptation.
Perhaps most famously, THE ARCHIES was a singing group that. following the format of the group THE MONKEES, issued such hit records as "Sugar, Sugar" and "Bang-Shang-A-Lang" during the 1960's.
The music was produced by Don Kirshner, known for his many late night television appearances with such lights as David Letterman.
The 1950's featured an alternate "Archieverse", featuring younger versions of the gang, in an effort to compete with rival titles like DENNIS THE MENACE and LITTLE LULU. I will cover these works in succeeding blogs.
Another incarnation of the ARCHIE series of characters appeared in the pages of Spire Christian Comics, which contained didactic 'message" stories depicting Archie and his friends embracing fundamentalist Christian points of view. These stories were written and drawn by cartoonist Al Hartley, himself a devout Christian and gifted writer-cartoonist, and I will have future blog entries later. These comic books from Spire also featured other titles, including one about Pat Boone's film THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE, one about TOM LANDRY & THE DALLAS COWBOYS, and one truly fascinating comic book that espouses a strong Anti-Nazi point of view, HANSI, THE GIRL WHO LOVED THE SWASTIKA.
As a Jewish person I used to refuse to look at these titles for years, but became familiar with them at the urgings of some comic book fiends, er, friends, during the 1970's and 1980's.
Over the years a lot of Archie merchandising has been done, including everything from hats like the one worn by Jughead to Welch's Jelly containers featuring the gang, you could wash the containers out and use them as glasses afterwards (this was also done for THE FLINTSTONES, and, recently the famous cartoon cat & mouse, TOM & JERRY).
Today, ARCHIE is still syndicated to the newspapers as a comic strip and is alive and well as a comic book house, making new inroads into stylizing the comic book drawings to fit today's tastes, featuring Japanese-animation influenced "Manga" styles, as well as a more modern look for some BETTY & VERONICA comic book stories.
More of my articles will soon follow this one, further discussing THE WORLD OF ARCHIE.
Many teen comics have come and gone, but Archie is forever...


Danny said...

The Archies...as the legendary Joe Dante. He sang on a pile of bubblegum hits in his time.

I love Sugar Sigar. A nice, feelgood pop song. Nothing wrong with that. However the Archie of today isn't the Archie I knew, which is why I stopped reading it long ago.

--steve cohen said...

SGAR SUGAR used to embarrass me, that is, from when I was age 14 and up, until I got past 30, now I feel young when I hear it.

Danny said...

You need to hear the remix of it...brilliant!

Nothing wrong with pop music, it's designed to make you feel good about yourself and life. Otherwise just keep listening to Nine Inch Nails (a band I like, funnily enough).

--steve cohen said...

I like pop music, only my sister disparagingly called it "bubble gum music", and would say "here comes the bubble gum brigade" when I showed up with friends and wanted to hear 45s with them.