Regardless of the reaction of the records, the TV show was a hit. Was it for the ‘Scooby-Doo’ formula?...the fashion statements?...the young viewers discovering the ultimate rock ‘n roll fantasy? These and other more obvious questions notwithstanding, it was watched and this made everybody (the networks, producers and Archie) happy. Maybe a little too happy.
Back at the comics pages, it was the usual shenanigans until #57 (Sept. 1971) when things became more adventurous. Possibly to keep up with the level of adventure and action from the TV show, the editors decided to add a little watered down E.C. horror/suspense element into the mix. The first of this new type of stories was #57’s cover story, ‘The Ghost Of Dark Valley Manor’.
In the ‘Dark Valley’ story, Josie and the ‘Cats’ are looking for a remote and quiet place to rehearse. Alex offers them the keys to an abandoned mansion his father had just acquired in a foreclosure. Josie is unsure, and shows it by remarking that she “read someplace” that the place was hunted. However, with caution (and this plot foreshadowing) thrown to the wind, they proceed to the mansion.
While practicing, the girls are “attacked” by a falling stone gargoyle, interrupted by high-pitched screaming and one of them even gets kidnapped. When they end up being chased by an axe-wielding crypt-keeper, they manage to tackle and catch the attacker. When the police arrive, they take off the keeper’s mask and....ah, you get the idea.
More often there was a whole lot more action in the comic pages than in the TV show. Future stories would have Josie getting possessed first by a voodoo gypsy then by an angry spirit and THEN held at gunpoint as a hostage. There’s also Melody, who gets kissed by a mummy who hasn’t dated in a thousand years (we’re not making this one up, folks) and briefly turned into an old hag due to a portable curse. In general, the whole gang ended up in swamps, dungeons, castles and Bates Motels resulting from the van breaking down during a hurricane or any other heavy weather catastrophe while lost as a result of Alex’s bad directions....sometimes
all at the same time for dramatic license.
The writers and artists were no doubt borrowing heavily from the old 50’s classic E.C. Horror comic book line produced by late, great comic legend, William M. Gaines (above), who also was behind MAD Magazine.
This was ironic and a touch hypocritical as those same EC comics were detested as being responsible for the “delinquency in America’s Youth” by moral naysayers, including Archie’s publisher, John Goldwater. This lead to a congressional investigation and hearings which ended with Gaines testifying on behalf of his comics. Though no formal charges were filed, the horror line was forced out of business, thanks to fears of government pressure on the comic industry and to the formation of the ‘Comics Code Authority’ by John
Goldwater, who took pride in EC’s demise (5).
There still were ‘Josie’ stories of teenage chaos and relationships but they were now pushed back behind the EC-styled stories. One of the best of these “old-style” stories dealt with a possible band split
over love for a man in “What Are Friends For?”.
LEFT: Melody is being chased by a mummy but the "date" ends when screen door hits him on the butt. (BTW: What is a gook?!) RIGHT: Now it's Josie's turn by doing the Exorcist thing.
Valerie falls in love with Warren Owens, a real lady’s man. After two dinner dates, Warren talks to Valerie about a future without the Pussycats. Later in a separate scene, Melody overhears Warren talking to his boss. As it turns out, Warren is a sneaky A&R man who’s been trying to sweet talk Val out of the band and into a solo career and contract...I wonder if Melody’s ears wiggled this time.
Melody tries to warn Val of this trap, but Val only sees this as jealousy and leaves in a huff. On the way out, however, she also overhears her “boyfriend” and his boss (again?!?!) and discovers his deceptive plans. She later breaks off her relationship with Warren and makes up with the girls, thus saving herself from enduring the same fate as LaToya Jackson.
ABOVE: Just one more slice of the danger, this time, from a
claw you shouldn't wear in bed.