The first comic books I ever read were Harvey Comics my father got for me at the Heidelberg US Army PX. I loved Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy the Good Little Witch. I didn’t like Richie Rich too much: he was a perpetually grinning dork, but he did have a cool robot maid, and his comics (and other Harvey titles) were something to read while I waited for the next issues with my favorite characters. I wasn’t bothered that I was the only kid in school who knew those characters; my peers only read in German, and I read and loved the German comic books, like Fix und Foxi, too. When we moved to the United States, I knew I’d have to switch over to American interests, but I figured I’d find lots of kids who loved Casper the Friendly Ghost there.
Boy, was I ever wrong. No one had ever heard of Casper the Friendly Ghost. Well, ok, I think there was one kid who thought Casper had been a cartoon she’d seen on TV. She was right, but all I knew were the comic books. For my first Halloween, my mother made me a Wendy the Good Little Witch costume, and to my profound embarrassment, everyone had to ask who I meant to be, and assumed Wendy the Good Little Witch was a character I’d made up myself. “Is your name Wendy?” the well-meaning judge at the shopping center costume parade asked me. And I certainly couldn’t find Harvey comics in American 7-11’s (my source for comics), where the racks exclusively held DC and Marvel series.
So I switched my comic book reading to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and became properly acclimatized to American culture.
Many years later as my horizons expanded, I found out there are other people out there who know the Harvey characters. In fact, one of Peter’s writers, Mark Arnold, has been publishing a fanzine about everything Harvey, called the Harveyville Fun Times. And now, since it’s hard for all the Harvey fans I never knew about (but Mark did) to collect 16 years worth of fanzine issues, he’s put together his favorite articles into a book: The Best of the Harveyville Fun Times. Mark focuses more on the animation and movies, which was apparently how the Harvey characters best became known to real American kids, not weirdo ABAs (Americans Born Abroad). But he has a good section about the comics as well, at least giving me some proof that Sad Sack wasn’t a military experiment on army brats.
Mark published the book with Lulu, the same company that published my novel. If you’ve ever been an author who’s had to work with or deal with a traditional publishing house, you know how much better Lulu is. You may not get the pretige of having a HarperCollins imprint, but for as much effort (maybe even less) than you’d have to put in with a traditional publisher, you get more control, more money and exactly the same degree of promotion you’d get “professionally.” Mark’s been promoting his book the way any good author should, so it’s on the verge of cracking into the top 100 of Lulu books. If you, too, are (or were) a fan of Harvey characters, get yourself Mark’s book. Maybe you’ll get The Harveyville Fun Times onto a bestseller list. More importantly, it’ll remind you of what you used to love.