Thursday, June 13, 2013

Remember when Von Lmo sang "imitations never last"? Well the guy was right as usual, though I must admit that sometimes those imitations he was warning us about are just as interesting in their own right as the real fanabla. Whether it be Toyota copping the Studebaker Lark style for one of their early sixties entries or the Knickerbockers riding their way to the top with a blatant Beatles soundalike, the cheap copy sometimes comes off as stylistically and aesthetically important as the original. And not only that but cheaper too meaning you can save yourself a bundle of kopecks if you get the knockoff rather than the bonafeed item as my mother learned buying that 99-cent not-the-original-cast MARY POPPINS album back when we wuz kids.

When it comes to cheap cash-in imitations the comics world was just fulla 'em. Even in the beginning unscrupulous competitors were out and about copping ideas from the likes of THE KATAZENJAMMER KIDS either slyly (take THE FINEHEIMER TWINS which oddly enough was drawn by future KATZENJAMMER artist H. H. Knerr, not forgetting the infamous KIN DER KIDS) or just plain outright like the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER did. Ditto for comic books cuz y'all know that when SUPERMAN hit it big the market was flooded with superstrength guys who hadda learn a specialty or get the heck out. When other comic titles started dominating the stands you can bet that carbon copies would be popping up, perhaps in an attempt to fool the unwary kid (or ignorant parent) into picking up a SUPER DUCK or HOMER THE HAPPY GHOST 'stead of the real deal. I guess the odds were with 'em that the cheap-o variant would get snatched up enough to warrant publication, so why not?

A mega-comic stand hit like ARCHIE was bound to "influence" a whole number of comic book publishers to produce their own swipes, and throughout the years these books have cluttered up loads of old comic collections that had been wasting away in attics just waiting for antiques dealers and comic-mad kids to pour through. Stan Lee's own GEORGIE comes to mind, especially the last issue with the outright ARCHIE-ripoff title as well as a sidekick named Happy who looked like a cross between Jughead and Archie if you can fathom that! There was another ARCHIE swipe at Marvel in the early-seventies whose name I forget, though I remember one story where the kid and his pal actually accompanied President Nixon on his trip to China leading to loads of hijinx, esp. when the two went off with a coupla Red Guard uniformed gals leading to an even bigger international crisis than the time the first George Bush puked all over the Japanese prime minister. And, safe to say, nothing like that ever happened to Archie other'n the time he inadvertently flew the Wright Brothers' plane at the Smithsonian.

Of course Marvel also hit it bonanza-like with MILLIE THE MODEL which was at one time a "girl's" comic that by the late-sixties had become a verifiable ARCHIE knockoff complete with a female Reggie (Chili Storm) as well as this Jughead-alike who worked for the modeling agency and always got off the quickie comebacks and asides. I remember copping one at a flea market and reading it in the car while my dad razzed me for reading a girl's comic...didn't have the time or energy to explain that the title wasn't exactly the mooshy gal 'n romance 'un he somehow thought it to be, so I just groveled and tried not to let any of his razzing get to me. What we suburban slobs won't do for some light-headed comic book enjoyment...

As far as ARCHIE swipes do go none really could beat DC's BINKY. After all, it was more'n obvious that some of the same ARCHIE staff artists (as I later found out Henry Scarpelli and Stan Goldberg) were moonlighting not only on BINKY but the Marvel swipes, and with the similarities in cover layouts and high school craziness these comics seemed the perfect prescription for kids who had read all of the Archie Comic Group titles and wanted more. And perhaps because the once-boffo DC released it there was that imprimatur of the same company that was giving us all of those top-notch superhero comics also put this out and it was somehow special to me and my own skewered ideals regarding what is quality and what isn't. And even when it came to comics as JUNK I was looking for a certain (anti) aesthetic attribute, and naturally a cheap grind out like BINKY somehow satisfied me just as much as the real ARCHIE deal would. And if you can follow that you deserve an upper echelon ranking in the BINKY FAN CLUB, had one been created for us second-rate comic book fans that is!

