You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘comic book’ tag.

archie married
There was a meme online back five years or so about making your  Facebook profile picture a comic or cartoon character that you identified with for some reason. Lots of superheroes and princesses appeared. While I was surfing around for images, I discovered something pretty shocking about my old friend Archie Andrews of Riverdale. He got married. More than once.

It is even more complicated than that because the comic book universes on paper, TV or in the movies have lots of alternatives these days. I did some browsing at a local comic book shop and found a few Archie collections including Archie: The Married Life Book 1, part of the “Married Life Series.” In this series Archie marries blonde Betty and in another version marries vixen Veronica.

I binged through this 320 page opus in two nights like I zipped through the 12-cent comics I was buying back in the early 1960s.

archie romeo.jpg

I haven’t checked in on Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica in a lot of years and a lot has changed. One of the articles I read was titled Archie Gets Married and Goes to Hell.

The Archie I grew up on bounced back and forth between Betty and Veronica with occasional flirtation with anew girl at school.  Hie never-ending high school career of innocent foreplay lasted  68 years. He married Veronica.  When I first read about this I was a little sad, because I had been rooting for Betty all along.

Did marrying off Archie work for the publisher or was it a bad move?  The resulting comic, The Married Life: Archie Loves Veronica, sold 24 times their usual 2,500-odd copies per issue.

If you grew up with Archie, as I did, you will find it disorienting to see Archie and Veronica married and to see their marriage falter. Reading the comics as a pre-teen, I identified with these teenagers in a constant state of sexual tension and unrequited lust.

I grew up with the 1950s Archie classics. I can’t say whether or not Betty and Veronica actually acted as a guide to dating for a generation, but they certainly had an impact on the 1950s and early 60s generation.

The original Archie made his debut in 1941 and has been known ever since for his all-American wholesomeness. He also had a split passion for rich, brunette, glamorous Veronica and sporty, blonde girl-next-door Betty. A new management team at the publisher decided to bring him into the 21st century. The Veronica marriage hit me first, then I find out there is the alternate universe marriage to Betty, and Archie has a career as a musician in New York City and…

riverdale-tv

Part of that 21st century plan allowed for the creation of Riverdale, an updated TV version of Archie and his crew on the CW network. The first season premiered January 2017 to positive reviews, and was renewed for a second season.

Sabrina

The original Sabrina, 1962 || (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link)

At the end of 2017, Netflix ordered a two-season spin-off series based on the comic book Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Sabrina Spellman is the title character of the Archie Comics spinoff comic book Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Sabrina first appeared in Archie’s Mad House #22 in October 1962. (Too bad I didn’t save my copy of that issue in good condition as it goes for over $400 these days.)

Sabrina of 1962 was fun and light. This was a time when TV had another nice witch, Samantha, was very popular on Bewitched.

And Sabrina the Teenage Witch also had a 7 -season TV run with the light, safe and funny version of witchcraft.

In this much darker re-imagining of a new Sabrina, she is still 16 and having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal life which, of course, includes a boyfriend.

This series is recommended for “Teen+.” In the third book in the series (I can read them free via  KindleUnlimited), “it’s the night before Halloween, the night before Sabrina’s sixteenth birthday, the night of the blood-moon and the lunar eclipse, and she has made her decision: She will go into the woods of Greendale as a half-witch and emerge… on the other side of a frightful ritual… as a fully baptized member of the Church of Night.”

There isn’t much innocent sharing of a burger and fries at the malt shop here.


Things get even darker in the regular Archie universe. Book 6 in the Married Life series says on the cover “The Death of Archie.”

Oh, they are really messing with my childhood. I may have to dig in my old comic book collection and reread some of the old classic Archie comics of many decades past.

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Crusoe

I have been doing some armchair adventuring that sent me back into my past.  As a boy, I read the Classic Illustrated comic book version of  Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and imagined myself a castaway on some island.

It is an old tale, first published in 1719. At that time (and I suspect still today) many readers and non-readers took the adventures of Robinson Crusoe to be a true story of a real person and an actual adventure. The title for that first edition, in the style of the time, was The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.

