I have a very understanding wife. I buy quite a few archival reprint collections, yet very seldom (if ever) am I called upon to justify my purchases, yet to my surprise, that very thing happened when I came home with the first volume of Archie: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics 1946-1948. “Why did you buy that?” she demanded to know. I was taken aback by the question, I must admit. I mean, why wouldn’t I buy it? If there’s one thing I enjoy more than comic books, it’s comic strips, and Bob Montana’s Archie is one of the best humor strips of its day.
In his introduction to the volume, Greg Goldstein put it best: “Peruse the strips in this book and you will see a kinetic energy that’s rarely been matched before or since in humor strips. Montana’s Archie dailies, often overstuffed with animated characters bursting at the panel edges, are the antithesis of today’s simplistic ‘talking head’ approach to the gag strip.” For my own part, I would describe the artwork in this volume as a synthesis of Dick Moores’ Gasoline Alley and Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, perhaps leaning a bit more toward Capp’s early style with “cartoony” main characters, realistic backgrounds and supporting characters, and voluptuous women (or in this case, young girls).
But my wife was having none of it. I assured her that these newspaper comics aren’t like the comic books she remembers from her girlhood, but I couldn’t deny that many of the stories concerned “a stupid boy who can’t make up his mind.” She’s a big fan of Gasoline Alley (Frank King’s) and Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie, but I could not convince her to give them a try. I’m not even allowed to leave the book sitting out unless I cover up Archie’s face on the cover. I know plenty of people who don’t particularly care for Archie comics, but until now I have never come across anyone who loathed them to that degree.
But don’t listen to her, listen to me.
Whether you are a fan of comic strips in general or Archie in particular, I recommend this book to you.