Mar 1, 2017

The Guys Who Made Harvey Comics Gay-Friendly

When I was a kid, I loved Harvey Comics, especially Casper, Spooky, and Hot Stuff, the residents of the Enchanted Forest.  Their pacifist nonconformity and buddy-bonding gave me some of my first hints of gay potential.

It didn't hurt that I usually read them while spending the night with my Cousin Buster in the trailer in the dark woods.

I also read Harvey Comics set in the real world, about kids with weird obsessions: Richie Rich, Little Lotta, Little Dot.  They were evocative, but didn't provide the magic of the ghosts.

It never occurred to me, by the way, that the stories were supposed to be humor.  Jokes detracted from my deadly serious quest to find a "good place," where boys could live together without being forced to express an interest in girls every five seconds.

The Harvey character style was instantly recognizable. Male or female, ghost or human, they were all drawn the same:

Disproportionately huge heads (especially when compared with real boys)

No necks.

Pear-shaped heads, large oval eyes with black pupils, pug noses, mouths curving downward a little lower than on a real person.



I was confused by some stories with a different character style:  far less attractive: fat, dumpy, with a bigger head and bigger head and bigger eyes.

Eventually I realized that those stories were reprints from the 1950s and early 1960s.  The house style changed abruptly in 1966.






There was a change in the plotlines, too.  In the early stories, Casper and company visit mythological and fairy-tale creatures.  The Milky Way is full of actual milk, and the sun is a sentient being.

Later stories are mostly realistic science fiction, with mad scientists and alien invaders.  In 1972, Casper goes to the moon on the Apollo 16 (he was, in fact, the mission mascot).





The same thing happened to the human Harvey characters.  In 1966, Richie Richie Rich became slimmer, with smaller eyes, and a smaller tie.













By the 1970s, he even had a muscular physique, and he had moved from humor stories to adventure, espionage, and science fiction.

Harvey Comics never divulged the writers or artists, so it wasn't until many years later that I discovered who was responsible for the change: Sid Jacobson  who began working at Harvey in the 1950s, and became story editor in 1964.  He tried to modernize the Harvey stories for the space-oriented 1960s.

Meanwhile Warren Kremer, the art editor, spearheaded a new, attractive, "hip" character style.

Ernie Colon, who joined Harvey in 1967, completed the transformation.  He and Sid Jacobson collaborated on most of stories for the next 15 years, until Harvey stopped publishing comics in 1982.


When Harvey Comics folded, Colon moved to DC Comics, where he worked on such projects as Arak, Son of Thunder, Arion, Prince of Atlantis, and the graphic novel Ax.

  He and Sid Jacobsen collaborated on several graphic novels, including, a history of the African-American experience, the story of Anne Frank, and The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaption.

Kremer moved on to Star Comics, where he created two new characters, Planet Terry and Royal Roy.

I don't know if any of them were gay, but they certainly helped some gay kids find meaning in the homophobic 1970s.


See also: Casper the Friendly GhostSpooky the Tuff Little GhostLesbian Subtexts in the Harvey Girls; Richie Rich Joins a Gym.



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