Archie Comics for July 2007

The big news this month is Archie Digest #236, which reprints two historically significant issues: Archie’s first appearance from Pep #22, and the full Archie #1 comic.

Archie Digest #236 cover

The issue opens with four text pages explaining events that led up to this 65th Anniversary issue, which are about as accurate as I’ve come to expect from the company (i.e., not very, since they insist that the company owners created all of their characters and simply hired artists later to make their ideas reality). Some of the text is also taken up with plot summaries of the stories we’re about to read, which seems unnecessary and serves as space filler.

Some context is necessary, it’s true, because the Archie we see in his first story looks nothing like the character of today. He’s much younger, chunkier, missing his famous letter sweater, and wants to be called “Chick”. The story is of interest only for historical reasons, since it’s even sillier (and more dependent on slapstick) than the Archie stories today’s readers are familiar with.

The comic issue that follows is of the anthology type popular in the 1940s. After the lead, showing how Veronica came to town, there are several funny animal features, a Christmas story, Jughead’s dreams after being bashed over the head in hockey, and another Archie piece involving train travel, a chicken, and a sleeper car. It was amusing to see how different the world was back then, but I didn’t warm to Bob Montana’s caricature-based art very quickly.

The digest ends with a new story in which today’s Archie meets the original. It doesn’t make much sense, and the point is only to say “wow, things were really different then”, which we’ve already had drummed into us. Cute idea, but lackluster execution.

Betty & Veronica Double Digest #153 cover

Also this month, the third installment of the more “realistic”-looking characters is out in Betty & Veronica Double Digest #153. It also reads like it comes from another era, but not intentionally. Bad boy Nick is threatening Dilton into doing his homework for him, and when Archie intervenes, the two end up having a boxing match to settle their differences. What is this, 1955?

Nick tries to cheat, Archie’s discipline wins the match for him, and the two boys magically have the ability to talk through their mouth guards. It’s even got a sappy moral, courtesy of Dilton: “Nick could use those boxing lessons, coach, but what he needs to learn even more is the meaning of friendship.” This much sap can give you diabetes.

The next story, clearly reprinted from the 80s, has the girls even more on display than usual. Betty’s got to clean up the garden, so Veronica brings over some skimpy outfits so they can work on their tans while they do it. These short-skirted, backless, plunging-to-the-sternum rompers are just plain ugly, especially with their matching boots and what looks like engineer hats.

The outfits make the boys hot, especially after a center-page butt shot of the bent-over girls, so they start doing the work the girls were supposed to do. The whole thing is remarkably sleazy in tone. What a terrible example of wholesome Archie stories for the whole family. They’ve put this title forward as the one to attract new readers with the redesigned art gimmick, and this kind of tease doesn’t show the characters or company in the best light.

The swimsuit pinup pages that follow seem more old-fashioned in their appreciation, without the tawdry, tongue-hanging-out lust implied. The girls also have more personality in their poses, even if the clothes shown are no longer current fashion.

4 Responses to “Archie Comics for July 2007”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Just playing catchup here, as I flipped through this the other day. I’m guessing the boxing match was really the only way to show a fight in the Archie books without it getting in “trouble.”

    I agree with the ham handed sappiness. I’m waiting now for it to be revealed that Nick’s behavior is just a cover because he can’t read. Which will lead to the Archie gang all coming together to help him learn, and at the end to Nick going home thanking them for changing his life.

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