Review by KC Carlson
Archie Comics enters the digital age, as well as beginning their first serious, chronological archiving project, with Archie: Bronze Age Series, Jughead: Bronze Age Series, and Betty & Veronica: Bronze Age Series, a series of DVD-ROMs produced by Graphic Imaging Technology Inc. Those friendly folks have also produced DVD-ROMs for Mad Magazine, National Lampoon, and Star Trek: The Complete Comic Book Collection, as well as formerly producing the series of Marvel Comics DVD-ROMs (Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Uncanny X-Men and many others).
Each Archie DVD-ROM contains a complete decade’s worth of that title’s issues. The Bronze Age Series is defined by all books with cover dates between January 1970 and December 1979. It breaks down like this:
Archie: contains issues 197-287, plus Archie Annual 22-26, for a total of 97 issues.
Jughead: contains issues 176-295 (1st series), for a total of 120 issues.
B&V: contains issues 169-288 (1st series), for a total of 120 issues.
(NOTE: The Archie title was only published 9 times a year for most of the decade, while Jughead and B&V were published 12 times a year.)
Each issue is reproduced in full: all four covers, all the story pages, Archie Club News, L’il Jinx, house ads, and all the other ads — including Archie-oriented Hostess ads in many issues! Everything is reproduced exactly from the actual comics. The reproduction is quite nice. They use some sort of filter so that the pages are bright white, not yellowed as the original books would be by now. Unfortunately, there is some bleed-through of colors (mostly reds) as the newsprint used in those days was notoriously see-through, although it’s not too bad.
Unfortunately, beyond the actual comics, the package is pretty bare-bones, with only a single page of generic Archie publishing history. Creator credits are not included. However, the main menu provides a direct link to the Archie Comics website, so you can at least research the characters there. (There’s also a link to the GIT website, as well as a support email link directly to GIT should you have any problems.)
The files are PDF-based, making the discs cross-platform for both Windows and Mac. (I use a Macintosh and had no issues, although I can’t comment on whether the Windows auto-run works or what it looks like.) The installer for Adobe Acrobat Reader is included on the disc as well, just in case you don’t already have it. (From Johanna: I noticed that the files also work under the alternate Macintosh PDF viewer Preview.) The functionality is pretty good, allowing for many different size presets and display options.
The biggest lack is no search function. The built-in Adobe search is useless, since the pages are images, not text. A way to search the contents of the word balloons and to search across multiple issues would be a wonderful addition. That way, you could find all the Sabrina appearances, for example. (However, it would probably mean a much higher price.)
The Archie disc begins with the artwork of the great unsung Archie artist Harry Lucey, who does the bulk of the stories up to about 1976. Lucey is arguably the best artist Archie ever had. He was a master of outrageous poses and wild takes and was probably the best storyteller at Archie. His stories were always visually hysterically funny, and he loved doing “wordless” stories. When he was inspired, Lucey’s Betty and Veronica were smokin’ hot (as opposed to Dan DeCarlo’s cute). Lucey’s best work on the girls were his house ads in the 1960s comics as well as his early “Archie gang as cavemen” (later “Archie 1″) stories. And Lucey changed around B&V’s hairstyles more than anybody at Archie.
DeCarlo became the series’ regular penciller with Archie #262 (June 1977). If I remember correctly, always funny Samm Schwartz returned to Archie in early 1970, so the majority of issues on the Jughead disc are by him, with the occasional story by Lucey, Bob Bolling, or someone else. Betty & Veronica is wall-to-wall gorgeous Dan DeCarlo artwork, of course. DeCarlo also provides the vast majority of the covers on all three discs, but occasionally you’ll see a Schwartz cover on Jughead.
Up next is the Silver Age Series, featuring comic runs from the 1960s. (Although from the packaging it looks like the Silver Age Series discs may start in January 1956. Cool!) The Archie disc is up first, scheduled for February 2009.
While I’m still very much in love with the traditional comic book — there’s nothing like holding it in your hands as you take in that peculiar “comic book smell” (especially with older comics) — I’m a also huge fan of these newfangled DVD-ROMs for several reasons. The first is obvious to anyone with a comic collection large enough that it threatens to own YOU: A thin silver disc takes up a heck of a lot of less space than the actual comics do! Second, it’s getting harder and harder to find comics of this vintage for reasonable prices AND in decent condition. The latter is particularly a problem with old Archie comics, which were so popular and timeless that they were passed along from family to family and generation to generation. And they were particularly susceptible to loving mutilation — many issues have their covers or Pin-Up pages removed, and Archie ran frequent promotions involving coupons, many of which were clipped long ago. Plus, it’s not always that easy finding complete runs of these titles as back issues, as a lot of dealers don’t bother bringing their Archies to comic conventions, especially the smaller shows.
Finally, with each disc you get a huge number (100 issues or more) of great stories and art and fun, for the price of about 9 regular Archie comics of today (assuming, of course, you already own a computer).
So if you’re looking for some great, classic, and fun (as well as UNEDITED, digest fans!) Archie stories, check out these discs from GIT! As well as Mad and National Lampoon and all the Marvel discs that are still available — I can vouch for ‘em all!