Thursday, February 9, 2017


Mondays, am I right?

There's no excuse for having stumbled across this fact only recently, but I did: Al Hartley, the virtuoso artist, writer and letterer whose career in comics passed through assorted romance titles, all the way up to the softcore men's comic character Pussycat and then, after a road to Damascus moment, ended up as practically the sole creator of the Spire Comics line of Christian comics? That Al Hartley?

Well, his dad was Congressman Fred Hartley, sponsor of the disastrous anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act and a pal of Joe McCarthy. A fine fella, all the way around.

I feel like this is relevant only because of the anti-revolutionary rhetoric which is a component of Adventures With The Brothers, one of the few original, non-licensed titles to come out of Spire.

"Let's just take a moment to appreciate it."
Strapping young blonde ... twins, maybe? Or just regular brothers, I honestly couldn't tell. Anyway, strapping young blondes with an eye for adventure, the Brothers are hallmarked by their good cheer, enthusiasm and inventive solutions to the problems of almost being murdered by psycho cult leaders and barely-concealed stand-ins for Idi Amin. This is a helluva resume they're putting together. Their college applications are going to be fit to bursting with after-school activities. Too bad they'll probably go to Trinity. You can get in there with an Arby's receipt or half a movie ticket.

The three separate issues of Adventures With The Brothers (with evocative titles such as "Hang In There," "The Cult Escape," and "Smashing the Smuggler's Ring," the last of which sounds like a really rough porno) follow Pete and Tom Brothers, the Brothers brothers, who accompany their missionary parents into all sorts of missionary positions in underprivileged areas of the globe. Hey, who am I to judge, it's the most searched-for genre on PornHub.

While the stories are highly simplified morality tales aimed at the kiddie-wink crowd -- or so the CONSTANTLY SHOUTED AND BRIEF SENTENCES INDICATE!!!! -- they also fall prey to the kind of casual paternalism which is natively inherent in the propaganda of any majority culture. Hey, how y'all liking my college education? Still fits just like it did when I was twenty. You know, pretentiously.

Prior to this panel, they kicked a
fat dude off a cliff.
The Brothers brothers (oh, brother) manage to fit some well-expected evangelizing in-between messing up a revolution in an African nation and busting up a cult on an otherwise-pleasant tropical isle. They also manage to really give the business to that one smuggler's poor ring. I don't have that issue, so I am just assuming it's all butt stuff and god bothering, and I won't be swayed otherwise until I find a copy somewhere. And maybe not even then.

The differences between The Brothers and every other comic in the Spire line is primarily cosmetic, using as it does roughly the same type of script, in spirit if not in letter, as all the other books across the line. What they bring to the table on their own merits is treating other races and cultures like helpless infants just desperately eager for the white man's hand to lift them out of poverty and influence. I say that dismissively now, but I'll be singing a different tune when I get out of the re-education camps later in 2017, I'm sure.

(PS If God is real, then I pray that the above sentence isn't rendered cruelly ironic by the current executive power at some point in the immediate future, amen)

With the rest of the original Spire Comics characters, the Brothers disappeared when the line ended. There hasn't been much of a call for the revival of these characters, but that doesn't mean someone somewhere couldn't arrange for a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen but made up of the Brothers, Barney Bear, Archie's Car and Tom Landry.


rnigma said...

Mr. Kitty reviews a Brothers Brothers adventure adventure:

Johnie Long Torso said...

And now, the sound of John Denvers' twin brother being eaten by Idi Ami....oooh, unfortunately Mr. Amin has lost his grip and fallen, presumably, to his death. Ah well, maybe he'll get another chance after a dark n' gritty reboot of the Spire line.

neofishboy said...

Remember reaching for a tasty chocolate when you were a kid ... and then the crushing disappointment when you realized it was carob? That was the Spire Archie experience for me.

Ted Craig said...

Oh my gosh, I owned exactly one issue of this comic and it was this one. I bought it out of a desperation on a car trip to Pennsylvania.

Calamity Jon said...

If they had Comics Fan Anonymous, that would absolutely be the story you tell so as to underline how low your addiction had driven you. It's the "I drank hand sanitizer" of comics.

Also, every comment here is golden. I should lance more Spire Comics...

BillyWitchDoctor said...

There was a greeting card store just outside my redneck middle school and in the mid-'70s I would drop by and browse its "Christian" book spinner while waiting for Mom to sober up enough to come pick me up (but I digress).

Said rack held all sorts of weird comics--from the innocent and whimsical "Brother Barnabas" (Ziggy-style one-panels about a square-peg monk) to the disturbing "Eggbert the Unborn Embryo" (a talking baby breaking the fourth wall without breaking Mom's water--not to be confused with the modern anti-choice agitprop knockoff, "Umbert the Unborn") to straight-up Chick Tracts re-edited into comic-book form with all their exploitative violence and judgment intact. And then there were the Spire comics...

I enjoyed Archie Comics, to a degree (even as a child I couldn't stomach Pureheart the Powerful or Li'l Archie even if I dug Dan DeCarlo's classic style) but Al Hartley's Archie Spire characters gave me nightmares: the glassy-yet-blank eyes staring at me from every page; that weird mouth on every face seemingly trying to shout, smile, scream and vomit simultaneously; the inability of any character to take a dump without first praising the Lord...I didn't understand at the time, but I was experiencing what it was like to find loved ones trapped in a cult.

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