Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Brooks on Books: Archie: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics 1946-1948

From what I understand, the reason this isn't necessarily a "Volume 1" in a definitive chronological series is source material issues; IDW hasn't been able to track decent copies of the entire run. If so, that's a shame, because this collection of the strip's first 3 years is amazing, and I would gladly buy any and all subsequent volumes.

These early strips, and especially the beginning of the book, may be a real shock to those unfamiliar with the early days of the Archieverse, but I am fascinated with the way the characters look. It only makes this MORE appealing to me, actually. You see the crude-looking bucktoothed Archie Andrews, Jughead is vaguely menacing, and Montana makes Betty and Veronica so glamorous you don't even want to think about how they are supposed to be high schoolers. Miss Grundy is even less glamorous than she is in the modern era.

Montana loves wordplay and quick puns, but he often uses them within the early panels and not as the punchline of a given strip. This run is a great mix of daily gag type situations and continuing storyline. Some stories go on for a few weeks, and a summer camp plotline takes up all of July and August of 1946. That one is notable for introducing millionaire H.O. Pittney, who shows up later as a convenient device to fund vacations for the gang and get them out of Riverdale...which is funny when you think about it. Why didn't Mr. Lodge just fill that role?

Archie joins the football team, Archie promises to get entertainment for the Junior Prom (there are a lot of dances in the strip),  Archie goes bird hunting...There are all sorts of amusing plots in here. The stories are absorbing, and the characters are compelling. But let me make an important point: It's funny. The jokes are funny, the drawings are funny, and the gang is just funny. I half-expected this book to be mainly interesting in an archival way, like, "Hey, it's great reading these old comics!" The early days of "Blondie" are like that. I love that collection, but it's more amusing than flat-out hilarious to us today, and the beginning of the book doesn't lend itself so well to plowing through. This Archie collection is different, though, and I had no trouble buzzing through pages at a time even though of course it was originally meant to be enjoyed once a day.

Oh, and, yes, this contains the infamous strip of April 2, 1947, in which Archie says--Well, look it up if you must, because it has inspired many a blog post, but if there is ANY chance someone reading this will get the book and stumble upon it and be surprised, well, I don't want to give it away.

This book is an excellent part of the always reliable IDW Library of American Comics series, and I can only hope more daily Archie is on the way.

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