Recently, Glowing Fish stumbled onto a cheap second-hand copy of The Partridge Family #11 and reviewed the fading comic-book relic of another time. Realizing that the inexpensive second-hand copy of The Monkees that I picked up recently was also #11 (1968), I decided I had review it as well.
I actually read this comic as a very young child, and recalled elements from two of the stories.
The Monkees comic ran for seventeen issues, and captured the goofy spirit of the show. The medium suited the show's style, and permitted opportunities not easily available on television. In one issue, I recall, the writer or artist's hands reach into the frame and physically moves the Monkee-mobile to another location. This issue features cameos by the Seven Dwarfs and background details that would have exceeded the show's budget. It's a comic, so the writers and artists can do whatever they want.
In #11, they give the Prefab Four three separate adventures.
"The Good Olde Days" is the lead story, and I found it the least interesting-- now and then, I assume, since it's the one that I didn't recall from my first encounter with the comic, fifty years ago. The Monkees go shopping for groceries in a confusingly large department store and Mickey Dolenz relates his great-grandfather's stories about the Good Old Days. A "Cola Cola" sign falls on their heads on the way home, and they all imagine they're in some uncertain past, seemingly the late 1800s and yet before anyone has invented electricity. They get involved, of course, with a beautiful young woman and a stolen time machine. They go in pursuit of the thieves, hoping to use the machine to return home. By becoming the circa 1890s versions of the SuperMonkees, who have waxed moustaches and old-time circus muscle-man outfits and look like an ad for "Doctor Wonder's All-Purpose Elixir and Horse Medicine," they're able to get the invention back, before regaining consciousness in the hospital. For a young, hip rock band, they wax remarkably nostalgic, while criticizing their own era. When the time machine's inventor says he wants to go to the future, Peter Tork tells him not to bother, since "Expo 67 isn't open anymore... and the rest isn't so good."
"Monster Combo," the second tale, takes us into haunted house territory, which happened a couple of times on the series. The obligatory mad scientist is named "Dig" and his Frankensteinian butler's name is "Hip," which causes some confusion: You Dig? I'm Hip. I recall feeling very cool that I actually got those jokes, due to having older siblings, one of whom had visited Toronto in '67 and spent an actual day hanging around Yorkville. Also, by then, hippie had gone mainstream, and faux counterculture was everywhere.
"The Great Disc-O-Chase," the final story, shows the Monkees cutting a record in a Voice-o-Graph Booth-- talk about nostalgia! The record rolls away and a wild chase ensues. There's not much else: we get witty(ish) banter, crazed visuals, and a jokey conclusion.
Other features include a few pages of advertisements. The best include one of those cheap novelty house ads endemic to old comics (Super Atomic Smoke Bomb! Secret Agent Spy Camera!) and a collection of "Giant Wall Display Decorations in Full Color." The hip "art prints" ("ALL 20 ONLY $1")) depict such things as records, guitars, musical notes, and six groovily-clad dancers designed to recall those keen paintings of kids with gigantic eyes.
The art is pretty good for period Dell Comics, which suffered financially after losing most of its licensed properties to Gold Key. The artist drawing the first story seems to have trouble with ears, so that many of the characters occasionally look like elves or Vulcans. All of the artists seem a little fixated on having the Monkees' outfits change sporadically, but the show did do sartorial shifts of this sort. However, the boys look like comic-book versions of themselves, and they act like them, too. The banter is moderately amusing, and very much in the style of the series.
Comic books, historically, were examples of disposable art and culture, inexpensively produced and designed to provide quick, passing entertainment for those in a not terribly critical frame of mind. Monkees #11 achieves its unlofty goal.