I don’t think many people today are reading Robinson Crusoe but they may be familiar with the story or name – even if only because in the theme to Gilligan’s Island they sing “Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s primitive as can be.”

It is structured as an autobiography of Robinson (birth name Kreutznaer) and his time as a castaway for thirty years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad. Before he is rescued, he encounters cannibals, captives, and mutineers. Exciting stuff for a 10-year-old boy to encounter curled up in an armchair while eating some beef jerky for additional castaway effect.

map

Map of Robinson Crusoe’s island, 1720

I liked that even in the comic book version, it read like a journal. He builds a shelter and makes clothes and eventually befriends a native islander who he names Friday. Eventually, I saw a movie version of the story, but when I was reading the comic back in 1962, I also saw a cleaned-up, family film version of island survival called In Search Of The Castaways. No one should want to be stuck on some deserted island, but. of course, I did. As an adult, it all came back to me with the Tom Hanks’ film Castaway.

It wasn’t until I was an English major in college that I learned that Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was regarded by many to be the first novel in English. I read it for a class and it was a serious reading. James Joyce noted that the true symbol of the British conquest is Robinson Crusoe: “He is the true prototype of the British colonist. … The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit in Crusoe: the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity.” The interpretation in that classroom was that Crusoe tried to impose his society on the island via agriculture and his politics of being “king of the island” and by redeeming the savages, especially Friday, with his European ways. (Even though Defoe simultaneously criticizes the Spanish conquest of South America.)

I discovered in writing this that Daniel Defoe wrote over 250 books on economics, history, biography and crime, although we still know him best for the fiction, especially Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders and Roxana.

swiss familly robinson

As an English major and teacher, I should say that Defoe’s books had a big impact on me, but honestly as a kid at that time the book that had a greater grip on me was The Swiss Family Robinson (1812) which had to have been influences by Defoe. It is another story I first encountered as a Classics Illustrated Comic but that I went on to read after in book form. (That was true of many of those comics for me.)

I recall that the book seemed to have a like of moralizing about the author’s, Johann David Wyss, beliefs about Christian faith, family values, and the virtues of self-reliance. I was more into the fishing, boat-building, guns and general camping-in-the-woods stuff that sounded like a lot of fun. And their treehouse. I loved that. I still dream of having a treehouse one day. And I still love islands.

The story has had many versions in comics, books and on television and in films. Again, I don’t know that kids are reading books like The Swiss Family Robinson these days. the style and vocabulary is tough, even if the general plot is appealing.  The Disney film version was the one I saw as a kid and I haven’t seen it since, so I don’t know how dated it might seem to a kid today.

kontiki

All of this revisiting of my youthful armchair adventuring was inspired by seeing that August 7 is the anniversary of Thor Heyerdahl’s raft Kon-Tiki landing in French Polynesia back in 1947. The book Kon-Tiki was one I read was I was a young teen for a school book report. This true adventure is about a journey of 4300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean by raft.

Thor Heyerdahl suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by an ancient race from thousands of miles to the east who traveled by rafts. Those people had been led on their ancient journey by a mythical Incan god named Kon-Tiki who walked the ocean.

He decided to prove his theory by duplicating the legendary voyage and on April 28, 1947, Heyerdahl and five other adventurers sailed from Peru on a balsa log raft. Balsa – like those little airplanes I had been buying and building all throughout my childhood.

They travels for three months on the open sea and hit storms, whales, sharks and everything you would expect. Finally, they sighted land. They had come to the Polynesian island of Puka Puka and took this as proof that early South Americans could have traveled across the Pacific and settled in the Polynesian Islands.

Of course, Heyerdahl and his crew of five had a radio, navigational equipment, watches and other modern conveniences and safety equipment, but the raft itself was made entirely of pre-Columbian materials. The crude craft was balsa logs lashed together with hemp ropes with gaps for the water to drain out. It had a bamboo cabin with a roof of banana leaves. The mast was made of planks of mangrove, and it held a square sail. It was a replica of the rafts that native Peruvians were using at the time of the first European contact in the early 1500s. Heyerdahl named it Kon-Tiki.

I read the book, The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas, that was published in 1948, and I saw a documentary film about the journey. It may have been the one Heyerdahl made when the book was released. I searched for it online and there are several film versions of the story including a dramatic movie based on the book.

