Monday, February 20, 2012

Comics Review: RICHIE RICH GEMS #44 (February 2011, Ape Entertainment)

RR GEMS' first "non-SPECIAL!" issue keeps the indicial and "creditorial" errors to a minimum -- with one whopping exception -- but the trumpeted "return" of Super Richie (or Superichie, depending upon what issue of the original 1970s comic you read) isn't the absolute best way to start the regular "classics" series, I don't think. There was a reason why SUPER RICHIE/SUPERICHIE was one of the VERY few RICHIE titles to be cancelled during the hothouse period of 1974-1982, when the Harvey line essentially became all Richie, all the time. Once the basic premise is established of Richie and Cadbury "play-acting" as supposed superheroes Rippy and Crashman -- only to get caught up in real crimefighting -- the range of permissible stories is dramatically curtailed, and things become tedious pretty quickly. The two main SR reprints in this issue, Ernie Colon's "The Robot Goes Wild" and "The Revolting Butler" (SUPERICHIE #14, April 1978), appeared just six months or so before the SR title went away for good. While they look OK in isolation, you should know that (1) "The Robot Goes Wild" was just the latest in a string of "Rippy and Crashman battle giant robots" stories, and (2) "The Revolting Butler" was a similar "repeat riff" on the well-worn theme of crooks posing as Rip and/or Crash in order to "ruin their reputation." These stories actually represent the concept's decadent stage, rather than its full flowering.

If Ape had to do a Super Richie tribute, I'd much rather it reprinted some of the stories featuring Badman, the burly crook with the poofy Bruce Jenner 'do and the Negaduck-style "bad is good" attitude. At least those stories showed energy... which is more than I can say for Colon and Sid Jacobson's new five-page tale "The Kidnapping of Mr. Rich!". Not only does this story feature some disturbingly wonky art (HOW is Richie's head shaped in that first splash panel? Like a trapezoid?!) and an out-of-left-field revival of Rippy and Crashman's original "too-close-to-Superman-for-comfort" costumes, it doesn't even fully dignify the original conceit: Richie's heroic adventures turn out to be a dream! I honestly don't think that Ernie and Sid's hearts were in this one.

At the book's back end, we abruptly return to the bad old days of slipshod Harvey editing when a promised "Introduction to Rich Rescue" written by Sid Jacobson (!?!?) is nowhere to be found. Instead, we get an early-60s one-page gag drawn by Colon. Then follows a reprint of the "Welcome to Rich Rescue" story from issue #1 of the mini-series. As I noted when commenting on the SPECIAL!s, I'd prefer GEMS to focus on "classic" material... but, to be fair, the tiny type under the GEMS cover logo does mention that "new" material (which could, of course, mean reprinted RICH RESCUE fodder) will be included in the title. Indeed, using modern material sparingly in GEMS might be a good way of reminding older Harvey fans of the "reboot" title's existence... or it would be, had Ape actually included a reminder that the latter title existed here. I consider this to be a missed opportunity. With the launch of the regular RICH RESCUE title having been delayed for so long, I think that a little memory-nudge, in the form of a "Coming Soon" box or under-panel crawl, would not have been out of place.

What will arrive next? GEMS #45, or the revived RICH RESCUE? Your guess is as good as mine.

5 comments:

Pete Fernbaugh said...

Hey Chris:

Why the resurgence behind Richie Rich? I'm not complaining, of course. I welcome his return. But it seemed to come out of nowhere. Is he being prepped for a new animated series/movie? Or are the Harvey characters on the verge of making a comeback? Do you think the success of the Darkwing revival had anything to do with Richie's revival?


Pete

Chris Barat said...

Pete,

I haven't any idea why Ape decided to bring Richie back. I've heard nothing about any movie or TV deals. Ape evidently thought that Richie would provide a nice complement to its stable of more contemporary licensed properties. Plus, I suspect that the rights to the character were rather easy to obtain.

Chris

Mark Arnold said...

Richie and Casper have always been Harvey's perennial best sellers since the late 1960s and since Classic Media has loosened the straps that comic book companies can now pick and choose what they want to license from them, APE picked these because they are personal favorites of the owners.

My gripe has been the mistaken credits and now they are supposed to send me proofs to put in my two cents worth instead of just to Sid Jacobson.

-Mark.

Anonymous said...

After having total disdain for Richie in the 70s when I was a preteen, I recently "discovered" Richie Rich as a collector in my 40s. Last year I acquired a large collection of Richies dating from 1971-1980 and now realize how charming those comics really were. Thus I was excited for the Richie Gems revival until I actually READ them. Uninspired reprints and lousy new material. Feh.

Chris Barat said...

Anon,

I'd be interested to know what 'classic' RICHIE stories you would PREFER Ape to reprint. I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you sent some suggestions to them.

Chris