Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Complete Collection volume 1 1962-1972


By George Gladir, Frank Doyle, Dick Malmgren, Al Hartley, Joe Edwards, Dan DeCarlo, Rudy Lapick, Vince DeCarlo, Bob White, Bill Kresse, Bill Vigoda, Mario Acquaviva, Jimmy DeCarlo, Chic Stone, Bill Yoshida, Stan Goldberg, Jon D’Agostino, Gus LeMoine, Harry Lucey, Marty Epp, Bob Bolling, Joe Sinnott & various (Archie Comic Publications)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-94-5

Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch debuted in Archie’s Mad House #22 (October 1962), created by George Gladir & Dan DeCarlo as a throwaway character in the gag anthology which was simply one more venue for comics’ undisputed kings of kids comedy. She soon proved popular enough to become a regular in the burgeoning cast surrounding the core stars Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge and Jughead Jones.

By 1969 the comely enchantress had grown popular enough to win her own animated Filmation TV series (just like Archie and Josie and the Pussycats) and graduated to a lead feature in Archie’s TV Laugh Out before finally winning her own title in 1971.

The first volume ran 77 issues from 1971 to 1983 and, when a hugely successful live action TV series launched in 1996, an adapted comicbook iteration followed in 1997. That version folded in 1999 after a further 32 issues.

Volume 3 – simply entitled Sabrina – was based on new TV show Sabrina the Animated Series. This ran for 37 issues from 2000 to 2002 before a back-to-basics reboot saw the comicbook revert to Sabrina the Teenage Witch with #38, carefully blending elements of all the previous print and TV versions.

A creature of seemingly infinite variation and variety, the mystic maid continued in this vein until 2004 and issue #57 wherein, acting on the global popularity of Japanese comics, the company boldly switched format and transformed the series into a manga-style high school comedy-romance in the classic Shōjo manner.

A more recent version abandoned whimsy altogether and depicted Sabrina as a vile and seductive force of evil (see Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)

This no-frills massively monochrome trade paperback (or digital download) gathers and represents all her appearances – even cameos on the covers of other Archie titles – from that crucial first decade and kicks off with an informative and educational Introduction courtesy of Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick before chronologically unleashing the wonderment in a year-by-year cavalcade of magic mystery and mirth.

Clearly referencing Kim Novak as seen in the movie Bell, Book and Candle, ‘Presenting Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ (by George Gladir, Dan DeCarlo, Rudy Lapick & Vince DeCarlo from Archie’s Mad House #22) debuted a sultry seductress with a wicked edge prankishly preying on mortals at the behest of Head Witch Della, whilst secretly hankering for the plebeian joys of dating…

Leading off the next year’s chapter, the creative team reunited for Archie’s Mad House #24 (February 1963), with ‘Monster Section’ depicting Sabrina bewitching boys the way mortal girls always have, whilst ‘Witch Pitch’ sees the young beguiler ordered to ensorcel the High School hockey team… with mixed results…

Archie’s Mad House #25 (April) focuses on the supernatural clan’s mission to destroy human romances. In ‘Sister Sorceress’ Della orders Sabrina to split up dating duo Hal and Wanda – with catastrophic results – before ‘Jinx Minx’ (AMH #26, June) finds Sabrina going too far with a love potion at a school dance…

Bob White’s Archie’s Mad House #27 cover (August 1963) leads into #28’s ‘Tennis Menace’ (inked by Marty Epp) with Sabrina’s attempts to enrapture a rich lad going infuriatingly awry. AMH #30 (December) offers pin-up ‘Teen-Age Section’ drawn by Joe Edwards, with Sabrina comparing historical ways of charming boys with modern mortal methods…

The 1964 material opens with a love potion pin-up ‘Teen Section’ by Edwards (from Archie’s Mad House #31, February) before Gladir & Edwards’ ‘Ronald the Rubber Boy Meets Sabrina the Witch Queen’ finds the magic miss disastrously swapping abilities with an elastic-boned pal.

Issue #36 (October, by Edwards) sees her failing to jinx her friends’ recreational evening in ‘Bowled Over’, after which (AMH #37, December) Gladir is reunited with Dan & Vince DeCarlo for a spot of ‘Double Trouble’ as gruesome Aunt Hilda tries to fix Sabrina’s appalling human countenance, only to become her unwilling twin…

In 1965 Sabrina’s only appearance was in a Harry Lucey-limned ad for Archie’s Mad House Annual, whereas the following year saw her triumphant return with illustrator Bill Kresse handling Gladir’s scripts for ‘Lulu of a Boo-Boo’ (Archie’s Mad House #45, February 1966). Here the witch-girl’s attempts to join the In Crowd constantly misfire whilst ‘Beach Party Smarty’ (#48, August) confirms this new trend as her spells to capture a hunky lad go badly wrong…

For ‘Go-Go Gaga’ (AMH #49, September) Gladir & Kresse pit the bonny bewitcher against a greedy entrepreneur planning to fleece school kids in his over-priced dance hall, whilst in #50 ‘Rival Reversal’ finds her failing to conjure a date and ‘Tragic Magic’ proves even sorcery can’t keep a teen’s room clean…

Art team Bill Vigoda & Mario Acquaviva join Gladir for 1967’s first tale. ‘London Lore’ (Archie’s Mad House #52, February) with Sabrina transporting new boyfriend Donald to the heart of the Swinging Scene but ill-equip him for debilitating culture-shock, after which ‘School Scamp’ (Gladir and Dan, Jimmy & Vince DeCarlo, from AMH #53, April) again proves magic has no place in human education…

In issue #55 Gladir, Dan DeCarlo & Lapick reveal how Sabrina’s wishing to help is a doubly dangerous proposition in ‘Speed Deed’ whilst in #58 (December and illustrated by Chic Stone & Bill Yoshida) the trend for ultra-skinny fashion models leads to a little shapeshifting in ‘Wile Style’

1968 opens with Gladir, Stone & Yoshida exploring the down side of slot-car racing in ‘Teeny-Weeny Boppers’ (AMH #59, February) after which ‘Past Blast’ (#63, September by Gladir, Stan Goldberg, Jon D’Agostino & Yoshida) sees the mystic maid time-travel in search of Marie Antoinette, Pocahontas and Salem sorceress Hester.

The year wraps up with ‘Light Delight’ (Gladir, White, Acquaviva & Yoshida: Archie’s Mad House #65, December) as Sabrina’s aunts Hilda and Zelda try more modern modes of witchly transport…

With the advent of Sabrina on television, the end of 1969 saw a sudden leap in her comics appearances to capitalise on the exposure and resulted in a retitling of her home funnybook.

Again crafted by Gladir, White, Acquaviva & Yoshida, ‘Glower Power’ comes from Mad House Ma-Ad Jokes #70 (September) with Sabrina duelling another teen mage before the cover of Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #1 (December: rendered by Dick Malmgren & D’Agostino) leads into ‘Super Duper Party Pooper’ and the instant materialisation of a new sitcom lifestyle for the jinxing juvenile.

Sabrina yearns to be a typical High School girl. She lives in suburban seclusion with Hilda and Zelda and Uncle Ambrose. She has a pet cat – Salem – and is tentatively “seeing” childhood pal Harvey Kinkle. The cute but clueless boy reciprocates the affection but is far too scared to rock the boat by acting on his own desires.

He has no idea that his old chum is actually a supernatural being…

This opening sally depicts what happens when surly Hilda takes umbrage at the antics of Archie and his pals when they come over for a visit, whilst ‘Great Celestial Sparks’ (pencilled by Gus LeMoine) reveals what lengths witches go to when afflicted with hiccups…

A full-on goggle-box sensation, Sabrina blossomed in 1970, beginning with a little flying practice in ‘Broom Zoom’, boyfriend trouble in ‘Hex Vex’, fortune-telling foolishness in ‘Hard Card’, amulet antics in ‘Witch Pitch’, and kitchen conjurings in ‘Generation Gap’: all by Gladir, LeMoine, D’Agostino & Yoshida from Mad House Ma-Ad Jokes #72 (January).

The issue also offered sporting spoofs in ‘Bowl Roll’ (drawn by Dan DeCarlo).

The so-busy cover of Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #2 (March 1970) segues into Gladir, Dan D, Lapick & Yoshida’s ‘A Plug for The Band’ with Sabrina briefly joining The Archies’ pop group, whilst LeMoine contributes a brace of half-page gags ‘Sassy Lassy’ and ‘Food Mood’ and limns ‘That Ol’ Black Magic’ wherein the winsome witch’s gifts cause misery to all her new friends in Riverdale…

Dan DeCarlo & Lapick’s June cover for Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #3 leads into Malmgren-scripted ‘Double Date’ with hapless Harvey causing chaos at home until Ambrose finds a potential putrid paramour for Aunt Hilda.

Dan D & Lapick then launch an occasional series on stage magic in the first of many ‘Sabrina Tricks’ pages, before single-pagers ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips’, ‘The Hand Sandwich’, ‘The Sampler’, ‘Never on Sundae’ and ‘Finger Licken Good’ reveal a growing divide between house-proud Hilda and accident-prone, ever-ravenous Harvey.

Interspersed with three more ‘Sabrina Tricks’ pages, the mystic mayhem continues with mini-epic ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ (Malmgren, LeMoine, D’Agostino & Yoshida) as our witch girl disastrously attempts to make Jughead Jones more amenable to Big Ethel’s romantic overtures.

Then the food fiascos resume with the LeMoine-limned ‘Good and Bad’ as Sabrina’s every good intention is accidentally twisted to bedevil her human pals

Taken from Mad House Glads #74 (August 1970), Gladir & LeMoine’s half-page chemistry gag ‘Strange Session’ is oddly balanced by the painterly ‘Blight Sight’ of long-forgotten never-was Bippy the Hippy, but we’re back on track and at the beach for Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #4 (September, Gladir, Vigoda, Lapick & Yoshida).

In ‘To Catch a Thief’ Sabrina again assists Ethel in pinning down the elusive and love-shy Jughead, and rounding out the issue are single page pranks ‘Beddy Bye Time’ (DeCarlo & Lapick), another ‘Sabrina Tricks’ lesson and seaside folly ‘In the Bag’ from LeMoine & D’Agostino.

