Sunday, May 31, 2009

Like many of my generation I was an avid comic collector when I was young, and, also like many of my generation, I have the regret of having sold my collection (three different ones actually) far too soon. Twenty five years ago I could have purchased a house with what they would have brought at that time. Today it would have been retirement city. Oh, the folly, the folly, the folly !

Like every true comic collector at that time I hated Archie Comics, not just for its inherently imbecilic "quality", but also for what we perceived as its destructive corporate role in the institution of the 'Comics Code Authority'. This Cold War example of 'American Stalinism' (1954) essentially destroyed the gradually developing trend of 'intelligent comics', and relegated the industry to almost a decade of sterility and stupidity.
The primary victim of this censorship was EC Comics. From a thriving multititle publisher they were eventually reduced to a sole magazine- Mad Magazine. They were later to get their "artistic revenge", as will be described below.
At the time we tended to "blame" Archie Comics and its publishers for the Comics Code. there was at least a small amount of truth in this as Archie Comics certainly campaigned heavily for the CCA, and there was little doubt that its actions were not without self interest as its products were, at the time, bland beyond all human imagination ie they would never be censored under pretty well any regime, while those of its more adult and intelligent competitors would bear the burden. We(comic collectors) not only despised Archie Comics for its idiocy (not juvenality as there were other titles that appealed to a younger audience that were not as idiotic- think Richie Rich, the "Duck titles', Caspar the Friendy Ghost or many others) but also for its role in suppressing what we, as a self appointed 'intelligentsia' of comics thought was worth our reading and consideration. The censorship extended not just to the writing but also to the artwork as well. The CCA had a chilling effect not just on subject matter, but via some mysterious process of osmosis on experimentation with visual technique as well. There may be reasons for this, but they are the subject of another post. For now think how similar "socialist realism" was to Norman Rockwell and other mainstream American art of the period.
Our attitude was, of course, an oversimplification. It is always tempting to personify an obnoxious social trend rather than seeing it for the social phenomenon that it is. This childishness lives on to our day in the subculture of "conspiracy theory". No doubt Archie Comics conspired with various figures to institute the Comics Code Authority because it was very much in their self interest and was a direct attack on their competition. The "Zeitgeist" of the times, however, was such that all sorts of political forces in the USA (note that by this time there was no longer a Canadian comics industry) found common cause in imposing statist control over what they conceived of as a major influence on children. The trigger for this attack on free speech came from the left via mindworm (psychologist) Frederick Wertham's 'Seduction of the Innocent'. This was hardly the first-nor the last as the alliances continue to our day- example of where the practical proposals of a so-called "left" and right wing forces have coincided in an attempt at state repression. It is merely an exemplar of the process. The so-called "caring" (I wish that there was a simple emoticon for me to express the hypocrisy of this social class) of what was then a neonatal ruling class of social controllers of a "leftist" (sic) persuasion coincided with the interests of what are today called 'the American Taliban' along with the generally repressive apparatus of the American state and its politicians.
EC publisher William Gaines later got his cold served revenge via the Archie spoof 'Starchie' published in what remained of his outfit- Mad Magazine. The graphic above is from this story where everything in the Archie series is 'detourné" in a way that shows the Situationists as amateurs. Amazingly enough Mad magazine was not sued over their parody. Perhaps this was good legal advise as Mad published parody after parody and always got away with it. Perhaps it was merely a less litigious time. Nobody knows for sure because the 'Carrot Top Conglomerate' was hardly a shrinking violet about suing others in later years. In later years Archie Comics did sue a wide variety of people including 'Help ! Magazine' (see the Wikipedia article on Archie Comics on how the company got shitty legal advise and how this series is now freely printable), a music group 'The Veronicas', a fan site called '', a theatre company in Georgia and a punk rock group called 'Jughead's Revenge'. Archie Comics has hardly been as lawsuit prone as good old 'Adolf Mouse'(you know who I mean), but they have definitely established a "criminal pattern"of such action.
So...let's go back to one of Molly's admittedly faulty memories. I have my doubts as to the timeline of this story because 'Spire Christian Comics' didn't initiate publication until 1972 when I think 1) The "Regina Book Exchange' on South Railway Ave. had already closed, to be replaced later by the 'Purple Dragon on Dewdney Ave. and 2)I had taken a temporary hiatus from hanging around such places. It such a case the "Christian Comics" of the following likely refers to the Catholic Church's efforts in 'Treasure Chest' (admittedly several layers of civilization above the American Holy Roller productions of 'Spire Christian Comics'. The anti-evolutionist stand of the American Taliban may actually be right in this case. They obviously didn't "evolve from monkeys". They quite obviously "descended' from them in a less than flattering interpretation of the word "descend".
