I do like Archie Comics although I have to confess that I have mixed feelings about the content. The stories are funny (and corny!) but the main problem with Archie is the inherent sexism of the Betty-Archie-Veronica love triangle, to say nothing of secondary characters such as Big Ethel, a boy-crazy "ugly" girl who is always chasing the femme-phobic Jughead around. As the parent of a young girl, I'm sensitive to stereotyped and retrograde gender messaging... On the other hand, I really, really love the Archie books, mostly for the artwork (Dan De Carlo is god!) but also for the humor and the well-refined schtick. Archie comics are fun. They're also silly and generally nonviolent and unthreatening, a perfect option for little kids... If only they weren't perpetually reinforcing the idea that girls are shallow, catty, fashion-obsessed, and either submissive or manipulative when it comes to the opposite sex. Oh, well. I have my misgivings, but I still pick up old Archies whenever I can and give 'em to my kid to read on long trips in the car. What are you gonna do?



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"Archie's Americana: Best Of The 1940s, v.1"
(IDW Publishing, 2011)

This classy hardbound volume collects two collections of 1940s material that reprinted a bunch of stories that were impossible to find before (see below)... If you're in the market for Archie graphic novels, this is a great series, skimming the old back issues of Archie, Jughead, Pep, Laugh and Betty & Veronica for representative stories from each era. The ones from the '40s are okay -- the iconic Archie "look" of the '50s hadn't been developed yet, so sometimes the artwork looks a little weird. And the stories about sock hops and jalopies are pretty old-school, to say the least, but some of the gags are great. But it's good stuff, and this is definitely the way to check this era out, rather than sink bazillions of dollars into expensive copies of the original old comics. It's fun stuff, but I really hope IDW can curate a second volume so we get some "new" material from the vaults! (B+)


"Archie's Americana: Best Of The 1950s, v.1"
(IDW Publishing, 2011)

Even tastier are the adventures from the 1950s, which many fans -- myself included -- see as the creative peak of the Archie comics. Like the 1940s book, this combines the earlier softcover Americana books (see below) and it begs for a followup with more stories selected by the folks at IDW. Pure gold. (A+)


"Archie's Americana: Best Of The 1960s, v.1"
(IDW Publishing, 2011)

(B+)


"Archie: The Best Of Dan DeCarlo, v.1"
Written & Illustrated by Dan DeCarlo
(IDW Books, 2010)

This is an absolutely gorgeous, luxurious coffee-table reissue book, featuring a trove of classic comics by the the great Dan DeCarlo, generally considered the definitive "Archie" comics artist. Many things make this a great book: the smooth-lined, confident artwork is exquisite; if you are a fan of "Love And Rockets" co-creator Jaime Hernandez, then you'll delight in reading one of his main influences. The story selection is top-notch as well, a better-than-usual representation of classic Archie strips, with plenty of Betty & Veronica "good girl" art, hilarious gags and deliciously retro '60s fashion. Finally, the book itself, as an object of material culture, is fantastic. About 50% larger than a regular comicbook, hardbound, with sleek, thick, glossy pages and gorgeously clean reproductions of the original art (and bright, bold colors), this book is a delight to hold and to page through. Highly recommended! (A++)


"Archie: The Best Of Dan DeCarlo, v.2"
Written & Illustrated by Dan DeCarlo
(IDW Books, 2011)

(A++)


"Archie: The Best Of Dan DeCarlo, v.3"
Written & Illustrated by Dan DeCarlo
(IDW Books, 2012)

(A++)


"Archie: The Best Of Harry Lucey, v.1"
Written & Illustrated by Dan DeCarlo
(IDW Books, 2011)

When folks think of the great Archie Comics illustrators, Dan DeCarlo (the Da Vinci of good-girl art) comes to mind, perhaps followed by '40s/'50s originator Bob Montana. But Harry Lucey -- one of the prime artists drawing the strip through the late 1950s through the early '70s, back when Archie looked good -- is often overlooked. I'm still a Dan DeCarlo man, but it was cool to learn about Lucey (as well as their contemporary Samm Schwartz, who is the subject of another collection...) And these hardback IDW books are AMAZING, setting the standard for high-class reissue books. Mucho affordable, too! As many volumes as IDW will publish, I will buy. (B+)


