Betty and Veronica’s Princess Storybook – Archie and Friends All-Stars volume 21


By Dan Parent, Jeff Schultz, Rich Koslowski & various (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-71-6

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Charming stories for kids of all ages… 8/10

Archie Andrews has been around for more than seventy years: a good-hearted lad lacking in common sense whilst Betty Cooper, the pretty, sensible girl next door – with all that entails – waits ardently nearby, loving the great ginger goof. Veronica Lodge is a rich, exotic and glamorous debutante who only settles for our boy if there’s nobody better around. She might actually love him too, though.

Despite their rivalry, Betty and Veronica are firm friends. Archie, of course, can’t decide who or what he wants…

Archie’s unconventional best friend Jughead Jones 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 triangle (+ one) has been the basis for decades of funnybook magic and the concept is eternally self-renewing…

Adapting seamlessly to every trend and fad of youth culture since before there even was such a thing, the host of writers and artists who’ve crafted the stories over the decades have made the “everyteen” characters of utopian Riverdale a benchmark for childhood development and a visual barometer of growing up.

In this collection, reprinting stories from 2013, the warring gal-pals and extended cast of the small-town American Follies are again plunged deep into whimsy and fable as writer Dan Parent tweaks and reinvents more classic fairytales like a New World Yonderland or venerable Christmas Panto (and boy, will those references bewilder the un-British and/or under thirties out there), providing sharp, smart and frequently uproarious spoofs on the eternal nature and magic of young love…

Augmented with informative, history-packed text features on the original prose stories, incisive creator commentary and a cover-&-variants gallery by Parent, Jill Thompson, Renee De Liz, Alitha Martinez, Gisele & Stephanie Buscema as well as a Foreword and Afterword by the scripter, this bright and breezy, full-colour chronicle begins with ‘The Story of the Rapunzels’ before ‘Bad Hair Daze’ takes the much-told tale into strange new territory.

Here a devoted childless couple is “blessed” with a happy event after promising a witch their firstborn, but the crone can only lay claim to one of the twins girls that result… Choosing blonde Betty and rejecting raven-tressed Veronica, the hag isolates the golden child in a tall tower for years, but completely underestimates the power of sibling love – and rivalry – when Ronnie finds her sister and Prince Archie finds them both…

Next is ‘Betty and the Beast’, wherein sorceress Veronica curses haughty Prince Archibald to a life of hideous isolation after he refuses to go steady with her. The lonely, angry, repentant monstrosity only begins to change without and within after dutiful daughter Betty moves in to save her doddery old dad from the monster’s ill-tempered predations…

The tale is further complicated when vain Lothario Reginald sets out to rescue poor Betty but finds the seductive sorceress more to his taste…

‘Snow White and the Riverdale Dwarves’ once more casts Ronnie as the villain (with potential home-wrecker Cheryl Blossom as her snippy magic mirror), jealous of Betty’s buxom beauty and determined to commit appalling deeds to remain the “hottest in the land”…

Thankfully a bizarre bunch of diminutive forest dwellers are ready to take the golden girl in and aid the rather ineffectual Prince Archibald in saving the day and getting the girl…

The next classic revision stars our girls as ‘The Little Mermaids’ who both sacrifice their tails and beautiful voices for a chance to spend three mute days in the surface world trying to win the love of a certain ginger royal scion.

The determined rivals hadn’t reckoned on Cheryl the Sea Witch cheating on the compact of course, but the surprise twist in this tale comes from Archie’s final choice and the girls’ prompt reaction…

Closing this enormously entertaining second showing of an irresistible idea is the outrageously amusing ‘Reggiestiltskin’ with Ronnie and Betty BFFs until that annoying Prince Archie sees and wants them both.

Sadly they both desire him too, which enchantress Princess Cheryl can’t allow. She wants the kingdom and will even marry the idiot Prince to get it and so employs wily gold-hungry goblin trickster Reggiestiltskin to get the girls out of the way.

However, even cunning witch-queens can underestimate the conniving nature of gold-grabbing goblins…

Co-starring all the adorable supporting characters we know and love (Jughead as Betty’s sharp-tongued fish-pal Forsythe is a sight once seen, never forgotten), these smartly beguiling skits are a marvellous example of just why Archie has been unsurpassed in this genre for generations: providing decades of family-friendly fun and wholesome teen entertainment…

And they were all read and re-read happily ever after…
© 2013 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Art of Archie: the Covers


By various, edited by Victor Gorelick & Craig Yoe (Archie Books)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-79-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A perfect celebration of the magic of comicbooks… 10/10

For most of us, comics mean buff men and women in capes and tights hitting each other, lobbing trees about, or stark, nihilistic genre thrillers aimed at an extremely mature and sophisticated readership of confirmed fans – and indeed that has been the prolific norm for nearly twenty years.

However, over the decades since comicbooks were invented in 1933, other forms of sequential illustrated fiction genres have held their own. One that has maintained a unique position over the years – although almost now completely transferred to television – is the teen-comedy genre begun by and synonymous with a carrot topped, homely (at first just plain ugly) kid named Archie Andrews.

MLJ were a small outfit which jumped wholeheartedly onto the superhero bandwagon following the debut of Superman. In November 1939 they launched Blue Ribbon Comics, promptly following with Top-Notch and Pep Comics. The content was the accepted blend of costumed heroes, two-fisted adventure strips and one-off gags. Pep made history with its lead feature The Shield – the industry’s first superhero clad in the American flag – but generally MLJ were followers not innovators.

That all changed at the end of 1941. Even while profiting from the Fights ‘N’ Tights phalanx, Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater (hence MLJ) spotted a gap in their blossoming market and in December the action strips were joined by a wholesome, ordinary hero; an “average teen” who had invitingly human-scaled adventures that might happen to the readers, but with the laughs, good times, romance and slapstick heavily emphasised.

Pep Comics #22 introduced a gap-toothed, freckle-faced, red-headed goof showing off to the pretty blonde next door. Taking his lead from the popular Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney, Goldwater developed the concept of a youthful everyman, tasking writer Vic Bloom & artist Bob Montana with the job of making it work.

So effective and all-pervasive was the impact and comforting message the new kid offered to the boys “over there” and those left behind on the Home Front that Archie Andrews and the wholesome image of familiar, beloved, secure Americana he and the Riverdale gang represented, one could consider them the greatest and most effective Patriotic/Propaganda weapon in comics history…

It all started with an innocuous 6-page tale entitled ‘Archie’ which introduced the future star and pretty girl-next-door Betty Cooper. Archie’s unconventional best friend and confidante Forsythe P.JugheadJones also debuted in that first story as did the small-town utopia they lived in.

The premise was an instant hit and in 1942 the feature graduated to its own title. Archie Comics #1 was the company’s first non-anthology magazine and began an inexorable transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of rich, raven-haired Veronica Lodge, all the pieces were in play for the industry’s second Phenomenon (Superman being the first).

By May 1946 the kids had taken over and, retiring its heroic characters years before the end of the Golden Age, MLJ renamed itself Archie Comics, becoming to all intents and purposes a publisher of family comedies. This overwhelming success, like the Man of Tomorrow’s, forced a change in the content of every other publisher’s titles and led to a multi-media industry including a newspaper strip, TV, movies, pop-songs and even a chain of restaurants.

Intermittently the costumed cut-ups have returned on occasion but Archie Comics now seems content to specialise in what they do uniquely best.

The eponymous high-schooler is a good-hearted lad lacking common sense and Betty – pretty, sensible, devoted girl next door, with all that entails – loves the ridiculous redhead. Ronnie is spoiled, exotic and glamorous and only settles for our boy if there’s nobody better around. She might actually love him too, though. Archie, of course, can’t decide who or what he wants…

This never-tawdry eternal triangle has been the basis of seventy years of charmingly raucous, gently preposterous, frenetic, chiding and even heart-rending comedy encompassing everything from surreal wit to frantic slapstick, as the kids and an increasing cast of friends grew into an American institution.

Adapting seamlessly to every trend and fad, perfectly in tone with and mirroring the growth of teen culture, the host of writers and artists who’ve crafted the stories over the decades have made the archetypal characters of Riverdale a benchmark for youth and a visual barometer of growing up American.

Archie’s unconventional best friend 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. There’s even a likeably reprehensible Tybalt figure in the crafty form of Reggie Mantle – who first popped up to cause mischief in Jackpot Comics #5 (Spring 1942).

This beguiling triangle (plus annexe and outhouse) has been the rock-solid foundation for decades of comics magic. …And the concept is eternally self-renewing…

Archie has thrived by constantly reinventing its core characters, seamlessly adapting to the changing world outside the 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 with the editors tastefully confronting a number of social issues affecting the young in a manner both even-handed and tasteful over the years.

