I believe I have now found the most obscure character in Archie Comics history. Anyone care to challenge me?
|Let's establish some ground rules on
that. When I say "most obscure character," I'm
not counting any character that was introduced into
Archie's regular continuity but never panned out. There
are so many it's impossible to compare one above any of
the others. What I'm referring to are characters who got
their own separate series. Characters like Al Fagaly's
Super Duck, Joe Edwards' Li'l Jinx, Pat the Brat
(Archie's response to Dennis the Menace), Shrimpy
(Archie's response to Peanuts), and so on. These
characters may be small-time, but they still turn up in
digests to this day. In fact, lately Archie's made a
deliberate practice out of digging up old, abandoned
series it owns (even "BATS," its response to
Mad) and reprinting them. Except for one.
(By the way, to get rid of this argument that someone is sure to bring up, licensed pre-existing properties are not technically "Archie" characters. So for example, Henry Scarpelli making a nepotismic series based on his actor son isn't being counted, nor are any of Archie's licensed comics based on obscure properties like Bayou Billy or a bunch of talking Koosh balls.)
There is one series that Archie ran from 1982 through 1984 that it's never digest-ified, brought up or even mentioned again. In fact, this series is SO obscure, it's one of the few remaining subjects in the world that someone hasn't already written something online about. You're reading the very first page in the history of the Internet to discuss this series in detail. It's THAT forgotten. I checked; there's nothing. Not a single thing about this written or recorded in the entirety of electronic data since 1991. (There's porn of it though.)
Maybe she can fill the information in better than I can.
|Marvelous Maureen was the
sole creation of Lori Walls, who according to PEP #300,
worked in-house at Archie's art department and looked
like this. It was a series about a girl, by a
girl, which wasn't very common for comics in that era.
Lori wrote and penciled every single Maureen
comic herself, sometimes handling inks and letters as
Maureen ran in six-page installments in the pages of PEP and in some issues of Laugh. It slipped past me for a long time. If I was looking for original properties, the last place I would have checked in Archie history would have been the early 80's, which mostly seemed content to play it safe (at least compared to the hypercrazy late 80's and early 90's). But PEP was still being published because Archie had been introduced there, and its original intent was a variety comic, so maybe the thought was to reintroduce that element to it.
At any rate, as you'll see, Marvelous Maureen is nothing like any other Archie property, and the possible reasons why it's been buried so deep can only be guessed upon. I have several theories, the first of which might be.....
#1: ARCHIE DOESN'T REPRINT SERIALIZED STORYLINES
They would take up too much room if printed all at once, and they could print them in installments, but remembering stuff is too hard. Maureen was one long gigantic mess of a storyline and its parts were numbered. This could make them think twice about reprinting any part of it. However, this is not an excuse to act like Maureen never existed.
Some blogger mentioned Maureen made an appearance in "Night at the Comic Shop," a recent two-part Archie storyline that served as an excuse to cameo every abandoned property they owned. I looked into it, and....the woman on the top left is, in fact, NOT Maureen. She's identified by name as "Mighty Chick" in a later panel. The number of ancient characters they revived for this series was ridiculous and it was clear the writer wanted as many as he could get. Yet, for unknown reasons, he skipped Maureen.
Are you curious enough to read it? What follows is every installment of Marvelous Maureen I could track down, with commentary. Let's blast off!
It gets off to a slow start. For the first three pages Maureen just wanders aimlessly around the ship, finds a bunch of spacesuits and tries one on, which becomes her first costume. She also finds instructions on how to build a "musical robot," but gives up after finding them too complicated. Then she notices another ship in the distance, on fire (in space), so she slips on a breathing helmet, enters the ship and encounters a half-man, half-dog hybrid alien with a lion's tail. The entirety of his introduction is reproduced below:
Mortimer tells Maureen that his ship is on fire because he's being attacked by the Grossniks, a bug-like alien race. They narrowly escape just as Mort's ship explodes, but the Grossniks start firing at them both, and a stray laser cuts their safety line, leaving them floating in space. To be continued....right now!
|Now sitting ducks, Maureen and
Mortimer are easily captured by the Grossniks and taken
to Gumbrayne, their leader...who looks a lot like Darth
Vader without his mask on. Return of the Jedi had
just come out, so that explains that.
Maureen asserts that she is from "Junior High #14 Earth," but Gumbrayne is unimpressed. He orders them fed to a creature called a "Disguiuzus Mostimus," and no, that's not a pun if you say it out loud.
