Feb 18, 2016

"I Can't Serve You!" Archie Tackles Racial Integration and Discrimination

In 1969, Archie Comics introduced their first prominent black character in Valerie Smith, who would go on to join Josie and the Pussycats as its bassist and/or second guitarist, depending on how many strings they're drawing on her guitar.

In 1971, they introduced their first prominent black male character, Chuck Clayton. Chuck is also the first prominent black character to hang out with the Archie gang, although he still doesn't do it on a regular basis.

Uhhhh.... yeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.....

A few months after Chuck was introduced, we get this story, "Color Them Red" in Archie #214. It's by my all-time favorite Archie creative team of Frank Doyle and Harry Lucey, and introduces a black character named Josh. He's also never used again. I don't know if he was intended as a one-off character and was used for this piece just because this story specifically tackles racial integration and discrimination, or if he was intended to reappear and then didn't, because, frankly, Archie does tend to have just one or two characters for each minority. (I've read a lot of digests from the 70s, and Chuck Clayton was a dominant figure in a bunch of them, much the same way Kevin Keller is now. I'll take it over no diversity at all, but hopefully we'll eventually reach a point where, say, Nancy is a bridesmaid for a wedding because she's actually a character who should be a bridesmaid for a wedding, and not simply because Archie Comics wants black representation in the bridal party, and then she does nothing for the rest of the story. Yes, these are notes in the hardcover of The Archie Wedding.)

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting look at racial dynamics in 1971. Archie pretty much always had a way of taking a serious issue and then paring it down so it's not too heavy, but still covered what you needed to know. Click to enlarge. Enjoy.

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