As a small child in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, my grandpa owned a market store in a small town in Northern Minnesota. To me, the best part about his occupation was free ice cream treats and leftover comic books (the out-of-date ones no one had purchased). These unwanted issues were wide-ranging. My brothers and I shared our collection; we had everything from Marvel and DC superheroes, Classics Illustrated, to the run of the mill Disney and Harvey comics. We each had our favorites. For my older brother it was the super heroes and for my younger brother it was Disney (especially Duck Tales).
My favorite childhood comic, however, was called “Fruitman”. I loved it! I only had one issue, so I read it over-and-over. In fact, I read it so much, I destroyed it. The premise of the series centered on a guy who owned a fruit stand, the kind you see in New York City, with fruit proudly displayed on the sidewalk. As an average looking man, the main character, Mr. Pineapple wasn’t handsome, smart or strong. His special power enabled him to change into fruit and fight crime. Looking back, I think I loved the idea of this average Joe superhero because he resembled my grandfather. It allowed me to imagine this man who I loved with his humped back, thin frame and coke bottle glasses fighting crime in small town Minnesota (I imagined there must be loads of crime up there near the Canadian border – perhaps smuggling across the oh-so-very dangerous northern frontier).
During my teenage years I lost track of Fruitman, and lost interest in him until my 30’s. By that point, I didn’t know what had happened to the comic book itself. I tried to research it, but I couldn’t find anything about Fruitman on Google (keep in mind this was back in the 2000’s and although Google was the best search engine, AOL still actually competed for market share by mailing out CDs to potential customers).
Over the years, I’ve asked most of the comic book collectors I’ve crossed paths with (including our very own Chicago Geek Guy) if they could tell me anything about Fruitman. They gave me a blank stare for a response, every time. I started to wonder if Fruitman was a figment of my imagination. It plagued me. Perhaps I had dreamed him up? Was I having a senior moment, pre-50? And if so, what were the implications for me in the future? Would I begin to remember old TV shows that didn’t exist either?
By last summer at the age of 48, during a visit to my parent’s home in Minneapolis, I decided to dig out the old comic box and find out exactly how worried I should be about my future capabilities. I carefully sorted through every issue and every old piece of paper in the box. Lo and behold, I found two tattered pages of Fruitman! I was thrilled to know I wasn’t losing my mind.
On that day, I decided to learn more about Fruitman. He had been on my list of things to do for about a year. This week, I decided to finally research Fruitman. I Googled the comic again. This time Fruitman showed up right away! In fact, for $55.86 (plus $5 shipping) another copy of Fruitman could be mine!
I’ve since learned that Fruitman’s run lasted only one issue (and perhaps the reason no one purchased it from my grandpa’s store). Harvey comics originally published the stories in the back of an Archie-like comic called “Bunny, Queen of the In-crowd.” In 1969, Fruitman appeared as the star of his one-and-only issue. With some additional research, I learned that the issue was drawn by Ernie Colon, but otherwise the folks who created my favorite comic remain unknown.
I actually located jpegs of the entire comic online. Reading the issue as an adult, I can understand why I loved it. The issue is a silly spoof on superhero comics, perfect reading for a seven year-old girl. As I remembered, he really wasn’t anything special, and certainly closer in physique to my grandpa than to Superman. It’s not terribly well written. As an adult, I would describe the short vignettes as mostly disjointed and incomplete. However, on the whole I still find parts of it perfectly silly in the best possible way. Rather than describing the issue any further, I will let you judge for yourself. So, without further ado, I bring you Fruitman: