Monday, July 14, 2014


Today’s bloggy thing continues my 138-plus-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.  I’ve added the “plus” to my description of this series because there may be a few issues I missed in my initial explorations.

Archie’s Madhouse launched with an issue dated September, 1959. The cover logo usually split “Madhouse” into two words, the better to make uninformed readers think the comic book had some connection to the wildly-successful MAD magazine. Originally, the title starred Archie characters in bizarre stories. However, a few years into the series, the comic switched to mostly one-off stories with science fiction, monster and super-heroes with an emphasis on then-current fads. If a character proved popular, such as George Gladir and Dan DeCarlo’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Joe Edwards’ Captain Sprocket  and others, they would continue to appear.

Archie’s Madhouse #28 [September 1963] is cover-to-cover fun with no paid advertisement and only two house ads. The cover features a cube-headed teenager with an open umbrella holding out his hand to check for rain while he’s underwater. The character is similar to Squarehead, who appeared in one-page gag strips in Archie’s Cosmo the Merry Martian. The Grand Comics Database opines the cover was drawn by Bob White. It denoted the indexer’s uncertainty with the usual question mark.

Digression. The GCD is uncertain about most of the credits in this issue. I think I can identify some of the writers and artists, but not all of them. I’ll run some pages as an addendum to this bloggy thing in the hopes some of my readers might be able to offer more definitive identifications. End of digression.

The inside front cover is a contents page that denotes this as the “special weightless issue.” The illustration shows teenagers Les and Ches, along with Hilda the witch and the Pink Martian. Les is wearing shades, Ches is the teenager from the cover and Hilda is, of course, Sabrina’s aunt from when she was drawn as the standard hag, a couple decades before the Sabrina TV series turned her into the delightful Caroline Rhea.

The first page of the comic has Les and Ches introducing “the teen-age section” with girlfriends Bess and Tess. The GCD has Bob White as the artist on both the inside front cover and this page, but it is a tentative identification.

Sabrina appears in “Tennis Menace” (7 pages) by George Gladir with art by Dan DeCarlo (pencils) and Rudy Lapick (inks).  The GCD had this synopsis: Sabrina is determined to seduce handsome Bruce Van Klood away from her rival Rosalind without the use of magic potions until Rosalind begins beating Sabrina at her own game.

The early Sabrina is my favorite version of the character. She is not evil, just selfish and thoughtless in the manner of many young people then and now. She was originally drawn with a devilish manner about her, a dangerously sexy look. Alas, her appearance was soften over the years, but I’m posting a page of this story as an addendum so you can see what I’m talking about.

King Neptune stars in the one-page “Something Fishy,” tentatively credited to Gladir. The sea king thinks he needs glasses and goes to an optometrist. The doctor’s eye chart doesn’t have letters on it. It has different kinds of fishes.

The Pink Martian is the host of the issue’s Space Section. You can see the introductory page in one of today’s addendums. The GCD has Bob White as the tentative artist of the page.

In “Brainy Footwork” (2 pages), Professor Von Dummkopf has problems with a candy machine and his new rocket. He solves both problems by kicking the devices.

“The Lanolites” (5 pages) is a funny tale of visiting aliens with mathematical formulas to predict everything. The one equation they can’t solve is love. I’m still trying to work out why the female of their kind is a gorgeous blonde while the males are half her size and bald with pointy ears. The writer and artist(s) are unknown, but I’m posting the final page of the story for your amusement and in the hope you can identify these storytellers.

The Pink Martian has a toothache in the one-page “The Teeth Feat.” The writer and artist(s) have not yet been identified.

“Space News” (2 pages), possibly written by Gladir, has headlines and brief copy for the stories in a futuristic newspaper. Uranian robots are on strike and Parisian hat designer Pierre Hotairre has unveiled his latest space-helmet designs.

“Power Struggle” (6 pages) stars Captain Sprocket in a super-battle with the villain Dynamo Man. The GCD has no credits for this story, but I think it’s drawn and probably written by Joe Edwards. Check out the first page in yet another addendum.

Hilda the Witch introduces the “Monster Section” in a full-page gag that’s possibly written by Gladir. Hilda is making her witch’s brew using test tubes and a Bunsen burner. Check out the page in one of today’s bloggy thing addendums.

The “Monster Section” consists of Hilda gag strips which were most likely written by George Gladir. In “The Broom Boom” (2 pages), a broom shortage is caused by the new witch craze of broom surfing. In “Property Predicament” (1 page), Hilda settles a mad scientist dispute over who created a monster. In “Trick Stick” (1 page), she makes a mistake while conducting her band. Finally, on the inside back cover, “Boo! Boo! (1 page) has Hilda scaring a man out of his shadow.

The last page of the issue is a full-page house ad for Archie Giant Series Magazine #22: Archie’s Jokes. The back cover is a full-page house ad for Archie Giant Series Magazine #23: Betty and Veronica Summer Fun.

Archie’s Madhouse wasn’t a title I bought regularly, but I’d grab an issue whenever there was one at the barber shop. I used to get comics in exchange for sweeping the hair from the floor and into a series of holes in the floor. There were probably trash containers down below, but I always liked to think it was just a massive pile of hair that could come alive at any moment.  I was a weird kid and I grew up to be a weird adult.

Look for another installment of “July 1963" later this week. I will be back with other stuff tomorrow.

© 2014 Tony Isabella


  1. Tony, here's my guess at credits, from looking at a scan of the entire comic:

    The Sabrina story: DeCarlo and Lapick, check.

    The cover, contents page, and section intro pages: Samm Schwartz. He did most of the MADHOUSE covers around this time (although DeCarlo did #27's, of Sabrina). I think the CGD's reflexively crediting Bob White places him a few issues past his last work on the title, but I'm open to argument; the art on single pages can be harder to ID than on full stories.

    All the rest of the art (and on his art, the lettering): Joe Edwards.

    The writer from cover to cover, apart from those two ads: George Gladir.

    Do you really think any kids thought ARCHIE'S MAD HOUSE had the slightest connection with MAD MAGAZINE? Did you make that mistake back then? I was an unsophisticated li'l shaver, and I didn't. I suspect that the common wisdom (I've certainly heard it before) was promulgated by some Sixties fanzine writer with an ax to grind against Archie Comics and Archie readers.

  2. Do I think the kids thought ARCHIE'S MAD HOUSE had any connection to MAD magazine? No. Do I think the publishers of ARCHIE'S MAD HOUSE were hoping they would? Yes.

  3. I usually use my real name online, but in the rare case that I want to use an alias, I use "Captain Sprocket". He was the longest-running superhero of the MLJ/Archie company.