Anyways, here we (serious "geeks" who would hang around an used book store from morning opening to closing time waiting for people to come in to sell comics that we might be interested in) were, slouching around the 'Regina Book Exchange', situated on "beautiful" South Railway Avenue (a part of Regina's skid row since demolished and rebuilt in Regina's pathetic attempt to develop and pretend that it is something other than what it is). In walks Frau Uberkomandanta Helga Von Whippen, trailing what is either a grandson or a nephew in tow. To say the very least the poor kid is mortified. All of sleazy, ill fed degenerates lurk in the background giggling. Helga, in her best Prussian command language says to the guy at the desk..."Ve vant some 'Christian Comics'". the guy at the desk looks at her like she is insane, which she actually is outside of her concrete enema social circle. He says nothing, just tries to figure out what she wants. The kid say..."I want Superman" in a plaintiff voice. Helga ignores this, and she barks out her order again..."Ve vant Christian Comics". By this time the guy behind the desk has regained his composure, even though the giggling from the gathering of us geek degenerates is growing and growing. He says to Frau Whippendiejudden that ..."you'll have to go back there and look through the bins". The kid makes his second plea..."I want Superman", even whinier than before.
Helga glances our way and tries out her best 'Aryan Stare' on us. We respond with a Tasmanian Devil stare that says...come within 5 feet and see how many digits you can lose. Helga turns back to issue commands to the guy behind the desk, but he is gone. In what little mercy such a thug can muster Helga drives her charge out of the store, yapping at the top of her lungs because the sales clerk wouldn't go back and select her own propaganda from the 10,000 comics randomly shoved into bins (That was the way it was then). No doubt she is both 1)dead by now-I personally hope via the cause of death formerly registered as 'apoplexy" 2)A life long believer in both her own personal holiness and her right to make anybody else's life unpleasant by demanding that they serve her.
For some reason I connect this with "Spire Christian Comics' where the Archie characters were used to make crude propaganda for the cause of American fundamentalism. Maybe I was still hanging around the Regina Book Exchange in the early 70s, though, by that time I was also hanging around sleazy bars where people were occasionally killed. Us geeks continued our interests well into our 20s. It would have been a short walk anyways. Maybe Helga Von Fascistgruppen was Austrian or south German, and the Catholic 'Treasure Chest' was the poison more appropriate to her taste.What I remember was the utter torture the kid was going through. As a kid who, at the age of 15, put his foot down to his parents and said, "I don't care if you kill me, I will never go to Mass Again" I wish him well. This went over not too badly with my parents who, as socialists, were only vaguely loyal to the Church of Rome at best. In later years I had to be the "the voice of reasons" when one Jesuit priest beat the living shit out of me and my old man wanted to go and deal with him in a greater way. My old man, by the way, was boxing champion of Quebec in his weight class. The sucker who landed so many punches on me was a young boy ass grabbing thug priest (never my ass to be sure) who was only a provincial boxer. To the credit of my old man I remembered what he had taught me and after the first (probably 10) punches fell I got up my guard so he couldn't get through with a single one.
My face was a mess. On the other hand when fuckface John Toth- who is probably dead by now and beyond prosecution for when he "scored" with the young boys" (sue me fuckers of the Jesuit Order and see what happens)- saw that I was a far better boxer than he was even if I was too stunned to fight back he drew back. Later the local intelligent fascist principal of the school, Father Boyle, got wind of what had happened. The guy was an "intelligent fascist" without any of the quirks that defined so many of his underlings. As the old man and the old lady are "discussing" the retaliation for my busted up face (an Irishman versus a Russian woman) the phone rings. I answer it because they are too busy yelling. It is Toth "apologizing" for what he did. After I hear his bullshit I turn the phone over to them. One by one they heard his bullshit, obviously coerced by Boyle and said yeah, yeah, yeah. When the phone was finally returned to its cradle we broke out in the sort of "family moment" that Christian fascists dream of. All three of us could barely stand for laughing.
I've obviously strayed far beyond the subject at hand- Archie's marriage. My own excuse...Archie Comics always was and is today an organ of propaganda. Their sick idea of "family values" were and are totally different from the very much closer families such as I grew up in. It is a culturally specific set of "values" that has little to do with me, nor with the vast majority of the world's population. To us it is anathema.
But much more on this later. This is KP to King 3 in this game.