"Archie: The Best Of Samm Schwartz, v.1"
Written & Illustrated by Samm Schwartz
(IDW Books, 2011)

In the late 1950s, illustrator Samm Schwartz was given charge of the Jughead character, Archie's cynical, laconic sidekick, and developed him into the lovable, wisecracking glutton whose own fame began to rival that of Archie. Schwartz started out with a template for Jughead that was already well-established, but gave the book a burst of style and energy that raised the character's profile. As with the DeCarlo and Lucey collections, this is beautifully constructed and well-curated, selection some premium-grade stories with great artwork. Lots of fun, and highly recommended. More, please! (B+)


"Archie: The Best Of Stan Goldberg, v.1"
Written & Illustrated by Stan Goldberg
(IDW Books, 2010)

(A)


"Archie Archives, v.1"
(Dark Horse, 2011)

For more hardcore Archie fans, there's also this "Archives" series, which appears to be a chronological reprint of the oldest Archie stories from the 1940s. Will Dark Horse be able to comprehensively reprint all the old Archie stories, the way they did with Little Lulu? Probably not -- there's just too much material to republish everything -- but fans of the oldest (and rarest) Archie books should be thrilled to pick these books up while they around... (-)


"Archie Archives, v.2"
(Dark Horse, 2011)

(-)


"Archie Archives, v.3"
(Dark Horse, 2011)

(-)


"Archie Archives, v.4"
(Dark Horse, 2012)

(-)


"Archie Archives, v.5"
(Dark Horse, 2012)

(-)


"Archie Comics: Archie Americana Series, Best Of The Forties, v.1"
(Archie Comics, 1995)

If you're in the market for Archie graphic novels, this is a great series: the "Americana" books skim the old back catalogue of Archie, Jughead, Pep, Laugh and Betty & Veronica for representative stories from each era. The one from the '40s are okay -- the iconic Archie "look" of the '50s hadn't been developed yet, so sometimes the artwork looks a little weird. And the stories about sock hops and jalopies are pretty old-school, to say the least, but some of the gags are great. But it's good stuff, and this is definitely the way to check this era out, rather than sink bazillions of dollars into expensive copies of the original old comics. (B)


"Archie Comics: Archie Americana Series, Best Of The Forties, v.2"
(Archie Comics, 2002)

I guess at this point I should mention that while I love the stories, the cover art for this series is absolutely awful! Guess they were trying to give the books a uniform look, despite the books being based in several different decades. Unfortunately, they did them all in the "new look," modern Archie style -- I'd have preferred artwork taken from original strips from each era. Oh, well. This is the second volume of stories from the 1940s. Of historical interest, but it might be hard for modern comicbook readers to get into. (B)


"Archie Comics: Archie Americana Series, Best Of The Fifties, v.1"
(Archie Comics, 2002)

There are many who will say that Archie comics were at their best in the glory years of the 1950s when the smooth-lined, stylized artwork (of Dan DeCarlo and others) hit its glorious peak in the second half of the decade. This book zips past the early years of the decade, pausing for only a sprinkling of stories from 1950-52 (a period that had a more blocky style, and blunter scripts) straight into the 1957-59 heyday, when the stories had a smooth look and the kooky, carefree rhythm that made these years immortal. You just gotta love the way they drew Betty and Veronica! Personally, I wouldn't mind a more in-depth exploration of the decade, perhaps even a series of year-by-year best-of books, with the best strips of 1950, '51, '52, etc... But in the meantime, these books are a real gas. I was happy to see both Volumes One and Two of the 'Fifties come out: can't wait for Volume Three! (A)


"Archie Comics: Archie Americana Series, Best Of The Fifties, v.2"
(Archie Comics, 2003)

