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Thursday, November 28, 2013

BETTY and ME #82-84 
(March 1977 - May 1977)

By the third issue, writer Frank Doyle and artist Stan Goldberg had the 70's soap opera motif down, and each cover was featuring the three story lines inside. Betty and Me #82 was maybe one of the more grim stories, as Archie gets into a serious car accident, Jughead goes to jail and Betty has someone wanting to kill her!

It's not often, or... well, hardly EVER, you see Archie Andrews get in a serious car accident! He's lucky he wasn't thrown from that jalopy! It may not run very well, but I guess the seat belts pass inspection!

(from Betty and Me #82)

Who'd want to hurt our dear, sweet, Betty?

(from Betty and Me #82)

Man, this story was so intense, I had to read one of the advertisements to bring me back to regular Archie world! What? They were only printing 22 titles at the time?

(from Betty and Me #82)

Poor Jughead seems to get the worst of it in these stories (and things haven't started off so well for him in Afterlife with Archie either!), and here he gets sent off into the desert on his own, while Archie is trapped in a harem of beauties and Veronica and Betty find their own genie!
It may sound worse for Jughead, but.... 

Truth is, Archie is taken 'against his will' to be a part of that harem, and for some strange reason, is dead set against it!

(from Betty and Me #83)

Veronica isn't to happy about it either!

(from Betty and Me #83)

So they head off to the ancient City of Gulphoil (get it?) to rescue Archie. Next thing you know, Jughead, who just went along to help, has a gun in his back. What? In an Archie comic?
Jughead's reaction was the same as mine!

(from Betty and Me #83)

Apparently, even more shocking to Jughead, is the word 'Mistress'!

(from Betty and Me #83)

So, it's up to Betty and Veronica! 
They find a magical lamp and unleash the genie from it. In a regular Archie comic, the outcome would've been different. In THIS Archie comic, it turns out it's a HORNY genie. No, seriously.

(from Betty and Me #83)

Slurp? Slaver? Drool?  WOW! How do they get out of this one?

(from Betty and Me #83)

In the next issue, Pop Tate and Veronica end up as Wind Up Toys (Hmmm...)? Dr. Jerkil chasing Archie and Betty?
Ah heck, Jughead gets shrunk in this one! Think how big food will be!

Taken out of context it sounds a bit peculiar...

(from Betty and Me #84)

They're dolls! They're life sized wind up dolls! And NO you can't BUY one! It's just a story!

(from Betty and Me #84)


(from Betty and Me #84)

It's a fun run of stories in the midst of a fun run of stories! I still suggest you get them all!
Next week: Part Three! The finale!

Friday, November 22, 2013

BETTY and ME #79-81 
(Oct 1986 - Feb 1977)

In October of 1986 with issue #79 of the long running Betty and Me comic, writer Frank Doyle and artist Stan Goldberg took an interesting turn with the story, riffing off of the TV melodrama 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman', and creating the 8 part 'Betty Cooper, Betty Cooper' storyline.

Some of the bizarre story lines, mixed with typical Archie humor, made for a good fit and it spiced the title up in a way, that Archie fans even talk about today! It started off a bit clumsy (vampire uncle, kidnappers, face splotches) but no less at full speed ahead.

(from Betty and Me #79)

By the second issue things start to get rolling as they get mostly through the Vampire Uncle storyline and Betty annoys her kidnappers enough that they escape HER. That's when the fun really begins...

Betty becomes possessed by the spirit of 'Felicity Goodbody!', an evil gypsy, and starts causing havoc for everyone! If this was a TV show, it'd be the type of episodes that a normal reserved Betty Cooper would love to play out!

Doyle and Goldberg go to town with, and take great pleasure in giving Betty's 'Dark Side' a chance to shine!

There are plenty of laugh worthy moments, that taken out of context are surprising...

(from Betty and Me #80)

(from Betty and Me #80)

So, Archie's in a coma, the 'Limping Man' is after Jughead, and Felicity Goodbody is going wild!
What's not to like?
It's no wonder they kept this going for almost a year! What Archie fan could resist it?

Frank Doyle's story is funny and right on target with it's homage to TV soaps of the day (especially the newer type of TV soaps of the late 70's, early 80's) and I not only wonder what made them go this route in the first place, but... why they didn't continue it?

Sure, at times, it's rather bizarre, most of the Archie titles didn't exactly vary all that much from book to book, and for a little while, Betty and Me really stood out. Maybe they figured they could always do these kinds of stories in Life with Archie.

