Harvey Comics was an American publisher of comic books from 1941 to 1994. Its most famous characters included Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost, both of whom were adapted to Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
Harvey Comics was founded in New York City by Alfred Harvey in 1941, after he bought out the small publisher Brookwood Publications. His brothers, Robert B. Harvey and Leon Harvey, joined soon after. The company soon got into licensed characters, which by the 1950s became the bulk of their output. The artist Warren Kremer is closely associated with the publisher.
Harvey Comics initially published comic books featuring characters it inherited from Brookwood Publications, including both original characters and such licensed characters as the Green Hornet and Joe Palooka. The company ultimately became best known for characters it published in comics from the 1950s onward, particularly those it licensed from the animation company Famous Studios, a division of Paramount Pictures, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These include Little Audrey, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Baby Huey and Herman and Katnip. Harvey also licensed popular characters from newspaper comic strips, such as Mutt and Jeff and Sad Sack. In addition, Harvey developed such original properties as Richie Rich, Little Dot and Little Lotta.
While the company tried to diversify the comics it published, with brief forays in the 1950s and 1960s into superhero, suspense, horror, western and other forms in such imprints as Harvey Thriller and Thrill Adventure, children's comics were the bulk of its output.
On July 27, 1958, Harvey purchased the entire Famous line (including character rights and rights to the animated shorts). The Famous cartoons were repackaged and distributed to television as Harveytoons, and Harvey continued production on new comics and a handful of new cartoons produced for television. Casper the Friendly Ghost, who had been Famous' most popular original character, now became Harvey's top draw. Associated characters such as Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost, The Ghostly Trio, Casper's horse Nightmare, Hot Stuff the Little Devil and Wendy the Good Little Witch, were added to the Harvey line.
By the early 1970s, sales had skyrocketed due to a boom in Richie Rich's popularity, and an increase in Richie Rich titles were added to meet with the higher demand, and many titles had 52-page issues. By 1974, the issues were downsized to the original 36-page format, which was a telltale sign that sales were in decline. 52-page issues returned by 1976, even if limited to select Richie Rich titles, which implies that sales rebounded even if just for Richie Rich. But by late 1979, the 36-page format returned permanently, which was the beginning of Harvey's downfall.
In the final year of publication, there was lack of revenue available to create new stories, and there was an increase in reprints of earlier stories - some issues were devoted entirely to reprints of older stories, particularly those first published in the 1960s. Some workers were likely laid off during this period, and reprints were becoming more common, having increased greatly in 1982 (definitely by April), which was an indicator that Harvey's demise was looming. According to an advertisement in issues released in July 1982 (cover dated October 1982), there were issues scheduled to be released through August 5 that year, but only one week of issues were released on July 8, 1982. Stories written in 1982 originally intended to be published in 1982 were never released until as early as September 1986 and as late as December 1987 or very early in 1988. No issues with a cover date of November 1982 were published, and two previously unreleased issues originally scheduled for release in June 1982 were released in September 1982 (cover dated December 1982), but with completely new advertisements, including one designed to promote ABC's 1982/83 Saturday morning lineup, which included The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show, which premiered later that month. After the 48th issue of Richie Rich and Jackie Jokers was published, Harvey Comics ceased publication, and its owner Alfred Harvey retired in 1982.
Around the time of Harvey's 1982 demise, Lennie Herman was the only remaining writer for Harvey, whose focus was newer Richie Rich stories - the first of his stories was published by 1981. Herman died in 1983, which might imply that the increase in reprints of older stories during the final months of publication and eventually the demise of publication may have been likely due to Herman's health being in decline.
It could be inferred that the reason for the publisher's demise is likely due to the target audience being younger children, and the people who were purchasing the comics were likely older people, which explains the frequent usage of guns and bombs, aggressive behavior, and characters being spanked - none of which is appropriate for audiences of younger children. The generation who grew up with these comics were likely nearing death, if they were not deceased already at the time. The Richie Rich animated series contained no such controversial content (at least one segment had a character seen smoking a cigarette, which was acceptable in the 1980s, unlike today), and was more suitable for children than the comic book series.
