Archie: The Best of Dan DeCarlo Volume 4

This volume has three groups of stories: The main section features the core Archie characters in stories (arranged chronologically) from 1960 to 1968. Then there are a smaller set of Josie tales, plus two Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch stories. It’s neat to see Dan DeCarlo’s work on characters he designed, even if the company history makes it bittersweet and a tad uncomfortable.

For a real review of the books in this series, see KC’s comments on volume 2. These are just some thoughts that hit me while reading the new installment.

Aside from appreciating some absolutely expert storytelling and cartooning, I enjoy the bizarre glimpses into long-ago social mores and fads. From the idiocy of putting faces on the butts of your pants (with the guys playing leapfrog, no less) to how bizarrely distracted Archie gets from just kissing Veronica (no world of teen pregnancy here!) to not wearing shoes as a trend, it’s a time capsule of wackiness. A particular standout is the one where Veronica seems willing to kiss every boy in school to convince them to vote for Archie as class president. Sex for votes? And Veronica too stupid to realize that that tactic would get all the girls against them?

The most fun for me, though, is suddenly discovering that I know one of these tales. I must have read it in a digest reprint as a kid — and because I was a kid, I read them over and over, so they’re seared in some weird recess of the back of my brain. This time, it was the one where Veronica gets wise to how Archie is acting like a “Chicken” at scary movies just to cuddle up with her. How could I ever forget Archie’s greeting, “Hello, lamb’s lettuce! How’s my little angel fluff?” (Much more entertaining than “‘Sup? What’s shaking, baby?”) Best is the last panel, with Betty holding Archie in a honeymoon carry and the line “You bet your ever lovin’ boots I do!”

Some of these tales seem designed just to show off artistically, like the one where everyone’s walking with a “Tilt” due to heavy wind. Oh, and DeCarlo doesn’t take the easy way out, tilting all his characters the same way — they’re all aimed in different directions and angles. It can’t be easy to draw all your cast askew to each other.

Unfortunately, there is one story included, about how stupid that women’s lib stuff is and how when women get riled up they riot, that is outright offensive. The others are just outdated — Does anyone need to ask why we don’t have kissing booths any more? Does anyone doubt that going out with two bikers just because being dateless on a Friday would be worse is a dumb idea? The Josie section, prominently featuring Melody, is a smorgasbord of stereotypes and exaggerated gender conventions.

Finally, the volume wraps up with the first appearance of Sabrina, introducing herself in a fashion reminiscent of Kim Novak in Bell, Book, and Candle, complete with the soon-forgotten “witches can’t cry” rule.

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