This is the eighth post in this series. DC versus Marvel superhero posts have been done to death on the internet and I wanted to do something different. This series looks at what happens when you pit the non superheroes of these two companies. This series also gives me an excuse to revisit some of the obscure comic book characters of my past. The dominance of the superhero genre in American comic books has meant that characters of other comic book genres have been ignored for decades and this series to some extent is an attempt to rectify this unfortunate state of affairs.
The first post looked at Westerns and Western heroes. http://foxhugh.com/2009/02/13/dc-vs-marvel-western-heroes/
The second post looked at war comics and war heroes. http://foxhugh.com/2009/03/21/dc-vs-marvel-war-heroes/
The third post looked at women’s comics and working women. http://foxhugh.com/2009/04/11/dc-vs-marvel-working-women
The fourth post looked at space operas and spacemen http://foxhugh.com/2009/04/20/dc-vs-marvel-spacemen/
The fifth post analyzed funny animals.
The sixth post looked at the teenagers of teenage humor comic books. http://foxhugh.com/2009/07/15/dc-vs-marvel-teenagers/
The seventh post looked at horror comics and horror hosts. http://foxhugh.com/2009/07/27/dc-vs-marvel-horror-hosts/
I am inventing a comic book genre name for this series. Women’s comics are defined as comic books that appeal to women. I would like to propose there is a genre of comic books that appeals to very young children as opposed to children in general and I would like to name this genre kids comic’s. The ultimate example of this genre would be the children’s Harvey Comics line that included such characters as Baby Huey, Casper, Hot Stuff, Little Audrey, Little Dot, Little Lotta, Spooky, Richie Rich and Wendy the Good Little Witch. Harvey Comics also published comics with superheroes but is best remembered for its kid’s comics. I see similarities between Harvey Comics and Archie Comics.
Faced with hopeless competition with DC and Marvel in the superhero arena, these two comic book companies found success in non superhero genres, an example of niche marketing in the comic book marketplace. Archie Comics has dominated teenage humor for decades, right up until the present and squashed attempts by DC and Marvel to make titles that compete in this genre. Harvey Comics was also able to survive in a similar manner with kids comic books. Interestingly, both Archie Comics and Harvey Comics tried superheroes but eventually gave up these titles probably because of competition from DC and Marvel. Both Archie Comics and Harvey Comics had to learn hard lessons about their core business which turned out to be genres other than the superhero one.
There is tremendous overlap between the funny animal genre, dealt with in the post about funny animals (http://foxhugh.com/2009/06/10/dc-vs-marvel-funny-animals/) and kid’s comics and many comics fit both genres. Still, characters such as Casper are obviously not funny animals. I would propose that funny animals are a subgenre of kid’s comics logically but the funny animal subgenre is so big it must be treated as a genre. In a similar manner, logically superheroes are a subgenre of science fiction but are such a dominant subgenre in terms of the comic book marketplace that superheroes are best dealt with as a separate genre. This post will only deal with kid comics that are not funny animals.
This genre is characterized by a simplified cartoon style, very G rated material, even by comic code approved standards, and very simple plots. The defining characteristic is that the comic book is aimed at a very young readership. I would say the comic books should be able to appeal to preschoolers and they should be able to handle the material without the aid of an adult. Older readers may like the simplicity of the comic books in the same way that even adults can appreciate a children’s book but the reverse is not true. A relatively G-rated comic book like Superman, especially a more recent Superman comic book, will not be appreciated by preschoolers unless their literacy is especially high.
DC kids include the Brat Finks, Stanley and his Monster, as well as, Sugar and Spike. Stanley and his Monster replaced the Fox and Crow in issue #109 but the retitled comic book only lasted until issue #112. Stanley is a six year old with a lisp that mistakes a monster for a dog and lets him secretly live with him. The monster is covered with pink hair, has enormous fangs and is gigantic, maybe nine feet? The parents never catch onto the existence of the monster. In the innocent comic book logic of that era, hiding a nine foot monster in a typical suburban house is considered totally possible. The comic book was printed in the sixties. In the nineties, DC decided to add some back story to the series and include Stanley and his Monster in some DC crossovers. I still prefer the more innocent less sophisticated Stanley and his Monster of the sixties.
