"When they took the bible out of school, more and more problems came in! Now we have books that say we all came from monkeys and the students are starting to act like it!"
--Betty Cooper, Archie’s Parables (8)
Spire Christian Comics (later Barbour Christian Comics) were the creation of Fleming H. Revell. They first appeared in 1972 and, while no new titles appeared after 1982, printing and distribution continued until late in the 80s.
Spire covered a wide range of Christian material. The company adapted a handful of Biblical stories, often presenting them in modern dress. Barney the Bear starred in nine morality tales aimed at the youngest readers. Spire published biographies of prominent Christians, including Johnny Cash. They adapted existing material, ranging from David Wilkerson’s true-life ghetto mission tale, The Cross and the Switchblade to Hal Lindsey’s sensationalist apocalyptic commentary There’s A New World Coming. They also created a pair of butt-kicking Christian Brothers, similar to Jack Chick's Crusaders, though their adventures took place in something less of an alternate reality.
These titles interested a certain audience and sold respectably. If they were all Spire accomplished, the company would be even more of a minor footnote to comic-book history than they are.
But the aforementioned titles are not why most collectors recall Spire.
Spire's principal contributor was Al Hartley, an established industry professional and devout evangelical Christian. Hartley had been working for Archie Comics since 1967, and he arranged with publisher John L. Goldwater to license the familiar Riverdale characters for use in the Spire titles. In eighteen issues produced over the course of the 1970s, the familiar gang from Riverdale reveal themselves to be fundamentalist Christians, crusading for church attendance and Bible study and against evolution, pornography, and secularism.
In Archie’s Something Else, a new student, an anachronistic (it's 1975) hippie named "Legion" enrolls at Riverdale, and suddenly troubles beset the school. Legion paints protest signs, someone calls in a bomb threat, and Hell's Angels ride through the halls, Representatives of the media arrive and ask such probing questions as "Do you have much occult activity?" "Are your students into witchcraft?" and "And sex education—what are you doing about that?" Despite having at least one practicing witch over in their regular line, Mr. Weatherbee insists such things don't exist at Riverdale High. A reporter candidly acknowledges that he doesn't care. These topics make for a "sensational story" whether they are true or not(14). All ends well; Big Ethel converts Legion, and his example starts to work on the news media.
Archie's Parables features several stories. "Showdown at the Little Red Schoolhouse" attacks the effects of evolution and pornography, and implies that school bussing may be the source of troubles, too. "Beelzebub’s Boo-Boo" has Archie and Jughead run out of gas just outside a spooky looking mansion. "There's a light!" Archie exclaims, and the pair are off to learn that a very bad fellow indeed seeks their souls.
Spire entered darker territory than regular Archies of the era. Street drugs rate mention. The gang passes theaters advertising such lascivious fare as Sin City (Archie’s Date Book 27). And if the already white bread Riverdale gang receive a Sunday School whitewash, Reggie seems worse than ever. Archie's Love Scene features a segment where ol' Reg virtually attacks his distraught date in their car along some deserted country road. Afterwards she stands, hair disheveled, face in anguish, as a gloating Reggie walks away wiping lipstick kisses. We're told that many boys have a selfish interest in girls, and will throw them away once they’ve taken all they can get.
It's not that an Archie comic devoted to religious topics couldn't work, or that all of Spire's Riverdale offerings are especially extreme or unexpectedly simple-minded. Riverdale was always implicitly Christian. Characters celebrate Christmas and can at least locate a church. Even in their wilder, 1940s adventures, the group held to certain Judeo-Christian principles. However, they've never been fervent about it. They certainly don't say grace in the school cafeteria, despite Spire-Archie’s insistence that such is the norm among his social circle. Mr. Weatherbee does not conduct Bible study at lunch. If Archie and friends are to effectively discuss religious issues, they should do so as their established characters. The tv Archies' song about being "one big family" with "our daddy" "in the sky?" Snicker up your sleeve, by all means, but that was in character.
Peanuts made an easy transition from a strip that occasionally addressed religious themes to the overtly Christian A Charlie Brown Christmas, while keeping the cast in character and in their established world. That short film has become a classic of sorts; Spire's Archie comics remain an obscure and often funny (though not always when intended) camp curiosity.
"When we go steady with Jesus, he lifts us up!!!"
--Betty Cooper, Archie’s Date Book (32)
Spire Christian Comics
Adam and Eve
Adventure with the Brothers : The Cult Escape
Adventure with the Brothers: Smashing the Smugglers' Ring
Adventure with the Brothers: Hang in There
Alpha and Omega
Barney Bear: Family Tree
Barney Bear in Toyland
Barney Bear Wakes Up!
Barney Bear: Home Plate!
Barney Bear Out of the Woods
Barney Bear: Lost and Found
Barney Bear: Sunday School Picnic
Barney Bear: The Swamp Gang
The Cross and the Switchblade
The Gospel Blimp
Hal Lindsey’s There's A New World Coming
Hansi: The Girl Who Loved the Swastika
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
The Hiding Place
In His Steps
In the Presence of Mine Enemies
Live It Up
On the Road with Andrae Crouch
My Brother’s Keeper
Paul: Close Encounters of a Real Kind
Through the Gates of Splendor
Time To Run
True Stories from Spire Christian Comics
Up From Harlem
Archie's Clean Slate
Archie's One Way
Archie's Love Scene
Archie's Something Else!
Archie Gets A Job!
Archie and Mr. Weatherbee
Archie's Date Book
Archie's Family Album
Archie and Big Ethel
Archie's Roller Coaster
Archie's Sport Scene
Christmas With Archie
Jughead's Soul Food
Thanks to Spire Christian Comics page http://www.carpsplace.com/spire/spire.htm