- Posted by Johanna on October 2, 2011 at 9:46 pm
- Category: Archie Comics
- PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Books; $49.99 US
When it comes to reviewing an historical reprint project such as this, the useful information needed by an interested purchaser can be simply stated:
What does the book contain? Volume 1 is listed in the indicia as reprinting “all the Archie stories from selected stories [sic] from Pep Comics #22-38, Jackpot Comics #4-8, and Archie Comics #1-2″. The works date from between December 1941 and April 1943.
On the down side, individual stories aren’t identified in the book itself. There are no creator credits, unless particular stories carry them; there isn’t even a table of contents. These are basics that any historical project should include, and I’m very surprised this book doesn’t have them. Volume 2, thankfully, remedies that issue with a table of contents that lists story sources, dates, and creators, which is a welcome improvement. Contents in that book are the Archie stories from Pep Comics #39-45, Jackpot Comics #9, and Archie Comics #3-6, taking us into January 1944.
How is the reproduction? Bright colors, clear, unbroken lines, no fuzziness.
Are there any extras? No.
What about the stories? These are the earliest days of Archie. You’re not going to be able to read them in any other way (aside from other reprints of the first appearances). If you’re interested in where the characters came from or how they behaved early on, you’re going to want to see these, although you may find them quite unfamiliar. (Or offensive. Racial stereotypes are included, especially during a story where Archie and pals stage Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)
At the start, Archie, calling himself “Chick”, is much younger than we’re used to, seeming more like a preteen “bad little boy” than the love-addled adolescent we’re used to seeing. The stories are pure slapstick, with Archie’s biggest threat being a paddling from being caught in his antics stealing a neighbor’s tux or getting the basketball team and ballet uniforms mixed up.
Then Veronica shows up, and it’s all about school gags and dating. There’s still plenty of screw-ups — that’s what drives the stories — but when Archie has a better motive, that of young love, it’s more entertaining and relatable. There are a few more stories about Archie messing up as a camp counselor and car owner, but soon, the “next issue” blurb is promising the return of Veronica “by popular demand”. Certainly, the stories with her are the best, if only due to how much visual interest she brings. Some of the stories are culturally far removed from many of today’s teens or readers, as when Archie tangles with military cadets or takes a chicken on the train to visit a cousin’s farm or worries about gas ration coupons or goes hunting.
In Volume 2, we’re back to the slapstick, with Archie trying to deliver a barrel of fish or ducking the dentist or messing up a fake magician’s show. Of particular historical interest is a weird little tale where the kids raise money for war stamps by throwing baseballs at a Hitler dummy — only Jughead looks just like Hitler once he puts on the uniform and mustache.
That’s not the only war tale. Veronica and Betty get their own series of stories starting in this book, and first they try to throw a morale dance for soldiers, then they volunteer as nurses. Another story is about Archie’s dad trying to put his car in storage for the duration of the conflict.
Mostly, though, it’s just Archie screwing up in one way or another. I don’t recommend trying to read the whole book at once, because it becomes repetitive very quickly. It’s great that the history of such an all-American character is now more readily available, but ration yourself. Archie comics have always captured daily life in their various stories, and that may be the most appealing part of this series, their glimpses into the worries and trends and humor of their era.