As previously established growing up I was pretty much exclusively only interested in superhero comics, though I was nondenominational in my devotion — I liked both Marvel and DC comics. Oh growing up I would occasionally get exposed to an issue of Archie here and there, but I had a visceral reaction to them. Maybe the romance stuff made me squeamish or the fact they hinted of a coming teen-age experience that even at age ten I strongly suspected was going to be a nightmare for me. Whichever, Archie Comics creeped me out royal; they were from a whole other world that I flat out refused to deal with.
But after a couple of decades I finally kind of grew up and slowly sidled sideways up to a couple of gateway titles from the publisher, like Cosmo The Merry Martian, Little Archie and (especially) Josie and the Pussycats. Then a switch got flipped in my head and not only did I start reading and enjoying, actual Archie Comics, but I started working my way through his many imitators. But I quickly found, much to my surprise, that he was a character who was, literally, almost without rival(s).
Leave us not kid ourselves; there have been a metric ton of teen titles, almost all of which totally owe their existence to Archie Andrews, but most of them have featured female leading characters. Maybe it was because they realized that the actual star of the Archie Comics wasn’t Archie but the girls, Betty and Veronica. Or they were trying to appeal to the then large female readership of comics, as well as the men who liked looking at drawings of pretty girls. But regardless the number of male characters who dared to challenge the grand red head head to head were fairly far and few between, and those who managed to do it for more than a handful of issues were rarer still.
The most successful ones oddly enough both came from DC. Growing up I only knew Binky and Buzzy from their sporadic appearances in the Public Service Announcement type pages found in 60′s DC Comics.
But even with two such unique (and highly unlikely names) at the time I really couldn’t tell them apart. Then I finally figured it out:
One was blonde, one wasn’t.
But seriously, for those similarly afflicted it goes something like this:
Buzzy was DC’s first teen character, running 77 issues from 1945 to 1958. Originally he was very much a character of his time, a ‘hep’ jive talking musician obsessed with records and playing the trumpet and drawn by George Storm in an altogether idiosyncratic style. From Buzzy #1:
But everything that was original about Buzzy was soon flattened out when Storm was replaced by a perfectly competent artist named Graham Place. There was never anything exactly wrong with this version of Buzzy; he still played his horn and Mr. Gruff remained a dead ringer for Major Hoople from the comic strip Out Our Way. They were perfectly acceptable wholesome teen adventures that were, like most DC comics of this era, nonthreatening and reassuring. Which I know doesn’t sound like much but the older I get the better nonthreatening and reassuring looks.
Here’s a story from Buzzy #60 featuring the most interesting thing about Buzzy, his resident ‘Reggie’ Wolfie, who to me looks like he was intended to be a caricature of comedian Bob Hope. But I can’t swear to it.
And that’s more than enough for Part 1. Part 2 to follow almost immediately.
— Steve Bennett