Friday, July 17, 2015


Look how sick of his shit that tiger is.

America's favorite teenager has survived so many weird and off-model incarnations that the brief turn he and his pals spent as superheroes barely registers on the mark. Still, lurking in the pages of Archie as Pureheart the Powerful vol.1 No.3 (February 1967, "Terror in the Center Ring") was one of the most disturbing menaces ever faced by the regulars from Riverdale - the murderous, misogynistic Madman Clown!

But doctor, I AM Pagliacci
Archie's transition into his alternative identity of Pureheart the Powerful was spurred by his part-time paramour, slinky and stinking-rich brunette half of the "Betty and..." crew, Veronica Lodge. Tapping into mysterious powers, Archie would suddenly transform into the teal-and-orange terror, and by way of complicating his freckled life, his rival Reggie would undergo a similar transformation into the vexing Evilheart.

In this case, Archue's transformation never had a more serious trigger. Innocently passing through a traveling circus, Archie and his pals are scattered by an unexpected stampede of circus animals. In the resulting hubbub, Veronica is abducted by the hulking, leering Madman Clown. Whether the broad-shouldered Pagliacci loomed over everyone naturally or packed lifts into his ridiculous shoes, the ape-armed entertainer makes for an intimidating figure. With his jaw jutting out over his polka-dotted bowtie, he resembles as much a murderous mascot for an ice cream cone company as merely an injurious jester.

But murder IS on his mind. With Veronica held against her will in his trailer, the Madman Clown outlines his plan - he's going to kill her! Why, asks Ronnie? Well, "Because you remind me of my wife!" he explains, "The wife who ran off with the tattooed man! The wife I swore to kill!" Archie comics get grim sometimes.

"Get these dry cleaned for me"
Pureheart rescues Veronica from the killer clown's lethal advances, but is himself overwhelmed by the Madman Clown's assorted Plans B; he's got a steamer trunk full of helpful dwarves handy, plus a playful pet tiger, and turns out to be a deft hand at hypnosis. In fact, the circus svengali sends Archie and Veronica to their seeming doom in what amounts to a sabotaged aerialist routine - and their child will grow up to be Robin, if they manage to conceive, gestate and birth one between the trapeze and the floor.

Reggie unwittingly saves Ronnie and the day, while Archie mostly accidentally upends the greasepainted nogoodnik's schemes. As superheroes go, Pureheart's a little underpowered; not only can he not fly, he's afraid of heights.

Still ,the story ends with the Madman Clown falling into a cannon, which he subordinates promptly fire into the sun, pretty much, killing him dead no matter where he ended up. Pureheart is allowed to count that in the W column, so hooray Archie! Boo Madman Clown! And sorry that you'll probably have to go to therapy Veronica! At least you'll have some vivid nightmares of murderous clowns to share with your doctor.

No comments:

Popular Posts