Friday, February 18, 2011

Archie: Complete Daily Newspaper Comics 1946-1948

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Archie: Complete Daily Newspaper Comics 1946-1948 (IDW, 2010).

Friends and readers, the wallet's been getting tighter, and I genuinely didn't need to shell out for another forty buck hardcover, even with a nice discount from Bizarro Wuxtry, America's finest comic shop. And Archie, well, I could take or leave. But I do like newspaper comics, and I really love the excellent work that IDW puts into their collected editions. They're the only company I would rank as good as Rebellion in that regard, and I wish that I enjoyed more of their releases, because they are, across the board, a fantastic company doing a terrific job with reprints.

My daughter is a huge fan of Archie, though. More accurately, she's a huge fan of Betty and Veronica. I asked whether she had any interest in archival stuff like this and, in a pleasant surprise, she was, and asked me to please order it. I guess that I shouldn't have been too surprised; the little digest comics that she buys will often be stuffed full of reprints, and she is savvy enough to recognize that an old Dan DeCarlo story is superior to the book's lead feature (usually, these days, penciled by Stan Goldberg and inked by a high schooler with a box of Sharpies), and that a Joe Edwards Li'l Jinx is almost inevitably the high point of any package. My daughter is entering the age of middle school stupidity and cliques and mean girls; any chance we have to bond over classic Archie artwork is probably one of the few available, sadly.

Unfortunately, though, my daughter really didn't enjoy this very much. I thought it was pretty good fun and had a few good chuckles, but she couldn't get into it, and, with a grumble of disappointment and disinterest, gave it to me to read.

I shouldn't have been surprised. I'm interested in what small town life was like in this period, when my parents were teens and going to high school football games, and this, very much a book of its time, is a great look back at what life might have been like back then. I think that my daughter might have been discouraged by the treatment of Betty in its pages, though. Here, Archie only has eyes for Veronica. Betty is a sweet and innocent naif, not really Veronica's pal at all, who has to con and pester Archie to get any attention. In one eyebrow-raising strip, which really shows its age, she has to tell Archie that six other girls will be at her house to persuade him to visit. The girls are revealed to be the sort of mutant uglies that Brian Bolland would later draw in Judge Dredd's Cursed Earth.

Other strips show the quite remarkable evolution in American slang. In this example, I don't think the characters are talking about the sort of party that I am hearing them describe:

Honestly, it's a fascinating curiosity and museum piece, but it's not the sort of series that I can see myself continuing with without my daughter's interest. Recommended for fans with slightly deeper wallets than me.

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