Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Comic (Re)discovery: 'Fast Willie Jackson'

I'm happy to report that every member of my household now "reads" (quote marks are for our 4-year-old) at least one comic book a month. But reading Betty & Veronica comics to C. left me with a nagging question: Why, after all these years, do Chuck and Nancy appear to be the only black kids at Riverdale High School? (Valerie of Josie & the Pussycats doesn't count, because she is a resident of neighboring Midvale. I'm just saying.)

While I don't remember much about the shenanigans of Willie and his friends, I recall quickly losing interest — maybe because no one in my family used phrases like "Can you dig it?" or dressed like a pimp. I must have sensed that it was knockoff, one certainly not approved by Fawcett Publications. (Then again, I read Spire's Christian-themed Archie books, so I had a pretty high tolerance for sketchy comics concepts.)

Given the iron grip of the Archie brand at that time and "Fast Willie's" apparent over-emphasis on jive-talking, it's not surprising that it only lasted for a few issues. In any case, it did bring some diversity to a monochromatic corner of the comics world. It also serves as a reminder of how much can change in 30 years. Despite Chuck and Nancy's token status, I doubt Archie Comics would have them speaking in outdated slang or turning Dilton on to the new Jeezy CD.

Read a more authoritative analysis of Willie & Co. here.


Christina said...

Oh my gosh! I totally had that "Archie's One Way" comic that is linked to on the Spire Christian Comics page.

EDP said...

You had that one, too? Remember the story line with Betty praying in the cafeteria? And yet, Betty and Veronica were drawn just as busty and short-skirted as ever.

Zil said...

I also had that exact comic... that is truly bizarre. And I just bought it by accident as a kid. As an extremely casual Methodist in my youth, I had no idea what "witnessing" was. I just thought it was another Archie book

EDP said...

That is TOO freaky. I've known quite a few people who had those Spire books. I remember Veronica and Reggie being extra evil, so that Betty and Archie could look more Christian by comparison. The '70s produced some weird stuff.