Monday, March 14, 2011

Diversity in Comics: Chuck Clayton and Archie

Going into Fall of 1971, Archie Comics introduced the second of their main African American characters, Chuck Clayton (the first being Valerie Smith of Josie and the Pussycats). Chuck appeared simultaneously in Life With Archie 112 and Jughead 195, both August 1971. Significantly, both Valerie Smith and Chuck remain major characters is the Archie Universe today. The first of these two stories, "Poor Little Rich Man", has a gentle anti-racist message - unusual for Archie comics, which mainly stick to the inclusion without comment method of establishing diversity. It's interesting that right from the beginning Archie are developing details of Chuck's background, like here where we learn he has a blind cousin called Jenny. In fact it is blind Jenny who undoes the fallacy of discrimination that is based on bodily characteristics, when she says, "When you're blind there is no such thing as prejudice for how a person looks or color of skin. Everybody becomes the same!"

In Jughead 195, there's a short 6-page story featuring Chuck Clayton in which he emerges as the more sensible and level headed out of Archie, Reggie, and himself. The supposed experts at dating, Archie and Reggie, give Chuck advice on how to get Georgette to go on a date with him. Their typically chauvinistic ideas fall flat on their face, while Jughead's simple, straightforward solution is all Chuck needs. Again, we're given some background details on Chuck as he's introduced into the Archie line-up. He's interested in a girl, Georgette, who is also African American, but he's not yet been on any dates with anyone. I'm also impressed by the way Archie comics don't get into blaxploitation. Their African American characters are given positive images.

Chuck's first appearance on the cover of a comic appears to have been Archie Annual 23 (1971-72), but it could also have been Life With Archie 115 (Georgette appeared without Chuck on the cover of 114).

Chuck Clayton was here to stay.

This time thanks to Jojo for some of the scans and to the Grand Comics Database for covers and information on Chuck Clayton's earliest appearances.

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