Al Hartley
January 9, 2005 9:13 PM   Subscribe

The 50-year career of Al Hartley. Part of Stan Lee's early stable of writers at Timely-Atlas, Hartley's perhaps best remembered as the creator of Spire Christian Comics. The series, which included comic book adaptations of popular Christian narratives such as God's Smuggler [pdf], and original stories like The Gospel Blimp [pdf], and Hansi: The Girl Who Loved The Swastika [pdf], also included 19 titles starring Archie [pdf], Jughead and the gang.
posted by RockyChrysler (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I remember buying one of the Christian Archies ("Archie's Car") as a kid, thinking it was a regular Archie... which is was for the first 3/4s of the book. Archie was hanging out with the gang, fixing up his old junker of a car.. then all of a sudden it was like Archie and the gang had entered a parallel universe or had been possessed by aliens: the gang was driving around a disturbing world that seemed to be full of confusing street signs and everyone was extra happy and everyone's dialog got all crazy to my little kid eyes... stuff like "there are many roads in life... make sure you go down the right one!" Oh, and everyone's dialog had a footnote to Biblical scripture. As a kid I remember feeling totally cheated and ripped off: "What Th--? What are they talking about? When are they going to get back to Archie's cool car?" The story had no ending, just a mess of preaching. I was as frustrated as Milhouse watching Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie: "When are they going to get to the Fireworks Factory?"

Al Hartley's heart might have been in the right place, but tricking little kids into being preached at against their will is not cool.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:49 PM on January 9, 2005

How was Hartley able to use another company's property for his own purpose under a different publisher? Did he just pay royalties? I've never heard of anything like this... If i knew about it I woulda done Hasidic-Green Lantern years ago.
posted by TetrisKid at 9:59 PM on January 9, 2005

I have vague recollections of these things as well. I remembered then that there were really pretty creepy, particularly how they combine evangelical messages with both American exceptionalism and a view that communism is the root of all evil in the world. I always assumed at the time that, like myself, kids have a pretty sensitive bullshit/propaganda meter, and that people like Al Hartley had taken us for idiots.
posted by psmealey at 7:01 AM on January 10, 2005

Jeez, I just read "Hansi: The Girl Who Loved the Swastika". That's crapulent writing even for didactic comic books. Simply horrendous.

And: I used to live in Germany..."Hansi" is, unless I'm grievously mistaken, a boy's nickname...I remmber a soccer player named Hansi Mueller...a diminutive of "Hans"...
posted by 1016 at 7:35 AM on January 10, 2005

I believe Gospel Blimp is not in fact an original work as mentioned in the post - I believe the story was originally written in the 50's by Joseph Bayly - a well known Christian satirist. There is even a movie by Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., the director who gave us such classic films as The Blob and my personal favorite 4-D Man. The Gospel Blimp movie used to be available online to watch but it looks like it has faded into the ether. I can't seem to find it now.

The comic version of Gospel Blimp, by the way, was discussed in the fantastic zine Comic Book Heaven - emphasizing the ridiculous aspects of the story. I don't think any of the issues of Comic Book Heaven are available online to read (though they are available to buy) but the creator of the zine, Scott Saavedra, has a blog if anyone is curious about what the zine is like.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:05 AM on January 10, 2005

Wow. That Hansi comic may be the first I've read for kids that contains implied rape. Jeez.
Thanks Terry Bradshaw, for being so candid about your religion . A great football player; a great man.
posted by graventy at 2:33 PM on January 10, 2005

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