More great stuff. Tomboy-ish Betty joins the boy's baseball team; she and Jughead win a quiz show (and a grand prize trip to Poughkeepsie!); a bratty kid with a coonskin cap jinxes things between Archie and Veronica, and Veronica dyes her hair and (va-va-voom!!) goes blonde! Although only the first couple of stories are from the early part of the decade, the predominant art style is that of Bob Montana, the main Archie artist before DeCarlo came along. But when you hit the 'Fifties, Montana's style had become smooth and stylized, and has it's own magical charm. Unfortunately nowhere in the book do they mention who the writers or illustrators were on any of these stories, but there's clearly some overlap between these two definitive artists in this volume. Another fun collection! (A)


"Archie Comics: Archie Americana Series, Best Of The Sixties, v.1"
(Archie Comics, 1995)

Ed Sullivan and the British Invasion, miniskirts and surfing lessons... And is anyone surprised when Jughead drops out and becomes a hippie? Heck no! And of course, there's the Archies band, too, driving Veronica's dad nuts with all that crazy noise they make... This collection starts out in the Kennedy years, but stays there only briefly, leaping swiftly ahead to the groovydelic flower-power era. It's all fun stuff -- one of the best books in this series! (B+)


"Archie Comics: Archie Americana Series, Best Of The Sixties, v.2"
(Archie Comics, 2008)

Although the cover art shows a big peace sign and hippie gear, the stories stick closer to the early part of the decade, before the whole hippie scene took off... That's cool, though -- the stories are all fun. Several stories dip back to the Kennedy era, which is fun, since the artwork in from 1960-63 had a curious charm all its own. Anyway, this volume has some fun stuff: Betty becomes a beatnik (crazy, daddy-o!); Archie takes up yoga (and gets a little twisted); the girls try several new hairdos and some groovy fashion choices (some are featured on special pin-up pages) and the peace movement even gets a little nod. Fun stuff! (B+)


"Archie Comics: Archie Americana Series, Best Of The Seventies, v.1"
(Archie Comics, 1998)

This is really the end of the line for me in terms of the Archie books... Yeah, they have collections fo stuff from the 1980s and '90s, but why bother? The 'Seventies, though, still had the nice simple, clean-lined artwork and a connection to the style and themes of the '50s and '60s books. Plus, there's plenty of good retro fun to be had: bell bottoms, disco music, clothes patches, CB radios and plenty of day-glo flowers. As with the other "Americana" series books, you feel that they could have mined deeper and found more, but you're still glad they put it out, and you'll have fun with this one as well. A nice cultural time capsule of the Me Decade era; not entirely accurate of course, but close enough. (B+)


"Archie Comics: Archie Americana Series, Best Of The Seventies, v.2"
(Archie Comics, 2010)

(-)


"Archie Comics: Betty And Veronica Summer Fun"
(Archie Comics, 2003)

A nicely themed collection, full of great art and lots of cool fashions (swimsuits galore, since almost all the stories take place at the beach...) and some impressive, epic feuding between these two eternal rivals, as they chase after Archie, Reggie, and several hunky lifeguards. The stories come from four issues of Betty And Veronica Summer Fun, originally printed in 1960-64, so it's classic, vintage stuff. From the shield-their-little-minds-from-all-harm perspective, though, this is a vexing book: I love the material, but I've kept it hidden from my kid (so far) because the boy-crazy, conniving/ditzy girl representations are, really, appallingly sexist. Still, what a fun book! One of the best Archies reissues of recent years. (A)


"Archie Comics: The Archies Greatest Hits, v.1"
(Archie Comics, 2008)

The Archies were Riverdale's number one rock band, with Archie on lead vocals and guitar, Reggie on guitar, Veronica playing keyboards, Betty shaking a tambourine and Jughead on drums. They starred in a successful Saturday morning children's cartoon, made several hit records and appeared frequently in various Archie comicbook titles, starting in 1967 and continuing through to the present day. This is a fun collection of some of their best adventures, including a kooky one where the the band travels to Hollywood and meets the creative team that made the cartoon show. They make the hippie scene, and tangle with record producers, show promoters and a variety of other bands, including metalheads and new wavers in the '80s. A fun theme for an Archie reissue book: I'd love to see a Volume Two. (A)



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