When we're talking BINKY, we ain't talkin' the 1948-58 version which was more or less a standard teenage cartoon drawn in the DC house style...naw, we're talkin' the 1968-71 variety which, along with sister publications SCOOTER and DATE WITH DEBBI looked as if the artists were working straight from Dan DeCarlo's personal sketchbook. Sometimes I wonder why the overtly litigious Archie Comics Publications didn't sue DC over this (especially when the "Debbi" logo was so close to the standard Archie lettering) but then again they were probably having too many problems on their hands at the times what with their own MAD HOUSE MADS getting sued by EC in an interesting switch o' circumstances!

But just how do these Binkies and Scooters and Debbis hold up in the face of the real deal? Well, I decided to buy a bunch of eighties-era "DC Blue Ribbon Digests" to refresh myself after a good four decades of steering clear of the things and all I gotta say is that I certainly am not appreciated for the heights and lengths I go to in order to educate you readers about such gulcherally significant occurrences as BINKY comics! Because, in the name of BLOG TO COMM and dishing out to you some of the more obscure corners of what we call suburban adolescent pimplefarm civilization, I hadda endure some of the cheapest ARCHIE imitations extant, two-dimensional ripoffs of the real deal that I'm sure existed only because DC thought they could con a few IQ 80's with these magazines and run off with the profits before anyone really caught on. The bare fact that DC decided to reprint these comics a good ten years after the fact only goes to prove that they were masters at milking a cheap property for all it was worth, especially when you consider that the next crop of doofuses who picked these comics up were undoubtedly thinking these were part of the Archie digest series.

It'd take about twenty installments to detail everything wrong with these stories, so a condensed varsion'll have to do. But where to start...maybe the fact that there are too many characters in the Binky universe to keep tabs on would be one place, and the fact that as far as correlating BINKY/ARCHIE characters go there just ain't enough to go around. I can see Binky's father being the Mr. Weatherbee of the crew while Debbi is Josie and Debbi's father Mr. Lodge while the devil-may-care Sherwood is most certainly Reggie, but after that everything seems to be more or less a huge mish-most of various Archie-isms twisted enough perhaps in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit. The closest thing we have to a Jughead here is the nearsighted Kenny which makes me wonder just where the likes of Scooter, Buzzy, Malibu and Sylvester fit in, other'n Sylvester being the chubboid guy who just doesn't have a doppelganger in the Archie Universe. He has one in the Our Gang Universe, but that's something else entirely.

(Of course the question as to whether the Binky Universe is part of the Scooter or Debbi or Penny and her cross-eyed pussycat ones is up in the air, but there's nothing here suggesting other wise meaning...when it comes to continuity of any sorts the entire DC teenage series was one big hunkerin' mess!)

As far as the females go, there ain't any clear indication of who plays the Betty and Veronica roles, though the rich and raven-haired Mona comes close to the latter. There are so many gals to choose from in the Binky Universe that the standard B/V rivalry is all but impossible...with Penny, Peggy, Cynthia and who knows who else also being tossed into the fray making for more gals for the guys to go out with and little of the rivalry seen in the original. I guess with all of 'em being drawn straight outta the De Carlo sketchbook Binky and his buddies sure had a lotta gash to choose from, but then again the tension between the two main ARCHIE temptresses is all but gone in these pages!

The stories are rather one-dimensional, making most of the many seventies ARCHIE ones which tackled current events and various mooshy-feely subjects look deep in comparison. No interesting plot developments or humor for that matter are to be found here, making me wish whoever wrote these took a few night school classes in creative writing or at least swiped directly from the source which as we know is a time-honored practice in the comic book world.

Take "Binky Sets a New Record" which was reprinted in BINKY'S SUMMER FUN (Blue Ribbon Digest #28) this one shifty Sherwood convinces Binky that Peggy's birthday is just around the corner when it's actually a few months off and so Binky decides to give Peggy a card as well as a "Make Your Own Record" recording of an original love poem (with pre-recorded backing) for her own personal pleasure. When Peggy informs him that it ain't her birthday and slams the door in his face the dejected soul dumps his record in the trash, which Sherwood then retrieves if only to play for the gathered study hall in the auditorium in order to twist the knife a few more times in the already writhing form of the good 'n gracious Bink.

