Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Comics Reviews: RICHIE RICH GEMS WINTER SPECIAL! and RICHIE RICH GEMS VALENTINE'S SPECIAL! (Ape Entertainment, February 2011)
The last two weeks have been SPECIAL! (sorry, force of overemphasized habit)... real, live dead-tree comics have actually shown up at the local store. And they're RICHIE RICH comics, to boot. While we wait for the "reboot" series to wend its way storewards, these two packages of reprint material will do very nicely, thank you... even if the seemingly inevitable Harvey-related screwups are all too noticeable.
I'm not certain of this, but I believe that VALENTINE'S SPECIAL! was prepared first -- and hurriedly. The huge number of artist-credit errors in this book can't possibly be a coincidence, and some of the goofs are positively egregious. How can you possibly mistake the art of Sid "Crouchey" (sic) for that of Ernie Colon (in the one-page gag "Garden Party")? It's the funnybook equivalent of confusing Norman Rockwell with Grandma Moses (and, since I once referred to Sid Couchey as the G.M. of comics, that's not meant to be an insult). In the gags "Box of Chocolate" and "Just Married," Ernie is mid-ID'd as Warren Kremer, which is at least a little more fathomable. Ben Brown fares the worst; his gag "Big Drink" is attributed to "Crouchey," and, in WINTER SPECIAL!, his longer story "Seems Like Real Fun" is given to Colon. I suppose you could call that a Couchey/Colon "confusance" of the second degree, or something. In any event, I sincerely hope that such avoidable errors can be minimized in future reprint books.
For all of its factual faults, VALENTINE'S SPECIAL! does best WINTER SPECIAL! in the area of variety. You get 13 separate stories and "storylettes" for your V-Day money; WINTER gives you only seven, not counting the four KEENBEAN'S CORNER reprints (from the RICH RESCUE mini-series) at the back of the book. (BTW, I'm not exactly crazy to see these reprints, as enjoyable as they originally were, in a title that's supposed to be devoted to classic RICHIE material. The source of the KEENBEAN gags is at least acknowledged on the back cover, but cutting them loose from their source material and presenting them out of context like this really cuts into their effectiveness.) Each book leads off with a Sid Jacobson/Ernie Colon original, and both efforts are decent enough, though Ernie seems to be having all sorts of trouble drawing Richie's eyes correctly for some reason.
Not only are there a lot of stories in VALENTINE'S SPECIAL!; a lot of eras from the classic Harvey are also represented. We get an Ernie Colon indicia-page gag from a mid-60s issue of RICHIE RICH SUCCESS STORIES (how can I tell? They helpfully left the SUCCESS logo in the first panel!), some Colon stuff from the prime period of the late 60s and early 70s, and two Mayda Munny appearances featuring two very different models of the character -- the early Warren Kremer edition of 1973 or thereabouts, and Ernie Colon's redesigned Cher lookalike of the post-1975 era. And that's just part of the mix. I do have to applaud Ape for selecting Colon's "The Great Mansion Mystery" as one of the featured (read: five-page) offerings. That brief but enjoyable tale doesn't have any specific tie to Valentine's Day, but its story of young love thwarted and then redeemed seems more in the spirit of the holiday than yet another story about Gloria's resentment of Richie's elaborate gifts. WINTER SPECIAL! has a tougher set of material to sell -- a bunch of stories set around winter sports and activities doesn't get the blood flowing, except perhaps when one is actively engaged in said activities -- but it does include the only ten-pager in these two books, Warren Kremer's "The Abominable Snow Plan." And, yes, they kept the "Continued in This Issue" reminder... even though part two of the story commenced on the very next page. Some traditions simply shouldn't be shattered.