ATVL-O #5 (November) then offers up Gladir, Vigoda & Stone’s ‘I’ll Bite’ as Sabrina’s hungry schoolfriends learn the perils of raiding Hilda’s fridge and Gladir, DeCarlo & Lapick’s ‘Hex Vex’ as Della storms in, demanding tardy Sabrina fulfil her monthly quota of bad deeds…

Sabrina is an atypical witch: living in the mundane world and assiduously passing herself off as normal and 1971 opens with DeCarlo & Lapick’s cover for Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #6 (February) and ‘Match Maker’ by Frank Doyle, Harry Lucey & Marty Epp as Hilda tries to get rid of Harvey by making him irresistible to Betty & Veronica. No way that can go wrong…

Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch’ (Gladir, LeMoine, D’Agostino & Yoshida) then uses her powers openly with some kids and learns a trick even ancient crone Hilda cannot fathom. Bolstered by a ‘Sabrina Tricks’ page, ‘Carry On, Aunt Hilda’ (Malmgren, LeMoine & Lapick) hilariously depicts lucky stars shielding Harvey from the wrath of irascible Aunt Hilda…

Bowing to popular demand, the eldritch ingenue finally starred in her own title from April 1971. Dan DeCarlo & Lapick’s cover for Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch #1 hinted at much mystic mirth and mayhem which began with ‘Strange Love’ (Doyle, Dan D & Lapick), revealing the star’s jealous response to seeing Harvey with another girl. This is supplemented by ‘Sabrina and Salem’s Catty Quiz’ before hippy warlock Sylvester comes out of the woodwork to upset Hilda’s sedate life in ‘Mission Impossible’ (Malmgren, LeMoine & D’Agostino).

Another ‘Sabrina Puzzle’ neatly moves us to Doyle, Dan D & Lapick’s ‘An Uncle’s Monkey’ with Harvey and a pet chimpanzee pushing Hilda to the limits of patience and sanity…

The cover of Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #7 (May) precedes a long yarn by Doyle, Bob Bolling & D’Agostino as ‘Archie’s TV Celebrities’ (the animated Archies, Sabrina and Josie and the Pussycats) star in ‘For the Birds’ with a proposed open-air concert threatened by the protests of a bunch of old ornithology buffs.

The celebrity pals then tackle an instrument-stealing saboteur in ‘Sounds Crazy to Me’ (Malmgren, LeMoine & D’Agostino), after which Sabrina cameos on the cover of Jughead #192 (May, by Dan DeCarlo & Lapick) before heading for the cover of her own second issue (DeCarlo & Lapick, July). Within those pages Malmgren scripts ‘No Strings Attached’ as the Archies visit their bewitching buddy just as Hilda turns hapless Harvey into an axe-strumming rock god…

‘Witch Way is That’ sees Hilda quickly regret opening her house to Tuned In, Turned On, Dropped Out Cousin Bert, after which Malmgren, Lucey & Epp show Archie suffering the jibes and jokes of ‘The Court Jester’ Reggie – until Sabrina adds a little something extra to the Andrews boys’ basketball repertoire..

At this time the world was undergoing a revival of supernatural interest and gothic romance was The Coming Thing.

In a rather bold experiment, Sabrina was given a shot at a dramatic turn with Doyle, Bolling, Joe Sinnott & Yoshida cooking up ‘Death Waits at Dumesburry’: a relatively straight horror mystery with Sabrina battling a sinister maniac in a haunted castle she had inherited…

Rendered by LeMoine & D’Agostino, the cover of Jughead’s Jokes #24 (July 1971) brings us back to comedy central, as does their cover for Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #8 (August) and Malmgren’s charity bazaar-set tale ‘A Sweet Tooth’, with the winsome witch discovering that even her magic cannot make Veronica’s baked goods edible…

Dan DeCarlo’s cover for ‘Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch #3 (September) foreshadows a return to drama but in modern milieu as ‘House Breakers’ (Malmgren, DeCarlo & Lapick) finds Harvey and Sabrina stranded in an old dark mansion with spooks in situ, after which ‘Spellbinder’ (Doyle, Al) sees Hilda cringe and curse when human catastrophe Big Moose pays Sabrina a visit.

Hartley & D’Agostino fly solo on ‘Auntie Climax’ as irresistibility spells fly and both Archie and Hilda are caught in an amorous crossfire before Malmgren, Bolling & Lapick show our cast’s human side as Archie, Jughead and Sabrina intervene to help a juvenile thief caught in a poverty trap in ‘The Tooth Fairy’

A trio of DeCarlo & Lapick covers – Archie’s TV Laugh Out #9 (September), Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals #66 (October) and Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch #4 (October) lead into the teen thaumaturge’s fourth solo comicbook, where Doyle, Goldberg & D’Agostino set the cauldron bubbling with ‘Hex Marks the Spot’ as Aunts Hilda and Zelda nostalgically opine for their adventurous bad old days but something seems set on thwarting every spell they cast, after which ‘Which Witch is Right?’ (pencilled by LeMoine) finds obnoxious Reggie Mantle uncovering Sabrina’s sorcerous secrets.

Goldberg & Sinnott illustrate ‘Switch Witch’ as officious Della suspends Sabrina’s powers as a punishment and can’t understand why the girl is delirious instead of heartbroken whilst Hartley & Sinnott contribute a run of madcap one-pagers by Gladir & Malmgren Doyle with clue-packed titles such as ‘Out of Sight’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘The Teen Scene’, ‘So That’s Why’ and ‘Time to Retire’.

Wrapping up the issue is ‘The Storming of Casket Island’ by Doyle, LeMoine & D’Agostino, blending stormy sailing with sinister swindling skulduggery and menacing mystic retribution…

More covers follow: Archie #213 and Archie’s TV Laugh Out #10 (both November and by Dan DeCarlo & Lapick) and Archie’s Christmas Stocking #190 (Hartley & D’Agostino, December) which latter also contributes Hartley & Sinnott’s ‘Card Shark’, with Sabrina joining Archie and the gang to explore the point and purpose of seasonal greetings postings before DeCarlo & Lapick’s cover of Betty and Me #39 brings the momentous year to a close…

The last year covered in this titanic tome is 1972 and kicks off with DeCarlo & Lapick’s cover for Archie Annual #23, before their Sabrina’s Christmas Magic #196 cover (January) opens the book on a winter wonderland of seasonal sentiment. It all starts with ‘Hidden Claus’ (by featured team Hartley & Sinnott) as Sabrina ignores her aunt’s mockery and seeks out the real Father Christmas – just in time to help him with an existential and labour crisis…

‘Sabrina’s Wrap Session’ offers tips on gifting and packaging whilst ‘Hot Dog with Relish’ sees the witch woman zap Jughead’s mooching canine companion and make him a guy any girl could fall for.

Then Doyle, Goldberg & Sinnott concoct ‘The Spell of the Season’, depicting our troubled teen torn between embracing Christmas and wrecking it as any true witch should. Guess which side wins the emotional tug-of-war?

More handicraft secrets are shared in ‘Sabrina’s Instant Christmas Decorations’ before Hartley & Sinnott craft ‘Sabrina Asks… What Does Christmas Mean to You?’ and ‘Sabrina Answers Questions About Christmas’, after which cartoon storytelling resumes with ‘Mission Possible’ as Hilda and Zelda find their own inner Samaritans.

Despite a rather distressing (and misleading) title ‘Popcorn Poopsie’ reveals way of making tasty decorative snacks whilst ‘Sabrina’s Animal Crackers’ tells a tale of men turned to beasts before a yuletide ‘Sabrina Pin-Up’ and exercise feature ‘Sabrina Keeps in Christmas Trim’ returns us to the entertainment section.

An all Hartley affair, ‘Sabrina’s Witch Wisher’ examines what the vast cast would say if given one wish, after which Doyle, Goldberg & Sinnott conclude this mammoth meander down memory lane by revealing how an evil warlock was punished by becoming ‘A Tree Named Obadiah’. Now – decked out in lights and tinsel – he’s back and making mischief in Veronica’s house…

An epic, enticing and always enchanting experience, the classic adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch are sheer timeless comics delight that no true fan will ever grow out of…

© 1962-1972, 2017 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Archie’s Classic Christmas Stories


By Frank Doyle, Harry Lucey & various (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-879794-10-1

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: For All Those Who’ve Been Extra Good This Year… 9/10

As long-term readers might recall, my good lady wife and I have a family ritual we’re not ashamed to share with you. Every Christmas we barricade the doors, draw the shutters, stockpile munchies, stoke up the radiators and lazily subside with a huge pile of seasonal comics from yesteryear.

(Well, I do: she also insists on a few monumental feats of cleaning and shopping before manufacturing the world’s most glorious and stupefying meal to accompany my reading, gorging and – eventually – snoring…)

The irresistible trove of funnybook treasures generally comprises older DC’s, loads of Disney’s and some British annuals, but the vast preponderance is Archie Comics.

From the earliest days this American institution has quite literally “owned Christmas” through a fabulously funny, nostalgically charming, sentimental barrage of cannily-crafted stories capturing the spirit of the season through a range of cartoon stars from Archie to Veronica, Betty to Sabrina and Jughead to Santa himself…

For most of us, when we say “comicbooks” people’s thoughts turn to steroidal blokes – and women – in garish tights hitting each other, bending lampposts and lobbing trees or cars about. That or stark, nihilistic crime, horror or science fiction sagas aimed at an extremely mature and sophisticated readership of confirmed fans.

Throughout the decades though, other forms and genres have waxed and waned. One that has held its ground over the years – although almost completely migrated to television these days – is the genre of teen-comedy begun by and synonymous with a carrot topped, homely (at first just plain ugly) kid named Archie Andrews.

MLJ were a small publisher who jumped on the “mystery-man” bandwagon following the debut of Superman. In November 1939 they launched Blue Ribbon Comics, promptly following-up with Top-Notch and Pep Comics. The content was the standard blend of costumed heroes and two-fisted adventure strips, although Pep did make a little history with its first lead feature The Shield, who was the American industry’s first superhero to be clad in the flag (see America’s 1st Patriotic Hero: The Shield)

After initially revelling in the benefits of the Fights ‘N’ Tights game, Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater (MLJ, duh!) spotted a gap in their blossoming market and in December 1941 the costumed cavorters and two-fisted adventurers were gently nudged aside – just a fraction at first – by a wholesome, improbable and far-from-imposing new hero; an unremarkable (except, perhaps, for his teeth) teenager who would have ordinary adventures just like the readers, but with the laughs, good times, romance and slapstick emphasised.

Almost certainly inspired by the hugely popular Andy Hardy movies, Goldwater developed the concept of a youthful everyman protagonist and tasked writer Vic Bloom & artist Bob Montana with the job of making it work. Their precocious new notion premiered in Pep #22: a gap-toothed, freckle-faced, red-headed kid obsessed with impressing the pretty blonde girl next door.

A 6-page untitled tale introduced hapless boob Archie Andrews and wholesomely pretty Betty Cooper. The boy’s unconventional best friend and confidante Jughead Jones also debuted in the first story, as did idyllic small-town utopia Riverdale. It was a huge hit and by the winter of 1942 the kid had won his own title.

