1966 was a banner year for comic books, the kind of cultural explosion that pops up every so often and reminds everyone that the comic medium still exists.  Among the wonderful events of that year included Dell Comics inventively named “Super-Heroes,” Steve Ditko and Dick Giordano (among others) revamping Charlton Comics Action Hero line, and Space Ghost taking to the airwaves to defend the universe with his pleasing baritone.

It was also the year that Forsythe P. Jones joined Goofy, Herbie Popnecker and best pal Archie Andrews in the costumed-hero game.  And it… was… GLORIOUS.

JUGHEAD AS CAPTAIN HERO #1
Writer: Frank Doyle
Penciler: Bob White
Inker: Jon D’Agostino
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: John Goldwater
Publisher: Archie Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $40.00

Previously, in Jughead As Captain Hero:  When Archie made his debut in 1941, Jughead was at his side, unflappable in his (then) fashionable spiked beanie hat.  By the end of the 40’s, Juggy had his own title (possibly the first supporting character to get one, predating even Jimmy Olsen’s solo book by half a decade.)  Easily the coolest character of comics’ Golden Age, Jughead cares not for drama, nor money, nor the affection of Betty and Ronnie.  Jug’s twin passions are hamburgers and sleeping, sometimes at the same time.  What would drive a man of his caliber into the super-hero business?

Your guess is as good as mine, folks.  It’s 1966, we don’t waste time with origins, there’s action to be had!  Captain Hero is stunned to find that his best pal Archie has been turned into a juvenile menace, complete with Marlon-Brando-as-The-Wild-One outfit (necessary to show how far our hero has fallen) and Captain Hero must save him!  The Whammy’s powers even work on C.H. himself, putting the good Captain under a hypnotic spell, then sending his nefarious partner in to finish the hero off…

What’s most fascinating to me is the way that they translate the Archie comics house style into the superhero conventions of the Silver Age, specifically Silver Age Marvel emblematic of Jack Kirby.  Captain Hero’s powers apparently also include a super-brain, a la Silver Age Superman, and grammar-correction skills that would serve him well on the internet.  Oh, and a cape full of potions and gadgets that put that OTHER guy’s utility belt to shame…

The Whammy is temporary unable to see straight, allowing the Cap’n to get both of his henchmen new jobs, keeping them from having to work for their evil overlord.  As for The Whammy (whose name seems to have been changed from “The Spoiler”, which I’m taking as a shout-out, even 45 years beforehand), he runs afoul of Riverdale’s greatest export…

That being blonde women with extremely poor taste in men.  I especially like the way Archie lampshades the silliness of his Brando costume there at the end.  One of the greater tragedies of the Silver Age is that the cartoon/parody heroes always seem to get short shrift from historians and collectors, as if the adventures of Super-Goof or Underdog are somehow any more ridiculous than those of Superboy or Super Green Beret.  The second story in the issue is a little bit more traditional as a superhero tale, as Jughead finds one of his friends in grave danger, thanks to the sudden influx of super-crime to Riverdale…

Knowing that Juggie doesn’t really have a lot of truck with girls and their foolishness, this wouldn’t seem to be much of a kickoff for a Captain Hero tale.  If anything, you’d expect that Archie and Reggie would be more likely to find this an affront, given their legendary competition for the affections of Miss Lodge, wouldn’t you?  You’re an unusually astute Spoilerite, aren’t you?

Did I mention that Archie’s superhero persona, Pureheart The Powerful had premiered only a few months previous to Captain Hero?  Oh, and that Reggie also had super-powers of his own, albeit only to foil Archie’s good deeds?  It was the 60’s.  Things were different (as well as awesome) then.  The Collector quickly scoops up Pureheart and Evilheart for his collection, then mockingly asks Jughead what his talent is.  When our low-key hero snipes that he’s best known for eating, the Collector makes his first mistake…

Years later, someone brilliant would write a story that dealt with the amnesia-producing side effects of the Super-Teens transformations, as this isn’t the only time that one of them transforms in PLAIN SIGHT without the observer recognizing what they’ve seen.  I also find it interesting that all three of our teen heroes have a much more muscular, traditional hero physique in this story, even though they seem to be drawn by the same artist.  Using a number of handy gadgets from within his cape (such as an inflatable raft from a stick of gum and his “brain-wave radar-scope”, Captain Hero tracks The Collector to his island lair, and delivers a beat-down to the dozens of criminal hardcases vacationing there.  He then pulls out another gadget…

It’s a pretty amazing show, especially when he uses one bad guy as a club to beat another bad guy.  But when the Coast Guard frees Reggie, Archie and Veronica, they find that Captain Hero is nowhere to be found…

Hamburgers are his passion, and no matter how many capes and belt-jets are in the issue, it’s still an Archie Comic, after all.  For all the arguments you can make for “realism” in comics and the current decompression of story elements, this issue is fun in ways that modern comics just can’t match.  With two full adventures (as well as a couple of cartoon features, a letter column and more) this issue is a well-balanced chunk of reading fun, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, something I wish more comics could pull off.  The art is clear, bright, and brilliant, mixing super-hero tropes and the teeniebopper quasi-romance style of the Archie line with ease.  In short, Jughead As Captain Hero #1 is awesome hamburger-laden Silver Age goodness, and I will physically fight anyone who says different, with the book earning 5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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4 Comments

  1. June 18, 2012 at 8:36 am — Reply

    Has Archie always been a Leftie, or is that just Archie under the spell of the bad guy?

    • June 18, 2012 at 11:32 am — Reply

      I believe Archie is left-handed, at least when he fought the dread pirate Westley…

  2. ~wyntermute~
    June 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm — Reply

    I actually have an Archie Digest that has “Captain Hero Vs. The Whammy”!!! ^_^ Captain Hero & Superteen were my favorites. Wold you like some Super Jughead & Super Betty? Yes please!

  3. Noobian74
    June 20, 2012 at 10:19 am — Reply

    Is the Collector related to Beast. Good Sweet Mike, those hands are HUGE!

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