Al Hartley

Archie Gets a Job! (1977)

Archie Gets a Job  1977

Are Christian comics better or worse since Archie Gets a Job! (from 1977)? The comic promotes a combination of functional illiteracy and profound ignorance, not to mention encouraging teasing of people’s appearances, particularly fat-shaming. Just like Jesus, no doubt.

The comic’s all about Archie and Jughead getting summer jobs at school teacher Mr. Weatherbee’s beach-front Christian book store. It’s not very Christian-y for the first half or so. It’s not, you know, any good—and the fat-shaming starts almost immediately, along with some ageism—but it’s not shockingly insipid Christian-y either. Not until Big Ethel shows up to be shamed for her appearance, only to get a Christian dating book (which is an ad for creator Al Hartley’s son’s real book; Hartley includes an illustration of his son to show off how handsome he is—at least Jughead thinks so, anyway). Pretty soon Veronica shows up at the store to get the same book because all the boys on the beach are enraptured by Ethel reading it to them. Silly Veronica thought her body would get her Christian boys. Not so. They want someone to read them Hartley’s kid’s book.

I do have to admit it might be fun to read the book but not aloud to a beach full of studs. From that point, Hartley lays on the Christian thick. Why get a book on sociology, ecology, or solar energy when you can just read the Bible and not learn anything real at all? And Archie and Jughead are much better fellows for selling Bibles—the Bible “tells you how to be a winner”—than pushing drugs or porno on the beach like other people. Sadly we don’t get to meet those people.

They’d probably be scummier but more amusing.

The last bit of the comic is all about how even teenagers need to tithe, which seems very anti-Capitalist.

There’s actually a couple technically good panels as far as how Hartley plots the action, but the comic’s a disappointment. The cover has Jughead crucified on a giant kite, which has no pay-off in the comic itself.

It might be amusing to read Gets a Job with the seven deadly sins in mind but… probably not. Again, there’s a good reason no one took Archie comics seriously until 2010 or whatever. This thing is dreadful.

Archie’s Parables (1973)

Archie's Parables  1973

Archie’s Parables is Christian comics propaganda from the 1970s and is a great example of why it never would’ve occurred to me to read an Archie comic before, what, 2010 or something. But Parables, courtesy Spire Christian Comics and creator Al Hartley. Though using the word “creator” for Hartley is… a lot. Despite both writing and illustrating Parables, Hartley has a lot of disconnects. Like when medieval Archie and Jughead (mind you, they have some major anachronisms) go dragon-hunting… the dragon seems sympathetic (in the art). So Archie and Jughead are just the thug Christians abusing it.

I mean, okay. Especially since the morale of the story is to run non-Christians out of your neighborhood (Hartley seems like he’d be a great neighbor). And by morale, I mean Hartley takes the time to tell you the morale of the story. To run non-Christians out of your neighborhood.

There’s another one about how reading non-Christian books is bad for you so get a Christian book store. Love how Christian book stores are going out of business in 2020, probably because anyone who read this comic in 1973 forgot how to read and so didn’t teach their kids.

None of the stories—there are six—are particularly standout. The one where Archie and Jughead shoot down balloons standing in for whatever 1973 Christians were freaking out about (guess what, it’s all the same shit as today except the gays because no one publicly attested to gays being people in 1973 so they didn’t have to worry)… it’s funny in a historical context. Though also not because, what, ninety-nine percent of the asshats who read Parables in 1973 have done all they can to make the world a worse place since.

The one where Betty prays hard enough to save Archie from the devil is kind of amusing since the comic’s all about how Veronica is a whore who the boys lust after but Betty’s the wholesome one. But when the devil tries to tempt Archie, it’s with slutty Bettys.

There’s a hilariously bad riff on Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Hartley’s an inordinately atrocious writer, though perfectly mediocre enough art-wise for Archie).

Parables is a definite curiosity, just… probably not worth reading unless you want to see if your eyes are going to stay stuck in your head from all the rolling.

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