I was never a huge fan of Archie comics when I was growing up, but they were so popular – they were everywhere! – that it was inevitable I would read some of them. They were good, lightweight entertainment and a nice change of pace from all the superhero, Western, and war comics that made up most of my "funny book" reading.
So when I came across this really thick digest-sized collection reprinting stories from the Forties up to almost the current day, I didn't hesitate to pick it up. Reading it gave me a chance to see Archie as he originally appeared (the very first Archie story is one of those reprinted) and as he's presented today, as well as revisiting the era with which I'm most familiar, the late Fifties through the mid-Sixties.
First of all, those early Archie stories from the Forties are considerably different from what I expected. I had no idea they were as racy as they are, especially after Veronica is introduced as a sort of slutty socialite from
. The stories are okay and the art is good. By the Fifties, though, everything is pretty much as wholesome and clean-cut as I remembered it, although Betty and Veronica are, let's face it, still hot. Other than experiments such as bringing in the musical group The Archies, to reflect the TV show, things don't change much through the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties. A little more social consciousness, a little more political correctness, but not enough to stifle the humor. New York
Backing up a little, when I was a kid I always liked the Little Archie comics better than the regular ones, although now I realize they violated previously established continuity by having Veronica in Riverdale from an early age. But when you're seven years old, who cares about such things? I also realize now that Bob Bolling's artwork on these stories is really good. The book reprints a regular Archie story with excellent art by Bolling, too, which leads me to think that he's the Archie equivalent of Carl Barks.
Moving on to the stories from recent years reprinted in this volume, you can see a real change. There's a long story from LIFE WITH ARCHIE, an alternate history version set five years in the future that finds Archie and Veronica married and working for Mr. Lodge's company, Betty having left town because she's heartbroken over losing Archie, Pop Tate retiring and selling the Choklit Shop to Jughead, Midge and Moose breaking up over Moose's "anger issues", Moose falling for his blind yoga teacher, Midge and Jughead getting together . . . I read all this sort of incredulously, asking myself "What the hell were they thinking?", but then the story ends on a cliffhanger, and wouldn't you know it, I, uh, kind of wanted to know what happened. I'd never prefer this new stuff to classic Archie, but I did find it interesting.
Chances are that if you ever read any Archie comics, you'd find something in this volume to interest you, too. I enjoyed my visit to Riverdale, although I may not ever go back there again. Or I may, who knows? And as for the eternal question that ranks right up there with "Ginger or Mary Ann?" . . .
Betty, of course. No contest.