Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Blood Curdling Horror of…Richie Rich?!?

As hard as it may be to believe, Richie Rich was huge when I was growing up. If you think Batman and Spider-Man are bad with the spin-offs, consider that at the height of Richie’s popularity Harvey Comics were publishing well over twenty monthly titles devoted to the Poor Little Rich Boy, not to mention digests and anthology titles. My main exposure to Richie Rich was through a childhood friend whose mother wouldn’t let him read superhero comics but would allow the wholesome antics of the Harvey gang and Spire Christian Comics.

Well, mostly wholesome anyway. As a kid, I regarded the Harveys as “baby comics” and didn’t seek them out myself, but when I was visiting my friend, those were all that was available, so that’s what we read. Richie Rich, Casper and the rest had the same sort of bland, cookie cutter stories from issue to issue, and most have long since vacated my memory…all but one. As I mentioned, the sheer volume of Richie Rich comics published at the time was astonishing, so I will probably never know which issue held the SCARIEST, FREAKIEST most MIND-BLASTING Richie Rich story I’ve ever seen, but its branded in my memory to this day.

The story involved a monster serum of some sort, maybe invented by Professor Keenbean, and a Jekyll/Hyde transformation for the titular billionaire boy. Somehow, Richie got ahold of this formula and had it with him when he got…kidnapped maybe? Anyway, a crook was threatening him, and he terrified the guy into immediate submission by taking the formula, which led to the ORIGINAL EXTREME MAKEOVER:

Now, that’s just my own drawing from a 25-plus year old memory of a comic book I didn’t even own, but I distinctly remember an all-too-horrific, grotesquely deformed lumpen head dangling at the end of Richie’s lolling, distended neck, all stacked atop his "normal" body. It was pretty alarming, especially in an otherwise antiseptic Harvey book. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it must have been the work of the versatile and prolific master cartoonist Ernie Colon, who has drawn a ton of Richie Rich comics as well as a bevy of horror stories in his long career. Maybe he mixed up his Richie Rich and Tales of the Unexpected assignments that month. So basically, picture what I drew drawn well by Ernie Colon, and that's what I saw.

To this day, I have no idea which Richie Rich comic this bizarre tale appeared in. Maybe in the Richie Rich Profit$ issue whose cover I posted above, though it doesn’t look familiar, and I don’t remember anything happening to Richie’s father. As I recall, the cover was one of thousands that featured the standard money gag - you know, like Richie Rich is eating a hamburger, only the "hamburger" is a giant silver coin, the "lettuce" is money, and the "bun" is sculpted from gold, something like that. Which served only to make Monster Richie’s appearance all the more unexpectedly traumatic. If you have any clues about this story, or if you have a similar story of “horror amidst the innocence” like this one, please share in the comments!


Maxo said...

That's just disturbing.

I never thought about it, but I guess those Harvey comics were always a little dark. I mean, you had ghosts, devils and witches, but I don't remember seeing any angels around. Hmmm ...

Brian Hughes said...

Don't forget the obsessions. Most Harvey characters have an unhealthy obsession with something!

Kip W said...

Reminds me slightly of a story in "Neat Stuff" (by Peter Bagge, of course), where Chucky-Boy is sick, and Girly-Girl has to wait on him hand and foot, for some reason. He has her bring him a whole stack of Richie Rich comics, so he can dream of RR when he falls asleep. Last panel, Chucky-Boy is dreaming of a monstrous, fanged, slavering Richie Rich, saying "I'm going to KILLL you!"

SteveAsat said...

Vaults of Mystery always had some potent nightmare fuel. Remember that lightbulb-headed motherfigger whose gaze was a death ray? Oh you don't? He showed up every few months like the Joker. Him, or the Onion, a guy whose breath could destroy solid marble. You know how it's kind of f'd-up that Bart Simpson has an arch enemy? A grown man trying to murder a nine-year-old? Richie had, like, a DOZEN X-Men rejects trying to put him in a coffin. But for pure freak-out factor, the top of the list should be the time a hole opened up in the ground and just plain sucked him down to a subterranean Morlock world. Try telling a seven-year-old reader that this sort of thing never actually happens in real life.