Lest you think the billboard-buying, THE END IS NIGH! guys are a recent phenomenon, let me hip you to one of the weirdest chapters in comic book history.
Back in the 70s, things were a bit more cowboy than they are now concerning licensed characters and brand-identity. So one day, a right-wing-born-again comic book artist by the name of Al Hartley (who was the son of Congressman Frederick Allan Hartley, Jr., who was in turn an asshole of epic proportions) quits his job drawing titillating “nudie-cutie” comic books like The Adventures of Pussycat because he is hit with a spasm of Christian sex-guilt and gets himself a gig at Archie comics, doing more wholesome stuff.
During this time, he began to insert increasingly overt christian, dominionist messages into Archie comic books. He created a hippie character named Leigon (!!) who encouraged the wholesome Riverdale gang to fight authority and eschew good, clean-cut, rock-ribbed all American values. There’s an acronym in the blogosphere about the caricature right-wing conception of left-leaning people as DFHs, or “Dirty Fucking Hippies.”
Hartley’s “Leigon” (a none-too subtle shout out to the demon in the Bible who tried to tempt Jesus in the desert) was the dirtiest of all possible fucking hippies.
In the story where he is introduced, it is revealed that the reason for his anger and rebellion are because he had an immoral, broken home. It it determined by Big Ethel that he needs love and understanding, but not before the Riverdale gang get good and righteously indignant about his hairy ways and his seditious demeanor. Here’s some dialog from the comic book:
ARCHIE: Hi, Pal! Glad to have you at Riverdale High!
LEGION: What did you mean by that crack?
ARCHIE: We want to be your friends!
LEGION: Humph! Hypocrisy turns me off! Why don’t you tell the truth? Your middle class values won’t let you relate to me! My life-style irritates you! Come on! Admit it!
REGGIE: Brother! You’ve got a real chip on your shoulders! We won’t knock it off, but we’ll help you lift it!
ARCHE: What’s your name, pal?
LEGION: Name? My name is Legion, for we are many!
ARCHIE: Are you a poet?
LEGION: I found reality, man! Everybody else is just playing games! Like who needs that [school] bell? Are we a herd of cattle?
REGGIE: But you’ve got to have some system!
LEGION: System? System’s a DRAG! I do my own thing!
REGGIE: You can go that way for a while but tomorrow you’ll pay for it!
later on in the issue:
LEGION: How does this grab you? [Legion holds up a sign that says "Society Stinks"] Come on, you lackeys! We need a real demonstration of student power to shake up the system! [Legion is surrounded by signs that read "We Want Shorter School Hours," "Homework Denys My Liberty!" and "Teachers Are Oppressive."]
REGGIE: This guy’s a trouble maker!
ARCHIE: If he doesn’t cool it, he’s going to disrupt the whole school!
MOOSE: Shall I plant my knuckles in his whiskers?
Hartley got in trouble with his Archie-bosses when he wrote and drew a condescending story Archie finding some poor black kids on a beach and telling them how much God loves them. At the time, the publishers just needed to fill up pages; there were a crazy amount of Archie Comics on the stand on any given month and they needed to be filled with something. While that story (called Summer Schooling Some Are Not) made it to the presses, Hartley had to lay off the overt Jesus-pimping.
But then came Spire Comics. Some Christian entrepreneur started a born-again-themed comic company and Hartley got on board. He managed, through some odd kind of wheeler-dealing to get sign-off to have religious Archie comics written and printed through Spire. Somehow, that was OK. Like, the Spire-Archie was in a different continuity than the Archie-Archie, even though everything looked and seemed the same and it was sold in regular outlets, not just in church-places or to specialty distributors.
Kids don’t tend to pay attention to the name of the publisher on the corner of a cover if everything else is the same, so the early-to-mid 70s saw lots of kids getting creeped out after a trip to the local corner store saw them reading an Archie comic where the ideas of evolution were used as punchlines or Betty was making in-jokes about pushy Evangelical jargon. Check it:
and then there’s this:
That’s the cover punchline; “This is cool! The officer is WITNESSING to Archie!”
Don’t you feel violated and covered in slime, like Cookie Monster just handed you a copy of THE WATCHTOWER?
Anyhow, this Spire Comics, in addition to printing a big run of really awful, snide evangelical Archie stories which came out against forced bussing of “rowdy” children, reading science or literature instead of the Bible and other fun stuff like that also published other comic books.
Among them was an adaptation of an end-times cult-book called “There’s a New World Coming.” That is the book from which the “GREAT SNATCH” panel is taken. It’s a groovy 70s take on what it will be like when Jesus stops pussyfooting around and LOWERS THE BOOM on the world. If you will note, from that first panel, way up there, there don’t seem to be a lot of black, Latino or Asian people getting Greatly Snatched by His Mighty Technicolor Hand.
You can read the whole thing online.(PDF format)
Read that and tell me that anyone who would tell their kids this kind of twisted, sexually repressed revenge-fantasy as “moral instruction” isn’t a child abuser.
These people have been around for a long time and they are not well and we really should not let them be dictating our politics in matters of science, medicine or anything else. They’re all members of a gross death cult; the May 21sters were just objectively sillier than the others, since they picked a date certain. But every Megachurch you pass, every Evangelical on Sunday TV is peddling the same awful story and selling it as “morality.”
Every Tea-Party elected official, every anti-science, anti-choice group who denies climate change, evolution, or women’s right to privacy is a part of this really creepy family of belief.
I think it is time we started calling them what they are: unwell and pitiable at best and dangerous and insane at worst.