Archie Comics #1 was MLJ’s first non-anthology magazine and with it began the slow transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of ultra-rich, raven-haired Veronica Lodge, all the pieces were in play for the industry’s second Genuine Phenomenon…

By 1946 the kids were in charge, so MLJ became Archie Comics, retiring most of its costumed characters years before the end of the Golden Age to become, to all intents and purposes, a publisher of family-friendly comedies. The hometown settings and perpetually fruitful premise of an Eternal Romantic Triangle – with girl-hating best bud Jughead Jones and scurrilous rival Reggie Mantle to test, duel and vex our boy in their own unique ways – the scenario was one that not only resonated with the readership but was infinitely fresh…

Archie’s success, like Superman’s, forced a change in content at every other publisher (except perhaps Gilberton’s Classics Illustrated) and led to a multi-media brand which encompasses TV, movies, newspaper strips, toys and merchandise, a chain of restaurants and, in the swinging sixties, a pop music sensation when Sugar, Sugar – from the animated TV cartoon – became a global pop smash. Clean and decent garage band “The Archies” has been a fixture of the comics ever since…

The Andrews boy is good-hearted, impetuous and lacking common sense, Betty his sensible, pretty girl next door who loves the ginger goof, and Veronica is rich, exotic and glamorous: only settling for our boy if there’s nobody better around. She might actually love him too, though. Archie, of course, is utterly unable to choose who or what he wants…

The unconventional, food-crazy Jughead is Mercutio to Archie’s Romeo, providing rationality and a reader’s voice, as well as being a powerful catalyst of events in his own right. That charming house of luurve (and annexe) has been the rock-solid foundation for seven decades of funnybook magic. Moreover the concept is eternally self-renewing…

This eternal triangle has generated thousands of charming, raucous, gentle, frenetic, chiding and even heart-rending humorous dramas ranging from surreal wit to frantic slapstick, with the kids and a constantly expanding cast of friends (boy genius Dilton Doily, genial giant jock Big Moose and aspiring comicbook cartoonist Chuck amongst many others) growing into an American institution and part of the nation’s cultural landscape.

The feature has thrived by constantly re-imagining its core archetypes; seamlessly adapting to the changing world outside its bright, flimsy pages, shamelessly co-opting youth, pop culture and fashion trends into its infallible mix of slapstick and young romance. Each and every social revolution has been painlessly assimilated into the mix and, over the decades, the company has confronted most social issues affecting youngsters in a manner always both even-handed and tasteful.

Constant addition of new characters such as African-American Chuck and his girlfriend Nancy, fashion-diva Ginger, Hispanic couple Frankie and Maria and spoiled home-wrecker-in-waiting Cheryl Blossom have contributed to a wide and appealingly broad-minded scenario. In 2010 Archie easily cleared the American industry’s final hurdle when openly gay Kevin Keller became an admirable advocate, capably tackling and dismantling the last major taboo in mainstream Kids’ comics.

One of the most effective tools in the company’s arsenal has been the never-failing appeal of seasonal and holiday traditions. In Riverdale it was always sunny enough to surf at the beach in summer and it always snowed at Christmas…

The Festive Season has never failed to produce great comics stories. DC especially have since their earliest days perennially embraced the magic of the holiday with a decades-long succession of stunning and sentimental Batman thrillers – as well as many other heroic team-ups incorporating Santa Claus, Rudolph and all the rest.

Archie also started early (1942) and kept on producing year-end classics. The stories became so popular and eagerly anticipated that in 1954 the company created a specific oversized title – Archie’s Christmas Stocking – to cater to the demand, even as it kept the winter months of its other periodicals stuffed with assorted tales of elves and snow and fine fellow-feeling…

This splendidly appealing, full-colour bonanza (recently re-released as an eBook), gathers and re-presents a superb selection of Cool Yule extravaganzas – many by the irrepressible team of Frank Doyle & Harry Lucey – from those end-of-year annuals, beginning, after a jolly, informative Foreword from Kris Kringle himself with ‘Christmas Socking!’ (Archie’s Christmas Stocking #3, 1956) wherein Betty and Veronica throw a Christmas party and convince shy Midge that she should let other boys kiss her should the mistletoe demand it…

That harmless tradition carries its own perils, however, as her possessive boyfriend Moose tends to pound anybody who even looks at her funny, but the girls think they can keep the jealous lummox leashed. They’re wrong in believing the Jock is as dumb as he looks, though…

Four tales from Archie’s Christmas Stocking #4 (1957) lead off with ‘I Pine Fir You and Balsam’ as our hero convinces Veronica’s millionaire dad to save a few bucks by cutting down his own tree rather than buy one. Mr. Lodge knows Archie of old so he only has himself to blame for the cascade of costly catastrophes that ensue…

‘Dis-Missile’ then sees Betty & Veronica intercepting their friends’ letters to Santa and unable to resist making some wishes come true whilst ‘Idiot’s Delight’ finds Betty employing devastating strategy to monopolise Archie’s attentions in the run-up to Christmas.

‘Dressed to Kill’ closes that year’s festivities with a rarely seen prose vignette with Archie’s girls hosting rival parties on the same night and re-declaring their ongoing war…

There’s a trio of strip sagas from 1958 too as Archie’s Christmas Stocking #5 provides a superb slapstick ‘Slay Ride’ wherein Archie and a borrowed horse make much manic mischief in the Lodge Mansion after which ‘Ring That Belle’ confirms the perils of eavesdropping when Betty gets the wrong idea about Archie’s surprise for Ronnie…

Following a chronological aberration to review ‘Veronica’s Pin-up Page’ from Archie’s Christmas Stocking #15 (1962) we return to 1958 for a ‘Seasonal Smooch’ crafted by Dan DeCarlo, Rudy Lapick & Vincent DeCarlo, which sees Reggie abusing mistletoe privileges with Midge and sustaining agonising consequences when Big Moose gets wise…

‘The Feather Merchant’ (Archie’s Christmas Stocking #6, 1959) finds Archie in the doghouse after trying to impress bird-collector Mr. Lodge with a shoddy and shambolic selection of Avian Xmas gifts before ‘Those Christmas Blues!’ leads off a triptych of topical tales from Archie’s Christmas Stocking #10, 1961.

Here Archie’s parents lament that they’ve been sidelined in favour of the girls in their boy’s life but have a wonderful surprise awaiting them whilst ‘Not Even a Moose’ finds Reggie playing foolish pranks on the naïve giant and discovering the danger of telling people there is such a man as Santa.

Next up is an important milestone in Archie continuity. Jingles the Elf has been a seasonal Archie regular for decades and ‘A Job For Jingles’ in ACS #10 was his debut appearance by Doyle, Dan DeCarlo, Lapick & Vincent DeCarlo with the playful imp – who cannot be seen by adults – spending his day off just like any normal lad schmoozing around Riverdale and checking out the “attractions”…

Christmas with the Andrews boy always leads to disaster and injury for Mr. Lodge so in Archie’s Christmas Stocking #20 (1963) he opts for ‘Escape’ to a sunny resort. Sadly, Archie’s ability to jinx the best-laid plans, like Santa Claus, knows no limits of time or distance…

Closing out this tinsel-tinged tome is ‘The Return of Jingles’ (Doyle, Dan DeCarlo, Lapick & Vincent DeCarlo from Archie’s Christmas Stocking #20, 1963), which sees the workshop elf resurface in Riverdale only to be upstaged by a brace of workbench associates who want to see for themselves how much fun humans have…

These are joyously effective and entertaining tales for young and old alike, crafted by some of Santa’s most talented Helpers, epitomising the magic of the Season and celebrating the perfect wonder of timeless all-ages storytelling. What kind of Grinch could not want this book in their kids’ stocking (from where it can most easily be borrowed)?
© 2002 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Book 1


By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack & various (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-62738-987-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A shockingly wicked spooky story… 9/10

For nearly three quarters of a century Archie Comics have epitomised good, safe, wholesome fun but the company has always been a surprisingly subversive one.

Family friendly – and not – iterations of superheroes, spooky chills, sci fi thrills and genre yarns have always been as much a part of the publisher’s varied portfolio as the romantic comedy capers of America’s cleanest-cut teens.

As you probably know by now, the eponymous Archie has been around since 1941, but the publisher has other wholesome stars in their stable almost as well known and just as prone to radical reinterpretation.

To keep all that accumulated attention riveted, the company has always looked to modern trends with which to expand upon their archetypal storytelling brief. In times past they have cross-fertilised their pantheon through such unlikely team-ups as Archie Meets the Punisher, Afterlife with Archie and Archie Vs Predator, whilst every type of fashion fad and youth culture sensation has invariably been accommodated into and explored within the pages of the regular titles.

Following-up the stunning success of their aforementioned zombie apocalypse outing, the publishers recently took another bold and controversial step by radically reinventing saccharine sweet teen witch Sabrina.

Thus, when playwright, screen scripter and comicbook scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (whose many comics hits include The Mystery Plays, 4: Marvel Knights Fantastic Four, Stephen King’s The Stand – and Afterlife with Archie amongst others) pitched the idea to re-imagine the saucy sorceress in terms of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, it wasn’t long before a strange new enterprise was hatched.

The writer’s other scripting credits include the 2013 Carrie remake and a new version of the horror musical Little Shop of Horrors.

Archie Comics is no stranger to such material. In the 1970s the company created the sub-imprint Red Circle for anthology terror tales during a supernatural boom time, before converting the line to superhero features as the decade progressed. They even had resident witch-girl Sabrina narrating Chilling Tales of Sorcery

The Teenaged Witch debuted in Archie’s Madhouse #22 (October 1962), created by George Gladir & Dan de Carlo as a throwaway character in a quick-fire gag anthology which was simply one more venue for comics’ undisputed kings of kids’ comedy.

Almost instantly she became a regular in the burgeoning cast surrounding core stars Archie, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge and Jughead Jones.

By 1969 the little enchantress had grown popular enough for her own animated Filmation TV series (just like Archie and Josie and the Pussycats), thereafter graduating to lead feature in Archie’s TV Laugh Out and finally her own title in 1971.

The first volume ran 77 issues from 1971 to 1983 and, when a hugely successful live action TV series launched in 1996, a comicbook spin-off appeared in 1997. That version folded in 1999 after a further 32 issues.

Volume 3 – simple entitled Sabrina – was based on new TV show Sabrina the Animated Series. This ran from 2000-2002 for 37 issues before a back-to-basics reboot saw the comicbook revert to Sabrina the Teenage Witch with #38. This carefully blended elements from all the previous print and TV versions.

A creature of seemingly infinite variation and variety, the mystic maid continued in this vein until 2004 and issue #57 wherein – responding to the global craze for of Japanese comics – the company switched format, transforming the series into a manga-style high school comedy-romance in classic Shōjo manner.

That Sabrina is just a typical Greendale High School girl. She lives with her Aunts Hilda and Zelda Spellman, has a pet cat – Salem – and is tentatively dating childhood pal Harvey Kinkle. The cute but clueless boy reciprocates the affection but is far too scared to rock the boat by acting on his own desires.

Sabrina is an atypical witch: half-mortal (on her mother’s side), living in the mundane world and assiduously passing herself off as normal.

