Is This A Sexist Comic Book? Revisiting ‘Cherry Poptart’ [Love & Sex Week]
The Archie comics were created to be a beautiful slice of old-school Americana, as homey as apple pie. But just like apple pie, people eventually found a dirtier way to enjoy them.
The erotic comic series Cherry Poptart was created by cartoonist Larry Weitz in 1982 in a very conscious emulation of the style of Dan DeCarlo, the artist whose work set the standard for the Archie comics line. Cherry became a sort of XXX porn parody version; if you grew up lusting after Betty and Veronica, you could turn to these pages to see characters very like them having sex with each other (and a couple other dudes) (and some aliens) (and a robot) (and ---)
In fact, Cherry Poptart resembled Archie so closely, there were rumors of a lawsuit, to which Weitz basically stuck his tongue out and said, “Nyeh!” He produced possibly the weirdest version of Archie’s Americana until the 2017 TV show Riverdale came on the scene!
Weitz's series followed the adventures Cherry --- who had eternally just turned eighteen --- plus her mother, and her friends, who embody various high school cliches (the girl next door; the nerd; the rich girl, etc.), as they had sex with basically anybody, anytime, anywhere, in every way imaginable.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the series wasn’t interested in continuity or creating a consistent storyline, so readers would get stories about Cherry living in the stone age, alongside stories where she and her friend accidentally got transported into a computer. Cherry had sex with movie stars, greasers, a Rambo-expy, and dominatrices. There were no dark stories; nothing tragic happened --- it was light, happy porn, though it did veer into weird racism, homophobia, and sexism.
For instance, the comic would occasionally depict black characters in caricatures that bordered on the worst examples from The Spirit. Most of the cringeworthy stuff involved hardcore, absurd stereotypes. Part of that might be viewed in the context of the comic's role as a parody of a certain slice of life Americana, but much of it is impossible to excuse.
On the question of sexism, Cherry asks very pointedly on the cover to issue #1 if this is a sexist comic book, and the answer is: Oh yes, definitely. This is very obviously a comic book written for straight men, albeit one that was perhaps more thoughtful and accepting than others of its genre and time --- for instance, it had an overweight character who is just as lustful and fun as Cherry.
But, at its heart, it's a dirty comic for men.
The series didn’t stick to just porn though. It offered parody, commentary, and even had a 3-D issue! Though its approach was always very much for straight man, the series took a progressive stance on censorship and women’s rights. It also took a stand against underage sexualization, introducing the character of Cherry's little sister Cinnamon for a single appearance, just to make the point that she shouldn't be part of the action.
The main series lasted for 22 issues, but there was also Cherry’s Jubilee, a small spin-off series comprising four issues, in which Weitz was joined by other artists and writers. Of course, that wasn’t as big as the Cherry Deluxe issue, where Weitz teamed up with comic legend Neil Gaiman.
Yeah, that’s right --- there’s a smut comic written by Neil Gaiman!
While Cherry had a pretty good run for an underground comic, its name didn’t last very long. The title "Cherry Poptart" only held up until issue #3, when Weitz claimed he was forced to change it due to a threat of legal action by Pop-Tarts owners Kellogg's. The comic became Cherry, and the character became Cherry Popstar, which makes no more or less sense than "Poptart," so that was fine.
If you want to check this comic out, back issues can certainly be found in some comic stores, but there's no collection, and no legally distributed digital versions. Physical copies may run you about twenty bucks an issue.
However, if you do stumble across one of these --- maybe in a garage sale, or a bargain basement bin --- make sure to snag it. Regardless of how into it you are as a piece of smut, Cherry is a part of comic history. A weird, sexy, offensive part.