(from Betty and Me #81)

Stan Goldberg's art is solid as usual, in it's Dan DeCarlo house style. I like Stan's work, he tells a solid story, understands body language and expression, and knows what funny is. He's a workhorse and I'm sure Archie Comics loves him especially for that.

(Betty gets a spanking from Betty and Me #81)

These books are still cheap, so if you can find them, pick them up!
And there's always:

Join me next Friday for Part 2 (issues #82-84) of my look back at 'Betty Cooper, Betty Cooper!'
It's what I consider the best stories of the run!

(from Betty and Me #81)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ARCHIE #115 Harry Lucey OA cover

Tonight, November 21, 2013, someone over at Heritage Auctions ( is going to be the new owner of this piece of Original Art. It's the cover to Archie #115, and it won't be me who buys it (Waahhh!). 
It'll probably end up going for close to $4000, maybe more. 
It sure is sweet.

It's a special issue, because it's one of the only issues where they didn't employ the red or blue to the logo backing, and instead used pink. Not sure why... but it's pretty unique. 
Just thought you'd like to see it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

STARCHIE! - Mad Magazine #12 (June 1954)

Mad Magazine came into existence, when William Gaines, having grown tired of the interference of the Comics Code Authority to his line of EC Comics, decided to branch out into humor. Written and edited almost entirely by the great Harvey Kurtzman, and featuring the art of such greats as Wally Wood, Will Elder, Jack Davis, and John Severin, the first issue debuted in August of 1952.

After, what has been reported as a lackluster first 3 issues, Kurtzman introduced the first straight parody of an entertainment icon: Superduperman, after Superman and Captain Marvel. That skewering of a topical entertainment property would become standard operating procedure for the magazine from that point on and make it one of the great success stories of comic related publishing ever.

(from Mad #4 - April 1953)

About a year later, Kurtzman decided that Archie, in it's height of popularity, was a good target for satire. Thus was born 'Starchie', in issue #12.

Featuring Starchie Andrews, Bottleneck, Salonica and Biddy, and a host of others (as well as some cameos from other cartoon characters), it was written by Harvey Kurtzman and drawn by Will Elder.

Every Archie fan should own a copy of this in one form or another, as satire is really a celebration of the popularity of it's target (like a comedy roast), and at the end is a list of books reprinting it, BUT
here for your enjoyment, is the entire 8 page story. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

2013 - Mark Waid/Dean Haspiel

Archie Comics has decided to bring back 'The Fox' again, a Golden Age great, even thought hey've had some uneven success over the years with their superhero line. Which is a shame really, as I think the Shield, the Black Hood, the Hangman, and even Madam Satan, have some great potential if done correctly.

Well, in this instance, they've gone all out, to try and bring back one of their cooler characters, The Fox! With long time Marvel/DC/Boom writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Daredevil) and the lesser known, but long time industry artist Dean Haspiel (Billy Dogma), they've put together a quality team.

On November 4th, Archie Comics announced a 2nd printing for the #1 issue, so that's a positive sign!

I could go into a massive dissertation on why these old MLJ characters haven't succeeded, but ultimately, who really knows? The comic book market today is more perplexing than ever.

A little history on the character, who's creation dates back to even before Archie and his gang were around. The Fox is (was) Paul Patten, a news reporter and photographer for the Daily Globe, who wears a camera on his belt to get action news pics. Hmmm, sounds a little like some inspiration for Spider-man later on...

(from Blue Ribbon Comics #4, June 1940)

Anyway, he debuted in Blue Ribbon Comics #4, a creation of writer Joe Blair and artist Irwin Hansen, (his costume would get much sleeker the next issue). The Fox would linger around for a few years, before Archie took over and the superheroes for MLJ went bye bye.

(from Blue Ribbon Comics #4, June 1940)

He appeared in Blue Ribbon Comics #4-22, and below is an example of his Golden Age costume as it regularly appeared.

(from Blue Ribbon Comics #22, March 1942)

After a very brief and unsuccessful revival in the 60's, it would then be another 20 years before they brought him back again. THIS time though, Alex Toth would bring his talents to the character.
Really, if you ever have a chance to track these (1983) Black Hood issues down (#2-3), for the Toth Fox stories in them (and they are cheap), they're worth seeing.

