In my recent look at at Harry Lucey’s work, I somehow didn’t manage to link to a Lucey-drawn story that is particularly memorable, though for all the wrong reasons. In the February 1964 issue, Archie unveiled a story that is so inappropriate for so many reasons that no one who read it (at the time or in a digest) can seem to forget it.
The art was by Lucey, and this (early ’60s) was my favorite period for his work, lots of great acting from the guys and girls, suspense when needed, and some crazy throwaway gags like the two guys hiding behind one small tree at the same time (on the second panel of p. 5). But there’s so much that’s disturbing in this story, intentionally and unintentionally, that it would take practically another post to list them all. But here’s the story, and then I’ll try and list some of the WTF?! aspects.
So, first off, this story itself probably wasn’t as WTF-ish at the time as it seems now. “Kissing Bandit” stories had been done before and would be done again. And I have to admit, Archie’s explanation of Betty’s actions made sense to me as a kid (who wouldn’t want to create a mystery that no one could solve?). Still, what it comes down to is that you’ve got a story about Betty running around kissing all the girls in school. Then you’ve got:
– A comedy story that starts with Veronica, alone and defenseless at night, about to be assaulted by a scary figure coming out of the shadows.
– The venerable “girls who are taken by force really like it” stereotype, one that was by no means confined to Archie comics, of course. Still, when you have girls talking about the person who’s jumping out of the shadows and grabbing them, it may be ill-advised to have a girl suggest they do “Nothing drastic, like stopping him, I hope!”
– Reggie to Archie: “Are you trying to say that Jughead kissed you?”
– Not really WTF, but there were sure some odd-looking hairstyles in 1964. (But then, there are odd-looking hairstyles in every decade, and Archie artists drew them all.)
– Did I mention that in order to kiss Midge, Betty puts a paper bag over Midge’s head? And that Midge considers it a mark of pride to have been assaulted in this manner, because “I’ve joined the club!”
– Archie and Reggie ask the weirdest-haired of the previously-unknown girls to go out walking alone at night to make the mysterious maniac assault her, because, as they so delicately put it, “You’ll be the lure to make him strike!”
– Jughead really, really seems to want it to be known that he didn’t kiss Archie.
– Finally, and this is way creepier than her decision to go around kissing girls just for the sake of pure mischief: Betty only seems to kiss Archie while he’s unconscious. First it’s after he’s knocked out by a branch. Second it’s when she thinks he’s asleep. So her modus operandi is that when she’s kissing girls for the sake of creating a mystery, she can do that while they’re awake. But the kiss of true love must wait until the beloved is out cold.
That, you must surely admit, is a lot o’ WTF to pack into one story. Even a two-parter.