By Andrew A. SmithScripps Howard News Service
Dark Horse has begun the Brobdingnagian task of reprinting all Archie comics. That’s a welcome project for comics fans and historians, but one off to a rocky start.
Archie Archives Volume One ($49.99) has arrived, and it is a remastered, chronological hardback reproduction of all the Archie stories from the character’s introduction in Pep Comics #22 in late 1941 through Archie Comics #2 in the spring of 1943. It is a delight to learn so much about how “Mirth of a Nation” began, like how quickly some parts of the status quo fell into place, and how some had to be worked in later.
For example, Archie Andrews arrives almost fully fleshed – his clumsiness, skirt-chasing, predilection for getting in trouble, but essential good-heartedness are there from the beginning. So is Betty Cooper’s crush on him (she thinks he’s “grand” in the very first story) as is Jughead Jones’ unstinting loyalty.
But Veronica Lodge doesn’t arrive until the sixth story. Archie’s rival Reggie Mantle seems to evolve from a throwaway character named Scotty in the seventh story, and doesn’t get his familiar name and full introduction until three months (and five stories) later. When Riverdale High’s principal is introduced, it’s Miss Grundy, but soon the familiar Waldo Weatherbee takes the big chair – only “the Bee’s” familiar look (portly, needle-nosed, pince-nez glasses, small toupee) comes into being through trial and error.
This is a lot of fun, but Dark Horse has made the puzzling choice to eschew a contents/credits page, a standard practice in virtually all other reprint projects, including those by Dark Horse. Since there’s no index or footnotes either, there’s no way of knowing where these stories came from, or who wrote and drew them, which is an important reason most people buy a book like this. Fortunately I was able to Google the pertinent information (which is available below). For the record, these stories first appeared in Pep #22-38, Jackpot Comics #4-8 and Archie Comics #1-2, and were mostly by writer/artist (and Archie co-creator) Bob Montana.
Dark Horse also omitted the Archie text piece from Archie #1 (but included the text piece from Archie #2), the Pep and Jackpot covers with Archie on them and other features from the original books (like contents pages and a biography of Montana). One can only hope that these disappointing omissions are corrected in future volumes, and later editions of Volume One.
Even with those flaws, I still recommend the book. Comprehensive Archie reprints are something I’ve wanted since I bought my first Archie in the 1960s, saw that big issue number, and realized I had missed something on the order of 20 years’ worth of stories. Intolerable! Now that Dark Horse is bringing back Archie’s Golden Age in an affordable format, I’ll take what I can get, warts and all.
Other Dark Horse reprints:
* DH’s Creepy Archives has turned a corner into the better stories of the 1970s, but the companion Eerie Archives has yet to do so. The latest of the latter, Eerie Archives Volume Seven ($49.99) reprints Eerie #32-36 from 1971, and while the content shows signs of the story experimentation found in the rest of the decade and an influx of new artists, it is still pretty mediocre. History shows us the quality will improve as these reprints march into the later 1970s and 1980s, but the “Archives” just ain’t there yet.
Speaking of dips in quality, Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives Volume 3 ($49.99) was something of a chore to wade through. The second volume in this series brought us the 11 issues published by King Features, which had outstanding artwork (the only reason to read these old comics, since the stories are usually just rehashes of what Alex Raymond had already done in the “Gordon” comic strip). But when Charlton Comics picked up Flash Gordon (and continued the King numbering) in 1969 they didn’t keep the artists, and the bulk of their run (Flash Gordon #12-18, reprinted here) is by Pat Boyette. I find Boyette’s static, over-rendered and somewhat ugly style interesting as a change of pace, but too much of it is like swallowing sand – which is the case here.
Fortunately, like with the Eerie reprints, this is due to improve in future volumes, which will reprint Flash Gordon when it was published under the Gold Key/Western banner (1970-82). If you’re not a purist, you can skip Volume 3.
Contact Andrew A. Smith of the Memphis Commercial Appeal at email@example.com.
