March 15, 2010

It’s A Boys’ Life

Like anything in the world of art, there are these little hidden gems we find on occasion. John Lennon covering a song by Buddy Holly, Quentin Tarantino playing a cameo in a Takashi Miike film, and for comic-art it’s the endless amount of comics stuck into magazines instead of comic books. There is as much craft in a comic panel in an issue of Playboy as there is in any other publication. One these many magazines which had an array of little treasures tucked into it was Boys’ Life.

Boys’ Life is the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America, published since 1911 (contrary to how it’s picked on in current pop-culture, Boy Scouts is fairly cool and an army of famous people from David Bowie to Bill Clinton, have all been Boy Scouts). The magazine itself contains articles on different hobbies, camping/scouting tips, interviews, games/puzzles and of course comics.

Over the many years of it’s publication there were a handful of comics that ran steadily in print, covering an array of genres from real-life to funnies to sci-fi to even biblical. They included: Pedro, Pee Wee Harris, Tiger Cubs, Scouts in Action, Webelos Woody, Bible Stories, Norby, Tripods and many more. Today I’m going to peek at what I consider the best out of these comics:

Pedro is the mascot for Boys’ Life, and he may appear as a typical Mickey Mouse-like character, but this silly little donkey went on all sorts of bizarre journeys through Dali-esque landscapes (yes Disney-buffs can argue Mickey had a few moments like that at the Mouse House, but more often he didn’t). The Pedro comics were always amusing, funny in that Harvey Comics sort of way and always colorful. Like this one:

Scouts In Action were these real life stories of Boy Scouts who would save the day one way or another. The comic had more realistic looking artwork (reminding me personally of the artwork from the Ripley’s Believe It or Not panels) with narration boxes to tell its tale. Sure it isn’t men fighting giants but as a kid the realistic appeal always kind of made you feel like you could be a real life Batman of sorts. Today, Scouts In Action has also been turned into a  series of pod-casts for the new generation of kids. Here is an oldie to look at:

Tripods is based off the trilogy of sci-fi novels by John Christopher. These one page adventures serialized an adaptation of the entire trilogy and gave Boys’ Life a completion of wide variety by adding a sci-fi comic to its funnies and biographical. The comics were drawn by Frank Bolle who did a ton of work at Gold Key in the Golden age of comics, including Buck Rogers and Dr. Solar, Man of the Atom. This is completely one of two Boys’ Life comics I wish would be granted a collection of so we can all relive it in its glory (back issues of Boys’ Life can be as pricey to track down as any comic book back issue from the same time). Check it out:

Finally this is my favorite comic (the other one I wish they’d publish a collection of) and maybe it’s just because it was my favorite when i used to read Boys’ Life, but Norby just rocked. Based off the series of novels for young readers by world famous sci-fi author Issac Asimov and his wife Janet, Norby, The Mixed Up Robot told the adventures of a robot throughout space and time. It ran in the magazine from 1990-1995 and was a one-page science fiction serial to delight all readers. The comic was drawn by Ernie Colon who worked on an array of comics from Casper, The Friendly Ghost at Harvey to Doctor Doom 2099 at Marvel. Check it out:

In the end, I can honestly admit that I am giving you a quick glance here at these gems. If there is something that peaked your interest here, you can pick up back issues of Boys’ Life (my personal recommendation are issues from 1995 and earlier) and treat yourself to these over-looked wonders. One can always hope for collected editions of these comics but unfortunately, for now, it doesn’t seem like any are on the horizon.

Drew McCabe



  1. Decapitated Dan


  2. Decapitated Dan

    Also this brought back some unpleasant memories. Thanks Drew 🙂

  3. I made it to Life Scout (one rank below Eagle). I could have been Eagle, but I ran out of time…being First Class for about 4 years is probably what did it, lol.

    But yeah, Boys’ Life- I have a ton of these still lying around and to be honest, until reading this article I had totally forgotten about the comic that lay within!! I LOVED Pedro- it would be the first thing I’d read when getting the mag. And Scouts in Action was cool too- it had that Real TV kinda vibe. I think I skipped on Norby because it was kinda lame, and I don’t remember The City of Gold and Lead.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane Drew!!

  4. Drew

    I totally agree, first thing I’d do is flip right to the comics in this mag, over-all an over-looked gem

  5. Well Andy that makes me your superior because I am in fact an Eagle Scout baby oh and I was inducted into the Order of the Arrow as well! Don’t let the smooth taste fool you!

    I didn’t really get into this book though it was given a glance or two that was about it, but yeah a lot of memories just came back some good and some that should stay buried forever lol

  6. billy

    I had no idea those mags had comics in them. Good find Drew.

  7. Now if only the BSA could break out of the 20th century and alter their prejudiced policy on homosexuals.

  8. Drew

    It’s only a matter of time Andy. I mean Pedro looks a little… 🙂

  9. lol

  10. lutgens Louis

    geweldige comics , bedankt

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