- Posted by Johanna on July 21, 2012 at 10:33 am
- Category: Archie Comics
- PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Books; $49.99 US
Archie Archives Volume 6, the latest in the historical reprint series, contains the Archie stories from Archie Comics #19-#22 and Pep Comics #57–#58. Also included are the text stories from the issues, a couple of Hollywood gossip columns supposedly reported by Archie, and a bonus “Dotty and Ditto” story by Bill Woggon from Pep #58 in which Archie and a bunch of other MLJ characters appear.
Fans of the characters will likely get the volumes as long as Dark Horse continues the series, and non-Archie comic readers have better starting points, but I think it’s interesting to note how different these stories are from the Archie of today.
The introduction by Mark Hamill makes an excellent observation about one of the points of appeal of the Riverdale gang: they were a close-knit substitute family, dear friends who were always there for each other. Lonely kids without those kinds of pals enjoy the fantasy of such a group, predictable personalities and all. However, that analysis applies to Archie in general, not this group of stories. This set shows much more comedy, with very little dating or romantic complications, and there are no mixed-gender groups hanging out, as we’re used to reading.
These pieces are either pure slapstick, as Archie messes something up with escalating consequences, or family gags, showing Archie at home interacting with his parents. For example, the first story features Archie and his father getting in trouble at a farm. They’ve gone to collect rocks to build an outdoor fireplace for Mother’s birthday present — even though she’s said she wants a watch. Later, the two go on a hunting trip where they shoot a bear!
Other situations are less rural and more familiar in premise to today’s readers, even if the way they go about solving them is old-fashioned. There are all kinds of mishaps when Archie takes Veronica skiing or when Dad tries to fix a stuck closet door. The girls go autograph hunting when a celebrity’s in town, and Archie borrows his father’s car only to have to get the fender fixed. A longer piece features Archie losing tickets for a date with Veronica in a coffee grinder donated to a charity auction. That one’s remarkable because Archie and the boys keep going skinny-dipping in a nearby pond. Not something you’d see in today’s comics!
Most of the art here is drawn by Bill Vigoda, whom I know little about. By this point, original artist Bob Montana had moved over to the newspaper strip. Vigoda’s work is a bit smoother, less idiosyncratic. It’s an easy read, focused on the exaggerated actions as Reggie and Archie fight or Archie’s father wants to join in with the boys playing football or Archie buys a horse. Even the story where Betty and Veronica compete as salesgirls to win a favorite dress is full of exaggerated hits and falls.
Some of the appeal of these volumes for me is, like the (more affordable, if you’re looking for that option) Americana series, seeing the fashions and social trends portrayed. It’s still weird to me seeing Archie’s mom looking so old, with dowdy clothes and white hair, but we have very different expectations these days for what a 40-year-old looks like, what with dye and exercise classes and more common cosmetic procedures considered part of the everyday. Another surprise to me was how often everyone’s hanging around outside. A Saturday outing for the gang is planned to be a hayride. A fishing trip is considered a good date suggestion for Veronica. Nowadays, we’re indoors a lot more.
A particularly outrageous story starts with Riverdale High installing a flight trainer so the boys (only the boys) can learn to fly airplanes. Betty and Veronica complain to Mr. Wetherbee, but his response is, “Women flyers! I should say not — it’s bad enough they drive autos!” The girls manage to change his mind, but not before Betty is frightened by a mouse and climbs on a table. Were schools that subject to rodents back then? Another one shows up in a later story with Veronica.
I’m glad that more eras of comic history are available in easily readable form with updated color and without the worry of damaging fragile old issues. There are plenty of classic superhero stories reprinted, but I want researchers and librarians to have access to the other genres of comics as well. Particularly since these issues, dating from 1946, were million-sellers in their day! That’s shown directly on the cover of issue #19, with the prominent line “This printing is over 1,256,000 magazines”. (By next issue, it’s up to 1,306,000.) It’s comfortable to be part of the crowd. Perhaps the country was ready for light-hearted teenage hijinks after the war was over. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)