Introduction to Pep Comics
In 1941, America’s favorite movie star was a diminutive young actor named Mickey Rooney, who starred in a very popular series of films about “typical teenager” Andy Hardy. The concept of small-town America as seen through the eyes of energetic, attractive teens appealed to both young and old. While comic book superheroes were all the rage, especially with the threat of global war looming just beyond the horizon, one publisher decided to slip a teen character in between pages of costumed crime fighters. That company was MLJ, at that time best-known for their heroes like Hangman, The Black Hood, and The Shield. Tucked away inside Pep Comics #22 (cover-dated December 1941), was a six-page story introducing Archie Andrews, who lived in the town of Riverdale with his parents Fred and Mary Andrews. Next door lived perky blonde Betty Cooper, who quickly developed a crush on red-haired Archie. Archie was soon featured in a second MLJ title, Jackpot Comics #4 where he made his first cover appearance. It wasn’t long before the company was renamed Archie Comics, with the character branching out into newspapers and radio. The cast of characters was expanded to include a second love interest, Veronica Lodge. She was the ideal counterpart to dependable, girl-next-door Betty; dark-haired Veronica was from the richest family in town, attractive but fickle. Rounding out the cast was Archie’s best friend Jughead Jones, who hated girls and loved hamburgers (even though he remained thin as a rail, Jughead could put away a dozen of more burgers with ease); egotistical Reggie Mantle, who served as Archie’s main rival for the affections of Veronica; Moose Mason, the dim-witted, hulking star athlete; “Pop” Tate, owner of the gang’s hangout, The Chok’lit Shoppe; and, at Riverdale High School, old maid teacher Miss Grundy and constantly flustered Principal Weatherbee. While styles and trends changed many times over the years, Archie and his Riverdale pals are still going strong today, with more new characters (like Cheryl Blossom and Kevin Keller) and diverse “alternate world” storylines that have Archie getting married (first to Veronica, then Betty), battling zombies, and even dying while saving a friend. Archie has even jumped to the little screen as a CW network show. Fear not - Riverdale’s favorite son will be sticking around for many more years to come.
Brief History of Pep Comics
The first issue featured an impressive slat of characters. First up is the first patriotic super-hero, the Shield, out 15 months before Captain America. A young Irv Novick drew the story as well as the cover. Prior to his Plastic Man fame, Jack Cole debuted the Comet and continued to draw several more issues before moving on. Filling out the rest of the roster is Queen of Diamond & Kayo Ward, The Rocket, the Falcon, Sergeant Boyle, Fu Chang and Bentley of Scotland Yard.
Lots of key first appearances in the title starting with the Shield’s sidekick Dusty in Pep Comics #11. Pep Comics #12 featured the first appearance and origin of Fireball. In perhaps the oddest strip replacement ever, Pep Comics #17 features the first appearance of Hangman in a story where his brother the Comet is killed. The most valuable book of the series by far is Pep Comics #22, the first appearance of Archie Andrews. We also get several of Archie’s regular cast right from the beginning with first appearances of Archie’s family, Betty Cooper and her family and Jughead. Veronica Lodge moves to Riverdale in Pep Comics #26. Archie gets his first full cover with Pep Comics #36. The Black Hood moves in with Pep Comics #48 but by the Shields last appearance in Pep Comics #62 (July 1947), all the super-heroes had moved out.
How much is Pep Comics #22 worth?
According to the 2019 Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, a 9.2 copy is valued at $375,000 placing it in 9th place on the Overstreet Top 100 Golden Age Comics.
What is the most expensive Pep Comics #22 sold at auction?
$252,100 was paid for a copy of Pep Comics #22 in 8.0 in 2017.
What Pep Comics are valuable?
Pep Comics #34
In 2016, the San Francisco Pedigree copy in CGC 9.2 copy sold for $57,360. Hypodermic needle, Nazi and skulls. It doesn’t get any better.
Pep Comics #17
The first appearance of the Hangman sold for $47,086.92 in 2016. It was the Mile High Pedigree in a CGC 9.6 holder.
Pep Comics #16
The Mile High Pedigree issue in CGC 9.6 sold in 2016 for $40,630. Again with the hypodermic needles.
Pep Comics #20
Another Mile High Pedigree in CGC 9.2 sold for $38,240 in 2016. Who doesn’t like a giant swastika cover?
Pep Comics #22 Cover Art
Irv Novick produced this cover early in his career. It is unknown if this piece of comic history still exists.
Other original art to Pep Comics
The cover to Pep Comics #17, featuring the first appearance of Hangman, by Irv Novick, sold at Heritage Auctions in 2019 for $52,800. Big drop to $8,663.75 for page 4 from Pep Comics #27 by Archie artist Bob Montana. Montana and his creation Archie also take 3rd place at $5,736 for page 4 from Pep Comics #30. Hangman and artist Bob Fujitani come in at $4,320 for page 6 from his appearance in Pep Comics #44.
Characters from Pep Comics #22
Introducing Archie (Archibald) Andrews, his parents Fred and Edna Andrews, Gramps Andrews, the new girl in the neighborhood Betty Cooper, her parents Sam and Mildred Cooper and Archie’s best friend Jughead Jones (Forsythe P. Jones).
Other features from the book include The Shield & Dusty, Hangman, Danny in Wonderland, Sgt. Boyle, Jolly Roger, Kayo Ward, and Bentley of Scotland Yard.
Plot Summaries of Pep Comics #22
We open with Archie riding his bike, standing, for Betty, a girl who has just moved into the neighborhood. He can do anything. His proof, walk blindfolded while tight-roping a fence. Naturally, disaster ensues. Gramps comes to Archie’s rescue and gets his ‘sentence’ reduced to just paying for the damage he’d done at the Coopers. Betty suggests Archie might help her dad’s lodge carnival to help make things right. But at the carnival that weekend, Betty meets a man who needs a tight rope walker. Betty, remembering that Archie can do anything, volunteers Archie with humorous results.
How rare is Pep Comics #22?
It is one of the rarest Golden Age keys with CGC certifying just 27 copies, 10 of which are restored as of May 2020.
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