I came across a few clips from the 1947 Heyerdahl documentary including this one that shows their encounter with the worlds biggest fish, the whaleshark.

I’m sure when I was 15, this would have had an exciting Moby-Dick adventure quality to it, but now I view it and wonder if they were in any danger and if there was any reason to attack the whaleshark other than to get some action footage.

Almost all my adventuring these days is of the armchair variety, and my take on survival and “helping the natives” has certainly gone in a very different direction from the ideas I had as a kid curled up with a blanket in a chair reading.

SupermeHave you thought about what super power you would want to have? Doesn’t everyone do that at some point?

I read a lot of comic books as a kid. As a superhero, all I would have wanted was to be able to fly. Batman plus flying would have been even better. No “super powers” required.

In my teen years, I would have gone with invisibility for all the psychological and male hormonal reasons you would imagine.

As an adult, I have often wished that I had the ability to speak and understand all languages and be able to know what language someone spoke just by looking at them. I’m not sure what that superhero might be called – Captain Negotiator or Babel?

There was a website called The Hero Factory (it seems to be gone now) that had a slick superhero-creator where you could build a superhero (male or female) choosing body parts, clothing, weapons and some special abilities. Then you could put it on a comic book cover.

I built my superself. Standard boots, tights, underwear on the outside, belt and cape, muscles, but no weapon but a branch-like wand.

Unfortunately, you couldn’t name the comic or character. I really wouldn’t want to be Sgt. Splintery Splinter. I chose the R emblem to just be Ronk or SuperRonk.

Superme Cover


“Art is magic. Magic is art. A writer or artist is the closest thing in the modern world to a shaman.”  Alan Moore

Alan Moore is an English writer primarily known for his critically acclaimed work in comic books. The series he has produced includes Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell.

Although he is often described as “the best comic writer in history” and also as simply “one of the most important British writers of the last fifty years”, it’s not that part of his life that I’m writing about today.

Alan Moore is also a Neopagan, occultist, and ceremonial magician.

Let me give you some of the writer background though, because the art leads into the magic.

He wrote coverBritish underground and alternative fanzines; got hired by the American DC Comics, for Batman and Superman; penned original titles such as Watchmen.

His work helped develop the “graphic novel” as a genre that received more crossover respectability than the “comic book”.

At the end of the 20th century, he went further from the mainstream with the epic From Hell, the pornographic Lost Girls, a novel Voice of the Fire, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the occult-based Promethea.

Though I know of and have read a few of those titles, I’m not a big fan of graphic novels. But recently, I heard a segment on To The Best of Our Knowledge about that other side of Moore that brought me back to him.

It seems that on his 40th birthday, he announced that he was a ceremonial magician having been inspired by research he did while writing From Hell, a book full of  Freemason and occult symbolism. Rereading a line in the book – ‘The one place gods inarguably exist is in the human mind” – suddenly seemed not to be a line he invented, but the truth.

He decided that becoming a ceremonial magician was the next step. In a film, The Mindscape of Alan Moore, he said “I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness… Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman.”

Moore

That radio program led me to the guest’s book, Alan Moore: Storyteller. He has been mixing his writing and his beliefs and has created what he calls his “Idea Space.” He took up the study of the Qabalah and the writings of occultist Aleister Crowley. From Crowley, he took ideas about True Will being connected to the will of the pantheistic universe, and in his magical rituals, he began using psychedelic drugs. He has since given up on the drugs, as he feels he can achieve the same effects without them.

According to accounts online, Moore took as his primary deity the ancient Roman snake god Glycon, who was the centre of a cult founded by a prophet known as Alexander of Abonoteichus.

Moore’s politics are anarchy (see V For Vendetta) and he has embraced conspiracy theories in his writing (see Brought to Light). His own belief is that there is a global conspiracy that is more frightening than a “banking conspiracy, or the grey aliens, or the twelve-foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control” because it’s a conspiracy where “no one is in control and , the world is rudderless.” (from The Mindscape of Alan Moore)

And Moore is still involved in our very real world. Worldwide, the Occupy protesters have adopted the Guy Fawkes mask from his V for Vendetta and so have Wikileaks and anti-globalization demonstrators.