Well, it turns out that while the record is spinning some record moguls just happen to be at the school trying to convince the music teacher to get into their biz, and they hear Binky's poem. Meanwhile Binky's being humiliated by it all, but that all changes when he gets a recording contract and the respect of his gal while Sherwood grovels in the background remarking on how his plan failed!

And that's the funny asides, interesting twists or attempts at pathos or any real emotional tugs or jolts. Just a straight story with a bizarre faux deus ex machina ending that leaves this reader more stymied than entertained. At least with an Archie saga you get the weird if funny badgags and slapschtick, but these BINKY sagas are merely pale copies without any of the surprise or wit of even the wankiest thing MLJ coulda come up with. If it weren't for the Stan Goldberg and Henry Scarpelli art these sagas wouldn't even be worth that 1972 second hand flea market pickup amidst the Marvel reprints and DC socio-conscious pieces cluttering up the tables!

Not that there ain't any value to be found, at least with the digests I snatched up. After all if it's mindless duh you're looking for these comics can't be beat. And not only that, but the filler (!) is worth a look-see as well, including some neat Sugar 'n Spike cartoons that at least had a few wits about 'em not to mention an infamous Doodles Duck saga about the worthiness of comic book at least when compared to Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm Fairy Tales. And even longtime gag cartoonist and DC reg Henry Boltinoff contributes his own comic entitled "Binky's Buddy Sonny," a black character situated in an all-black setting custom made for the new integration in kiddie comicdom. For a minute I was hoping that Sonny would be a free jazz player in the Sonny Sharrock/Simmons/S(u)nny Murray mode and maybe he is, but as far as I can tell he works in a restaurant for a black boss and has a black galpal in another story but he's gotta do something when not playing atonal solos now, don't he? But this thing about Sonny being "Binky's buddy"??? Can't believe that for a minute...after all Binky's world is so white I couldn't fathom him being anywhere more'n fifty miles away from the nearest black person so what's this thing about 'em being buddies anyway??? Maybe they're pen pals, though given Binky's thorough whiteness even that 'un's kinda hard to swallow!


Bill S. said...

Boy, these Binky comics flew under my radar...I don't remember seeing these at all....or maybe I wasn't looking too closely and just assumed it was the latest Archie issue. Even though a number of Binky issues came out, I think we can assume that it was not a massive success or the folks over at Archie Comics would have sued. Anyway, another fascinating archival find from BTC...I will start looking for these in my flea market and junk store expeditions...

Walter Loyd Lilly said...

...Hey , hi , just joined , got the old BTC paper zine some back in th day...Yeah , those DC teen comics of that period were , uh , - DC teen comics of that period !!!!!!!!!!! Whaddayaknow . I remember a Binky text page full of showbiz " facts " telling us (In something like these words:) " Oh no - The oyal Guardsman aren't going to make any more ' Snoopy ' records anymore ! Say it isn't so ! " I remember a comment that Joe Orlando , the editor of those comics , made about his descision when he was editor and something involving Archie's reactions to what he , Joe , did as editor of the DC teen line...If you'll show that you want to hear it , I'll tell you what it was !!!!!!!!!
Oh , and MAD/DC DID sure over " The Mad House ma-ads " presumably forcing the " The Mad House Glads " title change ?
Say it ain't so !!!!!!!!!!!
Or , as Fast Willie Jackson's kids put it - I can dig it !!!!!!!!!!!

Walter Loyd Lilly said...

...I shoulda checked the " E-mail comments " part , so...........

Walter Loyd Lilly said...

...Oh , one more thing ~ Could you direct me to your old post about Shane Williams' death , please ? It was following a link at another board from when it was current that brought me here . I just thought of looking him up to-day and saw of his - 2011 ? - death .
He was living in Montana then ? Was he back in jail from 2006 to 2010 , noting the long pause on his old blog , which I also found ???????????

Christopher Stigliano said...

The Shane Williams obit can be found on June 9. 2011...just type in his name on the search engine above the blog and you'll be taken directly to it.

Christopher Stigliano said...

And as far as Archie's response to DC's teen titles, of course we'd all like to hear what they said to Orlando!!!!