This first volume of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina collects the shockingly adult and hard-hitting first five issues by Aguirre-Sacasa, artist and colourist Robert Hack (Doctor Who, Life with Archie, New Crusaders) and letterer Jack Morelli.

After a revelatory scene-setting Introduction from the author, the extremely nasty tale of ‘Something Wicked’ opens on October 31st 1951 in Westbridge, Massachusetts. Edward Spellman is celebrating the first birthday of his baby girl Sabrina by handing her over to a human-flesh eating, Satan-worshipping coven.

At least that was the plan: things go awry at the very last moment as his pathetic human wife Diana absconds with the infant. With dark magic at her pursuers’ command, she doesn’t get far…

By 1957 warlock Edward is out of the picture too and Sabrina is living with “aunts” Hilda and Zelda. Her birthday is a special occasion since Sabrina is given her first familiar. Salem is a very nasty cat who used to be a very nasty warlock. His current form is penance for unspoken but heinous past misdeeds…

All too soon, however, the other young witches at the secret school are bullying Sabrina over her halfbreed origins, so – after suitable reparations are set in motion – the family up stakes and move to a funeral home in bucolic Greendale. It’s 1962 and the move provides perfect cover. The little girl can refine her burgeoning powers in isolation and the constant flow of cadavers provides an income, raw materials and the occasional gustatory treat…

Life goes on and in 1964 the family grows larger as disgraced British teen warlock Cousin Ambrose moves in. He will become a dangerous, rebellious influence on the witch-in-training and when Sabrina starts human High School in September, he is constantly urging her use her powers to make life easier and more interesting…

Despite her uncanny origins Sabrina is still a girl and when she meets local hunk Harvey Kinkle, the hunky human works his own kind of magic on her, much to the dismay of mortal hottie Rosalind who claims “dibs” and doesn’t like to lose…

Sabrina’s aunts are also unhappy. She is only thirteen and must remain pure until she gives herself to Satan during her Baptism on her sixteenth birthday…

Nearby, in the deep woods, arcane events are spiralling out of control. Neophyte witches Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge are dabbling in magic far beyond them. Horrifically they accidentally resurrect one of the most wicked of sorcerous sisters…

As seen in ‘The Secret History of Madame Satan’, unstable witch Iola was going to wed Edward Spellman, but he inexplicably dumped her for a mortal. In emotional turmoil Iola dramatically and spectacularly killed herself and her soul went to the Hell for Suicides. Now she has been accidentally called back and hungers for revenge…

She also has a natural gift for encountering nasty men and hurrying them on to their just reward…

After rebuilding her corrupted body from the flesh of innocents and vindictively divining the fates of Edward and Diana, Iola exults in learning they had a daughter. With malice in mind, “Madame Satan” turns towards Greendale and makes spiteful plans…

It’s October and as Sabrina’s birthday approaches she is more consumed with Harvey’s increasingly ardent attentions and her own theatrical ambitions and the upcoming dark Baptism…

Hilda and Zelda have been preparing Sabrina for her ‘Unholy Baptism’ for years. It will be the turning point of her life; resolving whether or not she will accede to her full powers and potential and serve the Evil One forever. Nothing must be allowed to impede or mar the crucial moment.

Sadly, it’s just not going to happen. Iola has hit town and, through arcane manipulation, inserted herself into Sabrina’s increasingly confused and conflicted life. As replacement teacher Evangeline Porter, Madame Satan even offers horny frustrated Harvey the delights Sabrina is denying him…

Culmination comes after she tricks the lad into interrupting the demon-drenched birthday Black Mass before leaves the horrified human boy to a ghastly fate…

So great is the power of witchcraft however that even death does not end the Harvey Horrors’. The repercussions of Iola’s plan reverberate throughout the town and the coven, even reaching as far as Riverdale and the witches hiding there…

Although she had nothing to do with the wrecking of the baptism ritual Sabrina is then summonsed to appear before a fearsome court of witches to endure ‘The Trial’. After surreptitiously aiding Selena to escape Satanic justice, Miss Porter then delivers her sadistic coup de grace, offering the distraught teen witch everything her heart desires… or so she thinks…

Happily this is a continuing series and there’s more malevolent magic to come…

This radical makeover also offers a host of ‘Special Features’ including a ‘Cover Gallery’, variants by Hack spoofing classic movie poster such as Rosemary’s Baby, Häxan, Carrie and Creepshow, assorted retailer incentive variants by Francesco Francavilla, J. Scott Campbell and Hack, an ‘Original Sketch Gallery’ and a text feature about original Golden Age Scream Queen Madame Satan and an original exploit by Joe Blair & Harry Lucey from Pep Comics #17 (July 1941).

Brooding, slow boiling and shockingly potent – beware of profanity, gore and nudity, Archie traditionalists! – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a classic grown up horror story to delight hardcore far fanatics.
© 2016 Archie Comics Publications, Inc.

Archie: Obama & Palin in Riverdale (Archie & Friends All-Stars volume 14)


By Alex Simmons, Dan Parent, Rich Koslowski, Jack Morelli & Digikore Studios (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 987-1-87979-487-0

For nearly three-quarters of a century Archie Andrews has epitomised good, safe, wholesome fun, but inside the staid and stable company which shepherds his adventures and bears his name there has always lurked an ingenious and deviously subversive element of mischief as well a keen eye for a headline.

Ever since they launched as MLJ publications in the Golden Age’s dawning, family-friendly iterations of superheroes, spooky chills, sci-fi thrills and genre yarns have always been as much a part of the publisher’s varied portfolio as the romantic comedy capers of America’s cleanest-cut teens.

As you probably know by now, Archie has been around since 1941, spending most of those seventy-five years chasing both the gloriously attainable Betty Cooper and wildly out-of-his-league debutante Veronica Lodge whilst best friend Jughead Jones alternately mocked and abetted his romantic endeavours and life-long rival Reggie Mantle sought to scuttle his every move and bring down the freckle-face…

As crafted over the decades by a legion of writers and artists who’ve skilfully logged innumerable stories of teenage antics in and around the idyllic, utopian small-town Riverdale, these timeless tales of decent, upstanding, fun-loving kids have captivated successive generations of readers and entertained millions worldwide.

To keep all that accumulated attention riveted, the company has always looked to modern trends and movements with which to expand upon their archetypal brief. In times past they have strengthened and cross-fertilised their stable of stars through a variety of comic property team-ups such as Archie Versus Predator, Archie Meets the Punisher or Archie Meets Vampirella as well as notionally real-world characters as typified by Archie Meets Glee or Archie Meets Kiss. Every kind of fashion-fad and youth-culture sensation have invariably been accommodated into and explored within the pages of the regular titles.

That willingness to dip traditional toes in unlikely waters led in 2010 to the publishers taking an extremely bold and outrageously controversial step which turned heads in all the right places and hopefully nurtured the political sensibilities of many kids who might well be voting in this year’s Presidential Elections…

Mr. Obama has long been out of the closet in regards to comics (apparently he collects Spider-Man and Conan) and after his election in 2008 got to guest-star in a load of different titles. I’ve no idea what Sarah Palin’s position on funny books is, but she too has been the star of a whole bunch… although mostly as a star-spangled bikini-clad bimbo toting swords and big guns.

She was represented in a far more even-handed and respectful manner when she and the President appeared in Archie #616-617 (December 2010 and January 2010); a tale gathered in this slim paperback collection with the similarly-themed contents of Veronica #199 (March 2010) to form a fabulous dossier of democracy and fair play for beginners, coincidentally packed with lots of laughs and a few salutary tips on electioneering.

As written by Alex Simmons, illustrated by Dan Parent & Rich Koslowski, lettered by Jack Morelli and coloured by Digikore Studios, the Machiavellian games begin with the two part ‘Campaign Pains’ as Archie and Reggie clash in a debate as part of their efforts to become Student Body President.

Their clearly different styles of presentation don’t sway many potential voters and Veronica, as Archie’s Campaign Manager, decides its time to bring out the big guns: Money, Power and Influence. Reggie’s manager is little better. Trula Twyst is a ruthless psychology student eager to push people’s buttons just to see how they react…

Having already once met Barack Obama, and after kitting out Archie in new duds, Ronnie blags her way into a Presidential event and manufactures a photo-op between the Most Powerful Man in the World and the most naïve kid in Riverdale. She then uploads it and lets the little people in Riverdale make their own assumptions…

At Mantle Campaign HQ, Trula knows a winning ploy when she sees one and decides to fight fire with fire; orchestrating a similar sneaky session for Reggie with blithely unaware Governor and potential future Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Once more a dubious association with celebrity enflames the youthful voters of Riverdale High, but when the professional politicians see how they’ve been shabbily misrepresented by school kids. they both head for the sleepy town to make their disapproval known…

As Obama and Palin arrive, so do the news crews and all too soon a shambolic media circus ensues. Terrified, Archie, Ronnie, Reggie and Trula head for the hills but eventually realise the only solution to their problem is to face it head on, take their medicine and make reparations.

…And that’s when everybody learns a few useful lessons about reasoned discussion and plain dealing…

Following amazingly clear, concise and compelling biographical features on ‘“The Chicago Kid” Barack Obama’ and ‘“The Thrilla from Wasilla” Sarah Palin’, the cartoon tomfoolery resumes by harking back POTUS’ first appearance in Archie Comics with ‘Ms. Lodge Goes to Washington’ from March 2010 and Veronica #199, by Parent, Koslowski, Morelli & Barry Grossman.

Here our junior stars enjoy a class trip to Washington DC; seeing the sights and learning some civic history. However, when a tour of the White House leads to Veronica intruding on a press conference and accidentally impressing the President, she is so moved by the moment and on the trip home she resolves to help him fix the economy…

Her plan is to hire all her friends, creating jobs whilst escaping her own chores, but as ‘No She Can’t!’ proves, adult problems are seldom simple and never end well when Archie and the gang are involved…

Including a cover and variants gallery, pin-ups and a large selection of roughs, cover sketches and parody covers, this is a splendidly witty slice of all-ages comedic fun with the added bonus of introducing the basics of political thought to youngsters in a manner both considered and effective.
© 2011 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Magic of Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Archie and Friends All-Stars


By Bill Golliher, Abby Denson, George Gladir, Holly G!, Al Nickerson & various (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-879794-75-7

Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch debuted in Archie’s Madhouse #22 (October 1962), created by George Gladir & Dan de Carlo as a throwaway character in the gag anthology which was simply one more venue for comics’ undisputed kings of kids’ comedy.

Almost instantly she proved popular enough to become a regular in the burgeoning cast surrounding core stars Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge and Jughead Jones.

By 1969 the comely enchantress had grown popular enough to win her own animated Filmation TV series (just like Archie and Josie and the Pussycats), thereby graduating to lead feature in Archie’s TV Laugh Out before finally winning her own title in 1971.

The first volume ran 77 issues from 1971 to 1983 and, when a hugely successful live action TV series launched in 1996, an adapted comicbook iteration appeared in 1997. That version folded in 1999 after a further 32 issues.

