Friday, March 20, 2009

Fishermen Are Kind People... They'd Make Good Cats.

I didn't pick up the second collection of Little Archie stories because, according to the list of stories, they gave over most of the volume to Dexter Taylor* stories, and didn't include the really great Bob Bolling stories that were left out of the first volume. No The Long Walk or the story about the race of sophisticated, monocle-wearing alien frogs or the other stories that made Bolling one of the great under-valued treasures of kids' comics.

So I thought I would scan an old digest copy of a story that should have been collected but wasn't, "Caramel Has a Tale," a story that is sort of halfway between Bolling's domestic-comedy style and his action-adventure style. It's devoted to a character he created for the comics, Betty's cat Caramel. He actually gave Betty a whole family, creating her sister Polly and her brother Chick, though they don't appear in this story. (One of the many things that made Bolling's semi-autonomous instead of just a watered-down version of the main Archie title was that he was basically free to create new characters who had no equivalents in the main comic, and were often a lot better than the characters the "regular" Archie artists were working with.)

The story is basically an answer to the old question about what kind of stories cats could tell if they could talk; Caramel, taking advantage of her last chance to talk to children before they're too old to understand her, tells Betty and Veronica the story of her journey across America with her three kittens, and how she gave up each of them to new owners before nearly freezing to death in an attempt to find a home for herself. Bolling's drawing style is a wonderful mix of cartooniness and realism, his writing style never talks down to kids but never goes over their heads, either (and even includes a little shot at Those Clowns In Congress).

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.

*(Taylor was the other Little Archie artist/writer, working on the title at the same time as Bolling. Like Bolling, he did both comedy and action/adventure stories. And while he wasn't as good as Bolling, he did some very good mystery-suspense stories in a different, more realistic style from Bolling's fanciful adventures. After Bolling left and Taylor took over the title full-time, the head office demanded that the Little Archie be brought in line with the regular Archie comics, with Little Archie, Betty and Veronica acting exactly like their older counterparts, and with "The Little Archies" and "Little Sabrina" joining the mix. Both the stories and Taylor's artwork got very bland after that.)


Anonymous said...

I thank you for posting this, Jaime. I recall this story with great fondness.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading this story when it was first published. For a kid in the 2nd or 3rd grade it's pretty heart-breaking.