February is Black History Month, a month dedicated to acknowledging the achievements and cultural milestones of Black Americans. In light of this (as well as providing for an interesting subject to write about), I thought I’d write a series of posts throughout this month about various noteworthy (at least to me) Black* comic and animated characters.
So, to start things off, here’s the first entry, about Archie Comics’ resident comic book geek, Chuck Clayton. Chuck first appeared in “Life With Archie” #110 (June 1971). He was created by Dick Malmgren and Bob Bolling.
Chuck was introduced to add diversity to the until-then all-White main/supporting cast of Riverdale. However, a few Latino characters also made appearances around this time. Chuck himself was preceded by Valerie of “Josie and the Pussycats” fame. Chuck mostly hung out with Archie and Betty in early appearances. His initial main trait was his excellent athletic skills.
Apparently Chuck made enough of an impact to inspire several other characters. (I’d imagine there was also a desire to not show Chuck as the only African-American in Riverdale.) The 70s/80s series “Archie at Riverdale High” (judging from the covers) made heavy use of Chuck in its stories. Issue #14 of that series introduced his father, Coach Clayton, a middle-aged coach at Riverdale High. Unlike older character Coach Kleats, Coach Clayton is actually in-shape. The coaches are usually seen in stories together (or separately).
Chuck also gained a girlfriend in the 70s. Nancy Woods first appeared in “Pep” #309 in 1976. Unlike his pal Archie, Chuck and Nancy exclusively date each other. Nancy’s also often used in stories featuring Betty and Veronica. She’s usually cast as someone for the girls to hang out with besides Midge.
Chuck and comics
Eventually, the comics introduced Chuck’s defining shtick, his interest in cartooning. This allowed for various stories centering around or commenting on the comics and animation fields. There’s various stories about Chuck entering comic artist contests, going to comic conventions, and so forth. One common plot point is Chuck paying too much attention to his craft, and inadvertently ignoring Nancy as a result, irritating her.
Similar to Chuck, Nancy’s shown as interested in writing and art (giving her traits beyond “Chuck’s girlfriend”). Nancy’s interests sometimes come into play in stories.
Chuck was given his own storyline in the title “Archie & Friends” a few years ago, “The Cartoon Life of Chuck Clayton.” In this story, Chuck is put in charge of teaching a class of grade-schoolers how to draw and write their very own comics. Alex Simmons, an Archie comic writer who’s also African-American, wrote the storyline.
Chuck appeared in the latter run of the 70s Filmation-animated Archie series. Here, Chuck’s voice sounded a bit like one of the characters on “Fat Albert” (another Filmation animated series). Some aspects didn’t jibe with his comic counterpart’s background at all. In one episode, his father’s shown as a test pilot!
Chuck didn’t appear in the (very) 80s animated spinoff “The New Archies.” Instead, the series used an African-American character named Eugene. Eugene also substituted for the also-missing Dilton as the class genius.
Chuck appeared at least once in the 2000s series “Archie’s Weird Mysteries.” The series also marked Nancy’s first appearance outside of comics.
The 2017 CW series “Riverdale” features Chuck as a character. Actor Jordan Calloway plays Chuck.