The cast is always growing and the constant addition of new characters such as African-American Chuck – an aspiring cartoonist – his girlfriend Nancy, fashion-diva Ginger, Hispanic couple Frankie & Maria and a host of others like spoiled home-wrecker-in-waiting Cheryl Blossom all contribute to a wide and refreshingly broad-minded scenario. In 2010 Archie even jumped the final social repressive hurdle when Kevin Keller, an openly gay young man and clear-headed advocate, joined the cast, capably tackling and dismantling the last major taboo in mainstream comics.

A major component of the company’s success has been the superbly enticing artwork and especially the unmistakable impact afforded via the assorted titles’ captivating covers. This spectacular compilation (a companion to 2010s Betty & Veronica collection) traces the history and evolution of the wholesome phenomenon through many incredible examples from every decade. Augmented by scads of original art, fine art and commercial recreations, printer’s proofs and a host of other rare examples and graphic surprises no fan of the medium could possibly resist, this huge hardback (312 x 235mm) re-presents hundreds of funny, charming, gloriously intriguing and occasionally controversial images plus background and biographies on the many talented artists responsible for creating them.

Moreover, also included are many original artworks – gleaned from the private collections of fans – scripts, sketches, gag-roughs, production ephemera from the art-to-finished-cover process, plus an extensive, educational introductory commentary section stuffed with fascinating reminiscences and behind-the-scenes anecdotes.

The picture parade begins with some thoughts from the brains behind the fun as ‘It’s a Gift’ by current Publisher/Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, ‘You Can Judge a Book by its Cover!’ – Editor-in-Chief/Co-President Victor Gorelick – and ‘On the Covers’ from cartoonist and Comics Historian Craig Yoe take us to the 1940s where ‘In the Beginning…’ details the story of Archie with relevant covers and the first of a recurring feature highlighting how later generations of artists have recycled and reinterpreted classic designs.

‘A Matchless Cover’ leads into the first Artist Profile – ‘Bob Montana’ – and a wealth of cracking Golden Age images in ‘Who’s on First!’ before chapters on specific themes and motifs commence with a celebration of beach scenes with ‘In the Swim’ after which artist ‘Bill Vigoda’ steps out from behind his easel and into the spotlight.

‘Déjà Vu All Over Again’ further explores the recapitulation of certain cover ideas before ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll!’ examines decades of pop music and “guest” stars such as the Beatles, whilst ‘Archie’s Mechanically Inclined’ examines a short-lived dalliance with an early form of home DIY magazines. The life of veteran illustrator ‘Al Fagaly’ leads into a selection of ‘Fan Faves’ ancient and modern and the biography of ‘Harry Sahle’ then segues neatly into a selection of cheerleading covers in ‘Let’s Hear It for The Boy!’

It wasn’t long after the birth of modern pop music that the Riverdale gang formed their own band and ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, The Archies!’ focuses on those ever-evolving musical prodigies with scenes from the Swinging Sixties to the turbulent Rap-ridden 21st century after which the history of artist ‘Joe Edwards’ leads into a barrage of smoochy snogging scenes in ‘XOXOXO!’

Always a keen follower of fads and fashions the Archie crowd embraced many popular trends and ‘Monster Bash!’ concentrates on kids’ love of horror and recurring periods of supernatural thrills after which a bio of ‘Dan Parent’ leads unerringly to more ‘Celebrity Spotting!’ with covers featuring the likes of George (Sulu) Takei, Michael Jackson, Simon Cowell, J-Lo, Kiss, the casts of Glee and Twilight, and even President Barack Obama all eagerly appearing amongst so very many others.

‘Art for Archie’s Sake’ dwells on the myriad expressions of junior painting and sculpture and, after the life story of the sublimely gifted ‘Harry Lucey’, ‘The Time Archie was Pinked Out!’ details the thinking behind the signature logo colour schemes used during the company’s pre-computer days.

‘Life with Archie’s a Beach!’ takes another look at the rise of teenage sand and surf culture through the medium of beautifully rendered, scantily clad girls, whilst after the lowdown on writer/artist ‘Fernando Ruiz’, ‘Dance! Dance! Dance!’ follows those crazy kids from Jitterbug to Frug, Twisting through Disco and ever onwards…

‘The Happiest of Holidays’ highlights the horde of magical Christmas covers Archie, Betty and Ronnie have starred on whilst ‘Rhyme Time’ reveals the odd tradition of poetry spouting sessions that have been used to get fans interested and keep them amused.

A history of the inimitable ‘Samm Schwartz’ precedes a look at classroom moments in ‘Readin’ Writin’ an’ Archie’ – with a separate section on organised games entitled ‘Good Sports!’ – after which the life of legendary artist ‘Dan DeCarlo’ neatly leads to another selection of fad-based fun as ‘That’s Just Super!’ recalls the Sixties costumed hero craze as well as a few other forays into Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy…

‘Let’s Get this Party Started’ features covers with strips rather than single images and is followed by a biography of ‘Bob Bolling’ before ‘A Little Goes a Long Way!’ concentrates on the assorted iterations of pre-teen Little Archie comics. This is then capped by the eye-popping enigma of teen taste as visualised in the many outfits du jour revealing ‘A Passion for Fashion’

‘Come as You Aren’t!’ is devoted to the theme of fancy dress parties after which the modern appetite for variant covers is celebrated in ‘Alternate Realities’ (with stunning examples from Fiona Staples, Tim Seeley and Walter Simonson amongst others) all wrapped up by the gen on artistic mainstay ‘Bob White’.

The entire kit and caboodle then happily concludes with an assortment of surreal, mindblowing covers that defy categorisation or explanation in ‘And Now, For Something Completely Different’, proving that comics are still the only true home of untrammelled imagination: featuring scenes that literally have to be seen to be believed…

Mesmerising, breathtaking graphic wonderment, fun-fuelled family entertainment and enticing pop art masterpieces; these unforgettable cartoon confections truly express the joyous spirit of intoxicating youthful vitality which changed the comic industry forever and comprise an essential example of artistic excellence no lover of narrative art should miss.

Spanning the entire history of American comicbooks and featuring vintage images, landmark material and up-to-the-minute modern masterpieces, this is a terrific tome for anybody interested in the history of comics, eternally evergreen light laughs and the acceptable happy face of the American Dream.
™ & © 2013 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Best of Archie Comics Book 3


By Bob Montana and many & various (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-61-7

For most of us, comicbooks mean buff men and women in capes and tights hitting each other, lobbing trees and cars about, or stark, nihilistic genre thrillers aimed at an extremely mature and sophisticated readership of confirmed fans – and indeed that has been the prolific norm for nearly twenty years.

However, over the decades since the medium was created in 1933, other forms of sequential illustrated fiction genres have held their own. One that has maintained a unique position over the years – although almost now completely transferred to television – is the teen-comedy genre 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 wholeheartedly onto the superhero bandwagon following the debut of Superman. In November 1939 they launched Blue Ribbon Comics, promptly following with Top-Notch and Pep Comics. The content was the accepted blend of costumed heroes, two-fisted adventure strips and one-off gags. Pep made history with its lead feature The Shield – the industry’s first super-hero to be clad in the flag – but generally MLJ were followers not innovators

That all changed at the end of 1941. Even while profiting from the Fights ‘N’ Tights phalanx, Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater (hence MLJ) spotted a gap in their blossoming market and in December of that year the action strips were joined by a wholesome, ordinary hero; an “average teen” who had human-scaled adventures like the readers, but with the laughs, good times, romance and slapstick heavily emphasised.

Pep Comics #22 introduced a gap-toothed, freckle-faced, red-headed goof showing off to the pretty blonde next door. Taking his lead from the popular Andy Hardy movies starring Mickey Rooney, Goldwater developed the concept of a wholesome youthful everyman lad, tasking writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana with the job of making it work.

It all started with an innocuous 6-page tale entitled ‘Archie’ which introduced Archie Andrews and pretty girl-next-door Betty Cooper. Archie’s unconventional best friend and confidante Forsythe P.Jughead Jones also debuted in that first story as did the small-town utopia of Riverdale.

It was an instant hit and by the winter of 1942 the feature graduated to its own title. Archie Comics #1 was the company’s first non-anthology magazine and began an inexorable transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of rich, raven-haired Veronica Lodge, all the pieces were in play for the industry’s second Phenomenon (Superman being the first).

