Townsfolk respond to their new sheriff.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: MLJ/Archie Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creator: Don Dean
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In the very early 1940s, MLJ Comics was perfectly typical of American comic book publishers — its line consisted mostly of monthly anthologies, which emphasized superheroes, such …

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… as Steel Sterling and The Fox, from end to end. But in 1942, the emphasis shifted to funny stuff. Not all of it was in the mold of Archie, who grew so popular they named the company after him. Pokey Oakie, for example, more closely resembled Li'l Abner.

Not that he was a perfect clone of Al Capp's Reuben-winning hillbilly comic. Pokey was Abner-like enough, personally (tho not as inhumanly strong); and his town, Catfish Creek, was pretty similar to Dogpatch. His home life wasn't too different, except for the addition of a 12-year-old sister, Butter Bean. The big difference came a few pages into his first story, when he accidentally won the wrestling match traditionally held to determine who would be the next town sheriff.

The story opened with Deacon Morfuss riding past the Oakie place, taking the outgoing sheriff to the cemetery, with 11 bullets inside. Wild Willie Reb was the odds-on favorite to become sheriff, but Maw covered Pokey with grease, so Willie couldn't even grab him. Pokey repaid the favor by giving Maw, Paw and Butter Bean a place to live, the town jail, by arresting them for vagrancy after being forced to do his "dooty" and evict them.

Pokey Oakie began in Top-Notch Laugh Comics #28 (July, 1942), It was the first issue under that name — previously, it had been Top-Notch Comics, one of those typical superhero-laden anthologies. As of that issue, The Firefly, The Wizard and the like were ousted in favor of Señor Siesta, The Three Monkeyteers etc. Of the old crew, only Kardak the Mystic Magician and The Black Hood remained, unless you count Snoop McGook, a for-laughs investigator who had replaced Bob Phantom as far back as the April issue, #26. Pokey's series was made by cartoonist Don Dean, who went from there to creating the Abner-like Cranberry Boggs for McNaught Syndicate (Joe Palooka, The Bungle Family)

But the future of Archie Comics lay not in the generalized form of humor found in Top-Notch Laugh Comics, but in the specific sub-genre of Archie-style teenage humor — Josie, Wilbur, even Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Top-Notch Laugh Comics lasted only until its 45th issue (May, 1944). Upon its demise, most of its features bit the dust with it. Pokey had a last gasp, alternating with Captain Commando in 1945 issues of Pep Comics. But then he was gone.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Archie Comics.