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Thursday, May 07, 2015

My Sixth Birthday With Little Archie

Hello, everybody!

The month long feature of personal stories seems to be going quite well, and I hope that you are enjoying each tale that I tell.  Believe me, they're fun to write.

In today's edition, we're going to take a look back at the time period between 1987 and 1988 - otherwise known as Year Six.

And, certainly it was a year that had a lot of ups and downs.  But we'll get to that a little later.

In the meantime, we have some pop culture tidbits to look at first.  I turned six years old on May 18, 1987.  Let's see what was big that week...

...oh yeah.  I nearly forgot the snapshot.  And, well...all I can say is that it was the 1980s.  Everyone wore questionable clothing back in those days.  I also have no idea why this photo turned out so red.  I guess maybe we had the roll of film developed at a substandard darkroom.  Who knows really?

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/1987
"With or Without You" - U2

I absolutely loved "The Joshua Tree" album by U2, and every single song on that album is a genuine classic.  Though my favourite song from that album is "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", I admit that this song is a nice runner-up.


Oh, great.  One of the worst movies ever made during the 1980s.  How the hell did it become the top movie of the week?  I just don't get the movie business.  The sad thing is that the following week, the top movie was "Beverly Hills Cop II" - which stayed on top for three times as long!

"The Cosby Show"

Even Lisa Bonet's departure from the show when she launched "A Different World" didn't keep the show from losing any steam!

Okay, so my sixth year of life also happened to be a year in which I had to undergo a lot of changes.  I talked about how we had to make a huge move to a different house in the previous entry, and by the time 1987 rolled around, I had started to get used to our new home.

I also had to make the move from kindergarten to first grade.  And to say that I absolutely hated first grade would be the understatement of the entire year.  It was mostly because of the teacher, though.

And really, I've talked about her enough here.  I don't want to give that horrible woman any more attention.

Oh, and for some reason, I remember my sixth birthday party extremely well.  It was a surprise party that my family threw for me, and I have to say, I was very surprised!  They really went all out for me that year!  I guess they wanted to make it extra special since it was my first birthday in a new home.  Oh, I wish I had pictures to show you of that birthday party.  Instead, I'll have to show you a picture of Christmas Day 1987 where apparently I didn't look like I was in a good mood even though I was.

Oh, and true story.  See the long johns stocking behind me?  That was my stocking!

But we're not here to talk about stockings.  We're here to talk about the year that a major obsession of mine began. 

It was in 1987 that my mother went grocery shopping, as she did every week back in those days).  By this point in time, my sisters were old enough to babysit me leaving my mom free to do errands (which leads me to believe that maybe my unplanned birth turned out to be an asset after all).  When she came back from the store, she had a surprise in one of the grocery bags for me.  And at the time, I was thinking that it was something food related.  After all, she did come from the grocery store.

I wondered what it was.  Was it my favourite cereal at the time which was "Cocoa Pebbles"?  Was it a case of Cherry 7-Up?  Was it one of those frozen Sara Lee chocolate layer cakes? 

Side note:  Why in the hell did they discontinue Sara Lee chocolate layer cakes?  Those things were so good!

No, it turned out that it wasn't anything that could be eaten.  It was one of these.

It was a Little Archie comic book.  #24 in what would become a series of 48 issues.  And, it was all mine.  128 pages of jokes, riddles, puzzles - and the occasional advertisement for kids to sell things to earn money to buy a Nintendo!

Little did my mother know that one book would begin an obsession that would last 28 years and counting.  How that one book would eventually turn into three thousand and counting.  How much of an impact that this book would have on my life.

I suppose that it was a good thing that my very first comic book was a Little Archie comic book.  Granted, Little Archie was a spinoff title from the original Archie comic title, which featured Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, and Jughead as high school juniors at Riverdale High.  But Little Archie was a great starter title for me because the characters were all elementary school aged.

Consider Little Archie as the stories from Archie and the gang back when they were in second grade.  As someone who was just about to turn six when he got his first comic book, having the main characters of the books as seven year olds was nice.  I felt like I could relate to them more even though Little Archie and his pals and gals were having a lot more adventures than I was. 

Now back in the days in which I started reading Little Archie, there were two main artists who drew Little Archie.  For comedic stories that usually had a lot of laughs, Dexter Taylor usually drew those stories.  For stories that were more dramatic in nature, Bob Bolling usually drew those ones.  Either way, I found both artist to have their pros and cons. 

But man, some of the storylines that Little Archie and the gang encountered were quite outrageous.  I seem to remember them finding hidden pirate treasure, rescuing Miss Grundy from her psycho housekeeper, swimming with sharks, and having poor Little Archie discover that hunters shot and nearly killed his dog, Spotty!

I think the worst thing that happened to me at the age of six was accidentally swallowing a baby tooth!  I mean, Little Archie and his friends made Chuck Norris look like a wimp!

But you know, that was a part of the charm that Archie comics had.  These were kids that I wanted to have in my classroom in first grade.  I didn't want the kids who would make fun of me because I walked on my tip toes.  I didn't want the kids who would only play with me at recess to snatch my Oreos and Snoopy fruit punch, only to completely ignore me the rest of the day.  I certainly didn't want kids who only sat beside me to copy off of my schoolwork.  I wanted to be in a class where students and teachers treated me with respect.  Like I actually belonged in the classroom instead of being everybody's migraine headache.

That's what Little Archie did for me.  It was a comic book that allowed me to escape the harsh realities of first grade (and if you've read any of the stories from first grade, you know how harsh it really was) and allowed me to visit the perfectly idyllic fictional community of Riverdale whenever I wanted.  I felt like I was with Little Archie and Jughead trying to catch the Perilous Pike from Carson's Creek.  I felt like I was hanging around with Betty and Veronica at Pop's Chocklit Shop sharing a chocolate malted with them.  Heck, I didn't even mind watching Miss Grundy yell at Reggie and give him detention for one of his nasty schemes because at least Miss Grundy wasn't as mean as the teacher that I had.

So, I think that is why I made Archie comics my obsession.  They were a gateway to a world that I really wanted to be a part of.  And even though it was a fictional community, I still felt like I was a part of it.  It's really what kept me sane during my entire school career.

Of course, the Little Archie title is one that is no longer published.  I think the last regular issue of the title was released in 1998.  However, you can still find an occasional Little Archie story in any random Archie Digest today.  Some people dismiss them as being too juvenile, but considering that Little Archie was my gateway to the wonderful world of Riverdale, I obviously have a really big soft spot for Little Archie stories.

And, to conclude this look back on six years old, I want to pay tribute to the late Dexter Taylor, who passed away earlier this year.  I never met the man, but he was the artist who brought Little Archie to life so many years ago, and honestly, his passion for Little Archie provided Archie fans years of memories.  And I am honoured to count myself as one of his fans.

Thank you Dexter Taylor for the memories.

Tomorrow, we take a look at year seven - which includes one of the scariest moments that my kid self faced.

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