Moore has described Occupy as “ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs. I can’t think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it – they’ve certainly not been punished in any way because they’re too big to fail. I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who’s too big to fail. As an anarchist, I believe that power should be given to the people whose lives this is actually affecting.”

Moore: The Books

Moore: The Music

see Archie: The Classic Newspaper Comics (1946-1948)

The classic Archie I grew up with is not doing so well with the ladies these days...

Last week, I did some online searching for an old friend. His name is Archie Andrews and he lives in Riverdale.

I found him. Actually, I found out a lot about him and his friends.  Archie has gotten married andhis life has gone to Hell.

Are you one of the millions who read some Archie comic books?

The Married Life: Archie Loves Veronica (The Married Life Series)He’s been a teenager for 68 years and last year he married one of his two his high-school sweethearts, Veronica.  It’s all there in The Married Life: Archie Loves Veronica and other titles.

If you grew up in the 1950s or 60s, I think it will be a bit disorienting to see those happy teenagers you knew as adults.

I still have some of the Betty and Veronica “Bronze Age” comics (now on DVD!), and many of the classic issues are available in anthologies now ( Best of the Fifties #1 – Archie Americana Series)

It’s hard to gauge but I’m sure that Archie and his relationships with Betty (my favorite) and Veronica probably had some effect on my own perception of how dating is supposed to work. That, mixed in with movies and TV of the time, probably warped my relationship sensibility. I never found Betty, Veronica, Gidget, Sandra Dee, Barbarella, and the rest of my fictional loves in real life. Thank goodness.

Maybe some people actually found good advice in the comic book world of dating that they found in Archie.  I can imagine that back in 1941 when the original Archie made his debut, his all-American stories might have been a pretty accurate depiction of teen life. But Archie, like other cartoon characters like Maggie and Bart Simpson and Stewie Griffith, never grows up.

Well, until new management at the Archie publisher decided it was time to grow up – and fast and furious. I went out and bought a few issues, so let me give you some updates.

Right off in the first issue of Life With Archie: The Married Life, the longtime Riverdale High “good” couple, Midge and Moose, break up. It’s because big, jocky Moose’s jealousy can’t be brought under control. In the old days, his jealousy was laughable, but now it’s Real.

Archie’s marriage takes a dip when Veronica  gets promoted above him at work. Well, it is her father’s company.

But wait – there is also a parallel story about Archie’s marriage to Betty Cooper!

And what about Archie’s career as a musician? After all, he was the lead singer of  The Archies. If you make it to issue two, you’ll find him playing at Fluky’s Last Stop Airport Cafe.

When their marriage hits the rocks, she falls back into the arms of her old bad boy boyfriend, Reggie Mantle.

On of the new titles is The Archie Wedding: Archie in Will You Marry Me? (The Married Life Series)The Archie Wedding: Archie in Will You Marry Me? by Michael Uslan. He also did Life with Archie: The Married Life #1.

I have met Uslan. He lives in my town. He has written books and movies. When I was teaching a film course, he gave me some tickets to the local screening of his Swamp Thing film. He is the originator of the Batman films. He was the first instructor to teach a college course on “The Comic Book in America” at Indiana University.

Uslan is my age and with his comic book background, I can imagine him being both excited and a bit fearful updating Archie’s world.

In today’s world, Jughead wants to buy the gang’s hangout, Pop Tate’s Chok’lit Shoppe. But it’s post-2008, so he get get the money because he’s counting on a stimulus-loan program.

Remember the principal at Riverdale High School? Mr. Weatherbee is in love with the one teacher we knew there, Miss Grundy. Sweet, huh? She is terminally ill.

One new issue has a cover with Archie passionately kissing Valerie, a black character. And the high school has its first openly gay student, Kevin. That issue as popular enough to become the first reprint in the comic’s history. The series is all over the place referencing Jersey Shore, Twilight movies, President Obama and Sarah Palin.

The Love Showdown (Archie Americana Series)
But does Archie’s life and world have to be so bleak?

I never really liked Veronica, but I didn’t want to see her crying in her dark office, gazing at a photo of the couple on their wedding day and wondering what went wrong.