Toth is a master of the story telling form in comics, and though some think this particular work is a bit wordy, it's layout, design, pace, camera angles, everything about it is exceptionally well done. The best that any of these characters has been presented. And apparently, this short run was the inspiration for Mike Allred's Madman! (Which I love as well)

 (from Black Hood #3, October 1983)

(from Black Hood #3, October 1983)

Toth put the Fox in two diverse settings for these stories (Eden, Texas and Tangiers), and it would've been great to see him continue with it.  

Ok, fast forward to now, 30 years later (!) and the new series is here with a few variants covers. As much as I find this variant craze to be a bit gratuitous, Archie Comics has done a nice job of a) not going over board with it... yet, b) printing enough of them that the price is still right and c) utilizing some artists that actually make some interesting covers that are collectible.

(Fiona Staples variant for the Fox #1)

In the 60's, the Fox had become Paul Patten Jr., the son of the original Fox, and that's who we meet in this new series. He is, according to Haspiel: "... a superhero with no superpowers whose civilian identity as a photojournalist keeps him in the business of getting into and out of trouble. He's just moved back from Japan with his wife and son to rekindle a relationship with his estranged daughter when he discovers that he's a freak magnet."

Nothing wrong with that! A superhero that DOESN'T attract trouble would be pretty boring. 

Haspiel's art in the first issue, has a loose, pop art feel to it (did I just use the term 'pop art?'), enhanced, at times, by the coloring of Allen Passalaqua. A little more 'Laura Allred style' please, and it would give it the pizzaz you see below.
The art is clean and easy to follow, and not unlike reading a Batman Adventures comic, which is ok by me. If I had to nitpick, I'd say a strong inker might tighten it up.

Unnecessary side note: I still have my original copy of Haspiel's Opposable Thumbs from 2001. Man, that was 12 years ago...

(I like it! From the second story in the Fox #1)

Okay, my take on the story is this: They throw a lot at you in the first issue, and as hard as it is to get into a super hero these days, Waid and Haspiel make it go down smooth. We see him in action right away, and then meet his wife, hear about his daughter, find out some of the things that are going to go into knowing who this character is. 

It's fun, it's action packed from the get-go, it's got potential, and I'm going to follow it and see how it goes. Who knows? Maybe this is the writer/artist team to get these old MLJ super heroes up and going again! I hope so.

(Preview art, main story, the Fox #1)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

ARCHIE COMICS #11-14 (On newsstands September 1944 to March 1945)

It was a new era beginning for Archie Comics, the 'Bill Vigoda' era, and it would begin with one of the goofier covers in the history of Archie Comics. 

Janice Valleau had inked Pep Comics 42-44, 49-50, and Archie Comics 4-11, as well as pencil the Betty and Veronica feature since issue 7, but issue 11 would be her last. Not sure why, but a year later she would begin a nice run of 'Toni Gayle' stories (Famous fashion model who also is a detective!) in Young King Cole Comics.

Here of course, we're more interested in how she handled those Betty and Veronica stories!

(from Archie #11 Nov/Dec 1944)

Archie had put Mr. Weatherbee through quite a bit in the first couple of years, but he was about to get a temporary reprieve, for whatever reason, and the regular victim of Archie's mischief was his own father. It was almost as if the school board received the note below from 'The Bee' and simply told him to avoid Archie as much as possible.
It worked, though he'd soon find he had a double nemesis to deal with.

(from Archie #11 Nov/Dec 1944)

Vigoda would do the next couple of Betty and Veronica features in Archie Comics, meaning he was doing pretty much the entire book. His art style was still a little rough, but he made sure to remind us that the girls like to lay around in their underwear when they talk on the phone!

 (from Archie #12 Jan/Feb 1945)

Despite the changes that were happening and others that were on the way, the focus was on Archie getting into silly situations and Betty and Veronica being sexy. They couldn't always combine the two in a story (unless it had to do with a date),  but they started to make sure they did it for the covers.

And when those two weren't around, Archie had plenty of other characters to mix with!

(Archie in a wig, Miss Grundy in a towel from Archie #13 Mar/Apr 1945)

But many times, Vigoda's 'cheesecake' had more cheese than cake.

 (from Archie #13 Mar/Apr 1945)
  (from Archie #13 Mar/Apr 1945)

Though at other times, he seemed to get it just right. Nevertheless, there'd soon be other artists' once again doing the Betty and Veronica feature.

 (from Archie #13 Mar/Apr 1945)

As for Weatherbee, he'd go from being a helpless victim of Archie to being a somewhat deserving victim of Betty and Veronica. The 'wolf' side of his persona started to come out and it always ended up biting him!

 (from Archie #13 Mar/Apr 1945)