Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Freckles died.

Harvey’s Richie Rich franchise has always been able to bend to accommodate pretty much any trend the parent company hoped to hop aboard. The Poor Little Rich Boy seamlessly teamed up with Casper the Friendly Ghost, fought crime as a Super-Richie, co-starred in books with time-traveling space heroes, celebrity-satirizing boy entertainers, and perhaps you’ve seen his Netflix-exclusive series where he personifies the dead-eyed obscenity of wealth?

Yes, anything is possible in Richie Rich, especially in the pages of Richie Rich Vaults of Mystery,  an action-adventure series with a typically sinister (if still kid-friendly) bend which managed to put out an impressive run almost hitting fifty issues starting in the mid-1970s.

The subject of any given episode of Vaults of Mystery – and I’m sorry, I should be spelling it Vault$ of My$tery, lest I destabilize the market – involved a little science-fiction, action-adventure with a tinge of mortal danger. A sampling of the 47-issue run includes super-villains, time travel, remote and dangerous wild locales, adventures in space and under the sea, A SNIPER ATTACK, mummies, piracy, alien invaders and wild animal attacks. Thinking about it, probably a sniper is the best way to take out Richie Rich. I have to admit, I hadn’t considered the optimal extermination methods for Harvey characters before, but here we are.

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is MAD!
One particular adventure takes place in Vault$ of My$tery No.6 (September 1975) and pits Richie against The Ghost of Rich Castle.  A lurid cover promises all sorts of murderous mayhem, which I’m 
sad to say resolves bloodlessly. Except in my mind.

If it’s not enough that the Rich clan owns an estate larger than most Midwestern counties, it turns out that the Rich clan can date their ridiculous wealth all the way back to the 13th century and even arrange to bring the family castle – once the domicile of Heathcliff Rich, whom I assume was better known as The Butcher of Richshire -  over to this side. This side of what, I dunno, I’m just riffing on what Richie’s butler Cadbury says - “Your dad had the castle brought over from the other side, Mawster Richie?”  It could be from the other side of the mortal veil near as I can tell. Maybe Casper was Heathcliff Rich’s first victim. Let’s build a mythology of blood here on the Harvey kids’ line, shall we?

Setting up a Halloween party inside the castle, Richie and his butler discover that the residence is inhabited. The food laid out for the party is swiftly snatched and consumed by an ominous, bearded figure who dubs himself THE RED KNIGHT, and describes himself as “the sworn enemy of Heathcliff Rich.” Good, I think I’m with you, fella. These Riches need a knocking down a coupla pegs.

Condemned by Mervin the Magician, “good friend to Heathcliff Rich,” to live forever in the castle unless he chooses to leave of his own volition, the Red Knight is subject to the most unrestricting curse in the history of magic. “You will live here rent-free, eating our food and sleeping on our comfortable beds … until you choose to leave!”  I’ve received more threatening birthday cards (I genuinely have. Grandmom has a mean streak).

His attempt to avenge himself on Heatchliff Rich’s ancestor fizzles as the party grows close, despite having pulled a two-headed dragon out of thin air and having a sword. I woulda just run the kid through, but the Red Knight is mostly concerned with knocking over plates and making a general nuisance of himself rather than MURDER.

In the end, the party gets underway and we’re reminded that Richie Rich might be the richest boy in the world, but he still only has like five friends, and one of them is his shitty cousin. In its own way, that’s more horrible than anything the Red Knight can visit on the latest descendant of the Rich dynasty, so he chooses to leave the castle forever. Oh, and to follow up on how to murder the Harvey characters, I’d suggest poison, landmine and nearsighted hunters respectively for Littles Lotta, Dot and Baby Huey.

"Target missiles and fire on m command!"

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