Outright Classic Picks: The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.
The 1960s was the decade of free love, hippies, Vietnam and super spies! President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 recommendation of Ian Fleming’s From Russia, With Love sparked the world’s interest in smooth secret agents, fast cars and even faster femme fatales. With America in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the public turned to the likes of James Bond, Our Man Flynn and a host of others to provide some heroic insight into some otherwise very private dealings between the East and West. One unlikely hero during this time of international strife was a red-headed high schooler named Archie Andrews; The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.!
From 1966-1967, Archie and his pals were agents of P.O.P. (Protect Our Planet) in the pages of Life With Archie. Almost two dozen stories starring The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. were written by Frank Doyle with art by Archie fan favs such as Bob White and Dan DeCarlo. The P.O.P. agents secret headquarters was operated out of Pop Chocklit’ Shoppe. Though it seemed that all of the enemy agents of C.R.U.S.H. knew this as Pop’s was often bombed, ransacked or vandalized. And if the bad guys weren’t attacking the malt shop, they were doing their best to infiltrate Lodge Enterprises.
The artwork of Archie and his friends was pretty standard for 1960s Archie Comics. But the designs of those C.R.U.S.H. baddies was pretty darn sleek. Most of these villains were illustrated like a costumed villain from the pages of Marvel or DC. But they were so very good. The fire-tressed Flametrower was positioned to take over the world in some of the most dynamic poses this side of Jack Kirby. Whereas, the Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.’s Sandman screamed the influence of EC’s Jack Davis and Wally Wood.
The title of the Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. was clearly a parody of the popular spy TV series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Other than the extensive use of acronyms and being about spies, that pretty much was the only real comparison between the comic book and the TV series. That is until the popularity of both properties began to wane.
By the Fall of 1966, the Archie lead series began to focus on one of his girlfriends. Betty Cooper became the Girl from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. This was in response to a Stefanie Powers led spin-off called The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., that had debuted just a few months prior. Both female led series were revolutionary for their time. But the effects of a glut of spy lead franchises was beginning to take its toll on the populace. By the Spring of ‘67, Life with Archie would move on to the awakenings of the Summer of Love and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. was unemployed. It’s parent series would be promptly cancelled mid season the following year.
Instead of U.N.C.L.E., it could be said that much of the Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. was based off of James Bond. All of the agents of P.O.P. utilized gadgets from drugged lollipops to gas filled lipsticks. But sometimes, the team managed to get the job done with everyday household objects, such as the common vacuum cleaner. And yes- Archie and his cohorts carried guns. But they had about as much accuracy as an entire squadron of Storm Troopers!
Just as James Bond was keen to use tricked out automobiles to save the day, the Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. had a vehicle filled with gadgets. Archie’s jalopy, Betsy, was the vehicle of choice for P.O.P. Though the car was much more reliable in this fantasy series than in Archie’s everyday life. In this series, Betsy could do an assortment of neat tricks, like fly, float and even split right down the middle to avoid guided missiles.
The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. was a great way for Archie Comics to kick off it’s Archie Comics Presents life of reprints. These stories might have been silly at times. But they were fun and thrilling. Plus, it was a great distraction in this time of social distancing and self isolation.
If you are a fan of classic Archie and you in need of a pick-me-up that combines espionage and humor, order yourself a copy now! Along with print copies, Amazon and Comixology have this book available in digital formats. Or help out your struggling LCS and arrange for a copy via curbside pick-up or possible delivery! Now is the time to help out struggling small businesses while keeping yourself healthy and sane. I think any of these actions would make any of the agents of P.O.P. and the Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E. proud that you are doing your part to help in times of crisis.
Archie Comics Presents… The Man from R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.
Written by Frank Doyle
Art by Bob White, Dan DeCarlo, Various
Published by Archie Comics
Classic spy fun with Archie and his pals!