Despite his old-fashioned looks, Archie Andrews is a longtime climate leader. Archie comics have featured environmental themes as early as 1971: Life With Archie #110 contained “A Solution to Pollution,” in which the Riverdale gang convinces Mr. Lodge to stop killing fish in the local river with runoff from his paper mill. And around 1990, stories began appearing that introduced little kids (including me) to the concept of global warming.
Laugh #101, 1992
In an elusive story that terrified me as a child and strongly shaped my life course, Mr. Weatherbee, the principal, dreams of a hotter planet: cafeteria lunch is green-pea-and-mashed-potato popsicles, and everyone’s favorite math class is taught in the swimming-pool. As Weatherbee’s dream-body begins to melt, he startles awake.
Other stories have included a peak-fuel scenario,
Archie #569, Feeling Fuelish, 2006
Reggie’s conversion from skeptic to environmentalist (also through a dream),
Tales From Riverdale #26, A Warming Effect, 2007
a time-machine visit to future-dystopic Kansas,
Archie #251, A Time to Reflect, 2008
as well as community dialogue about practical solutions,
Betty #172, The Green Scene, 2008
and building a green economy:
Betty #179, “Those Nasty Budget Cuts”, 2009
While Steve Scott, Archie’s press rep, says there’s no official climate education policy, it’s a frequent theme. And although other writers have tackled climate, most of these stories were penned by George Gladir, who died on April 3rd of last year, at age 88.
Born in 1925, Gladir was a WWII veteran and a 51-year veteran of comics-writing. In a profession that promised little public recognition (Archie comics didn’t feature writing credits until the 1980s), Gladir distinguished himself with of-the-moment plots and high-quality output. Victor Gorelick, Archie’s Editor-in-chief, remembers:
“One thing about George, he was always on top of the latest fads, fashions, music, TV, movies, etc.… There was always reference material from newspapers and magazines included with his scripts. If it was a story regarding the environment, the reference would explain the problem and George’s story would show how Archie and his friends could help to solve it. If George was involved with any particular environmental organization or charity, he never told me. However, you can tell from his stories, he did have a deep concern for the world’s environment.”
Despite many professional accolades during his lifetime and several lengthy, loving obituaries, Gladir isn’t widely recognized as an environmentalist. Except, perhaps, by decades of young readers who never learned his name.
(Images: Archie Comics, Image of George, SCCS- http://www.sccs-online.org/memorium/gladir.html)