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Saturday, October 23, 2010

COMIC BOOK COMPULSIVE — The Rivals of Archie Andrews Part 2

Archie Andrews had another major rival at DC Comics; Binky from Leave It To Binky which had one of the strangest publication histories in modern comics, running 82 issues spanning from 1948 to 1958,  ending with #60.  In 1967 he made an inexplicable (seriously, I know I sometimes overuse this word, I like the way it sounds, but if anyone out there does happen to have an explanation as to why DC would do this, well, you know where to reach me) appearance in Showcase #70 after which the comic became just plain  Binky – though it retained it’s original numbering.  It went on hiatus without explanation in ’70-’71 before finishing it’s run with #82 in 1977, which is pretty impressive considering it managed to hang on for years after the establishment of the direct sales market.

Like Buzzy before him Binky came in two basic incarnations.  Phase One being very much in the traditional Archie wheelhouse when it came to plots, though not artistically.  The sadly unheralded Bob Oskner did his usual fine job on the art and while the scripts were fairly by the number they were, like the Buzzy stories, nonthreatening and reassuring bits of Americana.

But Binky did have one major advantage over Archie; he had a little brother named Allergy.   You read that correctly, the weird, fat little load was named (or at least called by all) “Allergy” for no apparent reason.  I haven’t read every issue but as far as I can tell there was never any explanation as to why he was called “Allergy”, let alone why he always wore an enormous black bow-tie which seems to have been ordered from the Clown College Catalog.  And while Binky was depicted as being fully human Allergy and his father were nearly identical, suggesting (to me anyway) that Binky might have been adopted.

From Leave It To Binky #1, here’s the very first Binky story:

As a bonus, from 1956 here’s a Public Service Announcement page that appeared in Leave It To Binky #57.  This is ordinarily where I’d be praising the simple, common sense approach to an important institution, not to mention timely, issue.  And then I noticed  the thing on the sign about “literacy tests”….

In Phase Two Binky became much more cartoonish and was pretty much an Archie clone, one that tried to plug into the late 60′s, early 70′s zeitgeist with mixed results.  The bulk of these stories were drawn by the late Henry Scarpelli, who’s better known for his work on other DC characters like Angel and the Ape, Stanley and his Monster and that Charlton classic Sinistro, Boy Fiend. And Buzzy (well, a blonde kid named Buzzy anyway; he didn’t look or act all that much like the one from the comic book Buzzy) became Binky’s best friend.

One noteworthy aspect of this version was while no African-American ever became one of  Binky’s Buddies there were short filler strips featuring Li’l Leroy by veteran artist Henry Boltinoff (the man who gave us Super-Turtle) about a little black kid.  It was a unexpected (though I suppose we could interpret this as another attempt at being “hip”; America having only recently discovered people of color) but welcome bit of racial diversity in the almost entirely segregated world of humor comics.

With names like ‘Buzzy’ (with its connotations of drug use) and ‘Binky’ (a brand name for a pacifier; the very thing teens and preteens want to be associated with) there’s almost no chance we’ll ever see either of them again.  That is, unless Grant Morrison decides to show an interest…

I have more than enough material for a third installment on this subject, and DC’s third Archie rival Swing With Scooter (which ran 36 issues between 1966 and 1971) probably deserves one of his own.  And I’ll definitely do a Part 3; eventually.


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4 Responses to “COMIC BOOK COMPULSIVE — The Rivals of Archie Andrews Part 2”

  1. booksteve Says:

    Binky was also revived again in the eighties in the DC digests with reprints and, I believe, a few new or leftover stories!

  2. Johnny Bacardi Says:

    I’d say they named kid brother “Allergy” because he was an irritant to Binky. Can’t help you on the other question…

  3. Steve Bennett Says:

    I’ve encountered some of the those very late appearances featuring stories where the hair and clothes have been redrawn to be ‘hip’ (seeing Buzzy wearing a chest medallion is really something). And I believe that Buzzy was introduced as a friend of Binky when the book became just BINKY — I’ve read a least one story where he was a blonde friend named Buzzy and I’ve made the leap of logic.

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