The Spidey/Archie connection


by

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The venerable Bill Boichel has done it again. He has possibly unearthed the real secret origin of Spider-Man. Over on his Copacetic Comics site, he has posted a Harry Lucey story from Archie #126 published in March of 1962. He posits that Harry Lucey… err, wait, let me just cut and paste what Bill sez. Or just go to his site – which you gotta do anyways to read the Harry Lucey comic he’s riffing on. Please enjoy.

“Here for your consideration is the six page story, ‘Follow the Bouncing Ball’ from Archie Comics #126, with a publication date of March 1962. Produced by the peerless penciller, Harry Lucey, this story appeared on the stands five or six months before Amazing Fantasy #15 (AF15 had a cover date of August, but states September 1962 in the indicia).

“This story involves the accidental introduction of radioactivity into a high schooler’s life, with supernatural results. Not only that, but the throwaway gag panel that concludes the story introduces the concept of the so-gained supernatural power interfering with the teen’s normal romantic life, which is a central theme to Spider-Man, and critical to the long lasting success of the character. And then there’s the use of the word ‘tingling’ which came to be associated with Spider-Man’s ‘spidey-sense.’ It kinda of makes you wonder…

“Zeitgeist? Coincidence? Or, perhaps, this story was read by Stan and/or Steve during a lunchbreak, leading to the conscious or unconscious sparking of an idea. The timing is just right. We’ll never know, of course, but it’s something to ponder. Now’s your chance to read it for yourself, and see what you think.”

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5 Responses to “The Spidey/Archie connection”
  1. I should mention that the writer of the story (uncredited, like Lucey) was almost certainly the prolific Frank Doyle. The radiation lab is even named after him.

    There are a lot of odd little overlaps between Marvel and Archie, including the fact that both companies introduced a “Doctor Doom” character at the same time: Marvel’s character made his debut almost simultaneously with Bob Bolling’s “Mad Doctor Doom” (and his gullible teenage sidekick Chester).

    It may just be that Marvel and Archie had people go back and forth between each other; Lucey’s likely inker/letterer on this story, Terry Szenics, would soon defect to Marvel while Archie picked up many ex-Marvel people like DeCarlo, Stan Goldberg and Jon D’Agostino. I wouldn’t be surprised if each company sort of knew what the other was doing, in a vague sort of way.

  2. Joe Williams says:

    more sensational headline: Spider-Man’s Origin found in an Archie Comic?

    Sure makes sense that it was an inspiration based on what I know of early Marvel history. Lots of Marvel comics characters came from earlier works- whether it was the monster comics characters morphing into early Marvel villains (Fin Fang Foom) or the Challengers of the Unknown providing a template for the Fantastic Four or even romance comics heroines being reborn later as costumed heroes (Patsy Walker=Hellcat). No doubt Stan Lee and the House of Ideas often recycled old ideas (heck, even stole old names no longer in use). Lee seems very aware of comics history in interviews I’ve read (at least those done when he still remembered the early days of Marvel) and seemed to be willing to borrow ideas and inspiration as needed to help with deadlines.

    One can look at Archie and certainly be reminded of the teen drama era of those early Spider-Man comics with Peter often as concerned about the bully Flash Thompson and getting a date with a cute girl than he was whether Aunt May would be raped and tortured by the Vulture. So I can certainly see Lee wanting to borrow a popular genre of teen comics and integrate them into what Marvel was doing with superheroes having “real” problems (especially if Lee, who always had an eye on the business and marketing end of things, correctly guessed that the readers of teen comics were likely what would become “tweens” who’d be looking for something similar to grow into as they aged). What hetero boy doesn’t dream of having superpowers AND being forced to choose between a hot brunette and a hot blonde?

    Yet reading the story I don’t get too much of a Spider-Man feel other than the simple premise which seems to bear little relation other than featuring radioactivity and a teenager who doesn’t die but instead gets powers which echoes the plot of every almost single sci-fi/horror movie of the decade (and maybe another decade prior). Yet it does seem possible that is was enough to spark a thought/germinate an idea.

  3. Well, March 1961 – ’61, not ’62 – a year earlier than the Archie comic in question is when “The Absent Minded Professor” came out which of course introduced “Flubber” – a scientifically crafted rubber ball – so who knows? Maybe the real origin of Spidey is somewhere in there as well…

  4. Chris D. says:

    Very cool. I’d like to see Mr. A as a hall monitor in Archie, too.

  5. buzz says:

    Methinks the REAL origin of Spider-Man may be Walt Disney’s THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR which, according to IMDB, came out in March of 1961, almost a full year before the Archie. A major sub-plot of the movie involved Fred McMurray cheating…er, helping his college basketball team by adding flubber to the soles of their sneakers. Granted, the stunts in the Disney movie were not the same as Archie’s, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time the Archie characters drew inspiration from movies.