Volume 3 – simple entitled Sabrina – was based on new TV show Sabrina the Animated Series. This ran from 2000-2002 for 37 issues before a back-to-basics reboot saw the comicbook revert to Sabrina the Teenage Witch with #38. This carefully blended elements from all the previous print and TV versions.

A creature of seemingly infinite variation and variety, the mystic maid continued in this vein until 2004 and issue #57 wherein – acting on the global popularity of Japanese comics – the company boldly switched format, transforming the series into a manga-style high school comedy-romance in the classic Shōjo manner.

Sabrina is just a typical Greendale High School girl. She lives with her Aunts, Hilda and Zelda Spellman, has a pet cat – Salem – and is tentatively dating childhood pal Harvey Kinkle. The cute but clueless boy reciprocates the affection but is far too scared to rock the boat by acting on his own desires.

Sabrina is an atypical witch: half-mortal (on her mother’s side), living in the mundane world and passing herself off as normal. Complicating here life is snide and snarky Amy Reinhardt – a spiteful mortal rival for Harvey’s affections who will do anything to upset the magical maid’s ambitions…

This particular grimoire of giggles is a collection cherry-picked from #38-56 of that third volume and celebrates the wacky wonder of teen hormones and black magic acting in tandem.

After few pinup pages the magic – illustrated throughout with dazzling verve by artist Holly G! and inker Al Nickerson – starts to unfold with ‘Internet Threat’ (scripted by Bill Golliher) wherein Sabrina starts lazily abusing her gifts and is grounded by her aunts. After Salem find a loophole in the edict, Sabrina tries making magic online and is soon abducted by the arcane and aggressively invasive Empire of Lost E-Mail

The concluding chapter sees the bellicose byte-brutes similarly capture Hilda and Zelda before the three witches unite to outwit the digital dastards…

The two-part ‘Spell Trouble’ finds the young witch slipping into more bad habits and summarily despatched to an otherworldly after-school program to correct her “spelling” difficulties. Here she meets cute boy Shinji Yamagi: a gorgeous, popular young warlock working to overcome his embarrassing “Spellexia” who is well set to complicate her life with Harvey…

In ‘All’s Fair-y’, a generous act by Hilda allows a plague of ungrateful pixies to infest the house, after which single-pager ‘Purr Pals’ finds Salem looking for feline companionship and hooking up with Josie and the Pussycats…

Holly G! scripts as well as pencils ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ as Amy makes another brazen play for Harvey, forcing Sabrina to compete on her rival’s terms in a talent competition. Of course in love and war all things are fair, even conjuring robot musicians for an instant rock band…

Salem is no ordinary cat. Centuries ago he was Salem Saberhagen: the most powerful warlock on all Earth. After trying to conquer the world he was imprisoned in a cat’s body where he could do no magic, but he can still talk and his rehabilitation is, at best, grudging. However, when his 100-year parole meeting comes due, Sabrina is notably missing from the hearing and mean head witch Enchantra messes with the prodigal’s memory in ‘Sabrina Who?’: an extended epic written by Golliher.

Happily another previously de-powered, ensorcelled animal steps in to save the day, thereby ending her own four-footed enchanted exile in the process…

Holly G!’s ‘Model Witch’ sees Sabrina elected Teen Witch of the Month in a breezy tale recapitulating her origins and family life, after which Golliher introduces a new enemy. A mermaid seductress sets her sights on Harvey and uses deep-sea magic to further her aims in three-part thriller ‘Danger from the Deep’

A school sleepover in a condemned haunted house sees a pair of aggravating spooks follow Sabrina home until she finds them a far more upscale permanent residence in ‘A Haunting We Will Go’ whilst an exclusive invitation from a prestigious “Other Realm” institution adds to her work woes when Sabrina is offered a place at ‘Charm School’.

The singular honour and the new and old friends already there are hard to resist, but Enchantra’s bratty daughter Lilith is determined to get Sabrina expelled before she even begins…

Back on Earth Abby Denson scripts ‘Bikini Babes’ with the school sorceress trying to boost a mortal friend’s confidence by charming her new swimsuit – and thereby unleashing a social monster – before ‘It’s My Party’ (Golliher, Holly G! & Nickerson) sees Sabrina’s stressed-out life go into overload as a big bash for her Charm School chums looks likely to drive human Harvey right into Amy’s eager clutches. Surprisingly, Shinji has the answer to Sabrina’s woes…

Denson returns to embroil the teen thaumaturge in role-playing game chaos as ‘It’s In the Cards’ sees two very different versions of the fantasy fascination grip both magic and mundane school kids whilst Holly G! details the alarming effects of elemental prankster Jack Frost on Sabrina in ‘Frost Bite’ before everything goes haywire for all witches as a planetary alignment sends their powers hilariously haywire in a ‘Zap Flap’ crafted by George Gladir, Holly G! & Nickerson.

Enticing, funny and genuinely enthralling, these magical riffs on a classic American icon will delight most fans and readers. Sheer exuberant fun; perfectly crafted and utterly irresistible…
© 2011 Archie Comic Publications. All rights reserved.

Archie Americana Series: The Best of the Seventies


By Frank Doyle, George Gladir, Dan DeCarlo, Samm Schwartz, Harry Lucey, Stan Goldberg & various (Archie Comics)
ISBN 978-1-87979-405-4

The monolith of wholesome fun that is Archie Comics had fully cemented its place in America’s popular culture scene by the 1960s. With the Youth Market an acknowledged commercial powerhouse, the red-haired archetype (and the company which created him) was known as much for animated TV shows, the pop single “Sugar, Sugar” and soon a chain of restaurants. Archie also totally dominated the comicbook humour market.

This volume – now also available as a digital download – collects a scant few of the stories from that decade; concentrating on fashions and fads such as Hot Pants, CB radio, Protest Movements, the Bicentennial, Disco, the advent of video games and even popular movie and TV sensations as well as the ever-widening divide between rebellious teens and oppressive adults.

It also delightfully shows the overwhelming power of good writing and brilliant art to captivate an audience of any age. Padding out this potently nostalgic package is a brace of House-ads from the period and a fulsome cover-gallery of iconic power and riotous wit.

The eternal verities are still in effect. Jughead Jones is still wise, weird and eternally hungry. The teachers at Riverdale High School are still hard-pressed and harassed. Archie Andrews is, as ever, that good-hearted, well-meaning boy lacking common sense. Betty Cooper is still the pretty, sensible girl next door, and glamorous Veronica Lodge is as rich, exotic and quixotic as ever, whilst the school and leisure antics of the broader cast are hip, engaging and hugely entertaining.

The eternal triangle and perfect laugh formula was first seen in 1941 and forms the basis of decades of charming, raucous, gentle, frenetic, chiding and even heart-rending comedy ranging from surreal wit to frantic slapstick, and has never been better depicted than here.

Following a poetic Introduction from actress Shirley Jones, the merriment kicks off with

‘Protest’ (Life with Archie #93, January 1970) by Frank Doyle & Samm Schwartz, seeing an ever-more frantic Archie desperate to join the national wave of teen rebellion but unable to find anything to dissent over or anyone angry enough to march with him…

George Gladir, Dan DeCarlo & Rudy Lapick regale us with Riverdale’s response to daring new fashion must-have ‘Hot Pants’ in a wry observation from Laugh #248 (November 1971) after which ‘Decisions, Decision’ (Archie #214, December 1971, by Doyle, Harry Lucey & Marty Epp) deliciously reveals how that Archie-Betty-Veronica quandary keeps going…

The anonymously crafted ‘Bubble Trouble’ (Everything’s Archie #21, April 1972, possibly Stan Goldberg pencilling?) then reveals how the garage band The Archies disprove media accusations that they are merely a bubblegum rock band with the help of a certain legendary star of Rock ‘n’ Roll…

From Archie #217 (April 1972) by Doyle, Lucey & Epp comes ‘The Late Archie Andrews!’ as desperate Principal Mr. Weatherbee goes to outrageous lengths to get the unlucky red-head to school on time, before a quartet of cool covers bridge the gap until the wackiness resumes.

‘Patch Match’ (Betty & Veronica #198, June 1972, Gladir & DeCarlo) details how Betty monopolises that Andrews boy by offering to sew onto his jacket all the cool badges he’s been collecting. Veronica of course responds with all the wealth in her arsenal but still comes out second-best…

‘Loyalville, USA’ (Archie at Riverdale High #12 December 1973, Doyle, DeCarlo & Lapick) sees Betty and Archie help out the town’s worst memorabilia vendor whilst Gladir, Goldberg & Jon D’Agostino prove there’s ‘No Fuel Like an Old Fuel’ (Pep #296, December 1974) by finding a way to save gas during an energy crisis that nevertheless lands Archie and Jughead in a storm of trouble…

Probably the most affecting tale in this collection, ‘You Came a Long Way, Baby’ (Betty & Veronica #233, May 1975, by Doyle, DeCarlo & Lapick) dramatically teaches the condescending girls how much progress in gender equality old maid Miss Grundy has been responsible for at Riverdale High. Then sadly uncredited ‘Bicentennial Banter’ (Archie’s TV Laughout #36 December 1975) sees those same lasses girls teach the boys about the female contributions and the decisive roles played by women during the American Revolution as they rehearse for a commemorative school play…

Archie’s eager fondness for CB radio is detailed in ‘Over and Out’ (Archie #256, September 1976: Doyle, Dan DeCarlo & Lapick) before more covers whet the palate for further fun which comes through an animal-free ‘Pet Parade’ (Everything’s Archie #57, June 1977).

Our gormless star naturally becomes ‘A Fool for Cool’ (Archie Giant Series/World of Archie #461 September 1977) after listening to bad advice and patterning his dating techniques on the Fonz from TV phenomenon Happy Days

Betty & Veronica #263 (November 1977) was the original home for Gladir & DeCarlo’s ‘Video Vexation’, with the girls losing their place as the boys’ abiding passion once Pop Tate installs a computer arcade system, after which Star Wars gets thoroughly spoofed in ‘Costume Caper’ (Reggie & Me #104, April 1978) with Lapick adding his inking sheen to Gladir & DeCarlo’s smart rib-tickler.

‘Melvin’s Angels’ (Betty & Veronica #277, January 1979) by Doyle, DeCarlo & Lapick then sees Betty & Veronica undertaking a bruising mission for a mystery man on a speaker phone before the glitzy glamour-era comics celebration concludes with ‘Disco Dude’ (Laugh #343 October 1979) as a big food prize entices slovenly slowpoke Jughead to show off his amazing dance moves. Of course, his cunning plan goes disastrously awry…

These charming and comfortable yarns are a gentle delight and a much neglected area of cartoon and graphic narrative. It would benefit us all to take another long look at what they have to offer. If only to see how far fashion has not come…
© 1970-1979, 1998 Archie Publications Inc. All rights reserved.

