- Posted by Johanna on January 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm
- Category: Archie Comics
- CREDITS: written by Frank Doyle, George Gladir, and others; pencils by Stan Goldberg; inks by various
- PUBLISHER: IDW Publishing; $24.99 US
Next in the IDW Archie artist reprint series that began with The Best of Dan DeCarlo comes The Best of Stan Goldberg.
When I opened the volume, I immediately felt comfortable. This was my Archie, the look of the comics I read as a kid. The contents (which are fully dated and credited, a huge plus) mostly date from 1972-1976, with an additional story each from 1978, 1979, 1983, 1987, and two from 1993. (What a career!) Most of the stories are from Archie at Riverdale High or Life With Archie.
I was surprised to be reminded that this was a very different Archie. He’s much more impressive, affecting the lives of those around him positively. He’s not the clumsy goof, there to be laughed at. Instead, he’s preventing Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe from being condemned and demolished (in a redevelopment scheme that turns out to be from Mr. Lodge’s companies, which are much more “bad big business” in a couple of these stories than I’m used to seeing). He rallies his friends to take action and make a difference.
In the earlier stories, he’s even got clever plans — getting an unattractive billboard removed with a trick, or manipulating his baseball teammates into winning a game, or outsmarting a praise-seeking local blowhard politician, or getting a littering rich kid caught and punished. He takes stands for things and contributes to his community. This is a much more active, self-possessed character than we see today, and he’s much more readable because of it. (That latter version appears in the last story, getting carried away with a temporary success and becoming egotistical.) Sometimes he even outsmarts himself, when he tries to figure out how to run his car during a fuel shortage, or more seriously, not realizing how much work goes into running his own business.
I’m not all that qualified to talk about the art, because it was hitting so many nostalgia buttons that I had trouble analyzing it objectively. It’s active and expressive, with characters who are always doing or feeling or reacting to something. The oversized pages are a pleasure to wallow in, with brand-new coloring that pops but is faithful to the original.
It’s a nice touch that the characters are more fashionable, wearing outfits very much of the times. Archie sometimes wears his standard costume of sleeveless R sweater and orange checked pants, but he’s also shown in shirts with larger collars and pants with wide belts. That’s part of what I love about reading old comics, seeing the small details that convey the flavor of the historical period. (And wondering about them — why did everyone but Veronica, the fashion plate, change clothes between pages 9 and 12 in the first story?)
Also in keeping with the 70s stories is a longer piece in which Archie visits Washington, D.C., and imagines himself back in key historical moments to celebrate the Bicentennial. A couple of beach stories are expected, to show off the girls in swimsuits, but the weird science fiction story in which Captain Archie pilots a spaceship reads as a desperate attempt to cash in on the top movie of 1976. Especially since Betty and Veronica are supposed to be crew members but do nothing but stand around, narrate, and get captured. I would have chosen something else in its place. Same goes for the Roman coliseum story, but I suppose including these genre variants, as well as a later haunted lake cabin table, represents both Goldberg’s skill with diversity (time periods and moods) and indicates what the company was doing during these times.
In addition, there’s a pinup gallery, featuring 16 pages of black-and-white reprints of mostly Betty fashion spreads, those pages where they drew the styles sent in by readers. Personally, I missed seeing them in color and wished they were labeled with the dates they ran. That’s followed by the pencils for Archie #600-605, the imaginary wedding storyline. There’s also an introduction by Stan Lee, his typical blather about how great a guy Goldberg is and how terrific it was to work with him on material that Stan doesn’t really remember and is not particularly relevant to what’s in this volume.