I’ve never been a real Archie fan. Like most people, I read the comics when I was a kid. However, unlike other comics, Archie was something I outgrew. My interest in the Riverdale gang was recently rekindled by the excellent Archie Marries . . . comic. (No, really. It is quite good.) And with perfect timing, Dark Horse came along with this first volume in the Archie Archives collection.
This collection starts with Archie’s first appearance in Pep Comics #22 (1941), and collects Archie’s appearances in Pep #22-38, Jackpot Comics #4-8, and Archie Comics#1-2–all originally published in 1941-43 by MLJ (which would later be renamed Archie). I don’t know if this volume is a complete collection of Archie’s appearances from this time (I assume it is), but it is definitely a hefty chuck of comics for a single collection. All of the comics are in color, as originally published.
Like all of Dark Horse’s Archive series, the book is a handsome hardback with high-quality binding and paper. The only real disappointment is the lack of original covers, which is somewhat understandable as Archie himself did not appear regularly on the cover of Pep Comics until #41. Aside from Archie Comics#1-2, his only cover appearance from the issues collected here was on Pep #36.
The gangs all here in this collection, but they are all a little different from the Archie I grew up with. Archie, buck-toothed like a rabbit and without his tic-tac-toe hair, doesn’t even want to be called Archie in his first story; he prefers “Chick.” (Was that ever really a cool nickname?) He’s showing off for the girl next door, Betty Cooper, palling around with his woman-hating friend, Jughead, and generally causing headaches for everyone around him.
Is something missing from this picture?
Oh yes, Veronica. She doesn’t show up until later, but boy does she show up.
The Betty and Veronica I grew up with were two sides of a different coin, but not here. This Veronica is pure sex. She has an edge that was entirely smoothed away by the time I discovered her. Here, Veronica lounges naked under a sunlamp while calling Archie for a date, and she shows up for the Riverdale prom in a midriff-bearing gown that would probably get you thrown out of school nowadays. (I wasn’t even aware girls showed their bellies back in the early 1940s.)
I suspect that the 1950s Comic Code Authority had something to do with the virgin-izing of Veronica, which is the version we know best today.
However, even with Veronica as sex vixen, the gang at Riverdale is up to good, clean fun:
- Archie is eternally trying to score some cash and some chicks.
- Interestingly, Jughead is actually the genius and superstar athlete that Archie imagines himself to be. However, he just wants to play it lazy and drink up sodas, which is the Jughead we know today.
- Veronica is toying with everyone like puppets on a string, and Betty is just happy to pick up whatever scraps fall off Veronica’s table.
- Mr. Weatherbee is a little meaner and a bit less bumbling, but he still manages to be the butt of Archie’s many misadventures.
I guess things haven’t changed all that much.
Archie Archives Volume One has some of the best Archie comics I have ever read–reprinted from when the ideas were still fresh and the characters new. I don’t think I will be picking up a modern Archie comic anytime soon, but I am sure I will get the next Dark Horse Archive Edition when it comes along.