Sugar and Spike was created by comic book legend Sheldon Mayer and is one of the best comic books lines ever! Somehow DC forgot to reprint this comic book in their current reprint Showcase series. This is extremely unfortunate and I urge DC to add Sugar and Spike to the Showcase reprint line. Sugar and Spike are two preschoolers that talk to each other in baby talk that adults can’t understand.
Sugar and Spike are constantly trying to figure out adult logic and the adult world and come up with outlandish explanations that nevertheless are totally logical. Mayer was able to capture kid’s logic in a way few cartoonists ever have. The closest any cartoonist has ever come is Calvin and Hobbes but I actually think Mayer does a better job and he is dealing with much younger children that are harder for adults to understand. Sugar is a blonde haired kid. Spike is a red haired kid. Other characters came and went in the strip such as Little Arthur, Uncle Charley and Bernie the Brain and even the secondary characters of this great strip were better than the primary characters of most cartoons. The strip lasted 98 issues, from the seventies into the nineties, and I am sure would have gone on even longer except for his death in 1992.
Marvel Kids, pre-Star imprint, is a much shorter list and I want to mention Homer the Happy Ghost who was brought to my attention by a reader of this post (see comments). Homer the Happy Ghost was an obvious imitation of Casper that lasted 22 issues, between March, 1955- November 1958, which for a none superheroe is not bad! Supporting characters included Melvin the Mixed-Up Ghost, Invisible Irwin, Dugan the Dead End Ghost, and Zelda the Zany Witch. Homer was reprinted for five issues between from November 1969 to May 1970 and I vaguely remember seeing this version of the title. Anway, thanks for the info Mark!
Marvel Kids include all the characters of their Star imprint that lasted from 1984-88. The characters of the Star imprint included Air Raiders, ALF, Animax, Bullwinkle and Rocky, Care Bears, Chuck Norris and his Karate Kommandos, Defenders of the Earth, The Flinstone Kids, Foofur, Fraggle Rock, The Get-Along Gang, Heathcliff, Heathcliffs Funhouse, Hugga Bunch, Inhumanoids, Madballs, Masters of the Universe, Masters of the Universe Motion Picture, Misty, Muppet Babies, The Muppets take Manhattan, Peter Porker The Spectacular Spider Ham, Planet Terry, Popples, Royal Roy, Silverhawks, Star Wars Digest, Star Wars Droids, Star Wars Ewoks, Strawberry Shortcake, ThunderCats, Top Dog, and Wally the Wizard. Marvel did publish a couple of Casper comic books in 1997.
Most of the Star comic books are not Marvel properties and will not be looked at given the topic of this post. Spider Ham, Planet Terry, Royal Roy, Top Dog and Wally the Wizard are the only true Marvel properties of the Star comic’s line. Spider Ham was already dealt with in the funny animals post so we are down to Planet Terry, Royal Roy, Top Dog and Wally the Wizard.
Planet Terry, Royal Roy and Top Dog were all written by Lennie Herman. Planet Terry was a space saga. Planet Terry was looking for his parents in space with his sidekicks a robot named Robota and a green-scaled muscular alien named Omnus. I swear that Planet Terry’s facial features are very similar to those of Casper. He flew around in a jet pack and many of his flying poses seem directly lifted from Casper comic books. Top Dog is a talking dog and therefore a funny animal and the subject of another post. Royal Roy is Marvels version of Richie Rich of Harvey Comics. Prince Roy lives in Cashelot (Camelot plus Cash) and only
lasted six issues. Wally the Wizard was an apprentice wizard to Marlin the Wizard, Merlin the Wizards older brother. Wally the Wizard was created by Bob Bolling who had also created Little Archie.
Sugar and Spike team up with Stanley and his monster for a day at the sandbox and run into these two weird kids in weird costumes. One is dressed like a prince, one is dressed like a spaceman and one is dressed like a wizard. Sugar and Spike know all about Halloween and love that day and know darn well this day isn’t that day. They start laughing at the costumed kids and soon a fight ensues. Stanley’s Monster sits on the Marvel kids until they agree to behave. DC wins this round.
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