Trapped inside the creature's lair, Maureen and Mortimer hide on a top shelf. Just when they fear they're chow, Maureen remembers the robot kit she found and pulls it out of her pocket ("You have big pockets," remarks Mort). The idea is to send the robot for help, but as covered in Part 1, it is a SINGING robot that does nothing but warble legal knockoffs of Beatles lyrics. TO BE CONTINUED!
|In Part 3, the singing robot catches
the attention of the Grossniks, who shout "CATCH
THEM!" despite the fact that they're already caught.
They wound up...uh, double-caught, even worse than they
were caught before, inside a prison cell. While Mortimer
demonstrates why he's the most useless character ever,
the scene transitions to a man in a superhero outfit
waking up from a daze elsewhere on the ship.
The man expositions to himself that his name is "Wonder Blunder" and that he stowed away on the spacecraft while it was docked somewhere....ironically, to avoid Grossniks. That didn't work out, but once he sees the new prisoners, he finds a new purpose....to FREE THEM! His plan is to smash right into the bars with his body, which means he's even more useless than Mortimer.
|By the by, if you want to know where Wonder Blunder REALLY came from, he was an idea sent in by an unpaid reader. He shows up in almost every chapter from this point. This brings me to the second and most likely theory as to why Marvelous Maureen has never again seen the light of day:|
#2: MAUREEN USED CHARACTERS THAT READERS INVENTED
I can't believe Lori would do this, or that her editor would see nothing wrong with it. For quite a while before and since, Archie Comics let fans send in their own ideas for fashions Betty, Veronica, or Katy Keene could wear, and those ideas would be used with credit. But those were clothes, and unlikely to invite litigation upon reprints. A corporation using entire characters without compensation is asking for trouble, even if it's just child labor.
|W.B. makes a lot of noise failing to
break Maureen free, which alerts the Grossniks yet again.
They aim a cannon at him while remarking that he's a
member of the "United Group of Humans." This is
in reference to something very bizarre that will be
revealed later, but that's for another paragraph.
The Grossniks miss Wonder Blunder and blow a hole in the wall instead, allowing the crew to escape and float to Maureen's original ship, the Gypsy Moth. Maureen tells the ship to move, and it does -- suggesting the Gypsy Moth is sentient. Unlike WB's organization, this will never be followed up on. TO BE CONTINUED!
|Maureen, Mort and Wonder Blunder are now clinging for dear life to the back of the Gypsy Moth as it hurtles through space, while the Grossniks are constantly shooting at them. Maureen gets an idea and taunts two Grossniks, who shout "SPANK HER!" in rage and fire. The ray blows a hole in the top of the ship, allowing Maureen and her new crewmembers entry. Somehow, it never hits Maureen that the Grossniks could climb into that hole too, and one does.|
|While the Grossnik sneaks up on them,
they notice the Gypsy Moth is passing a planet that WB
claims hasn't been conquered by the Grossniks yet. They
decide to turn around and land on "Planet
Izod." Lori must have been stuck for names and just
looked at the tag on the back of her own shirt.
The sudden U-turn jolts everybody and sends the Grossnik tumbling away. Only Wonder Blunder saw it, but nobody listens to him. As they land on Planet Izod they are greeted by an array of crazy creatures, including a sinister-looking human one lurking somewhere in the back. TO BE CONTINUED!
|At this point Maureen found a way to go monthly by also running installments in Laugh Comics. I was unable to track down those issues, though, so there's going to be a few holes in this narrative....though nothing too hard to figure out.|
Fortunately #6 begins with a brief but thorough recap of #5.
"What happened? Did someone
just suck all the life out of the universe?"
No, what's going on is that Lori did ALL the art on this one, not just the pencils. From this point the chapters
will alternate several times between someone else's finished art and hers.
This brings to mind a third theory as to why Maureen was buried....
#3: INCONSISTENT ART
The fact that Maureen's style seems to radically change every six pages may have kept it from reprints, but this guess is a long shot. That might have held true in the 90's, but today, sadly, Archie Inc. doesn't seem to care what its comics look like at all. I find the most recent years' worth of covers kind of unsettling, and it's probably the Zombie Eyes that are doing it.
These dead-eyed, vacant stares have been on everybody lately, even a shark. I put the blame on a guy named Hal Smith who's been performing inking duties for a large part of the company's output lately. Inking is a much more important cog in the comics machine than most realize. As a kid I would sigh internally whenever I saw Rudy Lapick had inked a new story; his inks never looked quite right to me. Now Hal Smith makes Lapick look like Michelangelo.
A GOOD inker can work miracles and clean up any art style. Marvelous Maureen is a perfect example. Can you believe this comic and the previous one were both penciled by the same person? They were.
Anyway, Maureen's now in quite a spot. Let's observe her plan to get out of this one.
They never clarify what she did to deserve the title "Marvelous."