In 1941 writer Victor Bloom and artist Bob Montana uncorked a genie from a bottle in the pages of MLJ’s PEP COMICS issue 22. At the behest of publisher John Goldwater the pair created a comicbook strip that tapped into the audience of the popular “Andy Hardy” series of movies. Those films detailed the trials and tribulations of American teenage life and the cartoonists came up with their variation on that theme; Archie Andrews. Archie would become the company’s most valuable property as it became the basis of innumerous comics starring the redhead and his pals. It also made it into America’s heart via a newspaper strip and as well as a radio program. Eventually MLJ changed it’s name to Archie Comics, honoring the characters popularity and importance. 72 years later the company and it’s star are still going strong.
That part of the story is well known and oft told. But rarely do I see mention of the strips massive impact on comics publishing itself. It founded the “teen humor” genre of comics and it wasn’t long before the industry embraced the idea. Nearly every publisher came out with their own variation of this type. Even MLJ pirated itself producing series in the ilk which were not based in the ‘Riverdale Universe’. My ‘Adolescent Behavior’ series of posts will explore the many variant renderings of the Archie formula.
To begin lets go to the disreputable publishing outfit of Victor Fox. The self proclaimed ‘king of the comics’ was noted for his megalomania and cheapness, but on the positive side was also known for giving several giant’s their start in the industry. That list includes Joe Simon, Jack Kirby and Wally Wood. This pedigree also extended to EC’s noted writer/editor/artist; Al Feldstein. At Fox, Al did several of these Riverdale counterfeits like Sunny, Corliss Archer and Junior.
In the pages of JUNIOR COMICS Al wrote, penciled and inked under the nom de plume “Bill Brown”. The title character is Junior Hancock, a high school boy that correlates directly to Archie. In fact the strip has virtual parallels to much of Riverdale cast. You have Reggie reimagined as Tuffy, a faux Jughead in Goofy and romantic rivals for Junior’s attention in Deena and Gwenny. I’ll be focusing on the ladies here as I give you “The Run Around”.
This story concept could easily have been used as an Archie tale. That’s not quite the case for the next yarn, “A Model Story”.
Here Feldstein seems to fuse the strip with Bill Ward’s cheesecake series “Torchy”, with the gals posing in a variety of sexy outfits that include undies and negligees. Maybe it’s just me but doesn’t it seem to be a tad perverse to have teenaged schoolgirls parading around in this manner? The GCD does not cite Al as the author for this particular story and we do see a new credit of Tom Howe beside the logo in the splash. But glance down to bottom of the curtains to find Al’s initials.
The last example will refrain from the jailbait fetish elements. Here is “Gwenny Pulls The Wool Over Deena’s Eyes”.