Archie’s Pal Kevin Keller


By Dan Parent, Rich Koslowski, Jack Morelli & Digikore Studios (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-87979-493-1 (HC)

Following the debut of Superman, MLJ were one of many publishers to jump on the “mystery-man” bandwagon, concocting their own small but inspired pantheon of gaudily clad crusaders. In November 1939 they launched Blue Ribbon Comics, promptly following up with Top-Notch and Pep Comics. The content was the standard mix of masked champions, two-fisted adventurers, prose pieces and gags.

Not long after, Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater (hence MLJ) saw a gap in the blossoming yet crowded market and in December 1941 the Fights ‘n’ Tights, He-Man crowd were gently nudged aside by a far less imposing hero; an ordinary teenager having ordinary adventures just like the readership, but with the laughs, good times, romance and slapstick emphasised.

Goldwater developed the youthful everyman protagonist concept and tasked writer Vic Bloom & artist Bob Montana with making it work. Inspired by and referencing the popular Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney, their new notion premiered in Pep Comics #22. The unlikely star was a gap-toothed, freckle-faced red-headed kid obsessed with impressing the pretty blonde next door.

A 6-page untitled tale introduced hapless boob Archie Andrews and wholesomely fetching Betty Cooper. The boy’s unconventional best friend and confidante Jughead Jones also debuted in that vignette, as did idyllic small-town utopia Riverdale. It was a huge hit and by the winter of 1942 the kid had won his own title.

Archie Comics #1 was MLJ’s first non-anthology magazine and with it began an inexorable transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of ultra-rich, raven-haired Veronica Lodge, all the pieces were in play for the industry’s second Genuine Phenomenon…

By 1946 the kids were in charge, and MLJ officially became Archie Comics, retiring most of its costumed characters years before the end of the Golden Age and becoming, to all intents and purposes, a publisher of family-friendly comedies. The hometown settings and perpetually fruitful premise of an Eternal Romantic Triangle – with girl-hating Jughead to assist or deter and scurrilous love-rat rival Reggie Mantle to test, duel and vex our boy in their own unique ways – the scenario was one that not only resonated with fans but was infinitely fresh…

Archie’s success, like Superman’s, forced a change in content at every other publisher (except Gilberton’s Classics Illustrated) and created a culture-shifting multi-media brand which encompassed TV, movies, newspaper strips, toys and merchandise, a chain of restaurants and, in the swinging sixties, a pop music sensation when Sugar, Sugar – from the animated TV cartoon – became a global summer smash hit.

Clean and decent garage band “The Archies” has been a fixture of the comics ever since…

The perennial eternal triangle has generated thousands of charming, raucous, gentle, frenetic, chiding and even heart-rending humorous dramas ranging from surreal wit to frantic slapstick, with the kids and a constantly expanding cast of friends (boy genius Dilton Doily, genial giant jock Big Moose and occasional guest Sabrina the Teenage Witch amongst many others), growing into an American institution and part of the American cultural landscape.

The feature has thrived by constantly refreshing its core archetypes; boldly and seamlessly adapting to the changing world outside its bright and cheerful pages, shamelessly co-opting youth, pop culture, fashion trends and even topical events into its infallible mix of slapstick and young romance.

Each and every social revolution has been painlessly assimilated into the mix and over the decades the company has confronted most social issues affecting youngsters in a manner both even-handed and tasteful.

Constant addition of new characters such as African-American Chuck and his girlfriend Nancy, fashion-diva Ginger, Hispanic couple Frankie and Maria and spoiled home-wrecker-in-waiting Cheryl Blossom all contributed to a wide and refreshingly broad-minded scenario, and in 2010 Archie jumped the final hurdle when openly gay student Kevin Keller became an admirable advocate capably tackling and dismantling the last major taboo in mainstream comics.

Created by writer/artist Dan Parent and inker Rich Koslowski (lettered by Jack Morelli and coloured by Digikore Studios), Kevin debuted in Veronica #202 (September 2010). It was the first comicbook in the company’s long history to go into a second printing…

Also collected in this landmark debut compendium is the sequel tale from Veronica #205 and the 4-issue Kevin Keller miniseries which cemented the new star’s popularity.

It begins with context-establishing essay ‘Get to Know Kevin Keller’ before comic introductions are made in ‘Isn’t it Bro-Mantic’ as Veronica encounters a charming, good-looking and exceeding together lad who utterly bowls her over.

She is totally smitten with him even though he can out-eat human dustbin Jughead and loves sports. Although he inexplicably loves hanging out with the ghastly Jones boy she is determined to make him exclusively hers. Jughead is truly cool with his new pal, and he soon sees a way to pay Ronnie back for many of the mean things she has said and done over the years…

When Kevin finally explains to Veronica why she is wasting her time, she takes it well and soon they are hanging out as best buds. After all they have so much in common: chatting, stylish clothes, shopping, boys…

Immensely popular from the outset, Kevin struck a chord with the readership and returned a few months later in ‘The Buddy System’, with Veronica’s bombastic dad giving the perfect new student the all-clear to monopolise his daughter’s time. The following fun-filled days do have one major downside however, as poor Betty is increasingly neglected.

You’d think Archie would be jealous too, but he’s just glad that someone safe is keeping other guys away from his Ronnie. It seems the perfect scenario for everyone but Betty, but then man-hunting rich and entitled princess Cheryl Blossom hits town and puts everything back into perspective…

The guest shots rapidly evolved into a miniseries, expanding Kevin’s role whilst answering many questions about his past. It started with ‘Meet Kevin Keller’ where we learned he was an army brat, born in Britain but raised all over the world, and now lived in Riverdale with his dad (retired and invalided army colonel) Thomas, mum Kathy and feisty sisters Denise and Patty.

It also revealed he loved practical jokes as much as food and sports…

Whilst sharing these facts with Betty and Ronnie he also let slip some less impressive details: how he was a nerdy, braces-wearing late developer who was frequently the target of bullies…

‘The Write Stuff’ is set during the build-up to his father’s surprise birthday party and discloses how Kevin plans to serve in the army before becoming a journalist, whilst also showing the gentle hero’s darker side after he is compelled to intervene and stop the persecution of a young Riverdale student by bullies…

In ‘Let’s Get it Started’ the newcomer is ambushed and pressganged by his new friends into participating in a scholastic TV quiz show where his nerves almost get the better of him. Happily, Ronnie inadvertently breaks his paralysing stage-fright with a humiliating gaffe, but that’s just a palate cleanser for a potent object lesson in the concluding chapter…

As Kevin steps in to shelter and help one of the kids who used to torment him long ago, ‘Taking the Lead!’ also finds him reluctantly running for Class President at the insistent urging of Ronnie and the gang.

It’s not that he wants the position particularly, but when bigoted jock and star quarterback David Perkins starts a campaign based on intolerance, innuendo and intimidation, Kevin feels someone has to confront the smugly-macho, “real man” most popular boy in school…

And despite a smear campaign and dirty tactics any Presidential candidate would be proud of, truth, justice and decency win out…

This breezy and engaging collection concludes with ‘An Interview with Kevin Keller’ offering further background direct from the horse’s mouth and also includes a host of covers, variants and remastered classic Archie images retrofitted to suit our 21st century star.

Archie’s Pal Kevin Keller is a superb, hilarious and magically inclusive collection for you, your kids and grandparents to enjoy over and over again.
© 2012 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jinx


By J. Torres, Rick Burchett & Terry Austin (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-93697-500-6 (HC)        : 978-1-87979-491-7 (PB)

Despite tremendous advances in the last decade or so, for most people, when we say comicbooks, thoughts either turn to outrageously buff men and women in garish tights or leather hitting each other and lobbing cars about, or stark, nihilistic crime, horror or science fiction sagas aimed at an extremely mature and sophisticated readership of already-confirmed fans.

For American comics these days that is indeed the norm. Over the years though (and throughout the rest of the world still), other forms and genres have continued to wax and wane.

One US company which has steadfastly held its ground against the tide over the decades – supported by a thriving spin-off TV and movie franchise – is a teen-comedy powerhouse which created a genre through the exploits of carrot-topped Archie Andrews and the two girls he could never choose between – Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge.

For far too many years, other companies largely ignored the fact that girls read comics too and, in their frantic, slavish pursuit of the spandex dollar, lost half their potential audience. Girls simply found other ways to amuse themselves until, in the 1990s, the rise of manga painfully proved to comics publishers what Archie Comics had always known.

Ever since that pivotal moment Editors have attempted to recapture that vast missing market: creating worthy titles and imprints dedicated to material for the teen/young adult audience (since not all boys thrive on a steady diet of cosmic punch-ups and vengeful vigilantes) which had embraced European classics like Tintin and Asterix, manga material, momentous comics epics like Maus and Persepolis or the abundant and prolific prose serials which produced such pop phenomena as Twilight, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

Archie thrived by never abandoning its female readership and by constant reinvention of its core characters, seamlessly adapting to the changing world outside its bright, flimsy pages: shamelessly co-opting pop music, youth culture and fashion trends into its infallible mix of slapstick and romance.

Each and every social revolution has been painlessly assimilated into the mix (the company has managed to confront a number of major issues affecting the young in a manner both even-handed and tasteful over the years), and the constant addition of timely characters such as African-American Chuck and his girlfriend Nancy, fashion-diva Ginger, Hispanic couple Frankie and Maria and a host of others – such as spoiled home-wrecker-in-waiting Cheryl Blossom – all contributed to a broad and refreshingly broad-minded scenario.

There are non-sensationalised interracial romances, and in 2010 Archie jumped the final hurdle for a family-entertainment medium with the rapturously well-received introduction of Kevin Keller; an openly gay and proud young man who was a clear-headed advocate capably tackling and dismantling the last major taboo in mainstream kids’ comics.

Where once cheap, prolific and ubiquitous, comics magazines in the 21st century are extremely cost-intensive and manufactured for a highly specific – and dwindling – niche market. Moreover the improbably beguiling and bombastic genres that originally fed and nurtured comicbooks are increasingly being supplanted by TV, movies and assorted interactive games media.

Happily, old-school prose publishers and the graphic novel industry have a different business model and far more sustainable long-term goals, so the magazine makers’ surrender has been turned into a burgeoning victory, as solid and reassuringly sturdy Comics-as-Books increasingly buck the slowly perishing pamphlet/papers trend.

Publishers like Archie…

Jinx was another barely-noticed landmark which saw one of the company’s venerable and long-lived child-stars given a stunning makeover and refit courtesy of a multi award-winning creative team.

Writer J. Torres (Teen Titans Go!, Degrassi: the Next Generation, Alison Dare, Days Like This, Lola – a Ghost Story and others) in conjunction with celebrated artists Rick Burchett (Batman Adventures, American Flagg!, Blackhawk, Black Hood) & Terry Austin (X-Men, Superman, Batman, Cloak and Dagger) are responsible for turning adorable six-year old tomboy Li’l Jinx into a genuine icon of, if not role-model for, modern teenaged girls in a style and manner at once astonishingly accessible and classically captivating.

