I read MLJ Magazines’ Pep Comics #1 for the first time the other day, and the contents of this book blew my mind

I’ve had a couple of friends over the years who’ve mentioned the “innocence” of Golden Age comics. Really? Are you sure about that?

One of the characters in Pep Comics #1 is The Comet, who can disintegrate things with his eyes:

Pep Comics #1, January 1940

Did I say “things”? People, too! Of course, they just criminals, so who cares, right?

Pep Comics #1, January 1940

When The Comet finally catches up with the murderous villain, he just gives the bad guy a casual pitch – from a couple of hundred feet up in the air:

Pep Comics #1, January 1940

Another feature titled “Sergeant Boyle”, depicts an American who joins the British as a mercenary to fight the Germans. Here the good Sergeant tosses a rifle like a spear to bayonet a German soldier in the throat:

Pep Comics #1, January 1940

Later he bayonets a German while simultaneously shooting a second right between the eyes:

Pep Comics #1, January 1940

Boyle then garrotes three more Germans with their own helmet straps. Man, that Boyle sure gets around!

Pep Comics #1, January 1940

Then Pep #1 serves us some very nice cheesecake:

Pep Comics #1, January 1940

Here’s the title header from Pep #1’s obligatory text story:

Pep Comics #1, January 1940

If I’d been a kid reading this in 1940, I’d have considered Pep Comics #1 to be a dime well spent, chock full of some crazily wrong stuff, the kind of cool book you sneak into the house and keep hidden from Mom. That was evidently a common sentiment, because Pep Comics was a huge seller.

Pep Comics sold better and better as the months passed, and new characters were introduced in its pages from time to time. Now here’s the kicker: Pep Comics #22 brought readers the very first appearance of this guy:

Pep Comics #22

…who is still with us today, although he and Betty look a lot different these days:

Archie & Betty

That’s right, boys and girls – it’s our old pal Archie Andrews, who became such a big hit that in 1946 MLJ Magazines officially changed its name to Archie Comics Publications, and switched its focus from blood’n’guts to lighthearted teenaged fare.

But the next time you see an Archie comic on the bookstore rack or hear the song “Sugar, Sugar” on an oldies station, just remember this: Archie’s house is built on a solid foundation of blood and sex. I’ll bet if he told Veronica that fact, she’d come around to see him more often – Ronni always struck me as the “bad girl” type anyway…

ADDENDUM: Since writing this post on Aug. 31st (yeah, I often write posts a couple of weeks in advance), I’ve learned that Archie Comics has just (re)launched their superhero characters in a brand-new title called New Crusaders. I bought and read a copy of Issue #1 last week – it”s not bad, somewhat reminiscent of the last run of DC’s Justice Society of America before DC went and ruined rebooted their universe.

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2012, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.