I’m continuing to sift through boxes of stuff that was salvaged from my house flood, and the item that surfaced today coincidentally ties in to my weekend’s television viewing.The Decades TV network fills each weekend with a marathon of a different vintage television series. This time around, the selection was The Millionaire, an anthology series that ran on CBS from 1955 to 1960. The premise of the show was that an unseen multi-billionaire called John Beresford Tipton (voiced by animation actor Paul Frees), each week tasked his executive secretary, Michael Anthony (played by Marvin Miller), with delivering a $1,000,000 cashiers check to a random person of Tipton’s selection as a gift. The remainder of the half-hour dramatized how these people from all walks of life were impacted by their unexpected windfall.
I parodied this series in my work for Archie Comics through a character I called The Elevenaire. The late great Stan Goldberg brought The Elevenaire’s visuals to life, and Stan was kind enough to send me copies of his pencils for the inaugural story of this occasional series. Those photocopies turned up in a box stored in my basement today, so I thought I’d share some samples.
The idea behind this story mirrored The Millionaire, except that the hidden benefactor was named Gosford Wobbledon, and instead of a tax-free check for a million, Wobbledon’s delivery man presented his recipient, in this case Archie Andrews, with eleven dollars cash. It was never examined whether Wobbledon was a wealthy patron who was tight with a buck, or if he was generous but just didn’t have much money. Either way, this six-page gag story explored how a sudden gift of eleven dollars could affect a life. Not much, one would expect, but I tried to put as unlikely a spin on it as I could for humorous effect.
In planning a low-rent version of The Millionaire, my first natural impulse was to have him gift his targets with ten dollars, as opposed to a million. But ‘Ten-aire’ didn’t have a ring to it, and ‘Elevenaire’ did. Plus, eleven is funnier than ten because it’s so needlessly specific. So was launched The Elevenaire, who always announced his intentions with this speech:
“I represent a person known as Gosford Wobbledon! For reasons known only to himself, Mr. Wobbled has authorized me to present to you a gift of eleven dollars cash! This eleven is yours to do with as you will, under the condition that you must never reveal where young the money!”
The only art suggestion I gave to Stan Goldberg was to make our delivery guy (whom, it was implied, was ‘The Elevenaire,’ even though he was never called by name in any of his appearances) visually distinctive, since I intended to use him again and didn’t want him blending into a crowd. Stan came up with a character who was tall, shaven head, and had (to my eye) a Greek tycoon look about him. He wore a suit and expensive shades, and toted a briefcase. Looked like The Elevenaire to me!
My plan was to bring the character back only once in a great while, and eventually have him visit each of the Archie cast in turn and gift them each with his ten-plus-change. The fun and the challenge was to invent different and surprising ways for The Elevenaire’s chintzy present to affect the life of each character. For instance, Archie’s girlfriend Veronica Lodge, who is wealthy and who presumably would be least affected by the receipt of a dozen-minus-one dollars, ended up owing her life to The Elevenaire’s gift.
The Elevenaire first appeared in Archie #545 in a story titled “The Elevenaire.” He showed up again in Jughead #157 (“The Elevenaire II”), and then again in Veronica #180 (“The Return Of the Elevenaire”) and finally, an encounter with Reggie in World of Archie Double Digest #18 (“Alias: The Elevenaire”). Those are all appearances to date, except for possibly in an issue of Tales From Riverdale which I didn’t write and never got a chance to read, so I don’t know how it fits into the scheme of things. He’s overdue to meet Betty, so some day I’ll get a chance to do that one. I don’t know what the story is, but I know what the title has to be: “Bride Of the Elevenaire!”
Stop Press! In researching this blog entry I discovered that all the Elevenaire stories have been compiled and published digitally by Archie. The compilation came out last year under the banner of Pep Digital #126: Archie and Friends / Legend Of the Elevenaire!