By May 1946 the kids had taken over and, retiring its heroic characters years before the end of the Golden Age, the company renamed itself Archie Comics, becoming to all intents and purposes a publisher of family comedies.

Its success, like the Man of Tomorrow’s, forced a change in the content of every other publisher’s titles and led to a multi-media industry including TV, movies, pop-songs and even a chain of restaurants.

Over the decades those costumed cut-ups have returned on occasion but Archie Comics now seem content to specialise in what they do uniquely best.

The eponymous Archie is a good-hearted lad lacking common sense and Betty – the pretty, sensible, devoted girl next door, with all that entails – loves the ridiculous redhead. Veronica is spoiled, exotic and glamorous and only settles for our boy if there’s nobody better around. She might actually love him too, though. Archie, of course, can’t decide who or what he wants…

This never sordid eternal triangle has been the basis of seventy years of charmingly raucous, gently preposterous, frenetic, chiding and even heart-rending comedy encompassing everything from surreal wit to frantic slapstick, as the kids and an increasing cast of friends grew into an American institution.

Adapting seamlessly to every trend and fad of the growing youth culture, the host of writers and artists who’ve crafted the stories over the decades have made the “everyteen” characters of utopian Riverdale a benchmark for youth and a visual barometer of growing up American.

Archie’s unconventional best friend 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. There’s even a scurrilous Tybalt figure in the Machiavellian shape of Reggie Mantle who first popped up to cause mischief in Jackpot comics #5 (Spring 1942).

This beguiling triangle (and annexe) has been the rock-solid foundation for decades of comics magic. Moreover the concept is eternally self-renewing…

Archie has thrived by constantly reinventing its core characters, seamlessly adapting to the changing world outside the 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 with the editors tastefully confronting a number of social issues affecting the young in a manner both even-handed and tasteful over the years.

The cast is always growing and the constant addition of new characters such as African-American Chuck – who wants to be a cartoonist – his girlfriend Nancy, fashion-diva Ginger, Hispanic couple Frankie and Maria and a host of like spoiled home-wrecker-in-waiting Cheryl Blossom all contribute to a wide and refreshingly broad-minded scenario. In 2010 Archie jumped the final hurdle with Kevin Keller, an openly gay young man and clear-headed advocate capably tackling and dismantling the last major taboo in mainstream comics.

Of course such a wealth of material has provided for a splendid library of trade paperbacks and collected editions since the dawn of the Graphic Novel market at the beginning of the 1980s. In recent years the company has found many clever ways to repackage their irresistible product such as a series of reprint volumes examining the progress decade-by-decade.

This particular iteration of The Best of Archie Comics tweaks that idea by providing a sampling from each era in one big book, with the further fillip of the tales being favourites personally selected by editorial staff like Editor in Chief Victor Gorelick and Ellen Leonforte, creators – vintage and current – like J. Torres, Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz or avowed celebrity fans such as Kyle Gass (Tenacious D), Joel Hodgson (Science Mystery Theater 3000), Tom Root (Robot Chicken) and Stan Lee.

Archie in ‘The 1940s’ is superbly represented by a wealth of wry and riotous slapstick shenanigans beginning with ‘The 3-11 Club’ (by Bob Montana from Pep #36, 1943) which finds the young sap drawn into a duel with a Prep School cadet after taking haughty, fickle Veronica to a swanky night spot.

Co-creator Montana supplied most of these early episodes, such as the medieval fantasy-fest ‘Sir Archibald of the Round Table’ (Archie #2 1943) and the delightfully heart-warming tale of a boy and his dog – and the ten puppies which resulted when everybody misapprehended the gender of ‘Oscar’ (Pep #37 1943)…

Ed Goggin, Harry Sahle – and his favourite inker “Ginger” – captured the contentious boisterousness of ‘Spring Fever’ (Archie #2 1943), after which the red menace got another irksome pet in ‘Monkey Shines’ (by Montana from Archie #6, 1945), before a broken School clock made ‘Time for Trouble’ (Sahle & Ginger, Archie #7, 1945), with the decade closing for us with a catalogue of calamity in the Goggin/Sahle/Ginger exposé ‘Camera Bugs’ from Pep #48, 1946.

An era of conformity, stability and expansion, ‘The 50s’ open with ‘The Cook-Off’ (Little Archie #2, 1956) as Bob Bolling expertly extrapolates on the grade school years of that eternal love triangle and the boy learns early the wages of “sin” is bewilderment and a headache. Teen Veronica then takes centre stage in ‘Poor Little Rich Whirl’ by George Frese & Terry Szenics (Archie Annual #8, 1956-1957) flaunting her wealth to poor little Betty, and the section concludes with a rare full-length 5 part yarn from Jughead #1, 1957.

Here the ravenous nonconformist discovers the downside of becoming a global singing sensation in ‘Jughead’s Folly’ by the amazing Joe Edwards.

‘The 1960s’ were a time when youth culture took over everything and ‘Over-Joyed’ by Frank Doyle, Harry Lucey & Marty Epp (Archie #123, 1961) begins a second Golden Age for laughter as the carrot-topped Lothario endures a self-inflicted barrage of silent comedy catastrophes, before ‘Hi-Jinx and Deep Divers’ (by Bob White from Life with Archie #16, 1962) cleverly changes tack for a sub-sea science fiction adventure which finds Messrs. Andrews and Mantle battling mermen at the bottom of the sea…

In Archie’s Pals and Gals #29, 1964 Doyle, the brilliant Samm Schwartz & Epp superbly spoofed the British Pop Invasion by having the disgruntled lads of Riverdale form their own mop-top band in the still-hilarious ‘Beetlemania’, after which ‘The Hold Up’ by Doyle, Dan DeCarlo, Rudy Lapick & Vince DeCarlo offers a sharp and silly pre-Pussycats tale from She’s Josie #19, 1966.

In it rich brat Alexander Cabot III expends insane amounts of energy trying to get robbed because he hates anybody thinking he might be poor…

Apparently the most disturbing thing about Jughead is that he prefers food to girls – a situation the torrid teen temptresses of Riverdale High attempt to correct through modern technology in ‘Pardon My Computer’ by George Gladir, Schwartz & Epp (Jughead #119, 1966), after which the lad proves his love for cunning pranks in ‘Voice Control’ (Doyle & Schwartz from Jughead #120, 1966).

Practical jokes are an Art form in Riverdale – as seen in ‘Stick with It’ (Archie #178 Doyle, Lucey, Bill Yoshida & Barry Grossman) and the kids played with reality itself in ‘Visit to a Small Panic’ (Everything’s Archie #1 Gladir, Lucey, Epp & Yoshida) when they all visited the Hollywood animation studios then creating their Saturday Morning Cartoon Show.

A time of style-challenged sensuous silliness and ethical questing, ‘The ‘70s’ is represented here with ‘The Bye Bye Blues’ (Laugh #276, 1974, Doyle, Lucey, Yoshida & Grossman) wherein the kids practise their life-governing philosophies to great effect, whilst Reggie’s adoption of the wrong spirit after watching ‘Kong Phoo’ (Archie at Riverdale High #18, 1974) by Doyle & Lucey only leads to personal pain and sorrow…

‘Minding a Star’ (Archie #264, 1977, by Doyle, Dan & Jim DeCarlo & Grossman) finds our brick-topped hero babysitting a TV celebrity chimp, whilst the Star Wars phenomena hit mean Mantle hard in ‘Costume Caper’ from Reggie and Me #104 (1978, Doyle, Dan DeCarlo Jr., Jim DeCarlo, Yoshida & Grossman).

The girls had their own pet passions as seen in the superb spoof ‘Melvin’s Angels’ (Betty & Veronica #277, 1979) from Doyle, Dan & Jim DeCarlo, Yoshida & Grossman.

‘The ‘80s’ are still with us, of course, so the green message of ‘Verve to Conserve’ (by Gladir, DeCarlo Jr., Lapick & Yoshida from Archie # 292, 1980) retains much of the original merit and mirth, whilst Josie’s ongoing war with the Cabot clan on Sports Day results in ‘Scratch One Clown’ (Archie’s TV Laugh-Out #86, 1982, by Dan DeCarlo Jr., Jim DeCarlo & Yoshida).

Parental control and filial responsibility result in upset and big laughs in ‘Saturday’s Child’ (Archie #331, 1984 Doyle, Dan DeCarlo Jr. & Jim DeCarlo), whilst ‘The Plight of the Perilous Pike’ by Bolling, Bob Smith & Yoshida from Archie and Me #144 offers another view of the kids – one that displays their warmth, generosity and good hearts.

