When I was growing up I had a stack of Archie comics that was about fifty inches high (and that’s not even counting the dozens and dozens of digests). To this day I lament the fact that I gave those treasured comics away when I hit university. What was I thinking?!
One day in the mid-eighties my mom called me from the family room. “Randy, come here! The fellow who draws Archie comics is on 100 Huntley Street!” (100 Huntley Street is Canada’s version of The 700 Club.)
I ambled skeptically into the family room, glanced at the TV, and immediately quipped “Oh that’s Al Hartley. He just does the Christian Archie comics.”
Like much else from my childhood, Al Hartley’s line of “Spire Christian Comics” had receded largely into the mists of my memory until I came across this fascinating article on the history of Christian Archie comics. The author does a great job of summarizing how Al Hartley managed to get permission to use Archie and his buddies as a tool of evangelism. Scrolling through the article I realized with amazement that I had every one of the comics described. As much as I disparaged them at the time for their lame, propagandistic evangelistic storylines, they were still Archie and thus part of the collection. (And truth be known, Al Hartley was one of the better illustrators of Archie comics, just below the immortal Dan DeCarlo and Stan Goldberg.)
Unfortunately for Al Hartley, Archie’s faith seems to have been sown in shallow soil. It grew quickly at Spire Christian Comics, but it soon withered and Archie’s been backsliding for the last thirty years.