June 9, 2009

Richie Rich Meets Frankenstein

Beginning in the Forties, Harvey Publications produced comics aimed at the younger end of the market, featuring bizarre child characters. There was Hotstuff, the Little Devil who was solid red, with cute horns, a pointy tail, and asbestos diapers. Wendy, the Good Little Witch flew around on a broom. There was Little Lotta, a little girl who was extremely fat, and Little Dot, a child obsessed with round objects. One rather obscure characters was Archie-type teen called Flat-Top who wore a buzz cut that made his head as flat as Frankenstein's. The best known Harvey character was Casper, the Friendly Ghost who was, it follows, a little dead boy. As for Richie Rich, the name says it all, here was a child who had all the money in the world. I don’t know how he’s doing in today’s recession. Is he getting bailout money?

I am delighted to have Rob Kelly returning as Guest Blogger. Previously, Rob walked us through a hilarious, boneheaded 1963 adaptation of Frankenstein from Dell Comics. This time out, Rob documents the momentous meeting between Richie Rich and Frankenstein!

Richie Rich Meets Frankenstein, by Rob Kelly

Yes, the Poor Little Rich Boy's adventures did go beyond just looking for places to store his money. In 1975’s Richie Rich Vault of Mystery No.2, (one of approximately 10,000 different Richie Rich titles) Richie and his less solvent pals had all kinds of adventures, none as exciting for monster fans as this issue, when he encountered Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man!

This story opens with Richie and his pal Freckles visiting "The famous old Castle Theater!"

At first, Richie and Freckles think the spooky sound is just the wind, but then an old sandbag comes crashing down the rafters, almost killing Richie! Richie is still not put off, but even he starts to worry when a knife comes sailing from out of the darkness and lands just a few inches above his head!

The guys decide to split, but on the way out they encounter...The Wolf Man! Freckles calls it "The Ghost of the Wolf Man!" — why it couldn't just be The Wolf Man, I don't know. Maybe Freckles knows something we don't. The Wolf Man chases them, throwing stage pegs. He hits a lever on the wall, causing a trap door to open underneath Richie and Freckles.

They land in a room where props are kept and they run into Frankenstein's Ghost (again with the ghost stuff!). They run away from Frankenstein, only to run into the Wolf Man again. They head down another corridor, only to be met by...The Ghost of Dracula! End of Part One!

After a break consisting of two one-page Richie gag strips, we're back to our main story:

Hmm, these monsters seem pretty clumsy. I wonder...

Anyway, Richie's pants get stuck on a nail and, in his rush to escape, he tears off his pocket, leaving a trail of money in his wake. While Freckles runs away, Richie stops to notice that the monsters are happily scooping up the cash! What kind of monsters are these?

Richie and Freckles hide in a nearby sarcophagus (you'd think this would be a perfect time for the Mummy to make an appearance, but no). The monsters think they've scared the kids off, so they resume their "plan", which involves them heading down yet another trap door. Richie and Freckles follow, and we see that the monsters are in the middle of digging through a wall, into the bank next door!

Richie is now convinced these aren't real monsters, or ghost monsters, or whatever — they're just crooks in make-up! Freckles asks what he and Richie can do to stop them, but Richie says they don't need to do anything!

Freckles is confused at that, as the monsters drill through to the bank…

... the end!

While it's disappointing to this monster fan that Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man aren't real, merely crooks involved in a Scooby Doo-esque plot, I am intrigued at the notion that these (or any) monsters do, in fact, exist for real in the universe of Richie Rich. After all, Richie and Freckles don't immediately come to the conclusion that these are just guys in costumes--for a moment, they believe they are the real deal, which I find an intriguing footnote to the world of Richie Rich.

Like most Richie Rich stories, there are no writing or art credits on this story, although it’s safe to assume that this was penciled by the great Ernie Colon. He does a great job rendering the three monsters, especially on the cover, which is about as moody as Harvey was going to allow a Richie Rich comic to get.

One other interesting note: in this story, Dracula is clearly the ringleader, yet the group is called "The Frankenstein Gang." But we know who the real star is, don't we?

Rob Kelly is a professional illustrator, a comics expert and a prolific blogger.
See his art blog and follow the links to his comics blogs.

Harvey Comics is now Harvey Entertainment.

The Monster Lives!, The Dell Comics Frankenstein, by Rob Kelly


Wings said...

Wow. Cool comic! I used to love the Richie Rich and Hot Stuff comics when I was a kid. Fun stuff!

Christopher said...

jeepers..ain't it bad enough that they're Frankenstein,Dracula and the Wolfman..they gotta be Ghosts too?? =:oo

Pierre Fournier said...

They're monsters... they're ghosts... and they're bank robbers, too!