Friday, September 07, 2007

Little Rich

After all the Richie Rich bashing, I should give equal time to Jerry Beck, who has compiled some stories from the early, "cool" Richie Rich.

Leslie Cabarga and I spent the summer mining the Harvey Comics vaults and cherry-picked the best of the original Richie Rich comics of the 50s and 60s for a new trade paperback volume due out next month. This is the second of several high quality Harvey Comics reprint books we are compiling for Dark Horse.

I don't know, though. Those early stories were certainly better drawn than the ones I grew up with, but they still have the problem of pretending that Richie, a privileged little snot, is some kind of hero. I mean look at that sample Jerry posts. Richie's beating up some poor underprivileged schmuck. I know that guy is probably a "crook" (in Richie-speak), but maybe he wouldn't have to steal if Richie would give him some money and a decent meal instead of breaking his bones.

Update: Commenter Andrew asks: "Out of curiosity, Jaime, do you feel the same way whenever Uncle Scrooge thwarts the Beagle Boys et al?" First of all, I didn't mean the above with absolute seriousness, or indeed any seriousness at all. In other words, no, I don't think that the "crooks" in the Richieverse are in fact tragic victims of society.

But I should probably clarify that I don't actually have a Marxist attitude toward fictional millionaires. I do not begrudge Scrooge McDuck, nor Bruce Wayne their tremendous wealth. I'm not even all that bothered when Daddy Warbucks does The Full Benito and has his goons take criminals out back to be executed. But Bruce Wayne has other qualities to offer besides wealth, Daddy Warbucks isn't the star of the strip, and Scrooge is a funny miser. Richie's like Scrooge if we were supposed to admire him for no other reason than being an insane miser who likes to keep piles of cash in his house. So, no, he's not an evil capitalist exploiter of the martyred proletariat. But he is annoying.

If you want to know what makes Richie so annoying, I can't sum it up better than this one-page gag recalled at Man vs. Clown:


[Richie is walking on his estate with his asshole cousin, Reggie Van Dough. Richie's chauffeur Bascomb is working on one of the Rich family's luxury automobiles.]

Richie: Bascomb is the greatest mechanic in the world! He can make anything run!


Reggie [pointing at pile of rags]: Oh yeah?! Let's see him make that pile of rags run! Haw, haw!


Richie [whispering; pointing to pile of rags]: Uh, Bascomb...

Bascomb [wiping hands on rag (not from pile); steely look of determination]: I'll take care of it, Master Rich.


Bascomb [sternly; hands on hips]: Excuse me, sir, but I think it's time you moved along!

Vagrant [fleeing; very tattered and filthy]: Chee! Can't a guy find a place to sleep around here?!

Reggie [flabbergasted; sweat drops flying]: A TRAMP!!!

Richie [doubled over with merriment]: Yep! And Bascomb made him run! Ha! Ha!

So, yeah. The joke is that Richie Rich kicked a homeless man off his property.


Andrew said...

It's been years since I've read complete Richie Rich stories, so I might not be accurate. But I'm increasingly doubtful of your references to "hungry, desperate people" and view of the "crooks." Freckles and Pee-Wee, I think you have a point on.

But then there's this: "Maybe he wouldn't have to steal if Richie would give him some money and a decent meal instead of breaking his bones." In the few Rich stories I have, the crooks are generic crooks, just like in Archie, fiendish criminals. There's no psychological examination. If Richie Rich gave out money in every issue, it would be a junior version of "The Millionaire."

Out of curiosity, Jaime, do you feel the same way whenever Uncle Scrooge thwarts the Beagle Boys et. al? Hate Richie Rich if you like, but your judgement seems just a little far-fetched, especially if you don't extend it to all comic millionaires. Do you rankle whenever Archie keeps crooks from robbing Mr. Lodge, instead of aiding them and seeing that they don't spend it all on drink? Or of course, there's Bruce Wayne/Batman, who *constantly* breaks criminal's bones.

Andrew said...

Excellent clarification/rebuttal. And yeah, gleefully laughing when your hired servant chases off a transient *is* pretty reprehensible.

I still sort of boggle at the fact that Freckles and Peewee live in a shack, yet Lotta, Dot, Audrey, and their families and neighbors (I confess to being inordinately fond of a very minor Audrey neighbor, Mr. Bungleton), are all lower-middle class at best. So why the huge gulf down at the Freckles and Peewee level?

Then again, I suppose the Enchanted Forest of Casper and company is in the same universe, and I don't recall Hot Stuff ever discussing his economic status.

Brent McKee said...

The other thing about Scrooge McDuck and even Oliver Warbucks is that they appeal to the Protestant Work Ethic that is buried deep down in many of us. Scrooge worked for his money - a miner in the Klondike Gold Rush who built his stake. Warbucks was a plumber before World War I and turned that into an industry (admittedly through war profiteering - that's why he needs Annie to humanize him). Bruce Wayne built on his fmaily's fortune (all while also being Batman). What has Richie Rich done to be as rich as he is besides being the right combination of sperm and egg? And from the look of his parents, they did the exact same thing. Even in fiction we resent the notion of unearned wealth and the accompanying sense of entitlement. What gets us about Richie is that he is rich without earning it.

Thad K said...

Scrooge (or any Barks) pwns just about all Harvey comics. I really don't like most of the ones I have, except for the ones drawn by Marty Taras (was there any doubt?).

Phil said...

There's not much that was published under the Harvey banner that has ever struck me as being much more than crap. Jerry Beck's a great guy, and we all have our odd little obsessions, I guess, but his desire to get the world at large to share his love and appreciation of all things Harvey--including their cartoon library--has never reached me.