If you qualify as an Ancient One like me, you might be familiar with precocious, feisty Li’l Jinx who debuted in Pep Comics #62 (cover-dated July 1947). Created by Joe Edwards, she debuted as the publisher began dropping superheroes such as the Shield and Black Hood to specialise in kid-friendly humour features. Over the coming decades she appeared in her own title, as well as Li’l Jinx Giant Laugh-Out and assorted anthologies such as Pep and Archie Giant Series Magazine.

Like Edwards’ own son, her birthday was on Halloween and the writer/artist put much of himself into the strip. A boisterous, basically decent, sports-loving, mischievous tyke (in the manner of our Minnie the Minx), when not romping, cavorting and tussling with other kid pals Gigi, Greg, Charley Hawse, Russ, Roz and Mort the Worry Wart, Jinx almost exclusively interacted with her long-suffering dad Hap Holliday.

Her mother was seldom seen. The kid’s Christian name is lost to history: apparently so screamingly embarrassing that to utter it was to invite battered ear drums and mangled limbs…

Li’l Jinx faded away gradually during the 1980s as fashionista-teenagers and Mutant Turtles supplanted the pesky kid characters in Archie’s increasingly “young adult” oriented stable.

Jinx Holliday was revived and given a thorough 21st century upgrade for a new serial in Life With Archie (#7-11, March-June 2011); a growing girl just starting big school. The former tomboy hadn’t lost all her rough edges though…

This volume collects the serialised story of her beginning the inescapable if deplorable process of becoming responsible – with all the scary changes that entails…

After a handy ‘Cast of Jinx’ page, the dramatic comedy (available in both paperback and hardcover editions) opens with 4-part tale ‘Little Jinx Grows up’ – as serialised in Life With Archie – with the nervous Californian 14-year old starting at Rose Valley High School where she immediately falls foul of draconian martinet Principal Mr. Vernon.

At least many of her oldest friends are starting too, but they all seem so changed and grown up since summer vacation…

As they settle in, Jinx is oblivious to the fact that more than one of the boys she used to wrestle and play football with now treat her differently…

She’s just starting to hate the place and its stupid rules when Greg points out the final straw: Freshman Baseball – in fact all her favourite sports – are for boys only. Former child model Gigi is typically smug about it, hinting again that it’s time Jinx began acting like a girl, but that only provokes the incensed tomboy to break another rule…

Everybody is talking about Jinx after she extremely publicly signs up for Football Tryouts, and neither a barracking from Mr. Vernon or some heavy-handed bullying of Greg by the senior Football squad can change her mind.

The Principal thinks he has the final word after making Jinx take a permission slip home to her dad, but after Hap Holliday absolutely refuses to let his little girl get crippled by teenaged Neanderthals, Jinx simple forges his signature…

The tryouts are a disaster, but at least Greg is honestly trying to help her. Surly Charley, however, delivers a tackle that results in her being stretchered off, and when dad is called to school all hell breaks loose…

While she’s grounded and recovering, BFF Roz starts dropping hints about Greg and romance, promptly going into snoopy overdrive when a mystery caller leaves a large bouquet of flowers…

For the first time Jinx realises High School is just one big stew of frustrated hormones which only adds to her worries. So preoccupied is she that, when Greg timidly asks her to a dance, she doesn’t realise what he’s saying and shoots him down without even noticing. The mystery flower-sender – covertly watching – does, however, and seethes…

Flustered, confused and determined to end the turmoil in her head, Jinx then ambushes and pre-emptively kisses Greg, but the result is something neither of them nor their secret stalker expected…

The grand gesture completely destabilises Jinx who goes into a spiral of angry depression and tetchy acting-up. Baffled Hap is hopeless to cope, and, with Halloween approaching, throws himself into organising her birthday costume party: a tradition they’ve enjoyed since she was a toddler. He has no idea how much his little girl has changed and that the prospect of a party sounds like torture to her…

And thus the scene is set for a showdown nobody will ever forget…

All dramatic foreboding aside, this clever, warm tale ends well and promises much more for the future. Smart, witty and intoxicatingly engaging, Jinx is a superb example of what can be accomplished in comics if you’re prepared to portray modern kids on their terms and address their issues and concerns.

Without ever resorting to overblown soap melodrama or angst-ridden teen clichés, Torres has delivered a believable cast of young friends who aren’t stupid or selfish, but simply trying to find their own tentative ways to maturity. The art by Burchett and Austin is semi-realistic and mesmerisingly effective.

This terrific turbulent tome includes many bonus features such as a ‘Football Pinup’, J. Torres’ thoughts and commentary on the story as described in ‘The Voice of Jinx’ and a fascinating, picture-packed peek behind the scenes in ‘The Concept Art of Jinx’.

More production secrets are revealed by Editor Suzannah Rowntree, describing how the project was conceived and created in ‘The Story of Teen Jinx’ and there’s even a smart selection of one-page Short Comics treats to wrap up the fun.

‘Fitting In’, ‘It’s Complicated’, ‘Frenemy of the State’, ‘The Dating Game’ and ‘Chat Fight’ all combine to prove that although they might be growing up, the cast are still kids at heart…

Compellingly funny, gently heart-warming and totally absorbingly, this book will resonate with kids and parents, offering genuine human interactions rather than repetitively manufactured atom-powered fistfights to hold your attention. It especially gives women a solid reason to give comics another try.

Sheer exuberant fun; perfectly crafted and utterly irresistible…
© 2012 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

New Crusaders Legacy


By Rich Buckler, Ian Flynn, Robert Kanigher, Stan Timmons, Alex Toth, Carmine Infantino, Steve Ditko, Dick Ayers, Gray Morrow, Alec Niño, Tony DeZuñiga, Jerry Gaylord, Ben Bates, Alitha Martinez & many more (Red Circle/Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-22-8

In the dawning days of the comic book business, just after Superman and Batman began creating a new genre of storytelling, many publishers jumped onto the bandwagon and made their own bids for cash and glory. Many thrived and many more didn’t; now relished only as trivia by sad old blokes like me. Some few made it to an amorphous middle-ground: not forgotten, but certainly not household names either…

MLJ were one of the quickest publishers to jump on the Mystery-Man bandwagon, following the spectacular successes of the Man of Tomorrow with their own small yet inspirational pantheon of gaudily clad costumed crusaders, beginning in November 1939 with Blue Ribbon Comics. Soon followed by Top-Notch and Pep Comics, their content was the standard blend of two-fisted adventure strips, prose pieces and gag panels and, from #2 on, superheroes…

However, after only a few years Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater spotted a gap in the blossoming market and in December 1941 nudged aside their masked heroes and action strips to make room for a far less imposing hero; an “average teen” who would have ordinary adventures like the readers, but with triumphs, romance and slapstick emphasised.

Pep Comics #22 featured a gap-toothed, freckle-faced, red-headed goof who clearly took his lead from Mickey Rooney’s popular Andy Hardy matinee movies. Goldwater developed the concept of a youthful everyman protagonist, tasking writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana with the job of making it work. A 6-page tale introduced Archie Andrews and pretty girl-next-door Betty Cooper as well as his unconventional best friend and confidante Jughead Jones in their small-town utopia of Riverdale.

The feature was an instant hit and by the winter of 1942 had won its own title. Archie Comics #1 was the company’s first solo-starring magazine and with it began the gradual transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of wealthy, raven-haired Veronica Lodge, all the pieces were in play for the comicbook industry’s second Genuine Phenomenon (Superman being the first)…

By 1946 the kids had taken over, so MLJ renamed itself Archie Comics; retiring its heroic characters years before the end of the Golden Age and becoming, to all intents and purposes, a publisher of family comedies. Its success, like Superman’s, changed the content of every other publisher’s titles, and led to a multi-media industry including TV shows, movies, a chain of restaurants and even a global pop hit “Sugar, Sugar” (a tune from their animated show).

Nonetheless, the company had by this stage blazed through a rather impressive pantheon of mystery-men who would form the backbone of numerous future superhero revivals, most notably in the High-Camp/Marvel Explosion/Batman TV show-frenzied mid-60’s era…

The heroes impressively resurfaced under the company’s Red Circle imprint during the early days of the Direct Sales revolution of the 1980s, but after a strong initial showing, again failed to sustain the public’s attention. Archie let them lie fallow (except for occasional revivals and intermittent guest-shots in Archie titles) until 1991, when the company licensed its heroes to superhero specialists DC for a magically fun, all-ages iteration (and where’s that star-studded trade paperback collection, huh?!). Impact Comics was a vibrant, engaging and fun all-ages rethink that really should have been a huge hit but was again cruelly unsuccessful…

When the line folded in 1993 the characters returned to limbo until DC had one more crack at them in 2008, attempting to incorporate the Mighty Crusaders & Co into their own maturely angst-ridden and stridently dark continuity – with the usual overwhelming lack of success.

Recently the wanderers returned home to Archie for a superbly simplistic and winningly straightforward revival aimed squarely at old nostalgics and young kids reared on highly charged action/adventure cartoon shows: brimming with all the exuberant verve and wide-eyed honest ingenuity you’d expect from an outfit which has been pleasing kids for nearly seventy years.

Released initially online in May 2012 – followed by a traditional monthly print version that September – the first story-arc made it to full legitimacy with a thrill-packed trade paperback collection, equally welcoming to inveterate fanboys and eager newcomers alike.

The series introduced a new generation of legacy heroes rising from the ashes of their parents’ and guardians’ murders to become a team of teenaged gladiators carrying on the fight as the New Crusaders.

This collection supplements and follows on from that magical makeover: having new team mentor The Shield train the potential-filled juniors through the records of their predecessors. The stories included here come from those aforementioned 1980s Red Circle episodes; culled from the pages of Mighty Crusaders #1, 8, 9, The Fly #2, 4, 6, Blue Ribbon #3, 8, 14, The Comet #1 and Black Hood #2, spanning 1983-1985…

Following an engaging reintroduction and recap, current creative team Ian Flynn, Jerry Gaylord, Ben Bates & Alitha Martinez reveal how the grizzled, flag-draped veteran has trouble reaching his teenaged students until he begins treating them as individuals, and sharing past Crusaders’ cases.

Starting with personal recollections of his own early days as America’s first Patriotic superhero in ‘The Shield’ (from Mighty Crusaders #8, Marty Greim, Dick Ayers & Rich Buckler), Joe Higgins explains his active presence in the 21st century, leading into a recapitulation of the first Red Circle yarn.

