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for Thursday, November 18, 2004

Wilbur 44

I wrote about WILBUR in the October 28 edition of this column and, in the course of that column, I cribbed this from THE STANDARD CATALOG OF COMIC BOOKS:

This title bears more than a striking resemblance to Archie, another teen-age comics sensation from Archie Comics. The title character is a perpetual teen, good-natured and slightly girl-crazy. Laurie Lake is the popular blonde who can wrap him around her little finger with a single kiss. Even so, Wilbur wouldn't mind so much, if he wasn't always sparring for her affections with Slats, his worst enemy. The two often play pranks on each other, but, whenever anything truly mean is planned, it inevitably backfires. Probably the high point of the series is [issue] #3's introduction of comics favorite Katy Keene, who went on to appear frequently in the following issues.

The humor comic book kicked off in 1944 and proved remarkably popular, running 15 years before its conclusion. Even then, it was revived for an encore briefly in 1963.

As I also mentioned in that column, I was bidding on the issue shown above. I won that eBay auction, paying $3.78 plus shipping and handling for the comic book.

Here are some notes on this acquisition:

WILBUR #44 has a cover date of August, 1952. Counting covers, the book runs 52 pages.

There were five Wilbur stories in the issue, ranging from five to seven pages in length. Katy Keene gets her own six-page story. Other material includes a pair of single-page gags, a trio of half-page puzzle features, and a two-page text piece featuring news of movies and movie actors.

The Wilbur stories are similar to the Archie stories with the usual teenage boys competing for the affections of beautiful young ladies and playing pranks on each other. This issue even features the typical "mother who is much smarter than either her son or her husband" well as another story which offered readers a moral lesson about homework. Wilbur even has a waffle-shaped scar on his head, same as Archie.


If there's a noticeable difference between Wilbur and Archie, based on this issue, it's that the Wilbur characters are nastier than the Archie cast with their pranks tending to be somewhat more cruel than the Riverdale kids. In "Better Bettor," Wilbur tricks Slats (the Reggie Mantle parallel) into hitchhiking 187 miles out of town. In "It's a Dame Shame," Wilbur's friends try to trick him into putting the moves on a male classmate dressed as a girl...and Wilbur doesn't hesitate to take embarrassing and painful revenge on the outfoxed wise guy.


"It's a Dame Shame" also has a character called "Big Moose," but, as he is only shown briefly and dressed as a girl, I can't say he's the same Big Moose who appears in Archie stories. Is there an Archie historian out there who can enlighten me?


Only two stories in this issue were above average and one of them was the Katy Keene tale by creator/writer/artist Bill Woggon. Sweetheart that she is, Katy has agreed to go on a picnic with one of her many suitors, the aptly-named Chubby Chuckles. Her kid sis joins them on the outing.

Overhearing Chubby complain about his car's performance, Sis tries to "soup up" the engine, by filling the radiator with actual soup. Hilarity follows, but it's a sweet hilarity. When they lose their food basket, Chubby and the ladies end up drinking hot soup from the radiator.

"By Book or Crook" was the other story I enjoyed. Wilbur and his classmates must write a report on a book they haven't yet read. By tomorrow. Wilbur and brunette Linda read the book, turning down an invitation to go to a movie with their friends. Finishing said book, they learn the movie was an adaptation of the very book they just read. The big twist is that the movie changed the ending of the book; Wilbur and Linda are the only ones who get passing grades on their reports. Let that be a lesson to all you movie-watching slackers out there.

Turning back to the cover...

Wilbur's bespectacled buddy is a guy named Red and he seems to be a distant doppelganger of Archie's pal Jughead. In the earlier column, I made light of the "personal revelation" Red seemed to be making to the distracted Wilbur.

I might have been on to something there. Witness this panel of Red from "It's a Dame Shame":


He does seem to be enjoying himself, doesn't he?

"Love A La Carte" is the final Wilbur story in the issue and it revolves around Red. Wilbur and Slats bet Laurie and Linda that they can't get Red to take them to a dance. Here's how the girls react to the challenge:


They refer to him as a woman-hater, but they figure on getting to him through his love of food. Red's appetite would do Jughead proud and might even plunge the country into famine.

Having fattened Red up for the kill, blonde Laurie asks him to take her to the dance.

He declines, citing a previous engagement:

"I'm entered in a pie-eating contest at the Boy Scouts annual clam-bake and fish-fry."

The girls had figured the way to Red's heart was through his stomach, but they hadn't figured on it being such a long journey. Years later, Red was unceremoniously booted out of the Boy Scouts. He wouldn't say why.

Joe Edwards, perhaps best known for writing and drawing "Li'l Jinx" strips in various Archie titles, drew and signed "Love A La Carte." The other Wilbur tales aren't signed and don't appear to have been drawn by Edwards.

I enjoy buying old (and cheap) comic books on eBay, but, once I've read them and written about them, I don't really need to keep them around. So, because I appreciate your support of this column, WILBUR #44 goes to the next reader who donates at least ten dollars to TOT via the handy "TIP THE TIPSTER" link elsewhere on this page, and who includes his or her address with the donation. I'll throw in another more recent item or two as well. Lord knows there's no shortage of comic books in this household.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 11/17/2004 | 11/18/2004 | 11/19/2004 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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