Monday, October 27, 2014

Comics: Archie & the Gang as Superheroes

I was browsing through my Archie comics the other day and came across some fun reprints of the 1960s SUPERHERO versions of the Archie Characters. These were created back when superheroes were finally coming back into the mainstream consciousness after the drought of the 1950s.

For those of you who don't know, superheroes all but vanished during that decade: only the BIG THREE maintained constant publication from their halcyon days of the Golden Era that was the 1940s: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Other heroes did pop up here and there, but the magic was gone. Even Captain Marvel (who once outsold Superman and moved a million comics a month) had hung up his cape (mostly due to a lawsuit from DC, but even if not for that, his glory days were also gone).

But 1956 changed that. The new version of THE FLASH revived interest by updating an old hero for a new age. Within 10 years, superhero mania swept the nation, especially when the Batman TV show became a monster hit in 1966.

Even the Archie gang was swept up in this super fever.

In October 1965, both Archie and Betty gained super powers: Archie got them in Life With Archie #44 and the girl next door acquired hers in Betty & Veronica #118. I personally didn't read these until the 1970s when they started reprinting these stories in their digest comics. I loved them, especially the Pureheart stories because they toyed around with the idea that they could actually be happening in the major continuity; every time Archie called on the "PH Factor" to activate his powers, it scrambled the memories of everyone around him, including himself, so he wasn't sure if these were real adventures or just daydreams.

The first Pureheart issue was illustrated by one of the underrated Archie artists, Bob White. Bob didn't acquire the following of Dan DeCarlo or Samm Schwartz, but he definitely captured the zany villains and absurd fun of these stories.

Copyright 1965 Archie Comics

I'm showing Super Teen's first appearance here, drawn by the incomparable Dan DeCarlo, but I'm actually showing the second appearance of PH because it's a better cover, AND it introduces his nemesis, EVILHEART (who is none other than Reggie Mantle). Of course, Jughead would soon follow with CAPTAIN HERO. It would actually take until 1995 before Veronica would get in on the game and get her own super identity as... Miss Vanity.

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