Around the same time that DC were first rationalising their sprawling universe, after years of unqualified success Archie Comics similarly undertook a massive gamble in the MTV, computer-game, reading-reduced decade by rebooting and updating the entire franchise.

Betty’s Diary #1, 1987 saw ‘The Art Lesson’ – by Kathleen Webb, Dan & Jim DeCarlo & Yoshida – in which the wholesome blonde showed her character by refusing an award she felt she hadn’t earned. Then ‘Back from the Future’ (Archie Giant Series #590, October 1988, by Rich Margopoulos, Rex Lindsey, Jon D‘Agostino, Yoshida & Grossman and supplemented here by the cover) offers a fanciful comedy drama as the Jones boy is deputised by pretty red-headed, be-freckled mystery girl January McAndrews into the Time Police.

She believes that the slovenly moocher is the only one who can help her save history from malignant chronal crooks. Scary…

‘The ‘90s’ section begins with the uncanny ‘Mystery of the Mummy’s Curse’ (New Archies Digest #10, 1990, by Mike Pellowski, Henry Scarpelli, Yoshida, Grossman, Nanci Tsetsekas & Gregg Suchow), a caper very much in the manner of TV’s Scooby Doo – but with the kids as pre-teens. Next, fame chasing Cheryl Blossom (#15 1995 by Dan Parent, D’Agostino, Yoshida & Grossman) takes time off from trying to steal Archie from Betty and Veronica to briefly pursue a life in reality TV by organising ‘Cheryl’s Beach Bash’

That Scooby Gang motif was a popular one. In ‘The 2000s’ ‘A Familiar Old Haunt’ (Archie’s Weird Mysteries #6, 2000 by Paul Castiglia, Fernando Ruiz, Rick Koslowski, Vickie Williams & Rick Taylor) found the teenaged Riverdalers exposing charlatan monster-hunters, whilst a manga-style re-imagining of Sabrina (#70, 2005 by Tania Del Rio, Jim Amash, Jeff Powell, Ridge Rooms & Jason Jensen – and see Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Magic Within Book 1) – found the student sorceress dealing with both mundane and mystical school tests in ‘Spell it Out’

This marvellous meander down memory lane concludes with ‘2010 and Beyond’ and ‘Something Ventured, Something Gained’ (from Jughead #200, 2010 by Tom Root, Lindsey, Jack Morelli, Parent & Rosario “Tito” Peña) which sees young Forsythe sell his most unappreciated, vital characteristic to a conniving witch and only survive due to the self-sacrifice of his friends…

Also on show are some thoroughly modern spoof and pastiche ‘Variant Covers’ by Andrew Pepoy, Fiona Staples, Ramon Perez & Phil Jimenez from 2012-2013, before everything ends on a delirious dilemma in ‘The Great Switcheroo!’ (Archie #636, 2012 by Del Rio, Gisele, Koslowski, Morelli & Digikore Studios) as well-intentioned magic turns the town into in Reverse-dale and all the boys and girls unknowingly swap genders and problems…

Spanning the entire history of comicbooks and featuring vintage yarns, landmark material and up-to-the-minute modern masterpieces, this is a terrific tome for anybody looking for light laughs and the acceptable happy face of the American Dream.
© 2013 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Archie 1000 Page Comics Digest


By many and various (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-50-1

There’s an American TV show which embraces everything about the culture. It’s called Man vs. Food and in it a roguishly charming gentleman travels the nation, sampling the fare of many wonderful and beguiling independent eateries. The climax to each episode occurs as the narrator pits himself against a speciality dish: one either vast in volume, toxically spicy or in some other way simply too much good stuff for any individual to handle safely in one sitting…

Following the debut of Superman, MLJ were one of many publishers that jumped on the “mystery-man” bandwagon with their own small but inspirational pantheon of gaudily clad crusaders. In November 1939 they launched Blue Ribbon Comics, promptly adding Top-Notch and Pep Comics to their bill of fare. The content was the standard blend of costumed heroes, two-fisted adventure strips, prose pieces and gag panels.

After a few years Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater (hence MLJ) spotted a gap in the blossoming but crowded market. In December 1941 the costumed heroes and two-fisted adventure strips were nudged aside by a far less imposing hero, an “average teen” who would have ordinary adventures like the readers, but with the laughs, good times, romance and slapstick emphasised.

Pep Comics #22 introduced a gap-toothed, freckle-faced red-headed boy showing off to the pretty blonde next door. Inspired by the popular Andy Hardy matinee movies starring Mickey Rooney, Goldwater developed the concept of a youthful everyman protagonist, tasking writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana with the job of making it work.

The six-page tale entitled ‘Archie’ introduced hapless boob Archie Andrews and pretty girl-next-door Betty Cooper. Archie’s unconventional best friend and confidante Jughead Jones also debuted in that first story as did the idyllic 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 non-anthology magazine and with it began the gradual transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of stinking rich, raven-haired Veronica Lodge, all the pieces were in play for the comicbook industry’s second Genuine Phenomenon (the aforementioned Man of Tomorrow being the first).

By 1946 the kids had totally taken over, so the company renamed itself Archie Comics, retiring most of its heroic characters years before the end of the Golden Age and becoming, to all intents and purposes, a publisher of family-friendly comedies.

Its success, like Superman’s, changed the content of every other publisher’s titles and led to a multi-media brand encompassing TV, movies, merchandise, a chain of restaurants and, in the swinging sixties, a pop music sensation when “Sugar, Sugar” – a song from their animated TV show – became a global smash. The wholesome garage band “The Archies” has been a fixture of the comics ever since.

Archie is good-hearted, impetuous and lacking common sense, Betty his sensible, pretty girl next door – with all that entails – who loves the ginger goof in spite of everything, 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 triangle (and annexe) has been the rock-solid foundation for seven decades of funnybook magic. Moreover the concept is eternally self-renewing…

This 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 (antagonist Reggie Mantle, boy genius Dilton Doily and school jock Moose amongst many others) growing into an American institution and part of the American Cultural landscape.

Adapting seamlessly to every trend and fad of ever-changing youth culture, the army of writers and artists who’ve crafted the stories over the decades have made the “everyteen” characters of mythical Riverdale a benchmark for youth and a visual barometer of growing up.

Archie has thrived by constantly reinventing those 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 (over the years the company has managed to confront a number of social issues affecting youngsters in a manner both even-handed and tasteful) and the constant addition of new characters such as African-American Chuck – who wants to be a cartoonist – 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. In 2010 Archie jumped the final hurdle with Kevin Keller, an openly gay young man and a clear-headed advocate capably tackling and dismantling the last major taboo in mainstream kids comics.

And here’s where I’m going to throw in the towel…

This current sublime confection of Man vs. Comics is just too much for even me to consider listing here – and I’m one of the most tedious, picky and longwinded comics-bores still regularly dog-earing pages…

So brace yourself for an abbreviated review: there are more than 100 stories in this mammoth, meaty, mirth-filled monolith and by mentioning some it will seem as if some are better than others. That’s not the case. They’re uniformly fabulous but there are only 24 hours in a day and my hands are getting tired…

Amongst the torrent of long tales, short stories, half and single page gags, fashion pages, puzzles and so much more comedies, fantasies, love stories and even crime capers: such outrageous episodes as ‘The Nature of the Beast’, ‘Bee Well?’, ‘Shirting the Issue’, ‘Testy Taste’, ‘Babyproofed!!’, ‘She’s Too Bossy’, ‘It Takes Two to Tangle!’ and ‘How to Meet Boys!’

Moreover you’d be amazed at the antics of ‘Blade Bummer!’, ‘Flick Pick!’, the dubious ‘Genius of Love’ or ‘The Big Chance’ and suffer from ‘Virtual Frivolity’, ‘The Dance Flaw!’, ‘Spring Fever’ or ‘Telling it Like It Is!’.

Especially cool are such sharp parodies as ‘The Puff Piece’ (a la the Powerpuff Girls) and numerous keep fit fad lampoons like ‘High Impact Shopping!’

With contributions from Bob Bolling, George Gladir, Bill Vigoda, Bill Golliher, Stan Goldberg, Frank Doyle, Jon D’Agostino, Fernando Ruiz, Bob Smith, Al Milgrom, Henry Scarpelli, Al Hartley, Kurt Schaffenberger, Barbara Slate, Mike Esposito, T & Pat Kennedy, Paul Kupperberg, Holly G!, Chic Stone, Dan Parent, Jeff Shultz, Rudy Lapick, Kathleen Webb, Jim Amash, Mike Pellowski, Rich Koslowski, Craig Boldman, Rex Lindsey, Steven Butler, Doug Crane, Dick Malmgren, a dynasty of DeCarlos and many more, this is a true gem of perfectly crafted all-ages fun.

