The Cowsills In Magazines

The Rain,The Park and Comic Books
The Cowsills In Comics
February 16, 2017
Hero-A-Go-Go Magazine

Note: I was unable to see the whole text so this is a part transcript.

“Play ‘The Happy Song,’ Mick!” my toddler brother John would plead to me back in ’68. He was too young to load the 45 onto my portable record player but wise enough to know which of those black vinyl platters would bring a smile to his cherubic face. The song that made John, and me, so happy was “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” the breakthrough hit by the singing family from Newport, Rhode Island, the Cowsills. If you owned a radio back in the late Sixties, you no doubt remember this cherry little tune about a young man’s rainy day encounter with a flower girl in a park (“But I knew she had made me happy, happy, happy . . . “). Some people call it “The Flower Girl” or “I Love the Flower Girl.” I call it one of the best memories of my childhood, and still, to this day, one of my all-time favorite songs.

While I liked the Beatles and loved the Monkees, I adored the Cowsills (originally siblings Bill, Bob, and Barry Cowsill, later joined by brother John, mother Barbara, sister Susan and brother Paul). Their harmonies were as tight as the Beach Boys’, but there was something special about their music that set them apart from the other crooning clans of the Sixties; the Cowsills’ music always made you happy. Even their bluer songs, like “Captain Sad and His Ship of Fools” and “Newspaper Blanket,” offered a glimmer of hope for the unfortunate souls whose stories they told. And the uplifting “We Can Fly” could buoy the most cantankeroius curmudgeon out of his doldrums. I( credit the Cowsills’ music for helping nurture my positivity during my childhood.

The Cowsills make the scene in Tower Comics' Teen-In, from 1968

In recent years, I’ve discovered that the happiness engendered by the Cowsills’ music didn’t always exist in their own lives, as revealed in Family Band: The Cowsills Story, a 2013 documentary by Louise Palanker. The Cowsills may have seemed all smiles when leading us down “The Path of Love” or to “Indian lake,” or while flashing their pearly whites in ads for the American Dairy Association, but behind the scenes, their manager father, Bud Cowsill, was an inflexible taskmaster – pop music’s counterpart to the ironfisted Superman editor of the Sixties, Mort Weisinger – who badgered his children, eventually ripping apart the family and the band. Yet none of that was ever evident to us kids warbling, “I love the flower girl” along with the Cowsills.

In 1968 as their popularity was escalating, the Cowsills, having scored Top 470 hits and television appearances, tackled a new medium; conic books.

Let’s flash back to the comics racks of July 1968; The Caped Crusader was Bat-roping away frm the POW’s and ZOWIEs of TV as visionary artist Neal Adams’ second Batman tale, a shadowy team-up with the freakish Creeper, saw print in The Brave and the Bold #80. A mysterious, standoffish android named the Vision shimmered into the pages of The Avengers #57. DC Comics introduced a non-traditional Western anti-hero, Bat Lash. The craz, carefree Camp Age was pulling a disappearing act – luckily, the Cowsills flew in to bring us a one-way ticky to happy.

During that month, Harvey Comics released the 64-page Giant Harvey Pop Comics presents The Cowsills #1 (cover-dated Oct. 1968). Released under its “Harvey Tenn” imprinted and marketed toward a slightly older crowd thatn most of Harvey’s kiddie fare, Harvey Pop Comics #1 capitalized on the budding

(Note: part of this article not part of preview so middle section missing)

The last two Cowsills stories appear to be the work of artist Hy Rosen. Rosen, artist of Harvey’s Bunny (after the original Bunny artist, Hy Eisman, left the strip) and Fruitman, also drew the second (and last) issue of Harvey Pop Comics, starring Bunny but titled Rock Happening. Comics historian Mark Arnold theorizes that the Cowsills comic was at first intended to be 52 pages – which Colon drew, abetted in several sports by Warren Kremer – then expanded to 68, necessitating additional material, which Rosen provided.

In addition to their Harvey one-shot during the summer of ’68 the Cowsills dropped in for a handful of appearances in teen-zine comics published by Tower Comics. Their names were blurred on the cover of Teen-In #1, a short-lived title headlined by Tower’s Tippy Teen. Inside, an illustrated one-page feature revealed “The Secret Family Feuds of the Cowsills, “ and another text piece, “The Girl That I Marry,” included a quote from Bill Cowsill (as well as Petr Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees and several other teen heart, bizarrely, Jim Morrison of the Doors and Eric Clapton of Cream). The Cowsills returned in a one-page illustration in Teen-In #2. Also, the back cover of Tower’s Tippy Teen #20 (Sept 1968) featured a photo of the family band.

The Cowsills had another comic-book connection in 1968. MGM Records’ release of the LP The Best of the Cowsills featured front and back cover art by the one and only Jack Davis. Davis began to make a name for himself in the early Fifties at EC Comics on titles ranging from Tales from the Crypt to MAD. It was on the later that his ability to caricature helped make him legendary, and his cartoons have in the decades since have graced everything from TV Guide covers to advertisements to movie posted (including the Camp Age classic, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World). Davis color rendition of the Cowsills on the album front cover nicely captures their likenesses while playfully riffing on youthful exuberance with its exaggeratd poses and overall chance (a toppled cymbal, an unplugged amp, a flying piano key, etc.) His back cover features more traditional poses of the family.

And were it not for a twist of fate, the Cowsills might have starred in another comic book – based upon their television show. It’s no secret that the Cowsills were the inspiration for ABC-TV’s The Partridge Family, the sitcom created by Bernard Slade that ran for four seasons from 1970-74 and gave us television’s most recognized vehicle since the Batmobile: the Partridge Family bus. The sitcom was envisioned to star the Cowsill kids but with Shirley Jones in the role of the singing mom, an idea nixed by Cowsill management. So Slade and Screen Gems Television created its own Cowsills – not unlike what was done just a few years earlier with the formation of TV’s own Beatles, the Monkees – and The Partridge Family was born, rocketing its breakout cast member, David Cassidy, to stardom. Charlton Comics published 21 issues of a Partridge Family comic book between 1971 and 1973, plus 14 issues of a David Cassidy title. If Bud Cowsill and his brood had said yes to the TV deal, you might have seen Bill, Bob, and siblings in the pages of Charlton Comics, and maybe even a Barry Cowsill spin-off title. This also may have deprived the world of Danny Bonaduce (it’s your call as to whether that’s a good or bad thing).

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