Wednesday, August 08, 2012


On the heels of last week's Sunday comic page roundup (and influenced but it!) comes this bottom-of-the-bookrack collection of ARCHIE stories that was published way back inna early eighties to cash in on that carrot-topped character's bigtime fortieth anniversary. I will admit off the bat that this 'un certainly ain't as flamboyant as the books that came out celebrating his fiftieth, sixtieth or even seventieth but still, it's a fair 'nuff romp with the obligatory "first appearances" of the main characters along with a whole bunch of then-new sagas to pad the thing out to decent book length. Maybe that only makes this more of a glorified eighty-page giant or digest which usually handles the reprint material but hey, I'll get my ARCHIEs any way I can even if I have to rip 'em outta the paws of some whiny eight-year-old girl who's probably wonderin' whether or not hers'll ever get as big as Betty 'n Veronica's (stick with Big Ethel, kid).

Like I said it's OK enough I s'pose, but on the whole this batch of comics doesn't really stack up to the ones I remember enjoying on hot summer afternoons when all I hadda worry about was how to pass the doggy doo clean up chores to my sister. The overall story selection could have been better, with more of the great fifties/sixties gulcheral cash-ins (superheroes and spies amongst 'em) and less of the heavy-handed social/moral conscious-laden ones that turn up here. Even when I was twelve (and didn't know better) I would sometimes cringe at the "meaningful" stories that were being produced to cash in on the "relevance" craze that was sweeping the nation, and believe-you-me some of them were so knock-me-over-the-head strong that I could just see the artists and writers nodding their heads in pious tones for having created such socially-significant stories where Archie doesn't let Betty win at golf and she think's he less of a pig for it! When I was an adolescent all I wanted to do was settle back and act like a teenage slob, and if I didn't have to be out there acting nice to the puerile peons I went to school with then why the hell should I be reading about doing the same thing in a comic book!

And. for what I was hoping would have been a lighthearted tour of ARCHIE through the years, this selection can get extremely heavy-handed. Not that I mind a race-relation story here and feminist emasculation there, but there's perhaps a li'l too much Archie gets serious for my stomach to handle especially when what drove me to the comic in the first place was sarcastic and snide attitude of the strips I had been reading since a li'l kid. Por ejemplo, you remember those Spire Christian Comics (which were drawn by Al Hartley, a guy who just hadda've been the worst nth-stringer for Atlas/Marvel in the fifties/sixties) that you used to see cluttering up flea market comic stacks for years on end? Well, there's even one of those saccharine-sweet ARCHIE stories stuck in here which really puts the preach in preachy and overall reminds me of just how hard it was to dump any of those comics which I might have had the misfortune of coming into my collection! Of course if I were looking for an Archie more relevant to my own frame of mind I'd prefer him spouting lines from Karl Hess rather than the King James Version but gee, why the inclusion of this particularly unfunny and stilted story along with others which only present to us mainstream seventies comics at their worst, especially while forgoing a wide selection of ARCHIE at his teenage goofoff trendy nutzo best? I mean, who edited this book, Norman Vincent Peale???

True, the "secular" can be rather profane in its own way as well, but then again were ARCHIE comics really conduit to the late-seventies (and onward) pre-teen gist as they were prior? Gotta give the whole ex-MLJ corp its dues to keeping the flag flying for so long despite the decades-long descent into who-knows-what, but even ARCHIE as a satirical soap send up ("Betty Cooper Betty Cooper") and romping through banal Jeckyll/Hyde retreads don't quite snizzle me as much as the strips or various choice stories such as the ALFRED HITCHCOCK spoof with Mr. Weatherbee as your host, or even the cold war gagger with spies who looked suspiciously like Kruschev and Castro. At least those seemed more in-tune with my adolescent fervor even if they were already ten years old by the time I read 'em, just like the GILLIGAN'S ISLAND and LUCY SHOW reruns I was watching that sure were a refreshing relief next to Marlo Thomas' cathode castrating FREE TO BE, YOU AND ME (the forerunner of everything horrid you and your kids watch that's supposed to be "educational", and don't you forget it!). 

I can say that the people who put these collections out (as well as the reams of ARCHIE in the forties/fifties/sixties... collections) learned from their mistakes, for the fiftieth anniversary sampler had a better array of stories spoofing everything from beatniks, Japanese internment camps, thalidomide and other nostalgic memories we just can't get enough of these days. Coulda used more of that here, but then again by the early eighties I guess kids weren't supposed to act like assholes anymore.  

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