You know what surprises me about remakes in comic books? It’s that there haven’t been more of them. Formula or no formula, there does usually seem to be a presumption that a new script is better than re-illustrating an old one from a decade earlier. Which is a good thing; I’m just not sure if it reflects integrity or the fear that someone might notice. Anyway, Archie comics had surprisingly few out-and-out remakes for a franchise where a lot of the stories kind of feel like remakes. But there have been a few exceptions, starting with two versions of one script that told us the same thing: if you don’t learn a foreign language, people will die.
The first time this script appeared was in 1960, in Archie # 114, a story that inspired one of the most famous Harry Lucey covers (Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, a Lucey admirer, featured it in his blog’s Lucey cover gallery.) The company at this time was going through one of their very brief flirtations with having the cover actually be related to the stories inside, instead of being a stand-alone gag…
…but, like most such covers, it gives a false impression of what’s going to happen; we think Archie’s going to be arrested, but then we open the book and find:
Pretty straightforward message: you may not like studying Spanish, but you should learn it anyway. Why? Because when a kid gets hit by a car, every single other person in the crowd will have been too apathetic to learn Spanish themselves, and you’ll be literally the only one who can talk to the kid’s father and find out his blood type. That seems hard to argue with.
The story must have made an impact on someone at the company, or they just wanted to do something like it and didn’t have time to get a new script: because sometime in the late ’60s (judging by the art and clothes, it looks like 1969 or so), they did it again.
- Even the title is the same: “The Interpreter.” The art is, once again, by Lucey. Click here to read “The Interpreter: The Reimaginationing.”
Archie’s R sweater and bow tie are gone and Betty is now wearing miniskirts, but the art is basically the same, though there are enough new poses to suggest that it was re-drawn rather than just re-inked from the old drawings. (I’m sorry that I couldn’t get them side-by-side for direct comparisons.) Lucey, who was an excellent superhero/action artist and is credited with having done some Captain America work in the ’40s, still draws the authority figures (the cop, the surgeon) in a less cartoony style than usual. But what we learn primarily is that despite all the social upheaval between the beginning and end of the ’60s, there’s still no one except Archie who can speak Spanish.
Now, as I said, comic books wouldn’t normally dust off an old script and do it verbatim; they’d do a similar story with a new script. And that’s what they did sometime in the mid-’70s, in the adventure-laden world of Life With Archie (I don’t know which issue). The script is identifiable as the tireless Frank Doyle — basically, if someone says “EEP!” it’s probably him — but the art this time is by Stan Goldberg.
The art is streets ahead of what Goldberg is turning out now, though I much prefer Lucey’s take on the characters, and you notice that his use of very prominent face lines is already getting out of hand: on page 6, panel 3, it makes Veronica look weird. But the art is not all that’s changed. Now there’s a new reason for learning Spanish. Not because a kid will get hit by a car, but because a hemophiliac kid will get a cut and you will be the only one who knows he isn’t a sissy for getting upset. And whereas in the ’60s it was reward enough to “be proud of yourself,” in the ’70s, that’s just not enough unless you also get a big kiss from the kid’s hot older sister.
But here’s where it gets strange. What’s Archie Comics’ attitude towards other languages besides Spanish? Well, as this late ’50s story from Wilbur (written by Doyle, art by Dan DeCarlo) will show, it’s extremely negative.
According to the comics, and contradicting everything I was told in the Ontario school system, French has no practical use whatsoever, and even people who speak French don’t actually care about teaching it, they just want to score with younger boys.
So, to review: if you don’t learn Spanish, the blood of dead children is on your hands. But watch out for French. It’s dangerous.