I guarantee you I won't be doing Archie nostalgia posts all the time, but via this comment, I see that other bloggers are rediscovering Al Hartley's infamous Christian Archie comics. The insanity of these comics is different from the insanity of the Frank Doyle/Samm Schwartz story I wrote about below; the stories by Doyle and Schwartz are crazy because they're intentionally crazy, not to mention very funny, while Hartley's stories are crazy but sincere and they're kind of disturbing because they're so sincere. (Favorite line: "Now we have books that say we all came from monkeys -- and the children are starting to ACT like it!") I've written about these Spire comics in a previous post, but the thing I want to re-emphasize is that Hartley had actually been writing and drawing this kind of material in the mainstream Archie comics for several years. The reason he took it to a separate Christian comic is that his bosses at Archie asked him to cut it out. But he was a talented artist and apparently a very nice man, so I'm not surprised that he managed to talk them into letting him do the Spire titles.
I actually have some examples of Hartley's Christian material in the "regular" Archie titles (I don't have a lot of Archie comics left over from childhood, and I don't feel like going out and shopping for them, but I do have this one) from a "Sabrina's Christmas Magic" special issue in 1972. Hartley wrote and illustrated a lot of Sabrina stories in the early '70s and really seemed to get into the character despite the references to witchcraft. So in this issue, the first story has her going to meet Santa Claus, and teaching children about the importance of faith over reason (click on the images to see them enlarged):
And then, as if worried that that was too allegorical, Hartley gets specific at the end of another story which he wrote and drew for the same issue:
I don't want to sound like I am bashing Hartley; his injections of religion into the Archie world are actually quite sweet and non-sectarian, and honestly I think the publishers would have been better off letting him continue with that instead of doing the more hard-core Spire material. But I wonder how he squared that religious content with the portrayal of witchcraft, or the rather obvious cruel streak he displayed in the stories he wrote/drew:
I'm no theologian, but even as a kid I thought that there was something morally wrong about drowning somebody and laughing at it. Apparently Hartley's message is that if Sabrina doesn't like you, she will kill you and that's a good thing.