In July 1986, Alan Harvey (Alfred's oldest son) gave the company a second life as a sole proprietorship. However, the vast majority of titles from 1982 were dropped in 1986, leaving only the core titles, and new digest titles debuted. Sales were not appealing, and by 1989 the company was in danger of facing a repeat of 1982, but quickly afterwards, Jeff Montgomery had taken over the company and shifted focus to expand its readership to pre-teens and young teens.
Beginning by September 1990, a new comic book adaptation of New Kids on the Block debuted, during the height of the boy band's popularity. When the vocal group fell out of favor by its fan base sometime in 1991, when some of the members were then mature adults, the comic book series ceased publishing. By 1992, short-lived comic book adaptations of the teen sitcom Saved by the Bell and the movie trilogy Back to the Future were both launched, plus Harvey had purchased the rights to use the Hanna-Barbera characters for a series of reprints originally published by Charlton Comics or Gold Key/Whitman.
Sadly, Montgomery's formula failed, and by August 1994, the company discontinued publishing comic books, and started to focus on using the characters in other media, particularly TV shows and movies. The demise of its traditional comic books occurred four months before the release of the movie adaptation of Richie Rich, which starred Macaulay Culkin. The last surviving original owner of the company, Alfred Harvey, passed away in July 1994. It is disputed if lackluster sales or Alfred Harvey's death may have determined the publisher's ultimate demise.
Alan Harvey is reportedly still alive, as he is actively involved in Comic Con events to this day (a YouTube video featuring Alan Harvey was uploaded in 2011).
Future Richie Rich and Casper projects
In 1995, the Harvey properties were purchased by Marvel Comics. Aside from the Richie Rich film, a live-action film based on Casper was launched in the summer of 1995. Another Richie Rich film, Richie Rich's Christmas Wish, was released to VHS in 1998, and the character lineup was more true to the comic book, even including Irona the Robot Maid.
There was a series of publications that featured Harvey content, in addition to original stories and content, launched in 1998, titled Harvey Magazine. The logo from the final two months of publications by Harvey Comics was used on the covers of this series. Richie and Casper were seen in many issues. The series was discontinued after just eight issues.
Richie Rich had another animated series which debuted on FOX in 1996, though not produced by Hanna-Barbera. Unlike the 1980s version, this animated version along with the other characters looked more true to the comic book series. The 1996 version lasted only one season.
A few live-action Casper movies were released to VHS later in the 1990s, including one where Casper befriends Wendy the Good Little Witch, the latter of whom was played by Disney channel star Hilary Duff.
In 2001, Montgomery was fired, and Harvey Comics sold its properties and rights to the Harvey branding to Classic Media. At the time, Harvey Comics Entertainment was rebranded as Sunland Entertainment. Some of the earliest Richie Rich stories were later published in paperback book format.
The rights to Richie Rich and Casper characters were later acquired by Ape Entertainment, and a new series of comics was launched in 2011. Richie Rich and his friends were given a makeover for this new series - Richie had an updated hairstyle, still blond, and he no longer wore his traditional wardrobe from the Harvey days, but instead he wore a red shirt with blue jeans, depicting a daring adventurer. Due to lackluster sales, the series lasted only one year.
The most recent project involving Richie Rich was a live-action sitcom released on Netflix. Richie's friends and relatives from the comic book and past animated series were never used in this series except for Irona - in fact, Richie's main female friend in this series was named Darcy - who did not bear any resemblance to Gloria Glad (Darcy actually had long brown hair and was spending Richie's money). The series ran for two seasons at this point, with no certainty on whether a third season will be produced or not.
In 1985, Star Comics, a Marvel Comics subsidiary, published a series called Royal Roy. Harvey filed a lawsuit against Star (despite the former company not publishing at the time), citing that Roy was a blatant copy of Richie Rich, and that Roy's estate was called Cashelot. The creator of Royal Roy was Lennie Herman, a veteran writer for Harvey. He also wrote the series Top Dog and Planet Terry for Star, which were original creations. Royal Roy ended after just six issues and the lawsuit was dropped because of Herman's death in 1983.
In 1987, Harvey Comics sued Columbia Pictures, claiming that the character in the iconic logo to the 1984 film Ghostbusters bore too close a resemblance to Fatso, a member of the Ghostly Trio in the Casper the Friendly Ghost series of comics. The judge ruled in favor of Columbia Pictures in September of that year, because of Harvey's failure to renew the copyrights on earlier Casper stories and the "limited ways of designing a cartoon ghost".