You can go 21st century and read The Love Showdown or you can go back to a simpler Riverdale and read Archie: The Classic Newspaper Comics (1946-1948).

I grew up reading comic books. I never became obsessed with them. I collected them – that is I kept them in a box, but not in protective bags – and I didn’t but ones just to maintain the collection or memorize the artists and authors.

My mom never saw a problem with them and I progressed from comics to novels eventually. I’ve written here about how the Classics Illustrated comics led me to read literature in books, but I also read hundreds of Archie comics and Superman and many others. No damage done.

In the late 1970s, a comic book store opened in my town and I wandered in more out of nostalgia than intending to buy something. As a kid I bought my comics from a display rack at Sam’s, a corner store that had a real soda fountain and sold candy, snacks, ice cream, balsa wood airplanes, kites, magazines, caps and cap guns and most of the essential needs of my childhood.

The new comic shop was all comics-related. At least half of it was devoted to toys, figures, shirts, games, cards and the “related” parts of the comic industry. There were big tables in back where people gathered for role-playing games.

A surprising number of comics had been collected into bound volumes over the years. I looked at some of my old favorites, but they definitely lacked something tactile in those book-sized volumes printed on much higher quality paper.

My attention was caught by a starkly drawn comic cover with the name American Splendor. I flipped through the pages. Black and white drawings – something I never saw in my gold and silver age comics. And the story seemed – well, ordinary. The life of some rather sad guy. They were written by Harvey Pekar.

I bought a few issues.

The life in these books was not all that splendid. They certainly had nothing in common with any of the comics I read as a kid. Forget super heroes. The “people” in my Archie and  Richie Rich comics led lives completely opposite of  my own life. That was why I read them. Pekar’s stories are damned close to our lives. And that’s why adult readers seemed to connect to them.

I checked into Pekar’s bio.  That’s something I had never done in my kid days – then again, there was no Internet then and probably no books in the library about comic book authors either.  Pekar was an American underground comic book writer, and also a music critic, and media personality (interesting appearances on Letterman’s show). He is still best known for those autobiographical American Splendor books.  They inspired an interesting film starring Paul Giamatti.

Pekar was married three times. His third wife was writer Joyce Brabner, who figures in the comic stories.  She collaborated on his Our Cancer Year graphic novel about his treatment for lymphoma. He lived in Cleveland Heights, Ohio and worked for 40 years as a file clerk for the Veteran’s Administration.

Pekar died this past week at age 70, and that’s what sent me down to the basement to find the comics and write this piece.

American Splendor owes a lot to Pekar’s friendship with artist Robert Crumb who was very well known in the comics world and whose offer to illustrate some of Pekar’s stories and eventually the first issue of Splendor gave him his start. Pekar and Crumb also connected because both were record collectors and jazz fans.

Pekar described American Splendor this way: “an autobiography written as it’s happening. The theme is about staying alive. Getting a job, finding a mate, having a place to live, finding a creative outlet. Life is a war of attrition. You have to stay active on all fronts. It’s one thing after another. I’ve tried to control a chaotic universe. And it’s a losing battle. But I can’t let go. I’ve tried, but I can’t.”

Pekar also wrote other comics and graphic novels that were seriously different from mainstream comic book fare. He wrote a biography, Unsung Hero, that tells the story of the Vietnam War experiences of Robert McNeill, one of Pekar’s African-American coworkers at the Cleveland VA hospital. Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History, was released in 2008. In 2009, Pekar released The Beats: A Graphic History, a history of the Beat Generation. Pekar himself was often seen as part of this group and he was influenced in his art and life by Kerouac and Ginsberg and others who achieved fame during his youth. Pekar’s book, Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation, is a great meeting of two writers who celebrated the ordinary person and ordinary life as extraordinary enough to merit attention.

The the film, American Splendor, is an easy wayto get a sense of his life. If you want to read his work – and there’s no comic book shop nearby – the Harvey Pekar books at Amazon includes The New American Splendor Anthology: From Off the Streets of Cleveland, Our Cancer Year and a more traditional autobiography of his childhood and youth called The Quitter.

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