Archie Archives Volume 1
Pep Comics #22, December, 1941
[“Introducing Archie”],* script by Vic Bloom, art Bob Montana … 6
Pep Comics #23, January 1942
[“Danger: Thin Ice”], script by Vic Bloom (?), art by Bob Montana … 12
Jackpot Comics #4, Winter 1941
Cover by Bob Montana NOT INCLUDED
[“The Play Goes to the Dogs”], script and art by Bob Montana … 18
Pep Comics #24, February 1942
[“The Basketball Blunder”], script by Vic Bloom (?), art by Bob Montana … 26
Pep Comics #25, March 1942
[“Archie’s Taxi Service”], script and art by Bob Montana … 32
Pep Comics #26, April 1942
[“Veronica Makes the Scene”], script and art by Bob Montana … 38
Jackpot Comics #5, Spring 1942
[“Trip to Bear Mountain”], script and art by Bob Montana … 44
Pep Comics #27, May 1942
[“Archie for Class President!”], script and art by Bob Montana … 52
Pep Comics #28, June 1942
[“Band of the Bland”], script and art by Bob Montana … 60
Pep Comics #29, July 1942
“Archie on Vacation,” script and art by Bob Montana … 66
Pep Comics #30, August 1942
[“The Escort Agency”], script and art by Bob Montana … 73
Jackpot Comics #6, Summer 1942
[“The Jalopy Race”], script and art by Bob Montana … 79
Pep Comics #31, September 1942
[“Archie Goes to Congress”], script and art by Bob Montana … 86
Pep Comics #32, October 1942
[“The Voyage of the Betty C”], script and art by Bob Montana … 92
Pep Comics #33, November 1942
[“Jughead’s Cousin”], script and art by Bob Montana … 98
Jackpot Comics #7, Fall 1942
“Archie Andrews’ Christmas Story,” script and art by Bob Montana … 104
Pep Comics #34, December 1942
[“The Limerick Contest”], script and art by Bob Montana … 112
Pep Comics #35, January 1943
[“The School Reporter”], script and art by Bob Montana … 119
Archie Comics #1, Winter 1942
Cover by Bob Montana … 135
[“Contents Page”] art by Bob Montana NOT INCLUDED
“Who’s Who in Riverdale,” art by Bob Montana … 136
“Prom Pranks,” script by Bob Montana (?), art by Bob Montana … 137
“Train Trouble,” script by Bob Montana (?), art by Bob Montana … 135
“That $$#@!! Telegram,” text by Scott Feldman NOT INCLUDED
“Pancakes in a Blackout,” script by Bob Montana (?), art by Bob Montana … 142
“Archie’s Puzzles” … 144
“The Case of the Missing Mistletoe,” script by Bob Montana (?), art by Bob Montana … 145
“Meet Bob Montana,” text by Cord Elliott NOT INCLUDED
[“Jughead’s Day”], script by Bob Montana (?), art by Bob Montana … 150
Jackpot Comics #8, Winter 1942
[“How to Be a Detective”], script and art by Montana … 156
Pep Comics #36, February 1943
Cover by Bob Montana NOT INCLUDED
“The 3-11 Club,” script and art by Bob Montana … 162
Pep Comics #37, March 1943
[“Introducing Oscar”], script and art by Bob Montana … 168
Pep Comics #38, April 1943
[“On the Farm”], script and art by Bob Montana … 173
Archie Comics #2, Spring 1943
Cover by Bob Montana … 179
[“Contents Page”], art by Bob Montana NOT INCLUDED
“A Prevue of ‘Archie’s Troubles’,” art by Bob Montana … 180
“Archie the Athlete,” art by Bob Montana … 181
“Sir Archibald of the Round Table,” art by Bob Montana … 190
“Archie’s Secret Weapon,” text by Kobold Keep … 200
“A Hunting We Will Go,” art by Bob Montana … 202
“Veronica Goes to Town,” art by Bob Montana … 203
“Meet the Editor” text by Scott Feldman NOT INCLUDED
“Poor Fish,” art by Bob Montana … 207
* Brackets indicate titles assigned by Grand Comic Book Database to untitled stories.