Where I Began: Kids’ Comics That Left Impressions

Sea Witch Cheryl Blossom, Betty & Veronica #267, Archie Comics

Betty and Veronica, Archie ComicsB & V & Lex Makes Three

I read my first comic book when I was six or seven years old. It was a Betty & Veronica Double Digest, and I first noticed it sitting on a newsstand at the grocery store. I asked my Grandma if I could read it, thinking she would say no. (B&V may have been wearing skimpy bikinis or something.) Turns out my Grandma was one hip lady, and she bought it for me.

It became an instant guilty pleasure. I was intrigued by how two beautiful women could become catty and jealous over an unassuming, freckle-faced boy. I obsessed over their clothes and hair. I somehow related to both the tomboyish and intelligent Betty, and her sometimes-conniving frenemy Veronica.

Over the years, my love for Archie Comics has not subsided. I’ve tried to analyze it, tried to pick apart my attraction to this slightly misogynist little book, but there’s no point. The world of Riverdale is comforting and familiar to me. I’ve spent countless Saturday afternoons reading about Betty & Veronica’s adventures, and cheering them on as they remain friends despite their horny competitiveness. I’m an Archie fan for life.

Calvin & Hobbes SPaceman, Watterson

Romona Saw A Tiger:

Calvin and Hobbes, man! I read and reread those comics so many times as a kid. I didn’t get a ton of access to comic books so I made the newspaper funnies part of my daily routine, and there was something so sadistic but sweet (and existentialist yet hopeful, universal but personal) in Bill Watterson’s work that I was hooked. It made me laugh, think, and reach for the dictionary.

The different approaches to Calvin’s fantasy life gave the comic an added dimension. Not only did readers have to mull over who/what exactly Hobbes was, we also saw Calvin as Spaceman Spiff, Tracer Bullet, Stupendous Man, and Dinosaur Calvin. As a kid I loved looking at the world through Calvin’s eyes, but as an adult I get a huge kick out of his parents and teacher, too.

When I read it as a kid, I didn’t pick up on how Watterson was playing with the traditional newspaper layout of comic strips; I had no idea he was breaking all of the standard practices until he bowed out of the industry. I remember reading that the strip was ending partially due to Watterson’s rejection of comic regulations, and I was like “what do you mean, comic strip regulations?!” That was the first time I became aware of comics as an actual trade with bosses and rules, and it blew my mind.

Josie & the Pussycats, Archie ComicsChrista Is A Pussycat:

I remember when I was younger, people always gave me Archie comics. Maybe it was because I liked to read, and they would see them standing in the checkout line and think

Hey I liked to read these as a kid, that little girl I know who reads all the time probably likes them too.

But I was never really a fan of Archie Comics. I did like both Betty and Veronica but that wasn’t really enough. Possibly because even when I was little, I could recognize that the way Archie constantly bounced back and forth between Betty and Veronica was no good. But I never asked people to stop buying them for me, because hidden within the pages of the Archie universe was something much better — Josie and the Pussycats.

I couldn’t (and still can’t) get enough of Josie and her fabulous all-girl rock band. Instead of stories focused on who would get the boy, these stories were about a group of friends having a great time together. They played their own instruments, wrote their own songs, and had a ton of fans. No boys required. I don’t think I have ever wanted to be a cartoon character as much as I wanted to be a Pussycat, and I’m sure they’re the reason I spent many of my formative years wanting to be a rockstar and what eventually made me sign up for voice lessons. I even loved the movie and am proud to admit the soundtrack is still hanging out in my collection of CDs. I didn’t get into other comics until many, many years later, but I think it’s safe to say Josie and the Pussycats set the stage for what kind of comics I would seek out when I did.

Ginnis Loves Cheryl Blossom:

Cheryl Blossom Mini #1Most of the comics in the Archieverse were pretty important to my early comic love. They inspired me to write and draw my own comics. I would often use the Archie comics as a template for my own drawings. As much as Archie was about Archie, I was the least interested in him. I loved Betty and Veronica stories. I rarely bought the Archie series. I bought the Betty and Veronica comic. Those comics were more about them and less about Archie which is probably I don’t really recall remembering the Archie feud mattering much to me. Most of the titles that were not Archie were ones I enjoyed like the Cheryl Blossom comics. Damn, I loved Cheryl. She was so unapologetic. Also, they had contests for drawing outfits for the female characters which I loved. I submitted several, but am still waiting to hear back. I also loved Josie and the Pussycats, and I adored Sabrina. They also had this comic that ran for awhile called The Carneys which was about a circus family. I especially loved that one because I have always loved the circus. Hey Archie, I would be happy to write the reboot of The Carneys…except I would want to make it darker a la the Archie horror imprint. Call me up!

Cherokee Adventures With Tintin:

Herge, Adventures of Tintin: Explorers On the MoonWhenever I read an issue of Tintin, I felt like I was physically being transported to another part of the world, camera and notebook at the ready, backed up by the best crew of friends anyone could have. Tintin was like my version Indiana Jones: an explorer, an investigator, someone who was always up to the challenge and never backed down when it got heated.

It’s difficult (but right to discuss and criticise) that Tintin holds a different weight now. When you’re a kid, you don’t think about the problematic aspects of what you’re reading, watching or listening to. To a certain extent, you can’t. You haven’t been exposed to those stereotypes or issues in society in a way that you can understand, so, instead, take everything at face value. Tintin, when I was growing up, represented adventure, excitement, and friendship. It taught me to not be afraid of the unknown, that knowledge was important, and to always question things around you. I didn’t register how it completely looked down on people of my own heritage.

It was only as a I grew up and revisited the comic and TV series that its issues, particularly with race, became apparent. I was glad I was able to challenge myself on my childhood love for it, though. If we don’t open up to liking something that is considered problematic, we can’t have honest discussions with ourselves or others about it.

Tintin was a form of escapism. I never imagined being able to travel across the world or have people (or pets) as loyal to me as Snowy and Captain Haddock. I reread the comics and rewatched the show over and over again when I was younger just to feel like I was part of that adventure and that friendship group. (I even read the anarchist parody, The Adventures of Tintin: Breaking Free and, yes, if you were wondering, had absolutely no idea what was going on.) No matter how weird or surreal things got, there was a sense of belonging with those stories and characters.

We can’t erase the history of Tintin’s creator, Hergé, and what the series was like in its original newspaper form. We can’t deny that those racist themes didn’t cross over into the comic book version of Tintin. All of that exists within its pages and Tintin fans should be open to accepting that as fact. It’s something I love because of the memories it reminds me of and how it impacted my childhood, but that doesn’t mean it is perfect or shouldn’t be criticised. Nostalgia can be complicated.

Lex Fields

Lex Fields

Lex is a law school grad who spends most of her nights slamming into other women while wearing roller skates. She enjoys lettering comics, writing gothic fairy tales, and handbinding zines.