List of Richie Rich and Casper Titles
- Richie Rich and... (11 issues, 1987-1990, each issue featuring a different character)
- Richie Rich and Billy Bellhops (1 issue, 1977)
- Richie Rich and Cadbury (29 issues, 1977-1982, and 1990)
- Richie Rich and Casper (45 issues, 1975-1982)
- Richie Rich and Casper in 3D (1 issue, 1987)
- Richie Rich and Dollar the Dog (24 issues, 1977-1982)
- Richie Rich and Dot (1 issue, 1974)
- Richie Rich and Gloria (25 issues, 1977-1982)
- Richie Rich and His Girlfriends (16 issues, 1979-1982)
- Richie Rich and Jackie Jokers (48 issues, 1973-1982, last publication before Harvey's original demise in 1982)
- Richie Rich and New Kids on the Block (3 issues, 1991)
- Richie Rich and Professor Keenbean (2 issues, 1990)
- Richie Rich and Reggie (3 issues, 1979-1980; #4 was advertised, but never released)
- Richie Rich and Timmy Time (1 issue, 1977)
- Richie Rich Bankbooks (originally Bank Book, 59 issues, 1972-1982)
- Richie Rich Big Book (1992-1993)
- Richie Rich Big Bucks (6 issues, 1991-1992)
- Richie Rich Billions (48 issues, 1975-1982)
- Richie Rich Cash (47 issues, 1975-1982)
- Richie Rich Cash Money (1991-1992)
- Richie Rich, Casper and Wendy (1 issue)
- Richie Rich Collectors Comics (each issue featuring stories from the earliest two issues of each series, released in chronological order)
- Richie Rich Diamonds (59 issues, 1972-1982)
- Richie Rich Dollars and Cents (109 issues, 1963-1982)
- Richie Rich Fortunes (63 issues, 1971-1982)
- Richie Rich Gems (not to be confused with 30-second TV skit, 43 issues, 1974-1982, #44 to #48 published by Ape Entertainment in 2011-2012)
- Richie Rich Giant Size (4 issues, 1992-1993)
- Richie Rich Gold and Silver (42 issues, 1975-1982)
- Richie Rich Inventions (26 issues, 1977-1982)
- Richie Rich Jackpots (58 issues, 1972-1982)
- Richie Rich Millions (113 issues, 1961-1982)
- Richie Rich Money World (59 issues, 1972-1982)
- Richie Rich movie adaptation (1 issue, 1995, under the Marvel branding)
- Richie Rich Profits (47 issues, 1974-1982)
- Richie Rich
- Volume 1 (254 issues, 1960-1991)
- Volume 2 (28 issues, 1991-1994)
- Volume 3 (at least 6 issues, 2011-present, by Ape Entertainment)
- Richie Rich Relics (4 issues, 1988-1989)
- Richie Rich Riches (not to be confused with the TV series' seven-minute segment, though the TV version's logo is different; 59 issues, 1972-1982)
- Richie Rich Success Stories (105 issues, 1964-1982)
- Richie Rich Summer Bonanza (1 issue, 1991, 68-page issue which may have been a pilot for the Richie Rich Giant Size series, and its cover was the same as an early issue of Richie Rich Zillionz)
- Richie Rich Vaults of Mystery (47 issues, 1977-1982; #1 to #5, however, were never released)
- Richie Rich Zillionz (33 issues, 1976-1982; originally the first 68-page publication ever published by Harvey)
- Million Dollar Digest Magazine (34 issues, 1986-1994)
- Richie Rich Adventure Digest (7 issues, 1992-1994)
- Richie Rich Best of the Years Digest (6 issues, 1977-1980)
- Richie Rich Digest Magazine (42 issues, 1986-1994)
- Richie Rich Digest Stories (17 issues, 1977-1982)
- Richie Rich Digest Winners (16 issues, 1977-1982)
- Richie Rich Gold Nuggets Digest (4 issues, 1990-1991)
- Richie Rich Holiday Digest (5 issues, 1979-1988; though the 1989 edition was actually Richie Rich Digest Magazine #19, but used the Holiday Digest logo)
- Richie Rich Million Dollar Digest (10 issues, 1980-1982)
- Richie Rich Money World Digest (1991-??)