Featuring vintage stories (including much spectacular and formative material from Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica #2, 3, 4, 6 and 13 from 1952-3) and up-to-the-minute modern mini-masterpieces, this is an ideal book for kids or grandparents on the beach or in the car this summer – and once they’re playing in the surf or snoozing in the sun you can snaffle it for yourself…
© 2013 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jinx book 2: Little Miss Steps


By J. Torres, Rick Burchett & Terry Austin (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-42-6 (HC)                    : 978-1-936975-41-9 (PB)

For most of us, when we say comicbooks, thoughts either turn to buff men and women in garish tights hitting each other and lobbing trees or 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.

However one US company which has held its ground against the tide over the years – supported by a thriving spin-off television and movie franchise – is the teen-comedy powerhouse that 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.

As decades passed, 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 translated 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 introduction of Kevin Keller, an openly gay young man and a clear-headed advocate capably tackling and dismantling the last major taboo in mainstream kids comics.

Where once cheap, prolific and ubiquitous, strip 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 still-fresh 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: Little Miss Steps is the second outing for a venerable child-star of the company 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) and celebrated artists Rick Burchett & Terry Austin 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.

You might be familiar with the precocious and feisty Li’l Jinx who debuted in Pep Comics #62 (cover-dated July 1962). 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 next few 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 kids such as 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…

She faded away gradually during the 1980s as teenagers and Turtles supplanted younger characters in Archie’s stable.

She was revived and given a thorough 21st century upgrade for a new serial in Life With Archie (beginning in #7, March 2011) a growing girl just starting high school. She hadn’t lost all her rough edges though…

After a handy ‘Cast of Jinx’ page, this superb sequel – available in both paperback and hardcover editions – opens with the stroppy lass freaking out because she’s going to be late for a meeting with her mother. Jinx has lived with her dad ever since her parents divorced and almost never sees Mery Holliday anymore…

A busy ER nurse, Mery disappoints her daughter again at the last minute so, after fruitlessly reaching out to her already booked and busy friends, the frustrated Jinx settles in to watch an old movie with dear old Dad…

She’s still fuming at Rose Valley High on Monday, and when the gang start talking about baseball tryouts she goes ballistic at the injustice of the fact that girls aren’t allowed to audition. In high school only boys play B-ball. Girls have to play Softball…

Already in trouble with Coach Boone for trying to join the all-male Football squad, Jinx’s day is further spoiled when the sports master pre-emptively warns her not to cause any further disruption. The guys don’t get it: sure, she’s better at sports than any of them, but that’s the rules.

Anyway, her mother was a Softball superstar in her day, so why shouldn’t she be content to be the same?

Later, when her mother again cancels at the last moment Jinx blows her top…

Her female friends don’t really understand either and Dad is baffled when his despondent daughter just seems to give up. It takes a bizarre pep-talk from shallow fashion-plate frenemy Gigi to bring Jinx out of her funk and, after a confrontation with Boone that she could never have predicted, Jinx gets her shot at joining the Baseball squad…

Gigi and Roz are pursuing more traditional roles, joining the committee to organise the Freshman Dance, but their attempts to socialise and civilise Jinx end in bloodshed and embarrassment. There’s even more such in store as the recovering tom-boy becomes increasingly aware that her old sandlot pals Greg and Charley are starting to think of her as something other than the one who beats them at every game and sport…

Gigi of course is delighted: there’s never enough teasing and bitchiness to test her verbal venom and well-manicured claws on…

At the Baseball tryout things go very badly. When Jinx loses it and beats up Charley, she not only falls foul of viperish Principal Vernon, but worse yet, her mother is there to publicly shame her in front of everybody…

Dad is more understanding but knows there are traumas and repercussions still to come. Although the infuriated Jinx refuses to take her mother’s calls she cannot avoid Mery when the entire family is called into Vernon’s office. Afterwards mother and daughter reconcile and make yet another date to spend time together. Later Dad confides that one reason his ex-wife has been constantly postponing seeing Jinx is that Mery has a big announcement she’s afraid to make…

He won’t however tell his irksome, impatient child what it is.

Gigi has some disquieting ideas about what such a personal parent-related revelation might be, but the glamour girl’s attention is focussed on her latest party idea – making the upcoming school soiree a Sadie Hawkins Dance. That, she gleefully explains, is where the usual system is reversed and the girls have to invite the boys…

It’s just one more thing to aggravate and annoy the surly tomboy as both Greg and Charley unsubtly start pestering her to pick one of them. With the lads making complete idiots of themselves Jinx dodges the hot potato by inviting an unsuspecting rank outsider, but still has to cope with the breathtaking bombshell her mother drops when she finally turns up for their family day…

With Greg and Charley in ridiculous macho overdrive Jinx starts to wonder if there’s something wrong with her. After all she’s great at sports, hates girly things like fashion and make-up, loathes dresses and can’t wear anything but sneakers.

Putting all that together with hating boys, and Jinx has to wonder if perhaps she’s gay but really doesn’t know it yet…

Clever, 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 tired soap opera melodrama or angst-ridden teen clichés, Torres has delivered a believable cast of young friends who aren’t stupid or selfish, but simply finding their own tentative ways to maturity. The art by Burchett and Austin is semi-realistic and shockingly effective.

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

As added extras this tome also includes a host of bonus features such as background on Joe Edwards’ classic strip: comparing the teen ‘Jinx’ with ‘Li’l Jinx’, as well as the changing faces of ‘Dad’, ‘Jinx, Charley & Greg’ and ‘Jinx and her Mother’.

For aspiring creators there are also a few secrets shared as ‘The Concept of Mery’, ‘The Concept of Mari’ and ‘Behind the Scenes with Jinx Covers’ provides artistic grist for anybody inspired enough to make their own stories.

Sheer exuberant fun; perfectly crafted and utterly irresistible.
© 2013 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Magic Within Book 1


By Tania del Rio & Jim Amash (Archie Comics Publications)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-39-6

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. She instantly 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 in 1971 finally winning her own title.

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 – simple titled Sabrina – was based on new TV show Sabrina the Animated Series. This ran from 2000 to 2002 for 37 issues 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 #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.

Written and drawn by Tania del Rio and inked by Jim Amash, this canny supernatural soap ran until #100 in 2009. The series folded four issues later.

An incredibly successful experiment, the beginnings of the manga saga were collected in a trade paperback as Sabrina – the Magic Revisited and issues #58-67 were later added to Archie Comics’ online library as digital editions. Now with the release of this black-&-white digest sized US tankōbon edition, the concept comes full circle…

Collecting Sabrina the Teenage Witch #58-68 from 2004-2005, this vibrant slice of wild whimsy opens with ‘Entering the Magic Realm’ – a fond remembrance from del Rio – and a handy character guide before issue/chapter 1 introduces us to a different kind of Winsome Witch in ‘Spellfreeze’

Sabrina is just a typical Greendale High School girl. She lives with her Aunts Hilda and Zelda Spellman, has a pet cat Salem and barely conceals a crush on 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 desires.

Sabrina is also an atypical witch: living in the mortal world and passing herself off as normal. To make up for this peccadillo she has to attend Charm-School in the “Other Realm” to learn all about her heritage, powers and especially the rules of magic/mortal interaction.

Her life takes a complicated turn when a cute new boy enrols at Greendale. Shinji Yamagi is gorgeous and instantly popular – but he’s also a young warlock from Sabrina’s class at her other school. He’s on Earth to clandestinely study for a Charm-School project but soon finds it hard to keep his gifts secret.

Moreover he’s soon turning Sabrina’s head and she can’t decide which boy she likes best…

Complicating the mess is mortal Amy Reinhardt – a spiteful rival for Harvey’s affections who will do anything to upset Sabrina and sharp enough to instantly realise that she can use Shinji to further her ambitions…

Shinji is having real problems not using his magic to ease the tedious drudgery of mortal life and is soon openly flouting the rules just to make himself popular. Knowing that eventually somebody will realise he’s not simply performing tricks – and perhaps just a little jealous – Sabrina determines to stop him…

Salem is not just an ordinary cat; long ago he was Salem Saberhagen: the most powerful warlock of all. 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 very grudging. He doesn’t need much urging to guide Sabrina to the Magic Realm where she can obtain a spell to neutralise Shinji’s powers.

It’s quite complex though, and the junior conjuress gets it badly wrong. Rather than freezing the warlock’s magic the spell turns Shinji’s body to ice.

