I found this kooky little comic in a bargain bin at Ken Wheaton’s Empire Comic Fest last weekend. It’s a promotional comic for American Airlines, presumably given away to young kids to keep them busy during a plane ride. This is the issue of Harvey’s AstroComics from 1975. Although sometimes they also spell it as Astro Comics.
I found it absolutely charming.
Despite the fact, that when you really think about it, one of the main characters is a dead child. I am not sure what Casper’s official origin story was at this point, or if he even had one. But isn’t it kind of creepy to encourage a young kid (maybe it’s their first time on airplane) to read a story about a deceased little boy?
This promotional comic includes a team-up story with Richie Rich and Casper. I didn’t realize they shared adventures, but apparently they often did. In fact, Harvey published a comic called Richie Rich & Casper that ran for 45 issues in the 70s. Kind of like Harvey’s very own version of World’s Finest Comics, I guess.
Of note: the team-up story is from Richie Rich & Casper #20, and most of the stories included are reprinted from past Harvey comics.
But Astro Comics #1 was designed to keep kids even busier with several innocuously fun American Airlines pages (i.e., corporate propaganda). Things like a connect-the-dots activity page, a “Story of your Flight Attendant” text page, another text piece called “All about your Flight Crew” and an American Astro Comic Flight Quiz. This quiz has questions like “Whose football team does Joe Namath play for?”*
The back cover might just be a milestone. I think it’s the very first Back Sketch Cover! Could it be? I do need to do a little more research before I wake up Overstreet’s J.C. Vaughn at 2:00 am with this amazing “find”.
But can you imagine if every kid on a plane got a free comic to read during their flight? Oh sure, they might rather play with their phone, but wow – what an introduction to comics that would be.
One more thing: I love this Hot Stuff cover! One of my fellow faculty members, at Ithaca College’s School of Business has great memories of reading Hot Stuff comics. He’s not a “comics guy”, per se, but he got a few issues for his young son. I make it point to rescue any issues of Hot Stuff I find in bargain boxes at comic shops (like the excellent Heroes Your Mom Threw Out in Elmira or Wonderland Comics in Rochester) and pass it along to my co-worker. I recently grabbed a couple of issues with that in mind, but I love this cover so much I had to find a spot for it in my collection!
*The answer to this question ties into one of the American Airlines destinations, but you have to unscramble the answer. It is listed as “weN rYko”.