I spent the last few days in bed, laid down with a nasty throat infection, and on top of the cocktail of meds I was taking, my mom (who thinks I am wasting away) gave me this vitamin that made me alternate between falling asleep and chowing down like I hadn’t eaten in a week. Suffice it to say I did not get much reading done — other than this: The Best of Archie Comics, because Archie comics have been a sick day staple since I was a kid.
I had not picked up a new Archie in ages (I have a bunch of raggedy ones, read many many times! And it was the last day of the cut-price sale!) and I was hit by a sudden bout of nostalgia.
Archie comics were a huge part of my childhood. They were all the rage in school, and whenever anyone had a new Archie comic, it would get passed on from girl to girl, right under our teachers’ noses.
In 90’s grade school, comics weren’t exactly approved reading material for Catholic schoolgirls, and possession of one can earn you either a disapproving stare, or worse, confiscation of the comics you saved your weekly allowance (then alternating on Sweet Valley Twins, BOP magazine and MAD magazine) for.
But we found ways, of course! Archie comics come in the perfect size for concealment (especially the single digests)– we used to slip them inside notebooks and schoolbooks, so that from the outside it would look totally legit! I remember I even once deviously covered a double digest in gift wrapper and wrote “Dictionary” on the cover! :D
The Best of Archie Comics is a hefty volume with over 400 pages, tracing the evolution of Archie over the past 70 years. Archie Andrews returns with the gang: Jughead Jones, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Reggie Mantle, Midge, Big Moose, Ethel, Pop Tate, and other residents of Riverdale. Even Cheryl Blossom and Jellybean!
The book counts through the decades, from the 40s through the present, with a splash page for each decade, enumerating important events and describing the youth during the era, and Archie comics during the time.
Stories were nominated by people inside and outside the Archie Comics company, like the ubiquitous Victor Gorelick (editor-in-chief of Archie comics), Stan Lee, Gene Simmons, and even Stephen King!
“I’ve spent a lot of hours in the company of Archie Andrews, Riverdale’s premiere teenager, and I still count him one of my good fictional friends.
Literature — and even the comics are literature of a sort, I think — is meant to be pleasant and enjoyable, but I think it’s also supposed to be useful, and Archie fulfilled a small but vital function in my life. In those painful, nerdy, pre-teen tears between eight and twelve, he and his friends (along with Dobie Gillis and his friends on the magic box) taught me how to live The Good Life as a teenager… if, that was, you were a fairly ordinary kid from small-town America,” King writes (excerpted from “The Importance of Being Archie,” Archie Americana: Best of the ’40’s).
The stories trace the evolution of the Archie characters, in look as well as the story themes. Aside from the main Archie comics (including Little Archie), the other Archie regulars are also included in the collection: Li’l Jinx, Katy Keene, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (from the white-haired minx to the *groan* yellow-blonde wuss), Josie and the Pussycats, and That Wilkin Boy.
It was interesting to read the earlier Archie comics — aside from the occasional “reruns,” I don’t think I’ve read any Archie comics from earlier than the late 80’s. The earlier comics have simpler storylines, but they’re hilarious! The newer ones score points for creativity, though — and they do get kerrrazy! — because they find new ways for Archie to trip over his own feet! :p
The book also gives us a peek into the future, into the “Archie gets Married” series (with the dual possibility: 3 issues for Veronica and 3 for Betty) — I haven’t seen any of those comics here in the Philippines! — and then beyond, showing us what happens further along the Veronica arc.
It’s also fascinating to see the styles change in each era, although I’ll always be partial to the late 90s Archie, which is what I read the most of, with nice thick outlines and lots of curves, and bright, flat colors.
I’m not a big fan of the later editions, especially the ones I’ve seen in the last few years — I don’t like the way some of the newer comics are drawn.
These newfangled ones look too stiff and spiffy. I really don’t like the shading.
And this, in particular, just begs for a hissy fit.
The Best of Archie Comics was pretty much was the high point of my getting sick last week. I think, no matter what age I am, I’ll always get this hankering to read (and reread) an Archie comic every now and then.
If you’re an Archie fan like me, this book is a requisite addition to your library, good for hours of chuckles, like the thick old Double Digests they used to make! :)
The Best of Archie Comics, paperback, 5/5 stars
book #92 for 2011