Horrified at her mistake Sabrina confesses all to her Aunts and learns that only a kiss can turn him back to normal, but she’s slowly becoming aware that for all his arrogant faults, she really, really likes Shinji and doesn’t fully trust herself…

Chapter 2 has a sporting theme as Sabrina tries to get Harvey to make his move. Although a star of the basketball squad, the wishy-washy boy is badly fumbling the school tradition of bestowing a team ribbon upon the girl of one’s dreams.

Sabrina is cruelly teased by Amy who tells her Harvey has already offered her his silken favour in ‘Blue Ribbon Blues’ and the distraction cannot come at a worse time. There’s a big test coming up in Charm-School – it’s the time when students have to make their first flying broomstick – and a bad result could affect her whole life…

Unbeknownst to her Shinji too is feeling the power of attraction. In ‘Councils and Concerts’, Aunt Hilda is lobbying to be elected to the ruling Council of the Magic Realm and needs no embarrassing distractions, but that hope is doomed after Sabrina is summonsed by the fearsome Galiena, Czarina of Decree to explain her recent rule-breaking and magical abuse of the adults-only spellfreeze incantation, not to mention riding a broom without a license…

As the depressed teen talks things over with best friend and eldritch classmate Llandra da Silva, Shinji appears and asks her on a date to see the hip, magic band Oberon. The wayward warlock has had plenty of run-ins with the Council though, and advises her just to ignore them, even as Llandra warns him not to come between her BFF and poor mortal Harvey…

After the gig, Shinji tries to get Sabrina to join him in another illegal broom flight and they have a blazing row before he ditches her. Humiliated and furious, all she can do is call the aunt she has again let down…

A Halloween party is the setting for ‘The Magic Within’ as troubled Goth girl Gwenevive Ricci arrives in Greendale, a mortal who can somehow make real magic. The brittle human is rather hard to like, but when Salem investigates he finds the secret of Gwenevive’s powers to be a rival someone he’d thought long gone and the soiree turns into a deadly supernatural battle.

More by luck than skill Sabrina saves the world and vindicates herself with the Council, but they might not be so mellow if they realised she had accidentally allowed Gwen to learn her secret…

‘Winter Wallflower’ deals with some of the potential repercussions as witchly wannabe Gwen pumps Sabrina for more information, blithely uncaring that she risks having her mind wiped by the Council. However rebellious Sabrina faces even greater challenges when she finds herself dateless for a school dance. Good old dependable Harvey has asked a cute freshman to the affair, and when Sabrina goes looking for Shinji she sees him in a passionate embrace with Llandra…

This chapter is complimented by a one-page gag strip starring Salem who abuses a present in ‘House Cat!’ before the Sabrina/Harvey/Shinji romantic triangle is dramatically resolved in ‘Cabin Fever’ wherein the kids and Llandra dash off for a winter break in a log cabin (with Aunt Zelda along as reluctant chaperone). However when the boys drive off for provisions they are caught in a killer ice storm and trapped on a mountain.

Soon their seething rivalry for Sabrina causes a confrontation, but after Harvey saves Shinji from death the chastened young magician determines to help Harvey win the girl of his dreams – even if neither of them is sure that’s what he wants…

After another Salem single ‘Here’s Looking at You’, Harvey’s indecisiveness resurfaces during Valentine’s Day. Despite the warlock boy’s every effort, his new mortal pal just cannot summon up the courage to ask Sabrina out. Moreover the frustrated teen Witch knows something’s amiss and has been having nightmares waiting for Harvey to make his move.

Unfortunately Sabrina talks – and enchants – in her sleep and wakes up on February 14th with the power to see ‘Love Connections’ between people and even animals. The teen witch spends the day acting as an unofficial Cupid, bringing together people who don’t realise how close their one true loves actually are, before – unable to handle Harvey’s paralysis – she just gives up and makes the first move herself.

Watching from concealment Shinji is delighted that at last they are together – and cannot understand why his own heart is breaking…

‘Caught on Tape’ deals with another kind of crisis just as Sabrina is finally together with Harvey. Hilda has been elected to the Council as Czarina of Meditation and the entire family has to move to the Magic Realm. The boy is still unaware of her true nature and now she may never see him again…

However when evidence is found of mortal poachers in the Magic Realm, Sabrina’s knowledge of the mundane world enables them to track down unscrupulous crypto-zoologist Atticus Rex and free the fantastic beast he thought would make him a TV sensation.

Realising that they increasingly need contact with Earth, the Council relents and stations Hilda permanently in the human Realm, but even after having his memories wiped the Spellmans have not seen the last of Atticus…

When Shinji’s mortal, toymaker uncle arrives from Japan and sees Sabrina’s cat he copies the creature’s unique appearance and spawns global ‘Salem Mania’. With the cat now on backpacks, apparel, toys, jewellery and every other form of merchandise as the ignominious ‘Mr. Kitty Litter’, the furious former arch-mage alternately plans revenge and how to cash in, with Sabrina otherwise occupied and unable to stop or help him.

Her attention has been diverted by an impossible dilemma: now that she has Harvey, why is she so jealous that Llandra is with Shinji?

This beguiling first collection concludes with a crossover of sorts when Shinji is “discovered” by a fashion agency and briefly becomes a male model. With Sabrina becoming increasingly disenchanted with Harvey, the warlock suddenly goes slow with Llandra and is romantically linked to pop sensations Josie and the Pussycats, but his meteoric career comes to a sudden halt when his bosses demand to see a little too much skin…

Enticing, funny and genuinely enthralling, this witty, fresh take on a classic American icon will delight most fans and readers. With actual human interaction rather than manufactured atom-powered fistfights to hold your attention, it offers women in particular a solid entertaining reason to give comics one more try. Sheer exuberant fun; perfectly crafted and utterly irresistible.
© 2013 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

New Crusaders: Rise of the Heroes


By Ian Flynn, Ben Bates, Alitha Martinez & Gary Martin (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-936975-31-0

In the dawning days of the comic book business, just after Superman and Batman had ushered in 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, 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 but inspirational pantheon of gaudily clad crusaders, beginning in November 1939 with Blue Ribbon Comics, soon followed by Top-Notch and Pep Comics. The content was the standard blend of two-fisted adventure strips, prose pieces and gag panels and, from #2 on, costumed heroes…

However, after only a few years Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater (hence MLJ) 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 the popular Andy Hardy matinee movies starring Mickey Rooney. Goldwater developed the concept of a youthful everyman protagonist, tasking writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana with the job of making it work. The 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-star magazine and with it began the gradual transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of rich, 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, and a chain of restaurants. In the swinging sixties the pop hit “Sugar, Sugar” (a tune from their animated show) became a global smash: their wholesome garage band The Archies has been a fixture of the comics ever since.

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…

The heroes impressively resurfaced in the 1980s under the company’s Red Circle imprint but again failed to catch the public’s attention and Archie let them lie fallow (except for occasional revivals and intermittent guest-shots in regular 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, trying to incorporate the Mighty Crusaders & Co into their own maturely angst-ridden and stridently dark continuity – with the usual overwhelming lack of success.

Now at last the wanderers have 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 – and followed by a traditional monthly print version that September – the first story-arc even made it to full legitimacy in this thrill-packed collection, equally welcoming to inveterate fanboys and eager newcomers alike.

The first 6 issues collected here offer grand old-fashioned Costumed Drama and modern teen-targeted Fights ‘n’ Tights action that begins with the 2-part introduction ‘From the Ashes’ by Ian Flynn, Ben Bates & Gary Martin.

Red Circle is an idyllic, storybook American town – now. That wasn’t always the case however, and as Mayor Jack Sterling hosts a party for some very old friends and their kids in ‘Reunions’, that dark past horrifically resurfaces as the festivities are cancelled due to a murderous attack by a manic super-villain.

One minute Ralph Hardy, John Dickering and wife Thelma, John and Rose Raymond, Ted Tyler and Kim Brand are watching their respective teenagers mooching about and not getting along and the next they’re all dead at the hands of alien overlord the Brain Emperor

Only late arriving Joe Higgins is left to shepherd the kids from the burning Mayoral mansion, operating under a long-practised escape plan devised by the heroic Mighty Crusaders…

Debuting way back when in Pep Comics #1, January 1940, Higgins was an FBI scientist who devised a suit which gave him enhanced strength, speed and durability, battling the USA’s enemies as The Shield in the days before America entered WW II. He also devised a serum which enhanced those powers, smashing spies, saboteurs, subversives and every threat to Democracy and well-being. A minor sensation, he is credited as comics’ first Patriotic Hero, predating Captain America and Quality’s Uncle Sam in “wearing the Flag”.

