Friday, May 02, 2014

Number 1569: The naked Archie

In this tale of teen tension and body dysmorphic disorder from Archie Comics #27 (1947), Archie takes a shower in front of a leering, sadistic personal trainer.  It isn’t such a big deal except for our usual expectation of more clean, wholesome fun from an Archie comic book. That cleaned-up Archie came later, when the transition from the wild-and-wooly days of Archie’s publisher, MLJ Comics, was fnally complete. This story, drawn by longtime Archie artist Bill Vigoda, is part of that earlier style.


From the same issue, here’s a titillating look at Archie’s girls, Betty and Veronica. Click on the thumbnail:



I enjoy seeing these early Archie comics (Betty and Veronica included) where the characters have yet to morph into the sacharinistic stereotypes that have virtually dominated their comics for the past several decades. Realizing that back in "the day" when "teen comics" were rampant, and dozens of teenaged characters were vying for kids' dimes at the news-stand, it is interesting to speculate now, that when once there were so many different teen comics, now I can't think of anything today that could be likened to the teen comic genre. Now, with Archie comics odd turn attempting to keep relevant, what with gay characters and the impending "death" of Archie, it ain't what it used to be!

I personally found Oswald to be an arsehole, and leering lecherous gym coach just icky. Archie's instant "muscles" remind me of the old Charles Atlas cartoon ads, where after gambling a dime for the course, the next panel simply captioned "Later..." revealed a rippling muscled physique where once stood the emaciated loser!

Great post!

Pappy said...

Apocolyte, thanks for the analysis. Since there were some fine teen comics in the late forties, many better drawn and better written than Archie, it is kind of a miracle he came out ahead of the pack and is still around today.

I don't blame the publisher for wanting to make Archie more relevant. Today's intended readership would view the Archie of my generation (fifties, sixties) completely alien. No cell phones, no texting, no Twitter of Facebook, no Internet! I assume any kids reading Archie today would be looking at that Archie as an anachronism in the 21st century.

Great comments as always. Thanks.

Mykal said...

Pappy: I loved this post. I actually like the new Archie better than the old Archie presented here. He just seems a blank, generic foil. And, as you saw, there were many better drawn teen comics back in the 1940s - Dan Gordon's Cookie comes first to mind. It really is odd that he emerged to be the icon he is. I personally think it's because of his cast of characters - Jughead in particular. I still like the Archie line - Bob Bolling still does a story know and then for one of the digest titles.

Daniel [] said...

I'm not sure that alien wouldn't work better than an attempt at relevance. Lots of comic books have depicted alien worlds — jungles, projected future utopias and dystopias, super-heroes and super-villains around every second corner, world-travelling ducks with eleventy zillion dollars — and have done relatively well.

But I remember regarding, through-out my childhood and teen years, the attempts to depict children and teens as generally broken. It was as if the writers had completely forgot the aspirations that people have as children and as teen-agers. The only kid characters whom I remember liking were Sugar and Spike!

This is not to say that your point is mistaken; the publishers indeed should not be blamed for wanting to get readers to better identify with Archie &alii by making them more like to-day's teens. But I think that kids will end-up identifying more with one of those ducks.

Brian Barnes said...

The way Veronica is drawn with the rocket breasts (sweaters don't work that way, even on Mimi VanDoren!) puts this squarely in the teen gag/headlights class.

You can see why Archie decided to go straight to the clean style; there were a ton of imitators and with the comic troubles starting to brew, going clean was a good move to distinguish yourself from the pack, and there was a market for that.

Ironically, the guy who defined the clean Archie age, DeCarlo, was himself a dirty cartoonist at night!

Pappy said...

Brian, sigh...a man who perfected the rocket-breasted look in comic books, the great Al Feldstein, just died a few days ago at age 88. Everybody dim your headlights in honor of Al!

Pappy said...

Daniel, do kids even read comic books anymore? I haven't been to a comic book store in a long time (I don't buy comic books nowadays, and what graphic novels I buy I usually get from online sources), but I don't really remember very many kids in comic book stores unless accompanied by a parent.

My own son was never interested at all in comic books, and I considered that good because he wasn't bending my mint copies!

As to how today's readers perceive Archie I really don't know. I guess the sales figures would show whether the line is still relevant.

Growing up there were Archie titles I liked: Little Archie by Bob Bolling (thanks for reminding me of Bolling, Mykal), Jughead's Fantasy, Archie's Madhouse, and the initial issues of Life With Archie, which usually had longer stories than the other titles with shorter stories and forgettable fare.

Daniel [] said...

Sales of comic books these days are awful. Someone pointed-out that sales of Jimmy Olsen were better in the early '60s than are those of any comic book to-day.

So, for the most part, kids don't read comic books to-day. Partly that's an issue of their prices; partly that's an issue of rival activities. But I'm also convinced that it's a problem of content.

A lot of control is in the hands of soul-less suits, who live in a world of metrics that cannot see many of the important things. But a lot of control is in the hands of people who hate the heroes who prevailed in the era when comic books could themselves be sold at profit.

I admit ignorance as to whether Archie might be an exception to those corruptions.

Pappy said...

Daniel, the story I heard is that some of those soul-less suits you mention at Warner wanted to shut down the DC comic book line in the early '70s. They kept it open because of product licensing.

The superhero movies are really popular now, but there are cycles in the movie business like everything else.

Comics have been losing readers since television was introduced. In some ways I'm surprised they are still being published. There was a lot of talk in 1970 that because of bad distribution their days were numbered and yet they are still around.

Still, if I were an aspiring artist or writer I would not pin all my hopes on making a living for the next 30 or 40 years writing or drawing comic books.

Darci said...

I don't have a comic book store nearby to check anymore, but when I did I don't recall them selling any Archie comics. (To be fair, I don't think they sold anything but Marvel and DC but I might be mis-remembering.) OTOH, Archie is the only brand that I still see for sale in supermarkets. If someone knows, is it because Archie is determined to not be solely dependent on Diamond?

Pappy said...

Darci, I have seen Archie titles at Barnes & Noble and Toys R Us stores. At Toys R Us they were on a rack along with some of the more kid-friendly comics from Bongo, DC, etc. At B&N they were also with comics intended for older readers.

I heard that Archie has one of those things where they pay for rack space at checkouts in grocery stores, along with National Enquirer, US, People and other magazines.

Unknown said...

Never read much of this era of Archie, but the Archie poses here by Vigoda reminds me of nothing more than Bill Elder's version of Archie.
It's strange seeing the 'real' Archie, but recalling the satire version. I'm even more impressed by Elder's talent.