‘Atlantis Rising’ comes from Mighty Crusaders #1, by Buckler & Frank Giacoia, which found psionic plunderer Brain Emperor and immortal antediluvian Eterno the Conqueror launching a multi-pronged attack on the world. They were countered by an army of costumed champions including the Golden Age Shield, Lancelot Strong the (other) Shield (for a while there were three different ones active at once), Fly and Fly-Girl, Jaguar, The Web, Black Hood and The Comet, who communally countered a global crime-wave and clobbered the villains’ giant killer robots…

This is followed by a modern interlude plus pin-up and data pages on Ralph Hardy AKA ‘The Jaguar’ before a potent vignette by Chas Ward & Carlos Vicatan from The Fly #4 reviews the animal-master’s Aztec origins and rebirth in ‘Renewal’

‘The Web’ offers the same data-page update for masked detective and criminologist John Raymond before ‘The Killing Hour’ (Blue Ribbon #14, by Stan Timmons, Lou Manna, Rex Lindsey & Chic Stone) sees the merely mortal manhunter join his brother-in-law the Jaguar in foiling a nuclear terrorism plot…

More modern pin-ups and data-pages reintroduce ‘The Comet’ before Bill DuBay, Jr., Carmine Infantino & Alec Niño reworked the original 1940’s origin tale by Jack Cole from Pep Comics #1 in 1940.

Reproduced from 1984’s The Comet #1, this chilling yarn detailed how an idealistic scientist became the most bloodthirsty hero of the Golden Age, with a body-count which made the Punisher look like a pantywaist…

The infomercial for ‘Steel Sterling’ precedes a wild and whimsical origin-retelling of the star-struck, super-strong “Man of Steel” by his 1940s scripter Robert Kanigher, illustrated with superb style by Louis Barreto & Tony DeZuñiga from Blue Ribbon #3, after which ‘Fly Girl’ gets star treatment in a brace of tales, augmented as always by the ubiquitous fact-folio.

‘A Woman’s Place’ by Buckler, Timmons, Adrian Gonzales & Ricardo Villagran (from The Fly #2) clears up an exceedingly sexist old-school extortion ring whilst ‘Faithfully Yours’ (Fly #6) saw her movie-star alter ego Kim Brand subjected to a chilling campaign of terror from a fan. Timmons, Buckler, Steve Ditko & Alan Kupperberg took just the right tone in what might be the first incidence of stalking in US comics…

‘Black Hood’ has no modern iteration in the New Crusaders. Still active in contemporary times, he did encounter the kids during their debut exploit and is phenomenally cool, so he gets a place here. Following the customary introductory lesson he appears in a gritty, Dirty Harry themed adventure (from Blue Ribbon #8 by Gray Morrow) as undercover cop – and latest convert – Kip Burland who sidesteps Due Process to save a kidnapped girl and ensure the conviction of crooks hiding behind the law. The gripping yarn also discloses the centuries-long justice-seeking tradition of “The Man of Mystery” …

That’s followed by a snippet from Rich Margopoulos, Kupperberg & Giacoia entitled ‘A Hero’s Rage’ wherein Kip discovers his uncle Matt (the Golden Age Black Hood) has been murdered and ditches his leather jacket and ski-mask in favour of the traditional costume before joining the Mighty Crusaders…

Without doubt the most engaging reprint in this collection and by itself well worth the price of admission is ‘The Fox’ from Black Hood #2. Written and drawn by the inimitable Alex Toth, this scintillating light-hearted period comedy-drama finds the devilish do-gooder in Morocco in 1948, embroiled with wealthy expatriate ex-boxer Cosmo Gilly who has no idea he’s become the target for assassination…

The recondite recollections surge to a climax with ‘Old Legends Never Die’ (Mighty Crusaders #9, by David M. Singer, Buckler & Ayers) as the first Shield is accused of excessive force and manslaughter when his 1940’s crime-fighting style seemingly results in the death of a thief he most forcefully apprehended. With Joe Higgins’ costumed friends in support but out of their depth in a courtroom, the convoluted history of the three heroes bearing his codename are unpicked during ‘The Trial of the Shield’ before the uncannily sinister truth is finally exposed…

Supplemented by a plentiful cover gallery and packed with the kind of ephemera that sends old Fights ‘n’ Tights fans into paroxysms of delight, I fear this is probably a book only the wide-eyed young and dedicated aged nostalgists could handle, but it is such a perfect artefact of the superhero genre I strongly urge anyone with a hankering for masked adventure and craving Costumed Dramas to give it a long look.
NEW CRUSADERS and RED CIRCLE COMICS ® ACP, Inc. © 2013 Archie Comics Publications. All rights reserved.

Archie vs. Predator


By Alex de Campi, Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski, Jason Millet & various (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-805-5

For nearly three-quarters of a century Archie Andrews has epitomised good, safe, wholesome fun, but inside the staid and stable company which shepherds his adventures there has always hidden an ingenious and deviously subversive element of mischief.

Family-friendly iterations of superheroes, spooky chills, sci-fi thrills and genre yarns have always been as much a part of the publisher’s varied portfolio as the romantic comedy capers of America’s cleanest-cut teens since they launched as MLJ publications in the Golden Age’s dawning.

As you probably know by now, Archie has been around since 1941, spending most of those seven-plus decades chasing both the gloriously attainable Betty Cooper and wildly out-of-his-league debutante Veronica Lodge whilst best friend Jughead Jones alternately mocked and abetted his romantic endeavours and rival Reggie Mantle sought to scuttle his every move…

As crafted over the decades by a legion of writers and artists who’ve skilfully logged innumerable stories of teenage antics in and around the idyllic, utopian small-town Riverdale, these timeless tales of decent, upstanding, fun-loving kids have captivated successive generations of readers and entertained millions worldwide.

To keep all that accumulated attention riveted, the company has always looked to modern trends with which to expand upon their archetypal brief. In times past they have strengthened and cross-fertilised their stable of stars through a variety of team-ups such as Archie Meets the Punisher, Archie Meets Glee, Archie Meets Vampirella and Archie Meets Kiss, whilst every type of fashion-fad and youth-culture sensation have invariably been accommodated into and explored within the pages of the regular titles.

That willingness to dip traditional toes in unlikely waters led in 2015 to the publishers taking a bold and potentially controversial step which paid huge dividends and created another monster sales sensation…

The genesis of this most unlikely cross-fertilisation of franchises is explained in great detail and with a tremendous sense of “how did we get away with it?” in Roberto Aguirre Sacasa’s ‘Introduction’, but just in case you’re new to the other participant in all this…

Predators are an ancient alien species of trophy-taking sporting types who have visited the hotter parts of Earth for centuries, if not millennia. They are lone hunters who can turn invisible and resort to a terrifying selection of nasty weapons. They particularly like collecting skulls and spinal columns…

Predator was first seen in the eponymous movie from 1987 and started appearing in comic book extensions and continuations published by Dark Horse with the 4-issue miniseries Predator: Concrete Jungle (June 1989 to March 1990). It was followed by 22 further self-contained outings and numerous crossover clashes ranging from Batman and Superman to Judge Dredd and Tarzan, steadily keeping the franchise alive and kicking whilst the movie iteration waxed and waned…

This spectacularly eccentric yarn pulls off the peculiar and miraculous trick of creating a hilarious and scary family-friendly teen-slasher flick which begins ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ as all the young cast regulars head to Costa Rica for Spring Break and are having the time of their lives, until Betty and Veronica have a particularly vicious spat over Archie which leads to a spooky confrontation and a curse uttered over what might be an actual voodoo dagger.

Science-whiz Dilton is occupied with his telescope watching and everybody is blissfully unaware that they’ve piqued the attention of something patient, invisible and completely alien…

When they all head home they have no conception that some of their number are already trophies on a wall…

With the youngsters back in Riverdale Archie and his companions settle back into their routine but soon realise that something has followed them when a beloved adult is decapitated in plain sight. Soon the community is cut off and they are all waiting ‘To Live and Die in a Small Town’

Convinced their meddling with the occult has brought on the killing-spree, Betty and Veronica testily consult sorcerous expert Sabrina (the Teenage Witch) but that ends in another welter of scarlet and screaming and the first sighting of the thing from the stars…

Thing get grim and crazy as the rapidly depleting posse of teens meet the Government agents tasked with covertly countering the Predators but continue to fall until Dilton rolls out the weird science and Archie dons a ‘Full Metal Varsity Jacket’

Soon the beloved cast is down to the barest essentials and the last few resistors face their final curtain in ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’

After a surprisingly gripping and gory conclusion that will astonish and delight everyone an ‘Afterword’ by series Editor Brendan Wright gives more insight into the impetus and creative process behind this inspired tale, but there are still plenty of treats in store.

Scripter Alexi de Campi also got to play with others creators’ toys in a series of Bonus Crossovers, which rounded out the comics issues. Here follow quirky, perky little one and two page vignettes such as the eerily satisfying ‘Sabrina Meets Hellboy’ with art and colours by Robert Hack, lettered by Clem Robins, and the fabulously bizarre ‘Li’l Archie and his Pals meet Itty Bitty Mask’ by Art Baltazar.

Philosophical and physical depths are plumbed as ‘Jughead meets Mind MGMT’ (Matt Kindt) and the girls have fun when ‘Josie and the Pussycats meet Finder’ illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil, with colours from Jenn Manley Lee and letters from the ubiquitous de Campi.

By all accounts, when news of this project got out an army of eager professionals clamoured to get involved. The miniseries offered a wealth of covers-&-variants – some scattered about and acting as chapter-breaks by Ruiz, Koslowski, Millet, Dan, Parent, Gisèle, Maria Victoria Robado and Andrew Pepoy. The rest are gathered in a massive Variant Cover Gallery displaying varying degrees of gore, whimsy and humour from Eric Powell, Francesco Francavilla, Colleen Coover, Darick Robertson with Millet, Pepoy with Millet, Dennis Calero, Patrick Spaziante, Robert Hack with Stephen Downer, Dustin Nguyen, Kelley Jones with Michelle Madsen, Paul Pope with Shay Plummer, Faith Erin Hicks with Cris Peter, Joe Quinones, Tim Seeley, Richard P. Clark, Ruiz with Anwar Hanano, Koslowski as full illustrator and even more.

Also on view are samples of ‘Promo Art’ prepared for the comics convention circuit and a large section of Ruiz’s developmental ‘Character Studies’ plus a feature on the ‘Art Process’ from rough pencils through to finished colour pages.

But wait, there’s still more as ‘Unused Covers’ offers eight final tantalising ideas which never made it off the drawing boards of Ruiz, Pepoy, Gisèle and Faith Erin Hicks.

This book is one of those “Pitch hooks” Hollywood producer types thrive by. All you need is the three word title and a graphic acronym to know whether you’ll love this yarn.

Archie Versus Predator….

AVP.

Another Victorious Pairing.

Astounding.
Visual.
Perfection.

Archie vs. Predator © 2015 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Archie™ and © 2015 Archie Comic Publications, Inc. Predator™ and © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All guest material ™ and © 2015 its creators or copyright holders. All rights reserved.