In the sixties he and many of his lost cohorts returned to battle crime and craziness once more…

After accomplishing the impossible and wiping out super-crime he, Steel Sterling, Jaguar, Comet, The Web, Pow-Girl, Fireball and Fly Girl happily retired from action. Unable to settle or relax, Higgins became a virtual recluse and, as Evil Never Dies, laid contingency plans with his old comrades.

Now with all his nightmares come true, he sequesters the traumatised kids in his high-tech bunker and relates the truth about the seemingly dull-and-boring dearly departed in ‘Birthrights’.

The Red Circle tragedy is covered up by Federal spooks from the Military Logistics & Jurisdiction Bureau and dubbed a freak storm on the Impact City news, but orphans Johnny Sterling, Alex Tyler, Greg Dickering, Kelly Brand, Wyatt Raymond and Hardy’s young apprentice Ivette Velez know the truth. They just can’t come to grips with it.

Once Old Man Higgins had saved them from the monster-maniac, he locked them up in his subterranean wonderland – with the full approval of the MLJ – and started talking nonsense.

He claimed their folks were the world’s greatest superheroes and expects them to take up their identities and mission. It’s crazy and totally impossible to believe, but he has all kinds of evidence and gadgets in his bunker. There’s even a mutant talking monkey named Dusty, and somehow he makes more sense than his snarky, impatient boss…

It’s too much and the kids rebel, so Higgins lets them go. All they have to do is get out of the bunker alive…

The terrifying gauntlet proves to the shell-shocked teens that they are far from average and they elect to stay. ‘Legacies part 1: Growing Pains’ then describes the mandatory training process wherein the neophytes, through determination, pre-prepared inheritances, sheer dumb luck and rash stupidity become a second generation of heroes, privy to all the secrets and responsibilities of a world hidden from most of humanity.

Kelly is dispatched by Dusty (or Dr. Uruk Ak’ahk to give him his proper title) to a trans-dimensional space station operated by veteran Crusader Bob Phantom to pick up the alien gimmicks which will make her the new Fly Girl, whilst timid low-esteem-plagued Ivette is given the magical Jaguar Helmet of Ai Apaec, discovered by her boss Ralph Hardy and intended for her alone. However no-one realised it would put her into deadly contact with and at the mercy of a terrifying, possessive, savage lost god…

Puny Wyatt is as smart as his parents The Web and Pow-Girl ever were but has none of their physical gifts. A high-tech combat suit handles the muscle, speed and agility deficit, and the psionic power he’s hidden since infancy more than makes up for his lack of combat experience.

The real problems come with the three alpha-males. Impetuous and rebellious, Alex and Greg hastily misuse the serums intended to duplicate the pyrokinetic and lethal light-wielding power of Fireball and the Comet – nearly dying in the process – whilst Johnny just can’t bring himself to submit his perfect Jock’s body to the nasty nano-surgical procedure that will make him a second Steel  Sterling…

As ‘Legacies part 2: Inheritance’ (illustrated by new regular penciller Alitha Martinez) opens only Fly Girl is willing – or indeed able – to embrace her destiny, but fate takes charge as the implacable Brain Emperor strikes again, just as a poignant message from his departed dad inspires Johnny Sterling to take up the metallic mantle of a champion.

The Brain Emperor strikes in ‘Trial by Fire part 1’ raiding the penitentiary holding the original Crusaders’ greatest foes and causing a deadly ‘Jailbreak’ forcing the junior heroes and their aged tutor into action far too soon. Nevertheless, the kids do alright and the Cerebral Conqueror has made a crucial error: the prison held not only an army of vicious super-freaks but also three rogue heroes in special isolation.

The Black Hood, Hangman and Deadly Force are a remorseless Riot Squad just itching to get their merciless hands on more criminal scum ‘Caught in the Flames’

As the alien Emperor gathers selected villains for his next enterprise, the New Crusaders’ blistering trial by fire proves to be an education for all, but not every hero survives…

To Be Continued…

Full of vim and vigour, this no-nonsense superhero saga is a slick and smart return to tried-and-true comicbook bombast and action which manages to feel brand-new whilst somehow still remaining faithful to all of the many iterations and re-imaginings of the assorted superheroes – even the two produced in conjunction with DC Comics.

This delightful exercise in recapturing the straightforward excitement of a genre also includes such special features as a variant cover gallery by Bates, Mike Norton, Ryan Jampole & Matt Helms, ChrisCross & Thomas Mason, Sanford Greene, Rich Buckler, Francesco Francavilla and Fiona Staples plus bonus featurette ‘Dusty’s Files’ on ‘The Pitch’, ‘The Cast’, ‘The Braintrust’ (creators Ian Flynn & Ben Bates), ‘The Legacy’, ‘The Villains’ and ‘The Future’.

Fast, fulfilling and fun, New Crusaders might just be Archie’s long-awaited superhero “one that didn’t get away”…
© 2013 Archie Comics Publications. All rights reserved. NEW CRUSADERS and RED CIRCLE COMICS ® ACP, Inc.

The Archies & Josie and the Pussycats: Archie & Friends All Stars Series volume 8


By Dan Parent, Bill Galvan, Rick Koslowski & Jim Amash (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-879794-61-0

MLJ were a publisher who jumped on the “mystery-man” bandwagon following the debut of Superman with their own small but inspirational pantheon of gaudily clad crusaders, beginning in November 1939 with Blue Ribbon Comics, promptly followed by Top-Notch and Pep Comics. The content was the standard blend of costumed heroes, two-fisted adventure strips, prose pieces and gag panels.

After a few years Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John Goldwater (hence MLJ) spotted a gap in their blossoming market. In December 1941 the costumed heroes and two-fisted adventure strips were nudged aside by a far less imposing hero, an “average teen” who would have ordinary adventures like the readers, but with the laughs, good times, romance and slapstick emphasised.

Pep Comics #22 introduced a gap-toothed, freckle-faced red-headed goof showing off to the pretty blonde next door. Taking his lead from the popular Andy Hardy matinee movies starring Mickey Rooney, Goldwater developed the concept of a youthful everyman protagonist, tasking writer Vic Bloom and artist Bob Montana with the job of making it work. The six-page tale entitled ‘Archie’ introduced goofy Archie Andrews and pretty girl-next-door Betty Cooper. Archie’s unconventional best friend and confidante Jughead Jones also debuted in that first story as did the 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 non-anthology magazine and with it began the gradual transformation of the entire company. With the introduction of rich, 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 the company 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 the Man of Steel’s, changed the content of every other publisher’s titles, and led to a multi-media industry including TV, movies, a chain of restaurants and in the swinging sixties a pop hit as “Sugar, Sugar” (a tune from their animated show) became a global smash. Their wholesome garage band “The Archies” has been a fixture of the comics ever since.

With such a successful format, naturally the company tried to add supplemental stars to their four-colour firmament, Wilbur Wilkins (1994), Suzie (1945), Ginger (1951) and Seymour, My Son (1963), with varying degrees of success. However another 1963 debut did catch and hold the readers attention. Her name was Josie and she was created by Dan DeCarlo as a veritable female clone of Archie.

With issue #45 (1967) the titian-haired ingénue and her best friend Melody formed a band and the title was changed to Josie and the Pussycats. Fame, stardom, a TV cartoon series, a major motion picture and two soundtrack albums later the band were only occasional visitors in the Archie universe until someone had a cunning idea…

Most of her supporting cast was introduced in the first issue, including best friend Pepper, boyfriend Albert… and Melody. Spoiled rich kids Alex and Alexandra Cabot soon joined the cast and the book changed its name with issue #45, and that it remained until the final issue in 1982.

One other fact about Archie’s publisher’s is that they certainly know how to create different publishing events that capture the attention of the general public – as anybody who saw the 1994 Archie Meets the Punisher inter-company crossover will attest…

The Archies & Josie and the Pussycats collects a storyline from 2009-2010 wherein ‘It Starts with a Kiss!’ as the two clean-living bands are signed to tour together, and our red-headed star and the Pussycats’ African-American bassist Valerie are drawn irresistibly together.

After a stolen kiss during a late-night song-writing session the attraction grows stronger in ‘More Than Words’ as hapless Archie tries to concentrate on his daily life – and Betty and Veronica – but can’t get Val off his mind. Moreover, the normally “sensible one” in Josie’s band is similarly distracted…

Luckily for all the tour soon ends and the girls are bound for Europe and a series of solo gigs, but the tearful farewell proves the attraction has grown into something far more serious. All the while the Pussycat’s rat-bag manager Alex Cabot has been trying to scotch the situation and now goes into overdrive in his scheming.

