I was looking at the names of the artists in this recent Dark Horse Comics Archie Archives series, and I was struck by the oddness of the artists last name. Vigoda. Unusual, but I have heard it before. I looked it up, and sure enough Archie artist Bill Vigoda was the brother of the venerable and long-lived actor Abe Vigoda. Huh. Who knew?
That little bit of trivia aside, Dark Horse has given us another winner in Archie Archives Vol. 4. This fully packed hardcover edition collects all the Archie stories from Pep #51-53 and Archie Comics #11-14 spanning 1944-1945. This was the last year that Archie was anything less than the number one star. From 1946, MLJ Magazines officially changed their name to Archie Comic Publications as the red-haired wonder took over the entire comic line.
These Archie Archives collections are more than just fun comics — which they are. Lots of fun — they are a time machine. Even more so than other Golden Age superhero comics Archie gives you a glimpse back into a past that I never experienced and have a hard time imagining. Many of my stereotypes of the '40s, about what people wore and how they behaved, have been busted by these Archie Archives.
Everyone thinks of the past as this pure, more innocent place. But judging by these comics that just isn’t true. Kids in the '40s knew what sex was just as much as kids in the '90s. Especially with Veronica Lodge as a model. I don’t think in modern Archie comics you would see Veronica posing seductively on her bed in her bra and panties while toying with Archie on the phone, or Betty giving Veronica a hard time for bending over to show her cleavage every time a boy walks by. Not to mention running jokes of school principal Mr. Weatherbee caught by his wife with one of the two girls sitting on his lap. (Which he kind of deserves — there is one panel of Mr. Weatherbee clearly checking out Betty’s rear-end saying "Fine Girl. Yessir. Fine Girl!" That kind of stuff would get you fired and jailed today, Mr. Weatherbee.)
And as you can see by the years, Volume 4 collects Archie during wartime. But instead of constant fear and hardships, it is hijinks as usual. The war only affects Archie and the gang when it is funny to do so. Archie tries out as an Air Raid Warden, but can’t get his flashlight to shut off during the blackout. Betty and Veronica volunteer to work as waitresses due to the wartime staff shortages, but get into as much hot water as Archie would. In the introduction Archie Comics Publications Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick says that Archie comics were kept purposefully light and where shipped overseas to servicemen to give them a laugh and remind them of the country they were fighting for and would soon return to.
I will keep picking up these Archie Archive collections for as long as Dark Horse keeps making them. I have never been a real Archie fan until I started reading these, and now I am addicted. I am looking forward to Volume 5 and more fun from the Riverdale gang!
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.