- Richie Rich Treasure Chest Digest (3 issues, 1982; #4 was advertised but never released until the publisher resumed operations in 1986, but titled Richie Rich Digest Magazine)
- Richie Rich Vacation Digest (2 issues, 1991-1992)
- Richie Rich Vacation Digest '93 (1 issue, 1993)
- Richie Rich Vacations Digest (9 issues, 1977-1982)
- Casper and...
- Casper and Friends (1991-1992)
- Casper in Space
- Casper the Friendly Ghost
- TV Casper and Company
- Casper Digest Magazine
- Casper Digest Stories
- Casper Digest Winners
- Casper Enchanted Tales Digest
- Gloria Glad is a member of the Harvey Girls group, which also includes Little Audrey, Little Dot, Little Lotta and Mayda Munny.
- The Richie Rich titles' logos were almost always stylized so that a "C" looks like "¢" and an "S" looks like "$". The dots on I's represented either coins or diamonds, and sometimes a character's face, and the O's frequently had either a coin or character's face inside it.
- At the time of Harvey's demise in 1982, 36-page publications sold for just 60¢, and the cost of a digest was increased to $1.25 by June 1982. When Harvey rebooted in 1986, 36-page issues would cost 75¢, and digests would cost $1.50. At the time Harvey ceased its traditional comic books full-time in 1994, a 36-page issue would cost at least $1.50. If Harvey published today, you probably would need a $5 bill to buy even just one issue.
- Every issue had a cover date displayed on its covers, but the release date was always three months earlier than the date displayed on the cover. For example, issues with a cover date of October 1982 were actually released in July 1982.
- In the late 1970s, the titles' taglines on the top of each issue and on the left sidebars were in a variation of Futura font. That was changed to an Impact-style font by the issues released later in February 1982.
- Each issue had a thick sidebar to the left of the cover, bearing the title and the tagline. They were launched in 1977, but were eliminated as of the issues released in October 1986, three months after the company's reboot. Redundancy may be the reason for such removal. However, the sidebar did make one final appearance in the final published issue of Richie Rich and..., released in February 1990, whose cover was recycled from an earlier issue of Richie Rich and Cadbury, albeit with gradient effects. Richie Rich and Cadbury would become a regular title again by April 1990, with its issue numbering continuing from where it left off in 1982; but the series was permanently discontinued late in 1990.
- In February 1990, Harvey tried an experiment with its covers by recoloring the sky to use gradient effects. In May 1990, the sky in the republished stories that month were recolored with gradients. That practice was dropped by the summer, though the gradients still appeared on the covers until sometime in 1991.
- Beginning with issues released in August 1990, covers from prior to July 1982 were recycled for then-current issues, but by September 1990, the content of each issue were primarily reprints from past issues. By January 1992, recycling of older covers were being phased out, and original cover art returned, sometimes as a spoiler to a main story featured in the issue. Recycling of older covers did make sporadic appearances but were fully retired later in 1993.
- Beginning in issues released in August 1990, the logo no longer featured the letter "H", and the letters in Harvey each appeared in a row of six squares, tilted, and alternating. In 1994, during the final two months of comic book publications, the logo's final update showed only the trademark joker's head inside a circle.
- Part of the logo for Richie Rich Zillionz was used in the logo for the Zillion-Dollar Adventures segments on TV. However, the "Gems" in the Richie Rich Gems TV skits' title card basically uses the same logo from the comic book covers, and the Richie Rich Riches title cards used on TV used an original logo comprised of stacks of coins forming the letters in "Ri¢he$", while the comic book logo is just basic art.
- The Richie Rich Treasure Chest TV segments' logo was an original logo. The digest publication title of the same name (which used a completely different logo) didn't launch until nearly two years later.
- Writer Lennie Herman may have been the inspiration for the character Herman the mouse, who was frequently chased by a cat named Katnip. Herman and Katnip was believed to be a clone of Tom & Jerry - the latter of which was later published by Harvey in the early 1990s.
- Late in 1981 and early 1982, there were a number of issues that consisted entirely of reprints, many of which contained material originally published in the late 1960s. Many issues during that period had no more than half the issue being devoted to newer material, implying that writer Lennie Herman's health was in decline by 1981, and may have contributed to the heavy volume of reprints in 1981 and 1982 as he wasn't able to work as effectively during that time.