Welcome to the two-hundred and twenty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and twenty-three.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out the archive of Music Legends Revealed, as that ties in with this week’s theme.
All legends involving comic books and rock ‘n’ roll!!!
COMIC LEGEND: Josie and the Pussycats had the first African-American regular cartoon character on a Saturday Morning cartoon.
In 1968, Filmation produced a cartoon series starring the major Archie characters (Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, etc.) called The Archie Show.
The main hook of the series was that they would perform in a garage band called The Archies, with singers Ron Dante and Toni Wise doing the vocals.
The Archies actually had a #1 hit record with the song “Sugar Sugar.”
What’s interesting is that as far as I can tell, the first comic book appearance of Archie in a band specifically called the Archies was in 1968, so presumably the cartoon band preceded the comic book band. If anyone knows for sure when the Archies first appeared (and I mean a band specifically titled “The Archies” – Archie and Jughead and occasionally Reggie have been in various “bands” for many years before they were “The Archies”).
In any event, with the Archies having such great success for Filmation, Hanna-Barbera wanted in on the action, so they went to Archie Comics and asked if they had any other characters they could adapt in the same manner.
Luckily for Archie, the legendary Dan DeCarlo had given them just such a character when he debuted his character, Josie, in the early 1960s.
Josie, named after DeCarlo’s wife, was basically a female version of Archie for a number of years. Along with her two best friends, the ditzy Melody and the brainy Pepper, Josie had series of typical teen adventures, a la Archie.
The book was re-named from She’s Josie to Josie after a couple of years…
Eventually, in 1969, with the plans in place to get a Josie cartoon series out in 1970, some changes were made to the book.
Alan M was introduced…
Alexandra Cabot discovers she has witch powers when she holds her cat in her arms…
and finally, in Josie #45 (now Josie and the Pussycats), the Pussycats are formed, and we’re introduced to the third member of the group (along with Josie and Melody), Valerie.
Here’s the group on the cover of #48…
A problem showed up, though, when Hanna-Barbera had a different idea of how to approach the group on the cartoon. You see, they wanted an all-white girl trio. So they wanted Valerie gone.
However, the folks behind the music of the TV show, La La Productions, headed up by Danny Janssen and Bobby Young, had already cast the show based on the comic book, and had Kathleen Dougherty as Josie, Cherie Moor (who would later become famous as Cheryl Ladd) as Melody, and Patrice Holloway as Valerie.
Janssen refused to re-cast Holloway’s part (at least partially because he felt the group would not work, musically, without Holloway), and after a tense three-week stand-off, Hanna-Barbera backed off, and Valerie was once again African-American!
Here’s the band from the show’s first season…
And here’s the whole cast from the show’s first episode…
Many people believe that Valerie was the first regular African-American character in Saturday Morning cartoons (which, as we just saw, was a pretty big deal in that Hanna-Barbera was against doing it).
But while she was pretty darn close, she was not the first.
You see, while Hanna-Barbera went to come up with THEIR own version of The Archies, Filmation was not sitting still with the concept, either, and in 1969, they debuted a new carton series, using the then out-of-use (in TV, at least) Hardy Boys property. Now Frank and Joe Hardy are still mystery solvers, but they’re also in a BAND!
That’s the actual session band that played the songs for the show.
And, sure enough, they included an African-American drummer!
Bob Crowder is the actual drummer seen above, but his character on the show was Pete Jones.
Oddly enough, Pete was not only a drummer – he would change instruments, sometimes DURING songs!
Here’s one song by the Hardy Boys – notice that Pete is playing guitar THEN he’s playing the drums.
Well, that’s nothing compared to the chubby kid in the group (whose voice on the show was INSANELY horrific) – in that same song, he plays…
the upright bass…
AND the sax!!
Paul McCartney, eat your heart out!
Here’s Pete from an episode of the show.
So in any event, The Hardy Boys came out in 1969, a year before Josie and the Pussycats. However, Josie and the Pussycats was a lot more popular, so Valerie’s got that going for her!
COMIC LEGEND: Marvel Comics did a Cheap Trick comic book in 1990!
In the late 1970s, with Marvel having done an Alice Cooper comic…
and a KISS comic…
and a Beatles comic…
It really wouldn’t have been that weird for Marvel to have done a Cheap Trick comic book.
Not at this point…
However, in 1990?!?
And yet that’s when Marvel did a promotional comic for Cheap Trick’s latest album, Busted.
Here’s the cover of the comic and the cover of the album…
The comic was written by Jim Salicrup and drawn by June Brigman, of Power Pack fame (well, she’s of Power Pack fame to ME, at least! She was awesome on that series!).
It is an “origin” story of sorts, for the group.
Here’s a taste…
That is one unbelievable comic book.
I wonder who was the driving force behind it being made?
COMIC LEGEND: Walt Kelly forced a band that named itself in honor of Pogo to change their name.
In 1968, two members of Buffalo Springfield, Richie Furay and Jim Messina, along with Rusty Young, who had played with the group, were looking to start a new band.
Inspired by a country music-esque song on the last Buffalo Springfield album, they decided to become a country rock band, one of the earliest such bands.
Their first album, “Picking Up the Pieces” is really quite good. It’s mostly ABOUT the Buffalo Springfield break-up.
In any event, their original name was Pogo, named after Walt Kelly’s classic comic character.
Kelly, though, was one of the few comic creators of his time to have full control over the rights of his creation (he had had a trademark on Pogo since the late 1940s), and he was very protective of those rights.
So he let the group know that he was not down with them using Pogo as the name of their band. I do not know if he ever went to the point of actually sending a cease and desist, or if it was simply a matter of “Hey, if you DON’T change it, THEN I’ll have to seek legal action.”
In any event, they complied, but since they were just beginning to hit the scene, in terms of getting a label to sign them, they did not want to change their name THAT drastically.
So they ended up with…
And some 50 albums later, does that count as “and the rest is history?”
I guess this will be the only Pogo band we’ll ever see…
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you likely know by now, at the end of April, my book finally came out!
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!