The 2-part ‘Love Smackdown!’ follows the separated and lovelorn Archie and Valerie as distance, daily drudgery, temptation and Alex all operate to keep them apart. After a misunderstanding leaves the couple acrimoniously separated forever events a new combined tour seems destined to rekindle the fire – but do Betty and Veronica want Archie for themselves or do they want him to be happy…?

Moreover, what’s the deal with Valerie’s old flame Declan McCord? He says he’s just a fill-in musician, but does the charismatic Celtic pop-star have plans to win Valerie back for himself…?

Star-crossed love and nigh-torrid melodrama combine with classic Riverdale slapstick in this delightful young romance that shows a burgeoning slice of maturity in the world’s favourite teenager (and don’t quibble: Justin Bieber has a limited shelf-life but Archie has been a teen heartthrob for seven decades) and the tale ends on a fascinating and intriguing open note…

This snazzy tome also has some impressive extra features including writer Dan Parent’s ‘Liner Notes’, full background and histories for The Archies and Josie and the Pussycats, and ‘Once More With Feeling’, 8 pages of penciller Bill Galvan’s art and unused covers reproduced before inkers Rick Koslowski & Jim Amash worked their own particular magic upon them.

All the world loves a lover, and this satisfyingly enticing down-to-earth comedy-drama is a solid example of the kind of comics there just aren’t enough of these days. Remember, “Superheroes aren’t the only fruit” – despite all the tights and stuff…

© 2010 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Archie New Look Series Book 5: Goodbye Forever


By Melanie J. Morgan & Norm Breyfogle (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-879794-63-4

For most of us, when we say comicbooks, people’s thoughts turn to buff men and women in garish tights hitting each other and lobbing trees or cars about, or stark, nihilistic crime, horror or science fiction sagas aimed an extremely mature and sophisticated readership of confirmed fans – and 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 waxed and waned.

However one company has held its ground against the tide over the years – although probably better known for its spun-off television/movie franchise – is the teen-comedy genre begun by and synonymous with a carrot topped kid named Archie Andrews and the two girls he can’t choose between – Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge.

Archie has thrived by constantly reinventing its core characters, 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 (the company has managed to confront a number of social issues affecting the young in a manner both even-handed and tasteful over the years) and the constant addition of new characters such as African-American Chuck – who wants to be a cartoonist – 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.

In 2010 Archie even jumped the final hurdle for the family-entertainment medium with the introduction of Kevin Keller, an openly gay young man and a clear-headed advocate capably tackling and dismantling the last major taboo in mainstream kids comics, but he was far from the only innovation.

In 2007 the company tried a risky experiment when they began a series of short serials in the pages of their various publications, featuring the regular cast in a far more realistically rendered manner rather than the gloriously utilitarian and trademarked loose cartoon style pioneered by Bob Montana in Pep Comics (beginning with #22 in 1941, reprinted in Archie: Best of the Forties) and honed to perfection by such unsung geniuses as Bob Bolling, Dan DeCarlo, Joe Edwards, Samm Schwartz, Bill Vigoda and the legendary Harry Lucey.

More importantly they moved away from the broad and outrageous slapstick and whimsical comedy by testing out a mildly soap-operatic sitcom flavour and social issues in tune with contemporary teens of the post MTV generation.

I thought it was a terrible idea – but I was quite wrong…

Not that there weren’t some obvious problems. Most tellingly, if you draw Archie Andrews more realistically what you get is Jimmy Olsen and it’s also really hard to see what hotties like Betty and especially billionaire’s daughter Veronica find so appealing about such a clumsy if well-meaning doofus…

Nonetheless the occasional adventures continued for a couple of years, all scripted by Melanie J. Morgan and illustrated by some of mainstream superhero comics’ most accomplished artists, including Steven Butler, Al Milgrom, Joe Staton, Tod Smith, Rich Burchett and Terry Austin.

This fifth collected yarn (which was first printed in Archie’s Double Digest #200-203, July-November 2009) is drawn by the superb Norm Breyfogle and highlights the biggest disaster that ever hit the happy community of Riverdale; a drama likely to break the hearts of both Betty and Veronica. After years of making do and getting by, Archie’s dad finally gets the promotion he’s always deserved, but the glad tidings have a bitter sting.

If he accepts it means uprooting the entire family from their small town roots and relocating to the big and very different city of Martinsville…

Of course they must go and Archie’s friends and loved ones have to face the fact that within a month he will be nothing but a memory. Idyllic little Riverdale will never be the same again…

Of course it all works out in the end, but while it’s happening there’s a very impressive sense of panic, injustice and loss. If kid’s soaps and dramas were this well produced I’d read less and watch a lot more TV…

Ultimately though, the experimental tales were discontinued and the beautifully garish cartoon universe resumed, as it has for nearly seventy years. Still and all I must admit that I rather enjoyed this “alternate world” of Archie despite all my initial misgivings and since there’s so little comics material for the older kid’s market maybe the company might want to try again – just next time not with my immortal, unchanging legendary freckle-faced fool…

© 2011 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Betty and Veronica Storybook: Archie & Friends All-Stars Series volume 7


By Dan Parent, Rick Koslowski & Jim Amash (Archie Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-879794-60-3

Archie Andrews has been around for nearly seventy years: a good-hearted lad lacking common sense and Betty Cooper the pretty, sensible girl next door, with all that entails, who loves the ginger goof. Veronica Lodge is a rich, exotic and glamorous debutante who only settles for our boy if there’s nobody better around. She might actually love him too, though. Despite their rivalry, Betty and Veronica are firm friends. Archie, of course, can’t decide who or what he wants…

Archie’s unconventional best friend Jughead Jones 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 triangle (+ one) has been the foundation of decades of cartoon magic. Moreover the concept is eternally self-renewing…

Adapting seamlessly to every trend and fad of the growing youth culture, the host of writers and artists who’ve crafted the stories over the decades have made the “everyteen” characters of mythical Riverdale a benchmark for youth and a visual barometer of growing up.

In this collection, reprinting tales from 1995-2009, the warring gal-pals and extended cast of the small-town American Follies are plunged deep into whimsy and fable as writer/artist Dan Parent reinterprets classic fairytales and popular classics like a New World Crackerjack Christmas Panto (and boy, will that reference baffle anybody not British and/or under thirty), providing wry and often outright hilarious takes on the eternal nature and magic of young love…

Dotted with funny fashion page pin-ups such as ‘Storybook Style’ and ‘Bewitching Beauties’, lovely cover reproductions and behind-the-scenes commentaries, the wild whimsy begins with ‘Betty in Wonderland’ (inked by Jim Amash) wherein the ever-helpful Miss Cooper gives up a date with Archie to babysit for a neighbour in need. Letting her imagination run wild, her bedtime reading of the Lewis Carroll classic repopulates the tale with some very familiar faces…

Especially effective are science nerd Dilton as the sagacious caterpillar and Jughead and mean Reggie as Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. However picturing Veronica as the vicious Blood-red Queen of Hearts might have been a little too close to the truth…

‘Sleeping Betty’ is another enchanting retelling as baby Princess Betty is cursed by the evil fairy Veronica to fall into a deep sleep on her sixteenth birthday. To thwart the hex the little princess was sent away to be raised in secret, but Veronica’s reach is long… Luckily there’s a red-headed prince hanging around…

‘There’s No Place Like… Riverdale’ (inked by Rich Koslowski) transports Betty and her little cat Carmel to a fantastic land over the rainbow where she lucks into some highly desirable Ruby Sneakers. To get home she needs unconventional help in the unappealing shapes of Archie the Scarecrow, Tin Man Jughead and the Cowardly Reggie, so it’s a good thing that Veronica is less a Wicked Witch and more a sorcerous spoiled brat…

The last tale in this collection is ‘Cinderellas’ (Amash inks again) as both girls find themselves helpless drudges working for an evil new mom and dreaming of a prince to whisk them away. Despite the sabotaging antics of mean stepsister Cheryl Blossom and a pretty second-rate Fairy Godmother, Cideronica and Cinderbetty overcome all odds and go to the Ball. In the slipper-sampling aftermath, thanks to some deft plotting, both girls get a happy ending…

Charming and clever, these tales are a marvellous example of why Archie has been unsurpassed in this genre; providing decades of family friendly fun and wholesome teen entertainment. Moreover, aspiring creators will also delight in the closing Sketch Book section of this collection which provides a fascinating glimpse of Parent’s original pencilled art in 9 pages culled from the preceding stories.

© 2010 Archie Comics Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.